“Athens is the historical capital of Europe, with a long history, dating from the first settlement in the Neolithic age. In the 5th Century BC (the “Golden Age of Pericles”) – the culmination of Athens’ long, fascinating history – the city’s values and civilization acquired a universal significance. Over the years, a multitude of conquerors occupied Athens and erected unique, splendid monuments – a rare historical palimpsest. In 1834, it became the capital of the modern Greek state, and in two centuries since it has become an attractive modern metropolis with unrivaled charm.
A large part of the town’s historic center has been converted into a 3-kilometer pedestrian zone (the largest in Europe), leading to the major archaeological sites (“archaeological park”), reconstructing – to a large degree – the ancient landscape.
Athens The Capital Of Greece
Athens is the historic capital of Europe as it has been inhabited since the Neolithic Era. Through the course of its long, fascinating history, it reached its zenith in the 5th century B.C. (the “Golden Age of Pericles”), a period when its values and its culture crossed the geographical borders of the city and spread worldwide. Political thinking, theater, arts, philosophy, science, architecture and so many other human intellectualities reached their zenith in a unique time coincidence and spiritual completion.
Hence, Athens became the core of western civilization, while many Greek words and understandings such as democracy, harmony, music, mathematics, art, gastronomy, architecture, logic, Eros, euphoria, and many more, enriched various languages and inspired different civilizations.
During centuries Athens came across many conquerors, which left their mark on monuments of outstanding prestige and charm creating rare historic palimpsest.
History at the Center of Athens
If you do not have enough time to visit all sites, this route (around 3.5 km) will take you to the most remarkable sites in Athens. A walk where you will see classic ancient times and all other historic periods, the architectural evolution and all phases of the city development until the 21st century (classic period, Romaic period, Byzantine, Ottoman occupation, neo-classic times and 20th century). In reality, it is a journey through history itself, an activity that only Athens can offer…
Vassilissis Sofias Avenue
One of the most impressive avenues in Athens, starting from Syntagma Square and ending up in the Abelokipous area. Its former name was Kifissias because it connected Athens with the traditional homonym suburb. Even though it has lost part of its character as a classic avenue, it is still one of the most charming routes in the city, as along its way there are many beautiful buildings, museums, and lush green areas.
Sightseeing (from Syntagma Square to Abelokipous area):
Building of Foreign Affairs Ministry (5 Vassilissis Sofias). Designed by E. Ziller (1872-1873), it belonged to the Syggrou family until 1921. Then it was relegated to the Greek Government. This neo-classic mansion has been announced as a work of art and houses Ministry’s central services. In 1985 it was annexed to a new building, which is located in Zalokostas Str.
French Embassy (Psicha Mansion). An impressive three-story building located at the corner of Akadimia Str. It was built in 1894 by An. Metaxa for Psicha family. It is a remarkable building, which combines modernistic decoration with neoclassic style.
Italian Embassy. House of Prince Nikolaos until the first exile of the royal family in 1917. It was then turned into a luxurious hotel (“Le Petit Palais”) and later it was bought by the Italian Government in order to house its embassy.
Benaki Museum (1 Koubari Str.). It is one of the most impressive neoclassic mansions of Athens, built successively from 1910 to 1931 (designs of An. Metaksas) as the house of Ant. Benaki. Since 1931 it has been housing Museum exhibits Sarogleios Mansion (Officers’ Club). An impressive building of beaux-arts style, built-in 1928 on Rigilli Square (P. Mela). It was designed by architect Al. Nikolaidis.
Stathatos Mansion. An impressive neoclassic mansion (in Herodotus Str. Corner), designed in 1885 by E. Ziller. Since 1991 it has been the new wing of Cycladic and Ancient Greek Arts Goulandri Museum with which is connected by a glass corridor.
Byzantine and Christian Museum. The museum’s core is “Villa Ilissia” (1848) of neo Cinquecento style, built in the banks of Ilissos River that existed at that period. It was the winter resort of S. de Marbois-Lebrum, known also as “Duchess of Plakentia”. The villa was constructed by architect St. Kleanthi (also known as Chr. Hansen). After Duchess’s death (1854), the mansion was sold to the Greek Government. Since 1930 it has been housing the museum, which has been expanded by two new wings in 1952 and in 1994 (because of the exhibits).
Museum of War. A modern building (designed by Th. Valenti), which was inaugurated in 1975.
British Ambassador’s House. It is located at the corner of Loukianos Str. It was built between 1930-1932 (designed by An. Metaksas), as El. Venizelos house, who then was the prime minister. After his death, it was given to the British Government and until 1960 housed Athens British Embassy. After constructing the embassy next to it, today it is the ambassador’s residence.
Aghios Nikolaos and Aghios Georgios. Small churches of cross-in-square type with four columns, representative examples of church architecture of the late 19th century. Aghios Nikolaos (built-in 1876-next to British Embassy) is of neo-Byzantine style, while Aghios Georgios is a combination of Byzantine, classic, and Romanic architectural elements.
“Evangelismos” Hospital (old building). A neoclassic building (designed by G. Metaksas), which was renovated in 1880 by Queen Olga. A few years later the homonym garden of English style was created.
Megali tou Genous Scholi Square. A small square, located at the intersection of Vassilissis Sofias and Vassilias Konstantinos Avenues. In the middle of the square stands the impressionistic sculpture of “Dromeas” or “Runner” (created in 1988, by K. Varotsos), which is created from glass pieces. On the opposite side stands “Hilton” hotel (1958-1963) of vigorous international modernistic style (many coffee houses, bars, and small restaurants are located around on Ventiri, Meksi, and other streets). Two amazing art nouveau blocks of flats dating back to the middle war period are located on the other side of the square (at the intersection with I. Gennadios Str.). Next to the “Hilton” hotel is the building of the National Gallery- Alexandros Soutsos Museum, which was constructed in the period of 1966-1975 and was influenced by the brutal architectural style of Le Corbusier. Rizari Park, one of the first parks in Athens, is also located on the opposite side of “Hilton” hotel.
