TRAVEL

World Cup 2014: Athens is cradle of Western civilization and soccer mad

Soccer and history mix in Athens, Greece

Sports have been important in Greece since at least 776 BC, when the first recorded Olympic Games took place on the plains of Olympia. Athens blossomed in the 5th century BC and became the cradle of Western civilization. Since then, it's had its triumphs and travails; most recently the European Union put Greece on an austerity plan. But there's a wealth of interest in soccer that remains undiminished.

Must-see: A two-mile path meanders among many ancient classical sites, including the Temple of Zeus, the Theater of Dionysus and Hadrian's Arch. The path leads up the Acropolis hill to the Parthenon. The Acropolis Museum includes ancient artifacts found on the famous rock outcropping, plus everyday objects used by Athenians from all periods of the city's history. Northeast of the Acropolis is the Plaka, the oldest area of the city. Its narrow streets twist and turn past classical Greek monuments, Byzantine churches, a Turkish bath, mosques, museums, cafes, outdoor movie theaters and tavernas.

The soccer scene: Athens has 19 professional soccer teams; most have their own stadiums. Molly Malone's Irish Pub Restaurant shows soccer games on television and serves an international menu of nachos, chicken wings and strips, Japanese-style scampi, Southern fried chicken, mushroom linguine, and fish and chips (8 Yannitsopoulou, Glyfada; 011-30-210-8944247, www.mollymalones.gr).

Beware: Strikes are common, especially those having to do with transportation (taxis, airports, ports, etc.), so reconfirm reservations. Demonstrations also happen, so try to avoid them. Carry a copy of your passport or other photo ID with you.

Best time to go: The Super, Champions and Europe leagues' games run July through mid-May, when playoffs take place. July and August are the hottest, driest months, with daytime temperatures in the high 80s. Rainy season is October through March.

Infohttp://www.visitgreece.gr.

Airfare: $1,215-$1,863

travel@latimes.com

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

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