Rusting hulks of ships and the chuffing towers of an oil refinery greet you on the quay in Elefsina. It may sound unappealing, but this port town west of Athens is sprucing up to be the European Capital of Culture in 2021. It has made good use of its ancient history – the ruins of old Eleusis are here – and its more recent industrial past.

One example of this new energy is the conversion of an old soap factory to a rough-and-ready arts centre with outdoor theatre (Eleusis was the home town of Aeschylus, father of tragedy). There's also a small pebble beach right off the plateia (main square) and an open-air cinema with interesting programs. Expect more news from here as Elefsina continues to polish itself.