Eleftheria Park. It is a lush green area, which surrounds El. Venizelos Statue (sculptured by G. Pappas). Three stone buildings are located in its backside, which now houses the Art Center of Athens Municipality and “El. Venizelos” Museum. Opposite the park, stands a frugal neoclassic complex of three hospitals (“Aeginitio”, “Aretaeio” and “Alexandra”).
Athens Concert Hall: A monumental building designed by M. Voureka, constructed in the period of 1973-1991. It is considered to be one of the best and most integrated music halls in the world. It has concert and opera halls, a music library, conference hall, halls of multi-purposes, etc. During the winter season, it organizes music concerts, opera, theater, dancing performances, and other high-quality events.
American Embassy. One of the most outstanding examples of modern architecture in Greece (1959-1961), designed by the famous architect W. Gropius.
Mavili Square. One of the most “vivid” squares in Athens, with lots of coffee houses, bars, and restaurants that gather people all day long. It is the perfect spot to find a house since it is close to Lycabettus Hill and the central avenues of Vassilissis Sofias and Alexandras. In the last few years, however, it has lost part of its charm because of the very busy roads.
Ippokrateio Hospital. A preserved public building constructed during the 1880s is of neoclassic style and operates as a hospital since 1912. Next to it, you can see Aghios Andreas Chapel (17th century).
Athens Tower. The first glass skyscraper in Athens (1971-1973), one of the few that was finally built in the frames of the great city planning complex of the capital. It is a two-building complex with 12 levels and 25m in height. It mainly houses the company offices. Right in front of it there is a preserved small villa with a garden, as a memory of the old rural nature of the Abelokipoi area that lasted until the 1920s.
Breathtaking views over Athens
Thanks to its rich morphology Athens has plenty of places where you can admire stunning panoramic views of the city. Romantic or not, let yourself be captivated by the Athenian cityscape as seen from above.
Near Kolonaki area is situated the famous Lycabettus Hill, at 277 meters high above sea level. Legend has it that wolves used to seek refuge on this hill. That probably explains its name “Lycabettus: the hill walked by wolves”. A funicular at the bottom of the hill (on Ploutarhou Street) takes you to the top, but there is also a road to drive up. Those who love hiking may also choose to walk! Whichever your preference, you will be rewarded with a 360˚ view of the city sprawling below, especially on a clear day. The panoramic view from the top just sweeps you away: Mount Parnes to the north, Piraeus and the Saronic Gulf to the west, whereas Acropolis stands imposingly before your eyes. An open cafe and a luxurious restaurant offer you hot or cold drinks and fine meals.
Filopappou Hill, 147 m. the high was known in ancient Greece as the Hill of the Muses. It is located in a very central point of the city (metro station Thissio or Acropolis), to the southwest of the Acropolis. You can only reach the top on foot. Enjoy a great view of the Acropolis, a panoramic view of the whole city, and the Aegean Sea surrounding Attica. A paved path starts from Filopappou and leads to the Pnyx Hill, where the great orators of antiquity, like Pericles, Demosthenes, and Aristides, delivered powerful political speeches. On the far side of the hill, the Dora Stratou Theatre hosts folklore dancing performances. Close to the hill, you will also find the National Observatory, an astronomy and seismology scientific institute, as well as the church of Saint Marina.
The Monastery lies to the eastern side of Athens, on a hillside at the foot of Mount Hymettos, a few miles away from the suburb of Kaisariani. It was actually built in the 11th century over the ruins of an ancient temple of Aphrodite. Probably its position was chosen because of the spring existing there, part of the River Ilissos that in antiquity flowed through Athens. Enjoy the idyllic scenery created by the cypresses, olive groves, and wildflowers as well as a bird’s eye view of the city of Athens and the Saronic Gulf. The chapel of St. Marcus is considered to be the spot where the view is simply outstanding! Kaisariani is about 7 km far from the city center. If you do not have a car, you can reach Kaisariani by public transport (buses 732 or 224 from Syntagma Square), and then reach the Monastery on the top of the hill by taxi.
The most picturesque, romantic, and nostalgic neighborhood of Plaka is certainly Anafiotika, situated directly under the north section of the Acropolis. Its white-washed houses with blue doors, the stone walls, and the small cute gardens create the impression of a Cycladic island or an isolated village in the middle of the city. The Cycladic architectural style of Anafiotika is attributed to its first inhabitants, craftsmen from the Cycladic island of Anáfi. The view of Plaka and Lycabettus from specific locations of the settlement is simply spectacular!
Profitis Elias (Prophet Elias), Piraeus (in the west side of Kastella Hill)
Kastella, built on a hill called “Profitis Elias”, is the most elegant neighborhood of Piraeus. Walk to the top of the hill and admire the breathtaking view of Mikrolimano, the Piraeus Port, and the Saronic Gulf. At night the view is really sweeping: the sight of the Acropolis lit up and the sparkling lights all over Athens will thrill the romantic hearts! Piraeus is easily accessible by subway (line 1, terminal station).
The Municipality of Petroupoli is situated on the west side of Attica. In Damári you can enjoy a panoramic view of the whole city that will take your breath away, especially at night! There are some beautiful cafés up there as well as the “Petra Theatre”, where you can attend, especially during summertime, various concerts or plays. In order to reach Damari, take the metro to “Attiki” station (line 2) and then the bus A11 or 747 or 719 to the terminal station.
