Athens, Greece: top sights.
Athens includes a great number of exhibits from every historical era – though some Greek relics now rest in the British Museum where they were taken by the British Ambassador, Lord Elgin.
The Acropolis of Athens
Every polis in Ancient Greece had its own Acropolis, but none of them can surpass the Acropolis of Athens in scale, layout and concentration of so many monuments of past epochs. Without it the capital of Greece is simply unthinkable, it is rightly considered its calling card, a real mecca for tourists from all over the world.
Parthenon in Athens
Parthenon has always been considered one of the most significant and monumental buildings of the Acropolis in Athens. The temple was built in honor of the goddess Athena, the patroness of the Greek capital. Everything in the Parthenon has been thought out to the smallest detail, each detail has its own unique size, shape and purpose.
Athens’ oldest district is called Plaka and it preserves its original form, peculiarities of Greek culture and its unique flavor.
This is where the tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and the comedies of Aristophanes and Menander were first performed. This ancient open-air theater is the oldest in the world and dates back to the 5th century BC. The Dionysus Theater was designed for half the population of Athens and seated up to 17,000 spectators!
Temple of Hephaestus
One of the favorite places for tourists visiting Athens is the Temple of Hephaestus. Here you can almost fully plunge into the era of ancient Greece, because the temple of Hephaestus is considered to be one of the best preserved buildings of that distant time.
Temple of Zeus the Olympic
Construction of the most impressive structure of the ancient world – the famous temple of Zeus the Olympic began long before our era. The lord had really ambitious plans: the new giant structure was sure to eclipse all the existing wonders of the world at that time,
In the Agora, once Athens’ central marketplace, stands the temple of Hephaestus, the god of fire, which is by far the best preserved temple in Athens today.
The Arch was built in 131 AD on the road leading from the center of Athens to the eastern part of the city where the Temple of Zeus the Olympic was located, and it was dedicated to the Roman Emperor Hadrian. Who built the arch and on whose money it is not known.
Archaeological Museum of Ceramics
Kerameikou Archaeological Museum, as well as the neighborhood in which it is located, are not called that way by accident. Masters of pottery have lived here since ancient times, and all this is because the soil here is rich in fine clay.
Athens Museum of Numismatics
One of the most interesting and popular museums in the Greek capital is the Athens Numismatics Museum, which has a unique collection of ancient coins, medals, precious stones found during archaeological excavations.
Tower of the Winds
Walking around ancient Athens, visit an amazing architectural monument – the Tower of the Winds. This landmark also serves a practical function, as it is a functioning weather station. The Athenian Tower of the Winds has other names. Residents of Athens often call the Tower of the Winds “Klepsidra”.
Hadrian’s Library in Athens
The unique architectural complex, now known as the Hadrian’s Library, hardly corresponds in reality to such a modest appellation. The majestic monument was called a library only in the mid-19th century, despite the building’s striking resemblance to the temples of the Roman forum.
Byzantine Museum in Athens
The Byzantine Christian Museum is considered one of the most famous museums of the Greek capital. It is called the orthodox treasury of Greece. Here you can see more than 25 thousand interesting exhibits of Byzantine and Christian art.
Athens Military Museum
Greece, like any other great civilization, has a very rich and long military history. Brave heroes and bloody battles have been known to us through history books since high school. But in order to add clarity and to see with our own eyes the weapons that were held in the hands of courageous warriors.
Children’s Museum in Athens
In a house with a cheerful yellow facade and green window frames, of course, there must be something joyful, carefree and interesting. And so it is, in one of the buildings in the heart of Athens is the Children’s Museum.
Evangelis dreamed of reviving the Olympic Games in Greece, did a lot for this, participated in the project both ideologically and financially. The plan was for the building to be located next to the Panathinaikos Stadium and be dedicated entirely to the Olympic Games.
The Church of Panagia Kapnicarea (Church of Our Lady of Kapnicarea), or simply Kapnicarea, is one of the oldest Orthodox churches in Athens. It is also one of the most colorful, especially when compared to the modern buildings that surround it.
The beautiful mansion, built by the famous German architect Ernst Ziller, houses one of the most interesting and largest museums in the Greek capital. It is a museum of Cycladic art, where a huge collection of various artifacts, which belong to ancient civilizations.
