What to see in Athens in 12 essentials
If you are a lover and passionate about history, you can get the ideal vacation in Greece's fabulous and impressive capital, Athens. A city that will make you transport to time immemorial where the legend is an essential part of the heart of the town, since its patrimonial legacy is totally overwhelming and tourists usually choose this destination to enjoy and delight in the beauties that the metropolis offers us. Athens is an open-air museum, full of history and tourist attractions to visit.
Athens is considered a fascinating and mysterious city, Athens has been the nerve center of literature, art and philosophy. Homeland of Socrates and Plato, the history of Athens begins with a myth that attributes the city's construction to the goddess Athena. For its visitors, Athens is not only history, myths and legends, but also modernity, taverns, nightclubs, open-air theaters, entertainment, in short, an ideal mix for a perfect Greek vacation.
Once in Athens it is difficult to choose where to start your tour, there are so many things that they offer us to do and the ideal is not to waste time, which is why we will provide you with a top 15 places that you can hardly miss you arrive in Athens.
What to see in Athens? On your trip you cannot miss: the Acropolis, the Parthenon and the New Acropolis Museum, one of the most important archaeological museums in the world. The neighborhood of the Pnix Thiseio, on foot in the pedestrian zone of Dionysio Areopagitou, the neighborhood of Plaka, Anafiotika and Monastiraki, you can see the archaeological sites, ancient and Byzantine-era monuments, churches and neoclassical buildings steeped in history.
Museums such as the National Archaeological Museum on Patission Avenue, the Museum of Greek Folk Art and Musical Instruments, the War Museum, the new Benaki Museum on Pireos Street and the original Benaki Museum of Kolonaki, the Numismatic Museum and the Museum of Cycladic Art will allow you to enrich your visit to Athens and its history through its collections and exhibitions. In addition to the National Gallery, the Planetarium, the Hellenic World Foundation and the dozens of art galleries scattered throughout the city center. Going down the coast, it ends at the imposing temple of Poseidon in Sounion, overlooking the archipelago and the island of Aegina.
Let's look at the 12 most popular sights and attractions to visit in Athens:
Among the main attractions that cannot be missed in Athens we have:
- 1.- The Acropolis of Athens
- 2.- The Ancient Agora of Athens
- 3.- The National Archaeological Museum of Athens
- 4. Walk through the historic center of Athens
- 5. The Plaka in Athens
- 6.- Monastiraki, the neighborhood that never sleeps!
- 7.- Appreciate the huge Temple of Olympian Zeus
- 8. Psyrri and Gazi
- 9. The Coast of Athens:
- 10. The Islands of the Saronic Gulf
- 11.- Delight the city from Lycabettus Hill
- 12.- Share with nature in the National Garden of Athens
- Where to stay in Athens? Best areas
- Eating in Athens
- More about Athens and surroundings
1.- The Acropolis of Athens
The Acropolis of Athens is the cornerstone of European civilization, and therefore the main attraction to visit in Athens. The Acropolis is a perfect reminder of what humanity is capable of, evoking the marvelous creations of the Golden Age, including some of the most famous monuments in the world, the masterpieces of classical Greek art: the Parthenon, the Propylaea, the temple of Athena Nike, the Erechtheum, with its famous caryatids.
The Acropolis of Athens was the "upper city" also known or called the "sacred rock", a site totally peculiar to most Greek cities, as well as being the seat of the main places of worship. It is located on a hill in the center of present-day Athens. It includes three temples built in marble: the Parthenon, the Erechtheion and the temple of Athena Nike.
You have to visit these three important temples, in the same way it shows a monumental approximation that is called Propylaea. Absolutely all the monuments on the Acropolis were built during the golden age of Pericles, better known as the classical period (450-330 BC), and have impressively survived for 20 centuries resisting fires, earthquakes, invasions, wars and bombardments.