Ancient Athens On Foot
The longest pedestrian street (3km long) in Europe is in Athens, created by turning central roads into pedestrian streets (Vassilissis Olgas, D. Aeropagitou, Ap. Pavlou, Hedrian and part of Ermou Str).It is a unified street that passes through the most remarkable sites in Athens (archaeological grove). The part from Dionisiou Aeropagitou Str. (opposite Hedrian’s Arch) up to the intersection of Ermou Str. and Pireos Str. (Keramikos area) extends a vast archaeological area alienated from the modern city activities. Walking through archaeological sites is an unforgettable experience.
According to the traveler Pausanias, the Temple of Olympian Zeus was built by Deucalion, a mythical ancestor of Greeks. During tyranny period (around 515 B.C.) Peisistratus Junior, grandson of the homonym tyrant, tried to replace the old temple with a new more impressive one. When tyranny was abrogated all construction works stopped. The new temple construction was later given to Roman architect Decimus Cossutius, by the king of Syria Adiochos Epifanis the 4th. When Adiochos died (163 B.C.) the temple was once more abandoned and left without roof or gables. The temple’s construction, one of the largest of ancient world, was finished in 131 B.C. by the Roman Emperor Hedrian.
Ilissos River bed. Take a walk to the only preserved part of Ilissos River basin (behind Olympion), also called sacred Muses River, to see the studded ruins of ancient temples. In a nearby location stands the famous rock of Kalliroi Spring and next to it is Aghia Fotini church built in 1872 on the ruins of an older church and on the foundations of Ekati’s sanctuary. Remarkable monuments of classic Roman and Byzantine periods (Delphinios Apollonas Temple, Kronos and Rea Temple, a Byzantine district with workshops, Leonidis basilica, etc) are preserved in a nearby area.
HEDRIAN’S ARCHAfter constructing Zeus Temple, Athenians honored Hedrian by building (in 131 B.C.) an arched gate on the north-western corner of the temple’s fencing. The arch’s epistyle carved from Penteli marble bears two inscriptions. The first one facing Acropolis and the old town (west side) says: “This is Athens, city of Thiseas”. The second one facing the sanctuary and the city from Hedrian’s side (east side) says: “This is the Hedrian’s city and not Thiseas’ ”.
Dionisiou Aeropagitou Str.
One of the most impressive streets in Athens with an amazing view of Acropolis and Parthenon. Pay attention to the buildings on the street’s left side. Most of them were built at the end of 19th century and beginning of 20th century and are of neoclassic or modernistic type representing the area’s elegance.
Dionysus Ancient Theater
Cross the gate leading to the archaeological sites (on the south aisle of Acropolis), walk Dionysiou Aeropagitou Street and go straight up. Higher on your right you will see the most ancient of all famous theaters in the world, Dionysus ancient theater. Aeschylus, Aristophanes, Euripides and Sophocles, four of the most famous ancient Greek poets, watched their plays being performed for the first time (5th century B.C.) in this theater. The theater bench rows and stage were first built from wood. During the 4th century B.C. the theater was rebuild in stone. Nowadays, the only preserved parts are those of the stone bench rows. According to experts, the theater had 17.000 seats capacity. The choragic Thrassilos Monument (319 B.C.) stands above the theater, carved in Acropolis rock and a little higher you can see two choragic Corinthian columns.
Eumenis Stoa (Porch)
Continuing your walk you will reach Eumenis Stoa, which was built in the 2nd century by the King of Pergamos, Eumenis II. Its main purpose was to protect the audience from sun or bad weather. Above Stoa you can see the ruins of Asklipios which was built after the famine in 429 B.C. that decimated Athens population.
HEROD ATTICUS ODEONHerodion, as it is called today, was built in 161 B.C. by Tiberius Claudius Herod Atticus, renowned personality, teacher and philosopher who inherited his father’s wealth. Herod Atticus built this roofed Odeon for music concerts in honor of his wife Regilla, after her death. The Ancient Greeks used to organize musical events in this venue. Nowadays, every summer Athens Festival events take place in this theater that can host up to 5,000 spectators . Its magic and beauty, however, can only be understood when walking on the way to Acropolis.
ACROPOLIS It is the Athens symbol, the sacred rock, the connection between ancient and contemporary civilizations. The monuments that stand today on the Sacred Rock are dated from the prehistoric period up to ancient times. There is not even one person (Greek or foreign visitor) that does not want to pay due to honor this sacred rock and see its beauty and glory. A visit to the sacred rock of the Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum is an unforgettable experience.
Court of Cassation (Arios Pagos)
It is the most ancient court in the world and was a specifically respected place during ancient times. The first aristocratic Parliament of ancient Athens was located here. Throughout the time this parliament lost its political power and since the second half of the 5th century B.C. it had only judicial power mainly focusing on homicide cases. As described in “Oresteia” this was the court where Orestis went on trial for murdering his mother Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthos. As the bronze plate on the rock base informs us this was also the place where Athenians first heard Apostle Pavlos preaching in 52 A.D.
You can visit it every season of the year and still find it beautiful. A walk there is an amazing experience: A beautiful lush green area that includes remarkable monuments such as what is considered to be the “Socrates Prison”, “Kimoneia Graves”, ancient Koili Street, a commercial avenue full of houses and shops, “Mouseos War Memorial”, Filopappos Monument and a great view of Parthenon and Acropolis.
