Athens Travel Guide

Athens

Athens, the capital of Greece is not a city that you would probably describe as attractive. It’s a metropolis struggling with all the typical problems of a modern city: smog, heavy and chaotic traffic and just too much concrete all around.  How come it still captivates the hearts of millions of tourists every year? Discover the many faces of this exciting city and I bet you will fall in love with Athens too.

With a history of nearly 3,500 years, Athens is one of the oldest cities in the world and is often referred to as the cradle of Western civilization. It has an incredibly rich cultural heritage especially from the classical era: its ancient monuments are known worldwide and its museums hold fascinating antiquities.  Its landmark monument, the Acropolis is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and so is the eleventh-century Daphni Monastery nearby.

Athens is a lively and bustling city, and its famous sites are of course crammed with tourists, but it also has many quiet places perfect for relaxation and meditation: little squares with charming cafes (“cafenion”), nice parks and old Byzantine churches where you can enjoy the calm with the history surrounding you. You might also choose to relax on one of the several nice beaches near Athens.

Athens has an amazing array of cultural events: great concerts, theatrical performances and music festivals. The Athens Hellenic Festival held in June and July is a real treat for theater lovers. Also, Athens nightlife is one of the most vibrant in Europe offering clubs and events for all tastes.

Aerial view of Athens, Greece. Athens is the capital of Greece and it's one of the world's oldest cities

If you are visiting in summer, you might prefer to spend some of the midday hours relaxing in your hotel, and go out for the evening, since between June and September Athens can get terribly hot. It’s best to take advantage of the relatively cool morning period and the time after 6 pm to explore the city and look for somewhere cool to survive the hours around noon – for example in one of the many excellent museums and art exhibitions Athens offers.

Top things to do and see in Athens

Visit the Acropolis

The absolute highlight of Athens is the Acropolis, which has earned titles like “the most important ancient site in the Western world” and “the symbol of Classical Greece”. The word “Acropolis” actually merely stands for “upper city” and can denote any of the several citadels or high fortified areas throughout the country, but the Acropolis of Athens has been such a prominent site that it has come to be referred to as “The Acropolis.”

The Acropolis, this stunning complex of several ancient buildings is located on a rocky mountain in the center of Athens and is visible from virtually everywhere in the city. Its sight is just breathtaking, whether you see it in the daylight or at sunset (when the white marble is glowing golden) or at night when it’s all beautifully illuminated.

The most famous building of the Acropolis is the Parthenon, a majestic temple dedicated to Athena Parthenos, the patron goddess of the city. It is the largest Doric temple in Greece and used to house a wonderful gold and ivory statue of Athena created by Phidias. The other monuments of the Acropolis include the Temple of Athena Nike, the Erechtheum and the remains of the Theatre of Dionysus.

Ancient theater in a summer day in Acropolis Greece, Athnes

The climb up the hill is rather steep, so make sure you wear comfortable shoes. Once you’re up, you will definitely find the effort worth it! Soak in the ancient spirit and enjoy the wonderful view of Athens below.

See the Acropolis Museum

Many of the sculptures and other treasures originally housed at the Acropolis are now displayed in the Acropolis Museum, a modern building at the foot of the hill, within walking distance from the Parthenon. The exhibits are fascinating and well described, and the museum is organized in an ingenious way. The building has been built over ruins from the Roman and early Byzantine era, and through transparent floors, you can peek into ongoing excavations below.

Explore the Ancient Agora of Athens and the Temple of Hephaestus

The Ancient Agora was the central public space of ancient Athens, a place for gatherings, the political, religious and cultural center of the city. It used to have shops and workshops all around with some more prominent buildings, such as the Prytaneion (seat of government) and other “assembly houses”, several temples and the mint. On the Agora today you can view the ruins of several ancient buildings, and the incredibly well-preserved Temple of Hephaestus built almost 2,500 years ago. Sit on a bench in the shade and just enjoy the sight.

See the changing of the guard outside the Parliament

The Parliament of Greece is located in a beautiful neoclassical building called the “Old Royal Palace”. On Sundays, at 11 a.m. you can see the ceremonial changing of the guard outside the building. The parade of the guards in their traditional uniforms, accompanied by a military band, is a real spectacle which attracts crowds every Sunday.

Visit the Daphni Monastery

Daphni monastery in Athens Greece

The medieval monastery of Daphni, only 7 miles from Athens is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The building is a masterpiece of Byzantine architecture and is famous for the stunning mosaics of its interior.

Pictures of Athens

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