Without a doubt, the Acropolis of Athens is one of the places that we cannot miss during our stay in the city, since it will leave us with an extraordinary experience and pleasant knowledge that we will carry for life.
The Acropolis of Athens dominates the surrounding valley from a rocky spur. With its beautiful monuments it is the universal symbol of civilization and the classical spirit, and will immediately immerse you in an atmosphere full of charm and mystery.
The Acropolis is the largest architectural and artistic complex left by the Greek civilization in the whole world: a rocky hill where very important philosophical thoughts and ambitious political strategies have emerged.
The holy city or Acropolis is the largest architectural and artistic complex in ancient Greece, it stands at 156 meters above sea level on top of a large rocky promontory 140 meters long above the Illisson Valley. The Acropolis is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Getting to the Acropolis is very easy: large pedestrian boulevards, animated by cafes and restaurants, rise from the neighborhood of Thisio and Makrianni. From Plaka and Monastiraki, the climb is calmer but always immersed in nature. From the gate at the base of the sacred rock, you will have to go down a flight of stairs to reach the entrance of the archaeological site.
They can also be reached by urban transport: Metro: Monastiraki stop, lines 1 and 3; Akropoli stop, line 2. All Hop ON – Hop OFF tourist buses will take you to the base of the Acropolis, right in front of the entrance.
The best time to visit the Acropolis is at sunset: red and orange envelop the temples and the city of Athens while a light breeze cools the air.
Schedules and Prices Acropolis of Athens
You can visit the Acropolis of Athens daily from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Ticket prices Acropolis of Athens:
Adult ticket (Acropolis only): €20
Combined adult ticket: €30.
Includes: Acropolis, Ancient Agora, Roman Agora, Theater of Dionysus, Kerameikos, Temple of Olympian Zeus and Hadrian's Library.
From personal experience, the line to buy the ticket can be very long and exhausting. So I recommend buying it online here.
To get a fuller picture of Greek splendor, you should visit other important monuments of ancient Athens: the Theater of Dionysus and Herodes Atticus, the Areopagus, the Pnyx, the ancient Ceramico Cemetery, the ancient Agora, and the Roman Forum, to name just a few.
2.- The Ancient Agora of Athens
Among the marvelous ruins of the Agora, the commercial, political and administrative heart of Athens beat, and all men were there to make important political decisions and conclude business deals. Right in the agora, in 399 a. C., the great philosopher Socrates was sentenced to death accused of corruption against youth, one of the greatest injustices in history, to which only Socrates' behavior could make sense: even though he had been offered a way to save himself, the philosopher served his sentence demonstrating to everyone the importance of respect for the laws.
The Agora was presented as a wide open space where several public buildings were located, each with a different function: the Government Center, the place where citizens met to discuss laws and the political future. The sacred center, a sacred place where the temples dedicated to the Olympic gods were located. The Market, heart of the city, place for exchange and commerce between citizens.
The Agora is located west of Monastiraki, and you can enter through Adrianou street. It is open every day from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Ticket prices Agora of Athens
Adult entrance: €8.
Adult combined ticket: €30. The combined ticket includes: Acropolis, Ancient Agora, Roman Agora, Theater of Dionysus, Kerameikos, Temple of Olympian Zeus and Hadrian's Library.
Known as the social, political and commercial center of ancient Athens; It is an essential visit to understand how the Greeks lived in their Golden Age. Inside is the best preserved temple of the classical Greek world, dedicated to the god Efestus Hephesteion. This visit is usually the perfect combination to the Acropolis given its proximity, in the same way you can allow yourself to contemplate the following options that we offer you below: The processional route or street of the Panatheneas, The Temple of Hephaestus, The colossal statues of a giant and two mermen,The colossal statues of a giant and two mermen,The Church of the Holy Apostles.
3.- The National Archaeological Museum of Athens
The National Archaeological Museum of Athens is among the 10 most important museums in the world for the vastness and richness of its collections.