Filopappos Monument. It was built in the 2nd century A.D. by Athenians, in honor of the benefactor governor of Syria, Gaius Julius Antiochus, who was also known by the name Filopappos. The literal meaning of his name is “the favorite grandson of his grandfather”. His grandfather was Komagginis Antiochus the 4th, last King of Syria.
Cobbled roads. During the 50’s, the Greek architect D. Pikionis unified the area from Propylaea of Acropolis to Filopappo Hill. Pay attention to the handmade cobbled roads, which lead to some monuments, Aghios Dimitrios Loubardiaris church and to the coffee house. The whole project has been announced preserved and protected Monument of International Cultural Heritage.
PNYX (Pnika in modern Greek)
Pnika is located between Muses Hill, where Filopappos Monument stands, and Nymphs Hill with the homonym sanctuary, where today’s National Observatory is located. This semi-circular square was the gathering place of all Athenians (6th century B.C.) to hear famous rhetoricians, who delivered their speech from stone podium in the center of Pnika. They also came here to exercise their democratic political duties. It is believed that it could host 10.000 people.
ANCIENT AGORA (Market) OF ATHENS
Ancient Agora’s archeological site is located on the foot of Acropolis Rock close to “Theseion” metro station. In antiquity, Agora was not only a commercial center but a political, cultural and religious one as well. This area included administrative buildings, temples, public services and courts. Athenians gathered here to buy and sell products, to get informed on current affairs, criticize the government, exchange ideas or just start a conversation. The area’s history begins from the Neolithic era but its monuments are of different historic periods: from classical times until the 11th century A.D. An example of the latter period is Aghioi Apostoloi church.
Theseion – Ephaestus Temple. Despite its name it was not dedicated to Thiseas but to Ephaestus and goddess Athena. It is situated in the west end of Agora and nowadays it is the best preserved temple of antiquity. It was built in 460-415 B.C. and housed Ephaestus and Athena statues believed to be sculptured by Alkamenis.
The Monument of Eponymous Heroes. The statues of ten heroes who gave their names to the ten tribes of Attica were here. All public announcements were done from the stand of these statues.
Poikili Stoa (Varied Porch). It is believed that it was named after frescos that decorated its walls. The word “Poikili” (Varied) probably comes from the fact that these frescos were of various colors and themes. It was here that Zenon taught his Stoic Philosophy which took its name from Poikili Stoa (460 B.C.).
Attalos Porch. This two storey building, donation of Pergamum’s King, Attalos the 2nd (159-138 B.C.) to the city of Athens, is considered to be a kind of ancient commercial center that housed 21 shops in each storey. The Museum collection includes items of everyday use which were discovered in ancient Agora giving the visitor the chance to understand Athens life.
Vassilios Porch. It is located in the foot of Theseion and was built approximately in 500 B.C. It was the base of Ruler Vassileas and of Arios Pagos council.
Agrippa Odeon. It was built in 15 B.C. by Agrippa. It could host 1.000 spectators and had a two-story porch. It was destroyed in 267 A.D. by Erulus and in 400 A.D. Gymnasium was built on its ruins. On the north side, there were four big statues of Giants and Tritones, which were taken from the Odeon. Three of them are still preserved.
ROMAIC AGORA It is a unified architectural complex constructed between 19-11 B.C. consisted of a large rectangular yard surrounded by columns, while its porches housed many different shops. North of the complex there was a library (a rectangular building with size 122×82 m), which was built in 132 A.D. by Adrianus.
Kiristos Watch-Wind Tower. Outside the eastern side of Romaic Agora you will see an octagonal building. It is Antronicus Kiristos Watch that was built in the 1st century B.C. and which housed a hydraulic watch. On each of its eight sides there was a relief of the eight winds. For this reason, the monument has the nickname “Aerides” (Winds).
Archigetida Athena Gate. It is located in the west side of the area. It is a monumental entrance with four Doric columns and a pediment made from Pentelic marble. It is in perfect state.
Vespasianes (public toilets). It is a rectangular building with hall and a square room with benches that had holes on their four sides, and drainage underneath the building.
KERAMEIKOS Ancient Kerameikos was located in the northwest edge of Athens and extended inside as well as outside the walls of the city, which nowadays cross the archeological site. In the center of the archeological site are the two most famous gates of ancient Athens, Dipylon, and Iera Pili. The area around these gates was the biggest and most ancient cemetery in Attica. It was also the burial place of citizens honored by the city of Athens. According to traveler Pausanias, the area took its name from Keramos. Probably, though, it took its name from the ceramics district (Kerameikos: the person that deals with ceramic art or pottery), which was created on the Heridanos River banks. The river bed is visible in the archeological site. Kerameikos ancient municipality included an area much larger than the one found during excavations. It is believed that it extended from the northwest borders of Agora to the grove that took its name from the hero Akadimus.
Panathenaea Celebration. Every year ancient Athenians celebrated Mikra Panathenaea and every four years Megala Panathenaea. These were grandiose cultural events that included horse races, sports games, music, and other art competitions. On the last day of the celebration, a procession was starting from Kerameikos, and passing through Agora ended up on Acropolis, where people offered to Athena the so-called mantle. In ancient times, statues were covered with real clothing. Therefore, the gods’ mantle was actually a woolen tunic, knitted by the priestess and the young virgins who assisted her. It was placed as a sail on a large wooded boat’s mast and was transferred in Acropolis. The whole procession followed this boat. This is the procession that the Parthenon frieze depicts.
Graves and columns. Kerameikos is famous for its graves and columns. By walking around them you will have the opportunity to admire the marble bull replica located in grave fencing of Dionysus from Kollito, as well as the replicas of famous columns such as the ones of Delikseos and Igesos (end of 5th century B.C.). If you want to see the original sculptures as well as other findings, please visit the Museum.
