Be warned, if you dislike history then don’t waste your time reading this article. You’re only one sentence in, two including this one. Now, if you think visiting an ancient city where many say western civilization began sounds interesting, then read on. Because there is probably no place in the world where you will find such a rich, pivotal history in world affairs still intact. A history that proved fundamental in changing the course of the West. You can walk among the ruins where men first decided the best way to govern society was through democracy. You can stand where they stood as they voted with their hand and voice. And that is special. So read on!
1. Walk among ruins over 2,400 years old: visit the Parthenon
Built in 447 BC, the Parthenon was a wonder of the ancient world, and is now one of the modern. Dedicated to the Goddess Athena, it is the most important surviving building of classical Greece and is a symbol of democracy and western civilization. It’s amazing that it has held up for over two millennia. To walk among the Doric columns and the surrounding ruins is not an opportunity you want to miss. If you are going to Athens, this is a must-see.
Website: The Parthenon
2. Wander the authentic Plaka neighborhood
If you happen to stumble upon the Plaka district when roaming Athens, then you will immediately register a difference. The Plaka neighborhood holds the oldest neighborhoods in Athens. The neoclassical buildings are painted bright colors and hanging flowers adorn their walls. There are many cafes and shops; the area caters to tourists. The neighborhood is known as the ‘Neighborhood of Gods’ since it lies below the Acropolis. It is a great place to spend a few hours and buy gifts for your friends and family back home.
Address: Plaka, Athens 105 58, Greece
Website: Plaka district
3. Explore the Temple of Hephaestus
The Temple of Hephaestus is perhaps the most intact landmark from Greek antiquity in Athens. It is located on the Agora of Athens and is surrounded by well-kept lawns and shrubs. It’s a great place to take a stroll and admire ancient Greek architecture. For those who weren’t a Greek mythology nerd like I was growing up, Hephaestus is the god of metal working, craftsmanship, and fire. Just one question now. Is it a coincidence that the God of craftsmanship’s temple is in spectacular shape, by far the temple in best shape, or not?
Temple of Hephaestus
Address: Athens 105 55, Greece
Website: Temple of Hephaestus
4. Check out the ruins of Ancient Greek civilization at the National Archaeological Museum
History buffs, come one, come all. If the weather looks foreboding take refuge in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens. The museum holds some of the rarest Greek treasures in the world, ranging from prehistory to late antiquity. As you walk through the rooms, just by observing their sculptures, tools, and bones, you will witness the rise and fall of Greek epochs. The museum is sleek and elegant and offers an array of rotating exhibitions. The Odysseus and Ithaca exhibitions are recommended!
National Archaeological Museum of Athens
Address: 28is Oktovriou 44, Athina 106 82, Greece
5. Scale Mount Lycabettus for a great view of Athens, and a great sunset view
Have you ever wished that you could just go to the middle of a city and have a perfect view of it in all directions? Meet Mount Lycabettus. You can’t take an elevator up for this view, but the hike is more than worth it. From the top you have an unimpeded view of all that is Athens. I recommend going here one of your first days in Athens so you have a good mental image of the city in your head as you explore it. The top has an open-air amphitheater where the likes of Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Radiohead, and James Brown have played.
Website: Mount Lycabettus
6. Don’t miss the temple of the big man on campus, the Temple of the Olympian Zeus
If you’re the superstitious sort, it’s probably wise to pay your respects to the Temple of the Olympian Zeus while you are in Athens. Started in the 6th-century BC and completed in the 2nd-century AD, the temple originally had 104 colossal columns. Today, 16 still stand. That may not sound like much of a temple, and admittedly it isn’t. But these ancient columns are worth seeing just by the virtue of how large they are. You will probably not find anything like them in Greece.
The Temple of the Olympian Zeus
Address: Athens 105 57, Greece
Website: The Temple of the Olympian Zeus
7. Away ruins and museums! Get lost in the National Garden of Athens
If I was a kid, this is where I would play tag. The National Garden is 38 acres (15 hectares) of trimmed grass, tunnels covered with vegetation, and open spaces of fountains, statues, and trees. Not to mention it has a duck pond, botanical museum, cafe, children’s library, and playground. There’s much to see and enjoy in this calm, peaceful refuge away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
The National Garden of Athens
Address: Amalias 1, Αμαλίας 1, Athina 105 57, Greece
Website: The National Garden of Athens
Athens awaitsNow, these are only a few things you can do in the capital of Greece, the cradle of western civilization. When you go to these destinations, ask staff there what other popular attractions are around. Athens is a large city, and if archaeology, museums, and gardens aren’t your cup of tea, climb to the top of Mount Lycabettus and see what is out there for yourself!
Get Trip101 in your inbox