Many consider Athens to be the cultural and historical birthplace of the western world, its artistic, literary, philosophical, and political achievements being hugely represented through the works of Homer, Socrates, and Plato.
A stroll through the streets of Athens will take you to some of the most foundational sites and architecture of any civilization, and today’s Athenian culture sits perfectly alongside its ancient roots. An Athens city break would also be a wonderful way to support the struggling Greek economy. So if you’re planning a trip to the capital of Greece, here are five must-see sites.
1 & 2. The Acropolis of Athena and Acropolis Museum
Overlooking the city of Athens from its craggy peak, this ancient citadel is home to many of the city’s most important historical buildings. These include the Parthenon, a temple devoted to the city’s patron goddess Athena, which is considered the pinnacle of Doric architecture. Other important buildings include the Propylaia, the Erechtheion, and the temple of Athena Nike.
The nearby Acropolis Museum is home to many of the artifacts uncovered in the Acropolis, as well as objects used by Athenians in everyday life. The museum also gives wonderful explanations of the history of the archaeological site.
3. The Temple of Hephaestus
Built two years prior to the Parthenon in 449 BC, the Temple of Hephaestus was designed by Pericles and was the first Athenian temple to be built completely from marble. The temple houses a beautiful altar that features bronze statues of Hephaestus and Athena, and the friezes on the east metopes feature a wonderful depiction of the Labours of Hercules.
4. The Plaka
The Plaka is the historical neighborhood of Athens, whose winding streets are lined by wonderful neoclassical architecture, as well as the Acropolis Museum, the Jewish Museum of Greece, the Museum of Greek Folk Art, and Adrianou Street—the oldest street in Athens still in use. The area is also home to great tavernas to stop for a quick bite to eat or a refreshing drink.
5. Temple of Olympian Zeus
Begun in the 6thcentury BC and completed some four hundred years later under Emperor Hadrian, the ruined Temple of Olympian Zeus sits in the heart of Athens and was home to one of the largest and most visited cult statues of the ancient world. Sadly much of the temple was destroyed in the 3rdcentury AD by barbarians, but it remains an important tourist site to this day.
There are few places in the world where strolling through streets will bring you upon truly ancient and important sites around virtually every corner, which is what makes Athens a city truly worth exploring, and one you will never forget.
Author: Helen Hogarth is a retired journalist, and has spent many summers exploring Greece and its ancient past. She currently lives in London with her two dogs, Monty and Mint.