Athens is the capital and largest city in Greece. The town extends over most of the Attica Peninsula. Athens is one of the oldest cities in the world with a history of over 3400 years.
The metropolitan area has 3 052 000 million residents (estimate for 2015, UN Population Division). The real Athens is five kilometers from the sea and is grown together with the port city of Piraeus and surrounding cities, which together form the great prefecture of Athens-Piraeus.
Transport and Communications
Athens is the administrative, political, cultural and economic center of Greece. The city is also an important transport hub with good road and rail links to the rest of the country. The metro of the important port city of Piraeus opened in 1869 as a steam train and in 1904 as an electric train. It became Line 1 of the new subway system, which opened in 2000 with three lines. Line 3 was extended in 2004 to the new Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport at Spata, 25 kilometers east of the city. Tourists account for significant traffic.
Culture and business
The industry is versatile and includes textile factories, shipyards, petroleum refineries, chemical industry and breweries. The University of Athens was founded in 1937 and there are also other colleges. Both the Greek Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Archbishop have a bishop’s seat here. The city has a Norwegian embassy, and in 1989 the Norwegian Institute in Athens was established.
Athens has experienced strong growth after the Second World War, and its settlement has spread far beyond the Attic plain. Around 1 / 3 of Greece’s population and more than half of the country’s private cars and industrial jobs are concentrated in the Greater Athens. Emissions from industry and fast-growing car traffic have created major air pollution problems that, among other things, threaten to destroy the surface of many historical monuments, including the ruins of the Acropolis. A pilot scheme with limited car driving in the city center was introduced from the mid-1990s to limit pollution problems.
In connection with the 2004 Summer Olympics, a number of restoration works and new buildings, including the two stadiums, were designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. The main arena for the games was in the suburb of Maroussi.
The cityscape is dominated by the Acropolis, which is 156 meters above sea level. Below this is Plaka, the oldest district, with its detached houses, crooked streets, tavernas and bouzouki restaurants.
At the National Park, between the Acropolis and Mount Lykabettos at Syntagma Square, lies the parliament building, which was built as a castle in 1836–1842, and the presidential residence. From here, head north to Panepistimiu (University Street) with the academy, the university and the National Library. Parallel to this, the Stadiugaten runs with government offices and shops.
To the west you will find the National Bank, the City Hall and the main post office, further north the Academy of Art, the Polytechnic College and the National Museum. The Stadiugaten leads to the Omonia Square, which together with Syntagma are hubs for public transport. It meets Athinas Street, which goes south towards the Acropolis. Parallel to Athinas Street is the Eolugate, and perpendicular to these two Ermugaten, another important traffic vein.
The city’s newer buildings are tall, dense and poorly planned. Athens has few public parks and major traffic problems. The area is regularly exposed to earthquakes. The largest earthquakes in recent times occurred in 1999 with strength 6.0 and in 2019 with strength 5.3.