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Long associated with the goddess Athene, Athens was established as the capital of the independent Greek state in 1834. Ottoman rule had lasted from 1456 to 1689. With the Parthenon as a constant beacon, Athens is an easy city to navigate. To have a sense of the ancient city, the hills around it should be explored, too. Much was torn down by late 19th-century archaeologists in their passion to uncover the Classical past, but a few small Byzantine churches in the city centre remain.
The new Acropolis museum is worth visiting for the building as much as its contents, which are scant, as it patiently awaits the return of Elgin’s marbles from the British Museum. The cultural highlights of the city include a trio of collections housed beside the parliament building: the Benaki, Byzantine and Cycladic museums. To the north of the centre by the university is The National Archaeological Museum with the best of the country’s Classical finds. The Numismatic Museum has a large collection anof antiquarian coins, with the added interest of occupying Iliou Melathron, built in 1880 for Heinrich Schliemann, and the city’s most lavish mansion of its time, with murals depicting the Trojan War.
Athens airport is around 30km east of the city centre, with easy metro and express bus connections.
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