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Athens - City of the Ancient Gods & Mythology

Named after Athena, the goddess of wisdom, Athens has been home to some of the wisest men of old and is the birthplace of modern democracy.

More than just another European city, it's ancient monuments sit proudly in amongst their modern counterparts and are a testimony to Athens cultural importance of years gone by.

The Greek capital city has a population of approximately 10,700,000 and is one of the world's oldest recorded cities, spanning a lifetime around 3,400 years. It was host to the first modern-day Olympic Games in 1896.

Greek cuisine and hospitality are renowned which makes this city a particular pleasure to visit.

Top 10 things to do in Athens

Acropolis of Athens

Rising 150m above sea level in the city of Athens, the Acropolis is the best known acropolis in the world. Although there are many others in Greece and world-wide, most people will associate the word with this one here in the city.

Built on a flat-topped rock of 3 hectares the earliest settlement recorded there dates back to 6th millennium BC.

As you climb the hill along the Theorias road from Monastiraki and just before you get to the Metamorphosis Church you will find a great spot on the right which offers a fantastic view over the city during the day or at sunset.

There are many ancient sights here, so plan ahead to make the most of your time.

Syntagama Square

Located in the heart of Athens, Syntagma (Constitution) Square is a popular hang-out for city locals with green areas to the north and south.

The east side of the square is higher and is dominated by a set of marble steps leading to Amalias Avenue where the Greek Parliament buildings are located.

The square is located near to many of the popular tourist attractions which makes it a great central place to conduct your sightseeing from.

Every hour the Presidential Guard perform the changing of the guard ceremony in front of the marbled Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Ancient Agora

The Agora or Place of Assembly is an open area in Athens which was the heart of the ancient city.

Once filled with private houses, it was claimed by Peisistratus in 6th century BC and quickly because the focus of commercial, political, administrative, religious and legal activities.

Heavily used throughout the Roman era, it was gradually abandoned from 580 AD until after 1834 when it was reclaimed and developed as a residential area once again.

During the mid 1930's extensive archeological digs uncovered ancient ruins and restoration of those sites continues today.

Although you can see structures while you wander around it's best to opt for a guided tour of the area.

Panathenaic Stadium

Also known by the name Kallimarmaro (made of marble) this is the only major stadium in the world to be built purely out of white marble.

Originally a natural hollow between the two hills of Agra and Ardettos built between 330-339 BC by Lykourgos for athletics at the Panathenaic Festival and restored around 140 AD into the famous horse shoe shape found at an excavation in 1870.

With a capacity of around 50,000, the stadium was again restored in the 19th century for the first modern-day Olympic Games in 1896. It is still in active use today for competitions and music festivals.

A top tourist tip is never to ask for directions to the Olympic Stadium otherwise you will be directed to the modern one, which is nice, but not all that interesting!

National Garden

Situated behind the Parliament buildings off Constitution Square, the gardens bring a bit of the tropics to an otherwise very concrete Athens.

Completed in 1840 there were originally imported over 500 species of plants and a variety of animals including peacocks, ducks, and turtles. However, most of the plants could not survive the Mediterranean climate.

The Royal Garden was the scene of an unusual and pivotal point in Greek history when in 1920 King Alexander was bitten by a pet monkey and later died. This created profound political and social change, some good, some regarded as bad.

The Garden also encloses some ancient ruins, tambours and Corinthian capitals of columns, mosaics, and other features.

There are no monkeys!

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National Archaeological Museum

Considered one of the greatest museums in the world, the National Archaeological Museum contains the the best collection of artifacts from Greek antiquity.

Centrally located in the Exarhia area, the museum has a large neo-classic design garden at the front which is decorated with sculptures.

Inside, the exhibits are organised in collections dating from the pre-historic era and also includes a 118 year old library of archeology with rare ancient art, science and philosophy books and publications.

Access is free for children up to 6 years old and for students. Check the website for up-to-date prices, opening times and special exhibitions.

Image ©Lucretius, reproduced under GFDL, Version 1.2.

Mount Lycabettus

This is a popular tourist destination for great panoramic views over Athens due to easy access to the top by the Lycabettus Funicular from the terminus at Kolonaki.

The hill is mentioned in many Greek legends with one in particular suggesting it was once the refuge of wolves. This maybe linked to the origin of the hills name which means "the hill that is walked by wolves".

In Greek mythology, however, it was Athena who created Lycabettus when she dropped a mountain she had been carrying.

Apart from affording some greats views of Athens, there is large open-air theatre at the top which is still in use, hosting national and international concerts.


This is probably the most popular tourist area of Athens and is likened to a separate village within the city.

Built in the shadow of the Acropolis, this is the oldest part of Athens. Mostly closed to traffic, the small narrow streets are dotted with cafes, restaurants, jewellery stores and other small tourist shops. Although you do need to keep an eye out for the occasional Vespa whizzing by.

As well as the shops and cafes, there are small museums around the area such as the Jewish Museum and the Folk-Art Museum which are worthwhile visits. There's even a small roof-top outdoor cinema called Cine Paris which actually has a great view of the Acropolis.

As with everywhere else in Athens, the Plaka has many archaeological sites with the Tower of Winds being the most well known; believed by generations-gone-past to have been a great place of magic.

Monastiraki Market

This busy Sunday market is a hustle and bustle of locals selling everything you can imagine from antiques to what is quite clearly nothing more than junk. But it's all done in a chirpy good-natured way.

Best advice is to get there early if you're seriously interested in picking up a bargain because it does get very very busy around noon.

One shop to visit is that of Stavros Melissonos aka 'The Poet'. He is a sandal-maker and poet. The Beatles apparently bought all their sandals from here and his poetry is taught in Universities in the UK.

Never say Athens is boring!

When you've had all you can take from the market the restored Turkish Mosque across the square, which is now the traditional ceramics museum, is worth a visit.

The Temple of Poseidon at Sounion

Worth the out-of-city half-day trip, this temple ruin sits above the beach on a mountain that juts out into the sea and was dedicated to Poseidon.

In ancient times the temple was the last sign of civilization the Athenians saw as they sailed away from home and the first as they returned.

Built in the 5th century BC, it is said to be constructed on the site of an even older temple.

Unfortunately the actual temple is off-limits, restricted by a rope-barrier, however you can get close enough to see the details and carvings in the rock.

Below the temple is the Hotel Aegeon Beach. Whilst mostly belonging to the hotel, there are areas of the beach where you can stroll and bathe without a warden coming up to you with a furrowed brow.

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Temperature & Rainfall Guide for Athens

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