Greece is proud of this museum that traces the origins of this fascinating country and traces the path of all the cultures that have passed through here.
All the heritage present in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens is divided into three sectors: on the ground floor, the section of sculptures and the prehistoric section, where the origins of the history of Greece are found, while on the second floor is the splendid collection of ceramics. A few hours are not enough to admire the beauties of this museum, so it is better to do it calmly and plan your visit well.
The Acropolis Museum of Athens is one of the modern wonders of the world, this being one of the great archaeological museums in the world due to the richness of its collections that includes 9 complete rooms, as well as the treasures that were discovered in the Acropolis of Athens, such as the objects of the 4 buildings and the 5 original caryatids of the Temple of Erechtheion.
It has three floors, with more than 350 sculptures and archaeological remains, some up to 2,500 years old, found in the excavations of the Acropolis.
The third and last floor is dedicated to the Parthenon and in it space has been reserved for the Parthenon friezes.
In this museum you can enjoy antiquity in a modern room, although tourists usually take a quick tour, we recommend you take your time and enjoy each of the beauties on display to your heart's content.
If you want to know the most important museums in Athens, do not miss our dedicated post: 8 most important museums to visit in Athens.
4. Walk through the historic center of Athens
From Syntagma Square, walking along the famous Ermou shopping street, reaching Monastiraki, without forgetting the characteristic markets full of antique shops and tourist services. Avissinias Square with its flea market is especially picturesque. Another possible route to the center is through Stadiou and Panepistimiou streets, with their emblematic buildings, historic cafes and all kinds of restaurants and shops. It is a magical area of Athens, which is worth visiting calmly, letting yourself be carried away by the beauty of its streets and the sound of the merchants.
Syntagma Square is the heart of the city of Athens, the center of great historical events, even today it is possible that when walking through this square you will find a demonstration or protest. The name "Syntagma" refers to the majestic facade of the parliament at the base of which stands the monument to the unknown soldier guarded by the "Evzones", guards in the characteristic Greek uniform. Syntagma Square is one of the main tourist destinations in Athens due to its tormented history and its proximity to the most fascinating areas of the city.
5. The Plaka in Athens
The Plaka is a very ancient area of Athens, inhabited for about 7,000 years and has not been affected or modified by excavations. Due to its unaltered appearance, Plaka is one of the most touristic areas of the city with its characteristic shops, Byzantine palaces and churches, monuments hidden by small streets and numerous souvenir shops and special objects.
It is an impressive, very lively neighborhood that in the eyes of many is an Eden to be dazzled and enjoy the views it offers, it is located at the foot of the Acropolis, it is a totally pedestrian and striking neighborhood that promises various options where you can have a coffee, visit shops as well as taste a wine or exquisite cuisine in one of the many restaurants and taverns found in the place.
A pleasant walk through this neighborhood will make you fully experience Athenian life: remember to taste a typical dish in one of the open-air restaurants, enjoy street music, follow a fun puppet show, in short, enjoy everything that this characteristic place has to offer. of Athens can offer you.
Some people consider it as the historic center of the city, currently being the most populated neighborhood; you can easily visit the Acropolis of Athens, the Agora of Athens and the Roman Agora, as well as the beautiful Tower of the Winds. Within walking distance you can go to Philopappus Hill and of course you cannot miss the Acropolis Museum of Athens and the Orthodox Cathedral of Athens.
6.- Monastiraki, the neighborhood that never sleeps!
One of the most colorful and lively neighborhoods in Athens, famous for its market, a true explosion of colors and joy with all its lovely junk, musical instruments, shoes, used clothing, household appliances, videos and even food and wine products. Among the streets of Monastiraki you can also visit beautiful churches and monuments. Nothing like getting carried away by the life of this famous neighborhood with its street artists, bars and outdoor cafes, excellent to enjoy Athens in the afternoon.