If you drive from the center of Athens along the former Holy Road to Eleusin, at the 11th km on the left you’ll see the dilapidated walls made of stone. Behind them hides the monastic complex of Daphne, a monument of Byzantine architecture.
Perhaps nowhere else in the world one can feel the spirit of history as much as in Athens. The capital of Greece is simply amazed with the number of ancient and significant monuments, it preserves not only the majestic ruins of Ancient Greece, but there is also the atmosphere of constant celebration and blissful “doing nothing”, which makes this city unique and unlike any other in the world.
Unique is also the history of its founding. It’s said that centuries before Christ, all the Olympic gods fought over the right to found the place, but the final struggle was between the bellicose and brave Athena and the mighty Poseidon. To resolve the dispute, the wise Zeus decreed that the right to build the city would go to the highest bidder, and half-man half-snake Kekrop was appointed to judge them. Poseidon spewed a spring from the bowels of the earth, but the water was in it salty, but Athena gave the city a branch of olive.
To visit the Sanctuary of Poseidon at Cape Sunion is worthwhile not only because of the beautiful scenery, but also in order to find the autograph of Lord Byron himself on the walls of the temple.
Kekrop decided that salt sea is everywhere, and, unlikely to benefit the city, but such a valuable tree, which would help the people to work and prosper is really unique. So Athena was recognized as the patron of the city, and her gift was long kept in one of the main temples of the Acropolis, the Erechtheion, it was built on the exact spot where the gods competed. Kekropos became the first king of this city-state. And probably because the gift of Poseidon was rejected, the city still has a shortage of drinking water.
Athens (Greece) – the most detailed information about the city with photos. Athens main sights with descriptions, guidebooks and maps.
Athens is the capital of Greece and the center of the historical region of Attica. Are the largest city of the country, its economic and cultural center. Athens is one of the most significant ancient Greek polis and a symbol of Western civilization. It is the city considered by many to be the cradle of European culture and science. Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Sophocles, Euripides lived and worked here. The city is named after the goddess of wisdom Athena and is famous for its Acropolis, which is one of the most fascinating ancient ruins in the world with striking artifacts from the time of ancient Greece.
Athens is more than just a relic of the past. It is a vibrant, dynamic and modern capital. The city’s image has been shaped by thousands of years of history and several ancient great civilizations. You’ll find sites from Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire, dazzling Byzantine churches and charming historic neighborhoods that still retain a wonderful village atmosphere.
Things to do (Athens):
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Treasures of the Archaeological Museum
Learn about ancient Greek art with a professional guide
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The Acropolis: Visit the Goddess Athena
Visit the city’s calling card and decipher ancient monuments with a professional guide.
Geography and Climate
Athens is located in the southern part of Greece on the Saronikos Gulf of the Aegean Sea. The city lies on the Athenian plain and is surrounded by the mountains Egaleo, Parnis, Pendelikon and Imitos. These features often cause smog and air pollution. The rivers Kifissos, Ilisos and Picrodaphne pass through Athens.
Athens in the evening
Athens has a subtropical, semi-desert climate. It is characterized by hot and dry summers. Winters are quite warm with very rare sub-zero temperatures. Athens receives only 400 mm of rainfall per year, most of which falls between November and March. The most comfortable time to visit Athens is in Spring, when the weather is usually warm.
- Population exceeds 3 million (more than 5 million people encompass the metropolitan area).
- Area – 412 km².
- Currency – euro.
- Visa: Schengen.
- Language: Greek.
- Time – UTC +2, in summer +3.
- Big shopping centers: Athens Metro (90 stores) and Athens Heart (80 stores).
- The main shopping areas are Plaka, Kolonaki and Monastiraki.
- Athens is famous for excellent Greek cuisine. Popular street food: gyros (Greek shawarma), souvlaki (fried kebabs in pita bread with tomatoes and onions), tiropita (cheese pie).
- Excellent fish and seafood can be tasted at the Pireas port.
- Clubs and bars are concentrated in the coastal area, around Plaka, Kerameikos and north of Ermou Street.
- Although Athens is considered a safe city, fraud and theft are quite common. Be vigilant and watch your belongings.