Kerameikos Museum. It houses findings from the Kerameikos area including funeral gifts found in the graves as well as tomb sculptures of archaic and classic times.
Dimosio Sima. Close to Kerameikos archeological site (in 35 Salamina Str.) was discovered part of this great cemetery. Graves of famous people, as well as of people who died in battles were discovered in this cemetery.
This area was inhabited from prehistoric times and took its name from hero Akademos or Ekademos. During the 6th century, one of the three famous Gymnasiums in Athens was built in this area. Nowadays, however, the area is famous because of the well known Philosophy School, which was established in 387 B.C. by Plato and flourished during the time of Neo-Platonists.
Sacred House of Geometric period. It consists of seven rectangular rooms and has features similar to the ones in the sacred house of Eleusina. Due to many sacrifice items found there, it is believed that it was a place where rituals took place.
Gymnasium. A rectangular building (1st century B.C. – 1st century A.D.) with interior columns and rooms situated on its north side. Inside it there is a smaller room used as a Ring.
Peristyle Building (building with columns around it). A large square building (4th century B.C.) with an interior peristyle. It is believed to be used as a ring or Gymnasium annex.
First Hellenic Arched House. It consists of a hall, room and auxiliary area is considered to be Akadimus prehistoric house.
Athens’ hidden gems
Inhabited since the Neolithic age, Athens is considered Europe’s historical capital. The city reached the zenith of its long and fascinating history in the 5th century B.C. (the “Golden Age of Pericles”), when its values and civilization acquired a universal significance and glory. Political thought, theatre, the arts, philosophy, science, and architecture, are some of the forms of intellectual thought which reached an epic high point in a period of intellectual productivity that was unique in world history.
Today, Athens offers visitors a unique experience – a trip back through 6,000 years of history, including the chance to see renowned monuments and masterpieces of art from antiquity and the Middle Ages and the architectural heritage of the 19th and 20th centuries.
The brilliant light of the sky over Attica illuminates the charming landscape of the surrounding region with its winding coastline, beaches, and mountains. And, within the bustling city, visitors can enjoy the modern infrastructure and unique verve of the Athenians.
In Athens, the sunniest capital in Europe, summer does not come to an end in August; it remains exciting and full of surprises in September as well. Sun-drenched beaches with crystalline waters and a superb nightlife make Athens Riviera, the coastline of Athens indented by peninsulas and scallop-shaped coves along the Saronic Gulf, an incredible setting much similar to a typical cosmopolitan Greek island. So, let’s rush for an autumn beach break…in Athens!
You don’t need to get on a ferry to escape the bustle of the Greek capital: take a short bus ride and you’ll find superb local beaches along the sheltered Saronic Gulf stretching from the southern suburbs of Athens to the southernmost point of Attica, Cape Sounio. Just 10 miles south of the city –typically a 30-40 minute drive– you will find a place where urban sprawl gives way to an idyllic palm-fringed setting.
Take the opportunity to swim, relax at a waterfront café, walk along the picture-perfect pedestrian streets and the marinas, exercise your favorite water sport, shop in one of the area’s modern shopping centers, dine by the sea or entertain yourself in one of the coastal avenue’s buzzing clubs –the young people’s favorite choice– that has actually brought a touch of Mykonos in town! Summer in the city doesn’t sound that bad after all, does it?!
• Faliro, Flisvos Marina
Located very close to Athens, yet away from the hustle and the bustle of the city, a wide range of activities on offer and an amazing view of the Saronic Gulf are the reasons why Faliro is the ultimate summer hot spot for the Athenians! Its trademark is of course its marina, a mega-yacht destination that infuses a cosmopolitan flair to the area. Flisvos Park on the other hand is ideal for leisurely strolls and carefree bike rides. Beautiful coasts, recreation parks, playgrounds, shopping centers, and stylish restaurants are there to keep up your summer carefree mood!
Extra Tip: Every Wednesday to Saturday evening you can ride a bike at no cost for 1.5 hours borrowing it from a specially created kiosk located between the tram stations “Flisvos Park” and “Flisvos”. Free bicycles are available from 5:30 to 8:30 PM from Wednesday to Saturday every week until September 30th. All you need to do to get yours is to go to the kiosk and present them your ID and tram ticket up to 1.5 hours in advance. Happy riding!
• Glyfada: one of the most elegant districts of Athens, Glyfada stands out for its sandy palm-fringed beaches, its cosmopolitan clubs (where the pulse of the Athens nightlife beats), its polished hotels, boutiques, and restaurants as well as its marinas, a much preferred yacht-mooring place for a getaway! Swim in crystal clear waters or enjoy a frappé, a favorite immensely refreshing coffee drink! The authentic frappé is made with Nescafé, and is drunk through a straw!
Extra tip: if you are a golf enthusiast you will be thrilled with the Glyfada Golf Club, the city’s modern 18-hole course!
• Voula: just two miles south of Glyfada lies Voula, home to two amazing organized beaches and the Riviera’s biggest beach clubs. Enjoy during the day a colorful summer setting that brings to mind a real amusement park with modern beach bars, jet ski equipment, beach volleyball courts, a vibrant dance deck, and exciting waterslides, whereas at night you can enjoy a cocktail in one of the district’s elegant clubs!
Extra tip: Voula A’ beach has been awarded a blue flag this year, which makes it ideal (and safe!) for families as well. On Voula B’ beach, disabled people can also enjoy a swim thanks to the special infrastructure that has been installed on the beach.
