I’ve been thinking about doing a ‘top 10’ list, or similar, for awhile now, and since I’ve had a Greece theme lately I’ll start there. There wasn’t anything I didn’t like about Athens, so these are in no particular order.
As I’ve said in a previous post I only spent 3 days in Athens out of a total 5 days in Greece which wasn’t nearly enough! There is so much more to do and see in such a beautiful country that you could easily spend months exploring and discovering new things.
Many of these sites are probably more interesting for archaeology students as they are the typical “series of small walls”.
Here are ten things to do in Athens that I really enjoyed. There are many things I missed out in that are in other popular lists, mostly because of the limited time I had. If you have read my other posts about Greece there will be some repetitive information.
- The Acropolis
Comprised of several parts including the Propylaea, Parthenon, Erectheion, Theatre of Dionysus Eleuthereus, Odeon of Herodes Atticus and several others. I’m only going to mention those few parts, otherwise this could turn into a really long post!
The Propylaea is simply the entrance into a site and serves as a monumental gateway in ancient Greek architecture.
The Parthenon is probably the most well-known structure in Athens. It sits right on top of the Acropolis, and is visible from many places! Because it’s one of the most popular sites, there are people everywhere. It took 15 years to build and was finished in 438BC.
The Erectheion was a temple that was dedicated to Poseidon and Athena (patron goddess of Athens). This is where you will see the caryatids, or draped female figures, that act as supporting columns. All the visible caryatids are replicas – five of the originals are in the Acropolis museum and one is in the British museum.
Theatre of Dionysus Eleuthereus is located on the southern cliffside of the Acropolis. The remains are from a redesigned and restored Roman version, sadly not the original.
Odeon of Herodes Atticus is located on the south-west side of the Acropolis. The Odeon was built in 151AD and was used for music until it was destroyed in 267AD. It was restored in the 1950s using Pentelic marble (from Mount Pentelicus). Since its modern restoration, the Odeon is used as the main venue of the Athens Festival, which is held every year from May to October. I didn’t know this at the time, but we could’ve potentially enjoyed a concert there as we visited Greece in September. Something to remember for next time!
2. The Acropolis museum
The Acropolis museum is one of my favourite museums, as it’s an archaeological museum. It was built to store artefacts found on the Acropolis. The museum is located on the south-east slope of the Acropolis, however, the entrance is not on the Acropolis itself, but next to the Akropoli metro station (red line). Here you will see five of the six original caryatids from the Erectheion.
3. The Ancient Agora and Temple of Hephaestus
The Ancient Agora or the Forum of Athens is located to the north-west of the Acropolis. It is a massive area to walk around and includes the museum of the Ancient Agora which is housed in the Stoa of Attalos. A stoa is a covered walkway and the one used in the ancient agora as a museum was reconstructed in the 1950s.
The Temple of Hephaestus can be visited as part of the Agora. It is beautiful to see up close as it’s really well preserved. The temple was likely built in honour of Hephaestus, the god of metalworkers and Athena Ergane, goddess of crafts and potters.
4. Temple of Olympian Zeus and Hadrian’s Arch
Located around 700m south of Syntagma Square (blue or red metro line) is the Temple of Olympian Zeus. Yes, it is as massive as it looks in the photo! Construction on the temple began in the 6th century BC and wasn’t completed until the 2nd century AD during the time of the Roman Emperor Hadrian. Unfortunately, it was pillaged in the 3rd century AD and likely never repaired.
Hadrian’s Arch is located just outside the site of the Temple of Olympian Zeus. It was possibly built to celebrate the arrival of Hadrian into the city.
5. Kerameikos and the Kerameikos Archaeological Museum
“Inner Kerameikos” was the potters’ quarter of the ancient city, and “Outer Kerameikos” contains the cemetery and funerary sculptures that were a part of the ‘sacred way’ or road to Eleusis (a town approximately 18 km north-west of Athens)
The Kerameikos archaeological museum is located within the site of Kerameikos and houses many of the artefacts from all over the site. Most artefacts are funerary items and other items related to death, such as grave reliefs and urns.
6. National Archaeological Museum
This museum is another of my favourites as it’s massive and contains the largest collection of Greek artefacts in the world, from the prehistoric collection to the bronze collection. The museum also contains other collections, such as an Egyptian exhibition.
7. Hadrians Library
The remains of the building are located on the north side of the Acropolis. The eastern part of the building was the library itself, once containing papyrus scrolls. Other parts of the building were used as reading rooms and lecture halls.
8. Lycabettus Hill (Mount Lycabettus)
Take the cable car up Lycabettus Hill to experience spectacular views of Athens. The hill sits at 300m above sea level, and at the top are a theatre, restaurant and a small chapel.
9. Monastiraki Flea Market
You can take the metro to Monastiraki station from either the green line or the blue line. The station opens right on the square, with many small streets branching off. The streets and the square are full of people selling anything and everything. It can be a good place to buy cheap souvenirs and gifts. Personally, I found it to be extremely tiring – there is so much to see and so many people! Not to mention the heat, so be well prepared when you go.
If you’re wanting to visit the 360 rooftop bar, it’s very close to Monastiraki station.
10. Rooftop bars
Cheap drinks and great views, so why not? There are many rooftop bars, some in hotels or hostels. We visited the rooftop bar of Athens Backpackers, even though we weren’t staying there. I don’t think you’re really supposed to use it if you’re not a guest, but we just walked in and got in the lift and no one looked at us twice. This was only a couple hours since we got off a plane, so it was nice to have a cold beer, or several, and relax.
On our last day, we visited the 360 rooftop bar near Monastiraki station, which was more expensive and a lot busier. The views are worth it!
Thanks for reading!
All images are my own unless otherwise attributed.
All opinions are my own.