Athens has plenty of sights, especially when it comes to museums and archeological sites from Acient Greece.
The Acropolis is Athens’ number one sight in several ways. It has millions of visitors each year, its Parthenon temple is instantly recognizable worldwide and it is visible from miles away, It is the one thing you can’t miss if you go to Athens. But there’s a lot more than the Parthenon on the famous rock, so we suggest you check out our Acropolis page for all the details.
The Ancient Agora
Situated north of the Acropolis, close to Monostiraki square, is an area with several notable buildings. The Ancient Agora was a marketplace and the political centre of Ancient Athens. This is where political meetings were held and democracy was born, as well as where Socrates was sentenced and executed. In addition, it was also a social and financial focal point.
Stoa of Attalos
This is a reconstructed version of the Stoa of Attalos, originally used for shops, next to a covered walkway. It was rebuilt in the 1950s, thanks to a large donation from John D. Rockefeller. Today it houses a small museum, that displays a wide variety of items, everything from toys and sandals to trade tools.
West of the agora is the best preserved doric temple in the world, the Temple of Hephaestus, the god of metal-working, and Athena Egane, the goddess of pottery. The reason the temple is so well preserved, is that it was used as an orthodox church dedicated to St. George, from the 7th century until 1833.
Tower of the Winds
The so called Tower of the Winds is a distance east of the agora. It was constructed by the Syrian astronomer Andronikos Kyrrestes in the 2nd century BC, and was meant to function as a water clock. The mechanisms of the water clock are gone, but you can still admire the outside friezes that represent the eight winds, from chilly Boreas to gentle Zephyros.
Kerameikos is an area that consists of both the potters’ quarter and a burial ground. It was divided by the city walls, and was where the Sacred Way from Eleusis reached Athens and passed through the Sacred Gate, on its way to the Acropolis.
The majority of the remaining graves are along the Street of the Tombs. Rich people had funerary art placed on their graves, in the form of relief sculptures and columns. The excavated sculptures are displayed at The National Archeological Museum and the nearby Oberlander Museum, but you can see plaster copies where the originals used to be.
This stadium lies a kilometer east of The Temple of Olympian Zeus. This is not the original stadium, nor is it the marble stadium built by the rich Roman Herodes Atticus. It is a restored version of Atticus’s stadfium, financed by Georgios Averof, for the first modern Olympic games in 1896. It can seat up to 60 000 people, and was used again during the Athens olympics in 2004, when it marked the finishing line of the marathon event.
The Temple of Olympian Zeus
Southeast of the Acropolis, you can find Hadrian’s Arch, built by the Roman emperor of that name. The inscription on the west side facing the Acropolis says This is Athens, once the City of Theseus. On the east side it says This is Hadrian’s and not Theseus’s City. But the huge columns a hundred meters east of the arch are in fact Greek, and belong to the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the largest temple in Greece, each column 17 meters high. Construction began in the 6th century BC. Although it should be said, it wasn’t finished until Hadrian dedicated it to Zeus in 132 AD, including a gold and ivory covered statue of Zeus. Next to it, he put up a statue of himself, but none of these statues remain.
The National Archeological Museum
The National Archeological Museum is a world class museum which showcases numerous artifacts from pre-historical Greek to Roman times. The civilizations of the Minoans, the Mycenae, the Greek city states and the Romans are all represented. Among its finest exhibits is a death mask made of gold, found at Mycenae, and once thought to have belonged to the Agamemnon, the legendary king. It also has several exquisite statues, including The Youth of Antikythira and Aphrodite and Pan.
This privately owned museum was founded by Antonis Benakis, and is housed in the mansion where the Benakis family once lived. The museum contains art and craft from the history of Greece, all the way back to the Neolithic. Its best-known exhibits are the El Faiyum portrait from the third centruy BC, and an icon of St. Anne from the 15th century.
This is where the Greek parliament building and Tomb of the Dead Soldier are located. On the tomb is relief of a dying hoplite solder, and on the sides are Perikles’s famous funeral oration.
The National Guard, dressed in their characteristic uniforms of kilts and pop-pom clogs, stand guard in front of the tomb. Every hour there’s a changing of the guard in an intricate, ceremonial manner. On Sundays at 11 am, they perform the long version of this ceremony.