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Athens: History, festivals and Greek islands

By Bob Cooper, January 25, 2018

Athens may be known as the “cradle of Western civilization," but admiring its ancient buildings is only one reason to visit.

Monuments in Athens, Greece

Magical monuments and museums

Europe's oldest major city knows how to show off its 3,400 years of history. The city of three million people is filled with Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman monuments, most famously the Acropolis. A UNESCO World Heritage Site built nearly 2,500 years ago, the hilltop citadel is a collection of several ruins, including the Parthenon and the Temple of Athena Nike. In contrast, the adjacent New Acropolis Museum — 10 times the size of the landmark's original museum — opened just seven years ago, and displays an even more extensive collection of millennia-old sculptures and objects recovered from the site. Elsewhere in Athens, museums showcase archaeology, ancient Greek art, Byzantine art, Cycladic art (ancient art of the Aegean islands), ancient epigraphs and coins.

Hiking Trail in Athens, Greece

Sports and entertainment

Greece may be the birthplace of the ancient and modern Olympics, but Athenians don't rest on their laurels (an expression that originated in ancient Greece, by the way). They love to root for their local professional basketball and soccer teams. They love to hike in the mountains and national park surrounding the city. They love taking in an IMAX or OMNIMAX film at the huge Athens Planetarium, which screens several daily. And they love exploring the live theater options at more than 100 theaters citywide. Visitors can also enjoy these diversions.

Greek Island Resort near Athens

Greek islands

The Greek islands' resorts, beaches and ancient temples are so popular that they have more hotels than mainland Greece. Athens is the gateway to the islands, which are only a quick ferry trip away from the city. Among the best and most popular islands are Santorini (with an active volcano and streets carved into cliffs), Hydra (a car-free island where locals get around on donkeys) and Sifnos (mountains and beautiful beaches) — but altogether there are 200 inhabited Greek islands, so it's easy to pick one where you can escape the crowds.

Balcony Restaurant in Athens, Greece

Festivals and food

The August full moon is celebrated throughout Greece. More than 100 monuments, including many in Athens, are open for free visits during the moon's appearance on August 17–21, with music, dance, theater, art and films. Film takes center stage when 50,000 indie cinephiles flock to the Athens International Film Festival, with screenings from filmmakers around the world at five theaters. But every day is a festival at Athens' tavernas (casual restaurants), where Greek food and wine are consumed and celebrated.

Tourist Areas in Athens, Greece

Practicalities

Athens can be hot and a bit crowded in August, so September through November is a perfect time to visit, when it's still warm and the prices are lower — though Athens is a bargain year-round. It's far less expensive than most of Europe's other great cities, like London, Paris and Rome. Buses, subways and taxis are the best way to get around in Athens, and many ferries also go to the islands.

If you go

United Airlines has launched new nonstop service to Athens International Airport from Newark Liberty International Airport, extending through October 5. Visit united.com or use the United app to plan your trip.

United Awards Free Flights for a Year to Winners of "Your Shot to Fly" Sweepstakes

Grand prize winners live in Bradenton, FL; Cleveland, OH; Goodyear, AZ; Oakland, CA and San Francisco, CA
By United Newsroom, July 29, 2021

CHICAGO, July 29, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- United Airlines today announced the five lucky grand prize winners of its "Your Shot to Fly" sweepstakes, who will each get to fly anywhere in the world United flies with a companion over the course of the next year. The winners of the "Your Shot to Fly" sweepstakes are:

  • Ashley Cronkhite from Bradenton, FL
  • Robert Simicak from Cleveland, OH
  • Sean Husmoe from Goodyear, AZ
  • Lauren Aldredge from Oakland CA
  • Lauren M. from San Francisco, CA

The sweepstakes was in support of the Biden administration's ongoing national effort to encourage more people to get their COVID-19 vaccination and encouraged United's MileagePlus® loyalty members to upload their vaccine records to United. In less than a month, more than one million MileagePlus members uploaded their vaccine cards to the United app and website for a shot to win one of the grand prizes. In June the airline awarded 30 first prize winners with a pair of roundtrip tickets anywhere United flies.

United First U.S. Airline to Offer Economy Customers Option to Pre-Order Snacks and Beverages

New pre-order option builds on the airline's contactless payment technology and is another example of the customer experience transformation underway at United
By United Newsroom, July 28, 2021

CHICAGO, July 28, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Starting today on select flights, all United customers – no matter what cabin of service they're flying in – can use the airline's award-winning mobile app and website to pre-order meals, snacks and beverages up to five days before they're scheduled to travel. United is the first and only U.S. airline to offer economy customers the option to pre-order snacks and beverages, a reflection of the customer experience transformation underway at the airline.



United Airlines to Operate More than 40 Weekly Flights as England Re-Opens to U.S. Travelers

In August, United is adding a second daily flight from Washington, D.C. to London
By United Newsroom, July 28, 2021

CHICAGO, July 28, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- With today's announcement of England reopening to fully vaccinated travelers from the U.S. beginning Aug 2, United Airlines is making it easier for business and leisure customers to jet across the pond with the addition of flights to London. In August, United will have six daily flights between the U.S. and London, including a second daily flight from Washington, D.C. and increasing service from Houston to daily. United looks forward to resuming additional London service in the coming months as well as launching new nonstop service between Boston and London. Customers traveling to England must be fully vaccinated in the U.S. with vaccines that have been approved by the FDA and must take a test before departure as well as a PCR test within the first two days of arrival. Passengers vaccinated in the U.S. will also need to complete a passenger locator form prior to traveling to England and provide proof of U.S. residency.

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