- The best areas to live: Plaka, Monastiraki, Syntagmatos, Koukaki.
Athens is one of the oldest cities in Greece, founded in the seventh millennium BC. There is a myth as to why the goddess Athena was chosen as its patron. The first Athenian king Kekrop offered the two gods (Athena and Poseidon) to wager for the patronage of the new city. To do this they had to bring the king a gift. Poseidon struck a spring with his trident, but the water was still salty. Athena struck with her spear and an olive tree grew out of the ground. Athena’s gift to Kekrope liked it better.
Athens had its heyday in the 5th century BC. During this period the city was one of the most important and most powerful polis of ancient Greece, along with Sparta. Philosophy and culture flourished here, and the political system was democracy. In the second half of the 5th century BC came Pericles’ golden age, a period of greatest prosperity, during which the Acropolis and the Parthenon were built.
The heyday of Athens did not last long. After the Peloponnesian War the city lost its position and was subdued by Macedonia during the Hellenistic era. In 146 BC Athens became an ally of Rome, but joined its opponents in the rebellion. In 86 BC the city was sacked by the Romans and incorporated into the Roman Empire. In the 3rd century A.D. Athens fell into decline.
After the collapse of the Roman Empire, the city became part of Byzantium, and Christianity became the official religion. During the Middle Ages, Athens lost its position and became an ordinary provincial city. In 1458 the city was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire. In the 17-19 centuries Athens was on the brink of military conflicts between the Ottoman Empire and other countries. During the wars many ancient monuments and historical areas were destroyed. In 1687, the artillery of the Venetian Republic damaged the Parthenon.
In 1833 Athens was declared the capital of the Kingdom of Greece. In the late 19th century, archaeological excavations and research intensified. During World War II the city was occupied by German troops.
How to get there
Athens Airport is located east of the city center and is the largest in Greece. From the airport you can get to the city by subway (to Syntagmatos Square and Monastiraki) or by buses X93, X96 and X97. Rail transport in Greece is not the most developed. In fact there are two railroad lines to Athens, one running south to Peloponessos and one running north to Thessaloniki.
The city of Athens has a large subway, streetcars, trolleybuses and buses. All means of transportation have a single ticket. The subway has three lines: M1 (green) – connects the port and the northern suburbs through the city center, M2 (red) – connects the western and southern Athens, M3 (blue) – connects the southwestern suburbs with the northern suburbs and the airport.
Athens’ most famous landmark is the sacred hill – the Acropolis. Here are the striking ancient ruins of ancient temples that symbolize the flowering of Greek civilization.
The acropolis has a height of 156 meters and is visible from almost everywhere. In ancient times there was a royal palace, majestic temples to the gods, objects of worship and numerous sculptures. Most of the major structures of the Acropolis were built during the reign of Pericles (5th century BC) in the heyday of Athens.
The most famous attraction of the Acropolis is the magnificent Parthenon, which, despite time, is one of the best preserved ancient Greek structures in Athens. The Parthenon is considered the largest temple of the classical period of ancient Greece and is dedicated to Aphrodite. It was completed in 438 B.C. The temple is known for its monumental Doric columns and was adorned with numerous sculptures.
The Temple of Saint Nika Apteros
The temple of Saint Nika Apteros, built between 427 BC and dedicated to Athena the Victorious, the propylaeum (main entrance formed by columns and porticoes) and the Erechtheion, built between 421 BC and 406 BC in honor of Athena, Poseidon and King Erechtheus, stand out among the ancient ruins of the Acropolis.
Acropolis floor plan
All structures and ruins of the Acropolis:
- Statue of Athena Promachos.
- Temple of Nika Apteros.
- Athenian altar.
- The sanctuary of Zeus Polyus.
- Sanctuary of Pandion.
- Odeon of Herodes the Attic.
- The Stand of Eumenes.
- The theater of Dionysus.
- Odeon of Pericles.
- The Temenos of Dionysus.
- Sanctuary of Aglaure.
300 meters away is the Acropolis Museum which is one of the most important modern buildings in Athens, built in steel, glass and concrete. It preserves priceless finds and antiquities that were found here during excavations.
