10 Incredible Facts You Never Knew About Athens

Sordid history and thrilling mythology.

Athens – one of the world’s oldest cities is embedded with sordid history and thrilling mythology. There are certainly too many “fascinating facts” to list, but these were the ones that stood out to me and kept my mind intrigued throughout my recent trip.

1. Athens has been continuously inhabited for at least 7,000 years.

UNSPLASH Iuliia Isakova

The oldest known human presence in Athens is the Cave of Schist between the 11th and 7th millennia BC, according to Athens Path. By 1400 BC, the Mycenaean civilization used Acropolis used the site as a major fortress.

2. Athens was named after Athena, the Greek Goddess of wisdom and war. 

Legends indicate that Athena and Poseidon, God of the sea, fought over who would become the patron of the city. Each offered a gift to the city and a decision would be made by who gave the better gift. Based on different versions of the legend, Poseidon offered a horse or water. But in both versions, Athena won by her gift of an olive tree.

Athens Greece
Photo: Wendy Hung

3. Athens is the largest and the most densely populated city in Greece.

According to World Population Review, there are 660,000 people who lived in Athens in 2017. That’s 40% of the total population of the country.

4. Athens is home to 19 Foreign Archaeological Institutes. 

Parthenon, Athens, Greece

It doesn’t come as a surprise to many that Athens is the world center of history and archeology. In addition to 19 Foreign Archaeological Institutions in Greece, they’re all located in Athens. Most of them specialize in classical libraries, provide scholarship programs, and operate regular lectures.

5. Athens was the first European Capital of Culture.

Needless to say, Greek theater is a significant part of its historical culture. The art form began during this city’s first democracy. Now, the city has 148 theater stages which is more than those in Broadway and West End added together.

Athens Greece
Photo: Wendy Hung

6. It’s one of the sunniest cities in the world.

In Athens, sun shines approximately 270 days per year. One reason may be that the city is located at 37° north latitude and in the eastern Mediterranean. In this region, the city experiences less Atlantic Ocean winds and less precipitation compared to the western Mediterranean.

7. The first Olympic Game wasn’t in Athens but the first “modern” Olympic Game was. 

In 776 BC, according to Olympic.com, the first Olympic Games were held in Peloponnese. Meanwhile, Athens also had its own games referred to as the Panathenaic Games from 566 B.C. In 1894, the International Olympic Committee governed the Olympic Movement with a charter to define the games’ structure. It also led to the first modern games in Athens in 1896.

8. Athens has implemented every form of administration.

Athens, Greece
Athens, Greece. UNSPLASH Sarin Ave

It has exercised: democracy, capitalism, socialism, monarchy and communism. You couldn’t say the same about many cities or countries in the world.

9. It’s home to the first form of democracy. 

Often called the Athenian democracy, it was developed around 5th century BC in Athens and the surrounding territory of Attica. Athens practiced a political system so citizens voted directly on legislations and executive bills. At the time, it was limited to adult males who were no more than 30% of the total adult population.

10. One famous Athenian is Arianna Huffington.

Arianna Huffington Indian Fashion Designers
INSTAGRAM @ariannahuff

Although many famous people who were born in Athens mostly died before the Middle Ages, one notable Athenian today is the co-founder and former editor-in-chief of Huffington Post – Arianna Huffington, who moved to the UK at the age of 16.

Wendy Hung


As the founder of Jetset Times, Wendy is an avid traveler and fluent in five languages. When she's not traveling, Wendy calls Paris and Taipei home. Her favorite countries so far from her travels have been: Bhutan, Iran, and St. Bart's because they were all so different!

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