Just like Plaka, it is one of the liveliest and striking areas of Athens, it is said to be the neighborhood of the city that never sleeps, which offers you many options to have fun. You cannot leave Athens without first contemplating the views of ancient Greek splendor from Adrianou street, the leisure and cultural offer is immense and extensive, you can visit from markets such as Monastiraki Flea Market or others, the Tzisdaraki mosque, Panaghia Kapnikarea church or Hadrian's library, which are points of reference to learn about the history of the capital of Greece.
It is important that for nothing in the world you miss the views of the Acropolis at night from one of the neighborhood's rooftops, you will be enchanted by such pleasant views.
It is one of the best areas to stay in Athens, to enjoy its day and night life, appreciate the night views.
7.- Appreciate the huge Temple of Olympian Zeus
Temple of Zeus – Athens
The giant columns along with the views that can be seen of the Acropolis make this place an essential option to visit, it is the largest ancient temple in the world; the building was supported by 104 columns of the Corinthian order and had dimensions of 180 meters long by 40 meters wide.
It is located just 500 meters from the Acropolis. Its exorbitant proportions are truly impressive, despite its state of deterioration. However, we recommend you not stop contemplating this marvel, we promise that it will be a pleasant experience!
8. Psyrri and Gazi
The districts of Gazi and Psyrri are fashionable meeting points among young people and tourists, full of restaurants, cafes and bars to enjoy the atmosphere and excellent cuisine.
9. The Coast of Athens:
If you visit Athens for several days, you can spend a little time on the Athens Coast, especially around Glyfada, the elegant neighborhood in the south, with its bars, restaurants and shops, in a very lively atmosphere.
10. The Islands of the Saronic Gulf
These islands are located near Athens. In one day they can visit Hydra with its manor houses and captains' houses from the 18th century, the cosmopolitan Spetses with its picturesque old port, with its Aegina Koper buildings and shops on floating platforms, the majestic Poros and the small Agistri. There are numerous excursions you can do from Athens.
11.- Delight the city from Lycabettus Hill
It is the best viewpoint to see Athens from a bird's eye view, The mount located in the center of Athens, is 277 meters high from Mount Likavitos, we recommend you go up before dark since you can contemplate one of the most beautiful sunsets from the top What can you see of the city? You can go on foot or take a cable car that works daily. The 360 degree panorama is simply beautiful. Before going down you can sit down to eat or have a drink on one of the two terraces. Upon reaching the highest point of Licabetto Hill you will find a small Orthodox chapel dedicated to Saint George Caballero, such similar views will leave you speechless.
12.- Share with nature in the National Garden of Athens
In addition to the beauty of the park, which has an impressive number of plant species, it is worth visiting some areas such as the small pond inhabited by numerous aquatic birds, a botanical garden, the remains of some ancient monuments, and even we can see a small zoo where you can see some goats and chickens. The atmosphere provides a calm respite in the center of the city. Fortunately, the garden does not close its doors at any time of the day, and you can always take a walk along its paths surrounded by ponds. A good place to cool off during summer walks in Athens. In the same way you can enjoy some pleasant walks that can lead to the botanical museum inside, or also work to go to various cafes,
Where to stay in Athens? Best areas
If you want to sleep in Athens you can find various hotels and apartments for all tastes. Athens is a city in which it is not difficult to find comfortable and low-cost solutions to sleep: residences, hotels of various kinds, hostels, hostels and apartments.
The best areas of the city to stay in Athens are the neighborhoods of Monastiraki, Plaka and the delicious Omonia and Syntagma squares.
Recommended hotels and apartments to stay in Athens:
Eating in Athens
In Athens you eat very well at fairly low prices. There are many typical dishes to taste, we have talked about in our dedicated post: Best typical dishes to eat in Athens. What I like most about eating in Athens are the typical restaurants in the historic center, there are many, when the weather is good you can eat outdoors, we visited in winter so we ate inside with live music, we paid very little and we ate very well. Fully recommended!
My child pre-liking his lunch in Athens.
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