Athens, Greece needs no introduction. It is Europe’s oldest capital city and the cradle of Western civilization. What’s fascinating about Athens today is that it has so many well preserved archeological sites, all well integrated into a more modern capital city. There is so much to see and do in Athens that picking and prioritizing may be overwhelming. This post covers the 10 must visit sites in Athens that you definitely need to include in your itinerary when visiting this amazing city!
1. The Acropolis
First up on this must visit sites in Athens is the Acropolis. The Acropolis is perhaps one of he most recognizable Greek site of all time. Even within Athens, you can see the Acropolis rising above from many different places. The term “Acropolis” refers to the fortified hill. This ancient citadel is home to several important buildings, including the Parthenon, Temple of Athena, the Erechtheion, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, and the Theater of Dionysus.
2. The Ancient Agora
Next on this must visit sites in Athens list is the Ancient Agora. The Ancient Agora sits at the foot of the Acropolis and is the best known example of an ancient Greek agora. Founded in the 6th century BC, this site was not just a marketplace but also a gathering place for great minds and ordinary citizens. Walking around the Ancient Agora, it is easy to go back in time and imagine what life was back in the day.
Don’t miss the Temple of Hephaestus located within the Agora. It is said to be one of the best-preserved Greek temples. It was constructed in the 5th century BC to honor the god Hephaestus, the patron god of fire, metal working, and craftsmanship.
3. The Roman Agora
The Roman Agora was built between 27BC and 17BC by Augustus Caesar in fulfilment of a promise originally made by Julius Caesar. It is located just a short distance away from the Ancient Agora. The Roman Agora has not been fully excavated yet but is known to have been a open space surrounded by a peristyle, which was common in Roman buildings back in the day. Perhaps the most interesting piece of architecture in the Roman Agora is the The Tower of the Winds which is considered to be the world’s first meteorological center, featuring a sundial, water clock, and wind vane.
4. Hadrian’s Library
Hadrian’s Library was created by Roman Emperor Hadrian in AD 132. It was built to not only house books but also as a repository for the official state archives. Situated in the Monastiraki area, this site is one of the many ancient sites that sits amidst all the modern buildings.
5. The Acropolis Museum
The Acropolis Museum houses the artifacts found on the Acropolis and the surrounding slopes. I think this museum is worth a visit, even if you are not a museum person. Buy tickets online to avoid standing in line as the line can be long.
6. The Temple of Olympian Zeus
Dedicated to Zeus, this temple was built over several centuries starting in 174 BCE. It was finally completed by Roman emperor Hadrian in 131 CE. With over 100 tall columns towering at 17.25 meters, it is said to be one of the largest ancient temples ever built. Only 15 of these columns remain today as the temple was destroyed during an invasion in 267 AD but it is not difficult to visualize what it used to be like back in the day.
7. Panathenaic Stadium
A definite must visit site in Athens, the Panathenaic Stadium was first built in 330 BC for the Panathenaic games. It was later rebuilt in 144 AD by Herodes Atticus, an Athenian Roman senator. This second stadium was built entirely of marble and had the capacity of 50,000 seats. The Panathenaic Stadium was the site of the opening and closing ceremonies of the first modern Olympics in 1896. It was also used as an Olympic venue in the 2004 Olympics.
Kerameikos is an area of Athens that served as potter’s quarters and an ancient cemetery. The cemetery is said to have been used continuously from the 9th century BC until the Roman times.
Situated in the shadow of the Acropolis, the Plaka is one of the oldest section of Athens. Plaka has a village feel, with narrow cobblestone streets lined with tiny shops. Visit the Anafiotika, which is a charming little enclave with whitewashed houses and photogenic streets giving it a Greek island vibe.
Monastiraki is an area in Athens that is busy any time of the day. The main square is full of shops and restuarants. What I loved most about Monastiraki is how close it was to so many archeological sites including Hadrian’s Library, the Ancient Agora, and the Acropolis. In my opinion this is one of the best areas to stay while in Athens given the proximity to everything.
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