When in Athens…Part One: Let’s be civilized!

Frankly my dear, once you’ve made it to Athens, the place where ancient philosophers, poets, leaders and generals, story tellers and artists, athletes and renowned speakers, all came together a very long time ago to pave the road for today’s civilization and democracy, you owe it to yourself to explore every nook and cranny of this historic capital. To leave no stone unturned, no path untaken, no flavor forsaken.

But where to start?

Well, we’re glad you asked, as we’ve compiled a list with the top sites and experiences you cannot afford to miss out on!

First things first! There is nothing more recognizable and undeniably associated with Greece than the Acropolis of Athens. This sacred symbol of Greek ancient history encompasses:

  • the Propylaea Gateway, a monumental and awing structure leading to the main site
  • the Temple of Athena Nike, dedicated to the goddess Athena, bringer of victory (Nike)
  • the Parthenon, erected as a symbol of power following the defeat of the Persians in 479 BC
  • and the Erechtheum with its famous “Porch of the Maidens”.

On the southern slopes you will come across a grand stone theater, the Herodeon, a venue for acclaimed performances, restored and maintained throughout the years. You will also discover the Theater of Dionysus, the birthplace of Greek drama.

On the northwest slope, you will be met by the Agora of Athens, having served, among other things, as the seat of justice in ancient times, and the Temple of Hephaestus, one of the best-preserved ancient temples.

Spanning over a total area of 25,000 square meters, with its globally distinguished architecture, the Acropolis Museum is a must on everyone’s list.

At the foothill of the Acropolis, discover the ancient district of Plaka where you will find the Museum of Greek Folk Musical Instruments and the Roman Agora, the first trade center of the capital. There, you will come across one of the oldest churches in Athens, the Church of Panagia Kapnikarea.

Why not also drop by the National Archaeological Museum, where you can admire the fully preserved Kore (young maiden), surely one of the most important pieces of Archaic art in existence?

Another important stop is at the “mansion-turned-museum” Benaki Museum, dedicated to preserving and promoting world heritage.

Don’t forget to pass by the Museum of Cycladic Art, the Athenian cultural hub with an infamous collection of ancient Greek, Cycladic and Cypriot artefacts for all ages.

On Amalias Avenue, feast your eyes on Hadrian’s Arch, the monumental 18 meter tall gateway (131 AD), and don’t miss a chance to explore the remains of the Temple of Zeus.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, dedicated to fallen Greek soldiers, is located at Syntagma square, outside of the Hellenic Parliament building. You can catch the traditional change of guard ceremony at the tomb where one Evzone soldier comes to relieve the other of his duty.

Just a few meters away, enjoy a serene oasis in the center of Athens in the National Garden with its 519 species of plant life.

A true Athenian staple and attestation to Greek history, dating back to the first modern Olympic Games, is the Panathenaic Stadium or Kallimarmaro, with its glorious past and iconic presence in the capital.

A must-see testament to the birthplace of all western civilization, the three priceless architectural jewels forming the notable Athenian Trilogy are the University of Athens, the Academy and the National Library, situated on Panepistimiou street.

For a more modern outtake into Greek landmarks, don’t skip on the chance to check out the 1994 Runner Statue (Dromeas), a unique 12 meter tall statue made mostly of glass shards, creating the illusion of a blurred runner in motion.

And last but not least, make sure to escape the busy city life, through the Athens Riviera, to Cape Sounion, situated at about 70km southeast of Athens. It serves as the setting of one the most photographed monuments of Greece, the Temple of Poseidon.

To be continued…