• Vouliagmeni: To the east lies Vouliagmeni bay, its beach nestling in a beautiful location, before Mount Hymettus. A marina and a brace of private beaches are its trademarks whereas the picturesque harbor offers stunning views of the distant Saronic Gulf islands. Astir beach on Apóllonos Street with its shallow, delicately turquoise water, smooth sand, excellent facilities, and blue flag certification for cleanliness is one of Attica’s most luxurious and most popular beaches. Opposite Astir beach lies the public beach, which has no facilities and therefore no entry fee. If we add the bustling nightlife, the elegant cafes and restaurants, and the luxurious hotels, Vouliagméni is definitely a summer hotspot that you cannot afford to miss!
Extra Tip: Vouliagmeni Lake, only a five-minute walk from the little square in the center of the town, lies “sunk” (Vouliagmeni meaning sunk) in the remains of a huge limestone cave fed by lukewarm springs welling from underground. The lake’s mineral and brackish waters feel absolutely silky while swimming whereas it is reportedly healing for rheumatism and arthritis!
• Varkiza: Beyond Vouliagmeni lies the bustling little resort of Varkiza, where an outstanding seascape unfolds with impressive coves below the coastal road. You will have the chance to swim in free or organized beaches with azure waters, to exercise in your favorite water sports, or enjoy a delicious meal in a picturesque taverna by the sea while sipping a glass of ouzo which perfectly complements fresh seafood!
Extra tip: Windsurfing enthusiasts will be thrilled to exercise their favorite sport in Varkiza since it is considered to offer the best windsurfing infrastructure!
The coastal road continues through marvelous tourist resorts such as Lagonissi and Saronida and ends at Cape Sounio, Attica’s southeastern tip. There you will find the impressive Temple of Poseidon – the last piece of the ancient Athenians’ homeland every time they sailed into the Aegean. Watching the sunset filling the sky with every shade of mauve and pink and making the sea glowing like a sapphire is an unforgettable experience that will weave a powerful spell over you. More of Athens’ hidden gems
The Acropolis Of Athens, Greece
It is the Athens symbol, the sacred rock, the connection between ancient and contemporary civilizations. The monuments that stand today on the Sacred Rock are dated from the prehistoric period up to ancient times. There is not even one person (Greek or foreign visitor) that does not want to pay due to honor to this sacred rock and see its beauty and glory. A visit to Acropolis is an unforgettable experience.
Sightseeing in Acropolis:
Propylaea It is the magnificent entrance that leads to Acropolis and its monuments, part of Pericles’ construction plan. It was built in the period between 437-432 B.C. by famous Athenian architect Mnisiklis. Before you reach Propylaea you cross Beule Gate which was part of the Romaic fortress of Acropolis. After that, you see a 13 m pedestal known as “Agrippas monument” on which Athenians placed the statue of the benefactor of the city Roman Marcus Agrippas in 27 B.C.
Temple of Athena Nike (Wingless Nike). It was built on the south side of Propylaea approximately in 420 B.C. for the celebration of Greeks’ victory against Persians. The architect of the temple was Kallikrates. This area is unique because of the sanctuary that has been standing here since the prehistoric period. On the left side is Erechthia and in front Parthenon.
Parthenon It is an architectural masterpiece the importance of which can only be understood when you stand in front of it hearing its construction history and secrets. This unique temple was dedicated to Goddess Athena and was built from Pentelic marble. Underneath Parthenon lie the ruins of former Parthenon, an archaic temple which dates back to the 6th century B.C. Iktinos and Kallikrates were the architects of the temple, which was built and decorated in the period between 447-432 B.C. during the Golden Age of Pericles. The Parthenon is a double peripteral Doric temple with 8 columns on each of the short sides and 17 columns on the long ones. The chryselephantine statue of Athena was placed inside the temple. It was created by the famous sculptor Pheidias who also supervised the entire building process. This statue was the final point of the splendid procession Panathinaia, also depicted on the temple frieze.
The chryselephantine statue of Athena According to mythology, the name of the city is connected to the rivalry between Poseidon and Athena for its protection. Poseidon offered to Athenians a horse, while Athena hit the rock of Acropolis with her spear and offered them the olive tree that grew there. Preferring the olive tree which symbolizes peace and prosperity, Athenians named the city Athens. The inside of the statue, rising up to 12 m in height, was made of wood and all of its naked parts of ivory. Her peplos (tunic) and helmet were covered by sheets of gold which could be removed. The statue, which represented armed goddess Athena that held a 2 meters ivory statue of Niki in her right hand, was lost the first years of Byzantine period. Its existence is known from ancient sources as well as analytical descriptions of traveler Pausanias (2nd century A.D.) Valuable information has also been collected from its several replicas, the most famous of which is Varvakios Athena.
Erechtheion was built in the period 420-406 B.C. in the most sacred part of Acropolis: the area where goddess Athena’s sacred symbol, the olive tree, grew. This tree was destroyed afterwards by Persians. According to mythology, the tree blossomed again when Persians were chased out. Caryatids: The statues you see supporting the temple’s south facade of the roof are copies. Five out of six original statues are in the Acropolis Museum and another one in the British Museum.
Pay careful attention to the following: Walking to the top of the sacred rock requires patience and focus. The view from there however will definitely reward you. -Propylaea which welcomes visitors before seeing Parthenon. -The view from Athena Nike temple. –Parthenon columns. Their slight inclination to the centre gives visitors the impression that they can not stand the weight. -Parthenon’s harmony. The temple’s secret is that none of its lines are completely straight. If you already know this, you will not be deceived by the illusion of its horizontal lines, which in the middle give an impression of a curve. -Erechtheion, a remarkable temple built according to ancient Athenian standards. In reality it looks nothing like a typical Athenian temple. It is built in two levels; it is asymmetric and has two facades that have no resemblance whatsoever. The smaller south facade is the most popular one mainly due to the six Caryatids that support its roof. The dissimilarities of temple’s different parts are due to the fact that these parts were dedicated to different gods. The temple’s east part was dedicated to Athena Paliada and the west part to Poseidon Erechtheos.