Temple of Zeus the Olympic or Olympion
From the Acropolis to the city there is an archaeological route that leads to other antiquities of Athens, which belong to different periods and cultures. At the foot of the hill, for example, are the ruins of the Olympion, a temple dedicated to Zeus. It was the largest building of ancient Greece. Construction began in the 6th century BC and was finished only in the 2nd century AD under the Roman Emperor Hadrian. More than a hundred huge marble columns once supported the grand sanctuary. Only 15 of them have survived to this day.
The Theater of Dionysus
The Theater of Dionysus is located on the southern side of the Acropolis and is considered the oldest building of its kind in Greece. Many of the most famous ancient Greek comedies and tragedies were presented on this stage. Originally built as a temple, the theater dates back to the 6th century B.C. It was dedicated to Dionysus, the god of fun and wine, and could seat 17,000 people.
The ancient Agora was the marketplace and center of daily life in ancient Athens. Most of the surviving ruins date from the Roman period and date back to the 1st century A.D. The Agora was surrounded by colonnades and columns. It was also the site of sporting events and theatrical performances. To the east is the 12-meter high Tower of the Wind.
A great view of the Agora can be seen from the northern wall of the Acropolis.
The Arch of Hadrian was built in 131 AD and symbolizes the entrance to the ancient city. Near the western slope of the Acropolis lies the Hill of Pnyx. Here the citizens of Athens could exercise their democratic rights. To the southwest of the Acropolis of Athens is the hill of Philopappa, which was known as the hill of the Muses and has preserved several ancient ruins. There is also a tiny 12th-century Byzantine chapel with 18th-century frescoes.
The core of the historic center of Athens is the Plaka neighborhood, located on the eastern side of the Acropolis. The area has been inhabited since ancient times. Nowadays Plaka is a maze of narrow picturesque streets with traditional 19th-century houses. Plaka is famous for its provincial atmosphere (sometimes you can not even believe that it is the center of a bustling metropolis), nice restaurants and historic churches.
From Plaka, the streets of Athens lead to Monastiraki Square, which is one of the central squares of old Athens with narrow streets and small buildings. The square hosts a traditional bazaar (Yousouroum). Monastiraki is a popular shopping district with over 2,000 of the most diverse stores.
Anafiotika is another atmospheric village quarter of Athens, just north of the Acropolis. Here tourists can enjoy traditional Greek food and a stroll through the winding Cycladic-style streets. Anafiotica was built in the 1960s of the 19th century.
Odeon of Herodes
The Odeon of Herodes was an ancient Roman theater built in the 2nd century AD on the steep slopes of the Acropolis by Herod Atticus in memory of his wife. The theater seated 6,000 spectators and was rebuilt in the 1950s.
The Olympic Stadium was built in the 19th century for the first modern Olympics. It seats 50,000 spectators and is the largest sporting structure made entirely of marble. The first stadium on this site was built in the 3rd century B.C. and rebuilt in 144. In ancient times, the stadium hosted a religious festival dedicated to the goddess Athena every four years.
Church of Our Lady of Capnicare
The Church of Our Lady of Capnicarea is a magnificent example of 11th century Byzantine architecture. The church is located on one of the main streets of Athens, Ermu.
Church of the Holy Apostles
The Church of the Holy Apostles is a 10th century religious building on the site of the ancient Agora, built in typical Byzantine style. Inside the dome is decorated with original frescoes. Also preserved is a significant portion of the ancient iconostasis of the 11th century.
The Syntagmatos Square is the central square of modern Athens. In front of the Greek parliament building stands the presidential guard in national costumes. The changing of the Guard takes place in front of the Monument to the Unknown Soldier at 11 am every day.
Interesting museums in Athens:
- The National Archaeological Museum is one of the largest museums in Greece, which has one of the largest displays of Antiquity in the world. The 8,000-square-meter building contains 11,000 exhibits.
- Byzantine Museum – More than 25,000 exhibits, representing a treasure trove of religious artifacts from the Byzantine period, as well as works of early Christian, medieval and post-Byzantine art.
- Cycladic Art Museum – ancient artifacts found in the Cycladic Islands and Cyprus.
€117 per tour.
Athens for Kids: Journey by Time Machine
Introduce children to ancient culture and symbols of the ancient city in a playful way
Immerse yourself in the city’s history and see the most important things on a walking tour