Sprawling, bustling and just a little bit grimy, Athens is one hell of a city where ancient wonders meet modern metropolis. Visit this time of year and discover hugely discounted hostels and hotel rooms, and fewer tourists. The cooler temperatures mean you can enjoy viewing ancient sights without suffering the searing heat of the summer months.
Nothing say Athens, or in fact Greece, like the Acropolis. Built in the second half of the 5th century under the leadership of the Athenian statesman, Pericles, this symbol of the ancient world towers over the city. A masterpiece of classical Greek achievement, the Acropolis is made up of monuments that include the Parthenon, Erechtheon, Propylaea and small temple Athena. During summer, it can be uncomfortably hot up on the hill, but during winter, the ancient site is not only a reasonable temperature, it is blissfully free crowds.
Best of the rest
The Monasteraki Markets are considered a shopping paradise. In amongst cafes serving sublime iced coffee (or frappes as they are known in Greece) the labyrinthine backstreets house boutique stores offering a colourful array of clothing and jewellery for sale. Go when the flea market is in full swing and you will find stalls hawking everything from antique lamps and backgammon sets to knock-off CDs and leather sandals.
Don't leave Athens without trying some Greek food. Go for spanakopita (spinach pie) tyropita (cheese pie) and a meal of mezez (small plates of tempting snacks) for which the Greeks are justifiably famous: try taramasalata (fish roe dip), kalamaria (fried squid), tzatziki (yoghurt, cucumber and garlic dip) and delicious dolmades (stuffed vine leaves). If you're looking for something more substantial, you won't have to look far for moussaka (layers of eggplant and minced meat topped with a cheesy sauce and baked).
Get the camera out
The other high point in the centre of Athens is Lykavittos Hill. Walk along winding paths or take the funicular to the top, where you'll find a chapel, restaurant and some spectacular city views. It's also a great place to get a photo of the Acropolis.
Options range from stylish and pricey Michelin-starred restaurants to simple basement tavernas in the historic Plaka district. For a taste of where the locals go out these days, head to the newly fashionable Psyrri or Gazi districts, adjoining Monasteraki. They are buzzing with clubs, restaurants and ouzo bars, where you'll get a feel for the real Athens. If it's not cold enough for you outside, wrap up and enjoy a drink at the Imperia Ice Club, on Sookleous street.