Athens Guide, National Geographic

The clash between myth and modern-day grit is an Athenian trademark: marble busts adorn souvlaki joints, Byzantine churches nestle beside bouzouki clubs, the Parthenon reigns serene above a ragged expanse of apartment blocks.

More than three million people are crammed into this loud, laid-back city. With 300 days of sunshine a year, a 75-mile (120-kilometer) coastline, and 3 a.m. traffic jams, irrepressible Athens is a muse for beach bums and barflies, as much as classical scholars and art lovers.

For National Geographic’s Destinations of a Lifetime series, I distilled the very best of Athens.