Take a trip back to the beginnings of western civilisation and democracy with a visit to Athens, capital of Greece. From the stunning monuments of antiquity to first-class restaurants and shopping, Athens is a dream Greek holiday destination.
Things to do in Athens, Greece
Towering over the city is perhaps the most recognisable tourist attraction in Greece, the Acropolis. This UNESCO World Heritage Site represents the ancient city of Athens and has been inhabited as far back as 4,000 BC. However, it was in the 5th century BC that the great Pericles transformed the outcrop with many of its iconic buildings such as the Parthenon and Temple of Athena Nike. This is a great place to start your Athens sightseeing and get a good feel for the layout of the city below.
To get a better understanding of this fascinating site, take a short walk down the hill to the Acropolis Museum, where over 4,000 priceless objects are displayed that trace the religious and cultural history of Athens’ Acropolis.
The Agora, sometimes known as the Forum of Athens, gives an insight into the everyday life of the ancient Greeks. The centre of political and public life in ancient Athens, the Agora was a meeting place, administrative building, cultural centre and seat of justice. While most of the site is in ruins, its scale and importance makes it a popular Athens attraction.
Although only a few columns remain of the gigantic Temple of Zeus, it is also worth a stop on your tour of Athens. Work began on the massive structure dedicated to the king of the Olympian Gods, Zeus, in the 6th century BC but wasn’t finished until nearly 600 years later during the reign of the Roman Emperor, Hadrian in 132 AD when it was the largest temple in all of Greece. Hadrian is also responsible for another popular Athens landmark, Hadrian’s Arch, just in front of the Temple of Zeus. The arch was built to mark the boundary of ancient Athens and the new Roman city of Hadrian.
But not all of Athens’ must-see attractions are ancient. The beautiful Neoclassical Royal Palace was built in the 1890s and housed Greece’s royal family until the 1930s. It is now a presidential residence and the seat of the Hellenic Parliament, drawing crowds to its imposing façade for photo opportunities.
No Athens tour would be complete without a visit to the birthplace of the modern Olympic Games in 1896. For the Games of the First Olympiad, Greece decided to rejuvenate the ancient Panathenaic Stadium, which had been used for the Panathenaic Games in honour of the Goddess Athena from 566 – 329 BC. It is still used for sporting events and music concerts, making it the most ancient stadium in use in the world.
After a hard day of Athens sightseeing, consider a visit to the capital’s most charming neighbourhood, the Plaka. This is one of the oldest areas of the city, nestled in the shadow of the Acropolis, and is packed full of authentic restaurants, cafes and shops. The streets of the Plaka are closed to traffic making it the perfect place to stroll leisurely or a sip a glass of Ouzo, reflecting on a fascinating Athens vacation.