Court of Cassation (Arios Pagos)
It is the most ancient court in the world and was a specifically respected place during ancient times. The first aristocratic Parliament of ancient Athens was located here. Throughout the time this parliament lost its political power and since the second half of the 5th century B.C. it had only judicial power mainly focusing on homicide cases. As described in “Oresteia” this was the court where Orestis went on trial for murdering his mother Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus. As the bronze plate on the rock base informs us this was also the place where Athenians first heard Apostle Pavlos preaching in 52 A.D.
Around the Acropolis
The tour starts at the temple of Olympian Zeus (6th c. B.C.), one of the largest in antiquity and close by Hadrian’s Arch (131 A.D.), which forms the symbolic entrance to the city. From there, walking along Dionysou Areopaghitou Street (on the south side of the Acropolis) you pass the ancient Theatre of Dionysos (5th c. B.C.) where most of the works by Sophocles, Euripides, Aeschylus, and Aristophanes were performed. Continuing, you will reach the ruins of the Asklepieion (5th c. B.C.) and the Stoa of Eumenes (2th c. B.C.) and from there the Odeion of Herodes Atticus, which was built in 161 A.D. and is nowadays the venue of the performances of the Athens Festival.
From there you climb up to the sacred rock of the Acropolis, the site of some of the most important masterpieces of worldwide architecture and art, the most renowned of which is the Parthenon temple. Apart from this, also impressive are the Propylaea, the temple of the Athene Nike and the Erechtheion, while you must not skip a visit to the Museum, located close to the Parthenon. Moreover, from the rock, you have an impressive view of the city.
The Acropolis museum
Only 300m away from the sacred rock of Acropolis stands the impressive Acropolis Museum, one of the most important contemporary works of architecture in Athens. It is made of steel, glass, and concrete and it houses 4,000 priceless finds from the Acropolis monuments that represent its history and function as the most important religious center of ancient Athens.
The Acropolis Museum was founded to exhibit all the significant finds from the Sacred Rock and its foothills. It was designed by architect Bernard Tschumi with Michael Photiadis and inaugurated in the summer of 2009. The Museum hosts its collections across three levels, as well as in the archaeological excavation that lies at its foundations.
Located on the ground floor, the “Gallery of the Slopes of the Acropolis” houses finds from the sanctuaries that were established on the slopes of the Acropolis, as well as objects that Athenians used in everyday life from all historic periods.
The nine-meter high, naturally lit “Archaic Gallery”, in the east and south sections of the first floor host the magnificent sculptures that graced the first temples on the Acropolis. It also displays the votive offerings dedicated by the worshippers, such as the beautiful archaic Korai (depictions of young women), the Hippies (horse riders), statues of the Goddess Athena, sculptures of male figures, marble reliefs, and smaller bronze and clay offerings.
The Museum’s exhibition culminates on the third floor, in the glass-encased “Parthenon Gallery”. The relief sculptures of the Parthenon frieze depicting the Panathenaic procession are exhibited in continuous sequence along the perimeter of the external surface of the rectangular concrete core of the Gallery. The metopes, the marble slabs with relief representations from Greek mythology, are exhibited in between the stainless steel columns of the Gallery, which are the same in number as the columns of the Parthenon. The colossal figures of the two pediments have been placed on pedestals on the east and west sides of the Gallery. The east pediment depicts the birth of the Goddess Athena, emerging from the head of her father Zeus, and the west pediment depicts the battle between Athena and Poseidon over the land of Attica.
Having seen the Parthenon Gallery, the visitor can then return to the first floor to complete the tour with the series of works that were created after the construction of the Parthenon, namely the Propylaia, the temple of Athena Nike, and the Erechtheion. The north wing of the first floor displays striking Classical sculptures and their Roman copies, as well as votive and decree reliefs dating to the 5th and 4th centuries BC, relief bases of sculptures and portraits, and finally, select works dating from the end of antiquity and the early Byzantine period.
The Museum’s exhibition program is also enriched with the extensive finds from the ancient Athenian city, which were uncovered during the archaeological excavation that took place prior, to the construction of the Museum. The excavation is visible from different points on the ground and upper floors of the Museum, through a series of well-positioned large glass openings. Visitors will soon be able to walk among the remains of this ancient Athenian neighborhood.
Coming down from the Acropolis you arrive at the Areios Pagos, the most ancient law court of the world. Opposite it is Philopappou Hill, with its beautiful cobbled little roads and the Roman monument by the same name on its top, while close by is the Pnyx, where the citizens of ancient Athens used to assemble and exert their democratic rights.
Walking farther along the pedestrian road you arrive at the Ancient Agora, which was the commercial, political, and religious center of ancient Athens. A visit to the archaeological site will give you the opportunity to become acquainted with the workings of Classical Athenian democracy.
From there, via Ermou Street, you arrive at the Kerameikos, the largest cemetery of the ancient city, with impressive tomb sculptures and stelae. The Iridanos River, sacred in antiquity, runs through the archaeological site.
However, our tour of enchanting Athens does not restrict itself only to these unique archaeological sites.
