PopulationMetro: 3,470,000
The ancient capital has had a difficult decade, but it’s come back stronger, just like it always does.

As the 2,500-year-old cradle of Western civilization, Athens understand resilience. It’s why, after years of Greece’s economic tumult, followed by austerity measures that fundamentally challenged the local rhythm of life here, the city is getting up off the mat.

Despite the cut-backs and the sacrifice, the city’s heritage itself was rarely compromised. As such, the sustained investment is now blooming as jobs trickle back and tourist numbers snap back to levels not seen since the good old days.

What they find is the Archaeological Promenade, a 2.5-mile long, car-free tree-lined walkway running along the foot of the Acropolis and connecting the city’s major archaeological sites.

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The Acropolis Museum, opened in 2009 as a light-filled glass-and-concrete time machine, is another modern, improved way the city is showcasing its Acropolis bounty. In this case, noble statues of ancients Athenians and strikingly realistic animal carvings. Swiss architect Bernard Tschumi ensured panoramic views of the namesake monument from different vantage points of the museum.

Visitors and locals who want to ponder ancient history while mixing with modern Athenians need just walk a few minutes to the buzzing cafes, tavernas and street life of Monastiraki neighborhood—loud, chaotic, and increasingly fawned over by travel media. It helps propel Athens to #36 globally in our Shopping subcategory.

The Acropolis Museum

Years of economic strife have cratered rents which, of course, facilitates art. Such is the case in the Metaxourgiou neighborhood, packed with art galleries and the memorable dining and drinking spots that fuel the creative fire. The relative affordability of a European capital, as well as the ingrained openness of Athenians, may also explain the city’s #39 ranking for Foreign-born residents.

Still, the reemergence of local and International artists expedited the opening of the National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST) and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre in 2017.

For a truly macro view of this storied capital—far above the traffic, economic crisis and paltry human endeavors, climb to Mt. Lycabettus, the city’s highest vantage point at almost 1,000 feet. This being Athens, a tiny, whitewashed church awaits, as well as a restaurant with an open-air terrazzo where you can sip fantastic Greek wine and ponder the next 2,500 years of this great city.