Around neighborhoods of the historical center
The “core” of the historic center is the Plaka neighborhood (at the eastern side of the Acropolis), which has been inhabited without interruption since antiquity. When you walk through the narrow labyrinthine streets lined with houses and mansions from the time of the Turkish occupation and the Neoclassical period (19th c.), you will have the impression of traveling with a “time machine”. You will encounter ancient monuments, such as the Lysikrates Monument, erected by a wealthy donor of theatrical performances, the Roman Agora with the famed “Tower of the Winds” (1st c. B.C.) and Hadrian’s Library (132 A.D.), scores of bigger and smaller churches, true masterpieces of Byzantine art and architecture, as well as remnants of the Ottoman period (Fetihie Mosque, Tzistaraki Mosque, the Turkish Bath near the Tower of the Winds, the Muslim Seminary, et al.). There are also some interesting museums (Folk Art, Greek Children’s Art, Popular Musical Instruments, Frysira Art Gallery, etc.), lots of picturesque tavernas, cafés, bars, as well as shops selling souvenirs and traditional Greek products.
Continuing from Plaka you arrive at Monastiraki, a characteristic area of “old” Athens, with narrow streets and small buildings where the city’s traditional bazaar (Yousouroum) is held. Close to it is the Psyrri area, a traditional neighborhood which during the past few years has evolved into one of the most important “centers” of the town’s nightlife, with scores of bars, tavernas, ouzeris, clubs, etc.
However, the “heart” of the historical center is the traditional commercial neighborhood, with more than 2,500 shops of all kinds, which spreads out over the streets surrounding Ermou Street (the city’s best-known commercial street). The western “border” of the area is Athinas Street, where the foodstuff commerce is concentrated, reminding one strongly of the Middle East. Here are situated, among others, the neoclassical mansions of the Town Hall, the Municipal Market (where meat, fish, and vegetables are sold), and spacious Kotzias Square.
Within the boundary of Athens’ historical center also are the picturesque neighborhoods of Makriyianni (close to the Acropolis, where the Acropolis Museum stands), Ano Petralona, Theseion (where you will find small interesting museums and scores of cafés, bars, and restaurants), Kerameikos and Metaxourgeio, as well as the Gazi area, with the former Gasworks, which now have been turned into a cultural center of the Athens municipality (“Technopolis”).
Syntagma and Omonia are the main central squares of the town; they are linked by Stadiou Street and Panepistimiou Avenue, along which some of the town’s most beautiful Neoclassical buildings have been erected. Dominating Syntagma Square is the Greek Parliament building and in front of it the Monument of the Unknown Soldier, guarded by the Evzones in traditional costume. From this square starts the beautiful National Garden (40 acres), south of which stands the impressive Zappeion Mansion (1874-1888). From there you can continue towards the Presidential Mansion (1897) and thence to the Panathenaikon (Kallimarmaro) Stadium, where the first Olympic Games in modern history were held (1896). From there, crossing the Mets neighborhood, the road leads you to the First Cemetery, the oldest one in Athens, basically an outdoor sculpture display with a wealth of wonderful monumental tombstones by some of the most important sculptors of the 19th and 20th centuries.
From Omonia Square starts Patission street, a busy street with interesting buildings, amongst which are the Neoclassical mansions of the Polytechnic School and the National Archaeological Museum, which ranks among the leading museums in the world and hosts rare art treasures from the Neolithic era up to the Roman period.
Close to the museum is the Exarheia area, a charming and very lively neighborhood, traditional a meeting point, and home to many students and artists. From Exarcheia, crossing the Neapoli neighborhood, you can climb the verdant Lycavittos Hill. From its top, you have a view of the entire city, all the way to the sea. On the other side of the hill is the Kolonaki neighborhood, whose boundary is Vassilissis Sophias Avenue, one of the most grandiose streets of Athens with beautiful buildings, many museums (Cycladic Art, Benaki, Byzantine and Christian Museum, War Museum, National Gallery) and green areas. In Kolonaki, which is considered to be the most “aristocratic” area of the center of Athens, you will find many shops selling expensive brands and high couture, modern restaurants, bars, and cafés, while it is worthwhile to take a stroll through the central streets with their art déco, art nouveau and interbellum buildings.
In the southern suburbs, located on the coast of the Saronic Gulf, a recreational and cultural park is being planned, comprising the existing sports facilities. They offer many opportunities to take a walk along the seaside, while you will also find many beautiful organized and free beaches, large shopping centers, and nightclubs (especially during the summer). In the Maroussi suburb (north of the center) are the facilities of the Olympic Athletic Centre of Athens, where the majority of the athletic events were held during the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. Kifissia (north of Maroussi) is also worth a visit, with its beautiful villas and impressive mansions.
Moreover, if you wish to leave the center behind you, you may visit, amongst others, the neighboring town of Piraeus, Greece’s main port (which nowadays forms one big conglomerate with Athens), the Daphni Monastery (11 km. west), one of the most significant Byzantine monuments of the country (12th c.) with unique mosaics, the Kaisariani Monastery (5 km. east), which was founded in the 2nd century, the Temple of Poseidon (5th c. B.C.) on Cape Sounion (58 km. south), following a wonderful route along the coast, the area of the battle of Marathon (490 B.C.) with the Tomb of Marathon, the archaeological sites of Eleusina (23 km. west), of Amphiareion (48 km. northeast), of Vravron (38 km. east) and Ramnous (close to Marathon), as well as the wonderful surrounding mountain massifs of Parnitha, Penteli, and Hymettos, all suitable for hiking.
In Athens and the wider Attica area, you will find hotel accommodation of high standard, modern means of transportation, a wide choice of opportunities for shopping, dining, and nightlife, good service but above all the hospitality and warmth of its inhabitants. In a nutshell, Athens is a city that fascinates every visitor, during all seasons.“
Source: Visit Greece