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A top destination in Greece, Athens is legendary for its rich history and incredible attractions, including the country’s top museums and the iconic Parthenon which rises above the city. No trip to Greece would be complete without experiencing Athens, but what should you be sure to do while you’re here? Don’t miss these especially amazing options.
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What Is It? The Acropolis is one of the most famous landmarks on the planet and is especially jaw-dropping as you make the climb up the steps to see one of the wonders of the ancient world.
Why Do It? There are few sights that can compare, with its Parthenon temple perched high atop a rocky crag that’s kept watch over centuries of civilization. The Acropolis was the center of this ancient city, and its most emblematic building is the Parthenon, the largest temple of the classical antiquity period dating from 447 BC to 338 BC. Ascend through the olive groves of the lower slopes to reach the marble crown, before passing through the Propylaia gateway. You’ll see the Temple of Athena Nike, the Erechtheion and the Parthenon along with numerous fragments arranged for reassembly.
Good to Know: While you’re here, be sure to visit the Acropolis Museum which hosts one of the most valuable collections of ancient Greek art in the world.
What Is It? The Agora is one of the best spots to begin your sightseeing in Athens and is located just below The Acropolis.
Why Do It? It stands testament to the city’s status as a cradle of Western Civilization and features temples, a concert hall, and long, colonnaded arcades. This was an important meeting and trading place during Biblical times, a spot where people assembled to chat above current events, politics, business, the nature of the universe and so on. It was, in Socrates and Plato’s day, the heart of public life. One especially interesting feature of the Agora is the Royal Stoa, the seat of the Archon Basileus, who took over the cultic functions of the earlier kings. The 6th-century stoa might have even been the scene of Socrates’ trial in 399 BC.
Good to Know: For an impressive view of the Agora from afar, head to the north wall of the Acropolis or the roads from the Areopagus.
What Is It? In this city that has an extensive list of fascinating things to see and do, you can take it all in from this large limestone pike known as Mount Lycabettus.
Why Do It? Unfortunately for some, that climb typically involves an ascent utilizing ropes and helmets. But if you just don’t have the energy for it, the good news is that you can take the Funicular train, which runs up and down the mountain, passing through some interesting spots on the way up. Once there, the 745-foot-high Lycabettus offers a commanding view across the Attica basin and the Aegean Sea. Facing the viewing platform is Agios Georgios, the tiny white-stuccoed chapel of St. George. There is also an amphitheater for watching internationally renowned music acts and an outstanding cafe.
Good to Know: If you want to take the train up and walk down, it can be a fun way to explore the city as you never know which neighborhood you might end up in.
What Is It? Founded in the 19th century, the National Archaeological Museum in Athens is the largest of its kind in Greece and considered to be one of the world’s greatest antiquities museums.
Why Do It? Housed in a grand Neoclassical building, the museum’s nearly 90,000 square feet of space boasts an impressive collection of ancient Greek sculpture, pottery, and jewelry among over 11,000 exhibits that provide a comprehensive overview of Greek civilization from prehistory through late antiquity. The Sculpture Collection exhibits ancient Greek sculptures from the 6th century BC to the 5h century BC, including rare masterpieces, while the Vase and Decorative Objects Collection showcases ancient Greek pottery from the 11th century BC all the way through the classical Roman period.
Good to Know: The Antikythira Device, a 2,000-year-old computer discovered in a shipwreck off the island of Antikithira, will have you wondering just how advanced those ancient Greeks really were.
What Is It? If you start to tire of the crowds, head to the National Garden of Athens located right behind The Parliament.
Why Do It? The beautiful park once belonged to the Royal Palace, but today, it’s owned by the City of Athens. Open all day, it offers the ideal retreat where one can relax in the shade among brilliant flowers while listening to the sounds of the nightingales. It’s like a tropical oasis right in the middle of the concrete jungle. You can spend hours wandering around the picturesque pathways, gazing at the flowers, trees, and ducks.
Good to Know: The garden also contains some ancient ruins for exploring and a small zoo with wolves from Bulgaria, monkeys, peacocks, hawks, a lion, parakeets, canaries, and goats.
What Is It? One of the most ancient settlements in Europe, with a history of more than 3,500 years, Plaka is situated under the Acropolis and has a charming atmosphere that’s spread throughout the narrow streets, ancient ruins, the Byzantine temples and the renovated neoclassical buildings.
Why Do It? A walk through this neighborhood is really a must, especially in the early evening hours, with a number of great restaurants where you can sit outside and take advantage of a warm night, as well as some lovely ouzeries that are ideal when it’s a little too chilly out. You’ll also find hundreds of shops, from workshops that feature handcrafted artisan products to kitschy tourist sellers.
Good to Know: Gorgeous bougainvillea-trimmed pastel-painted houses line the streets, and tucked away in tranquil corners are historic churches, including the Metamórfosis Church and the Church of Kapnikaréa.
What Is It? Throughout most of the week, the Monastiraki Flea Market isn’t the type of flea market you probably envision, but if make your way to Avissynias Square on a Sunday morning, you’ll see people come from the hills to lay out their blankets and sell all sorts of items that might be junk to you, but could be a treasure to someone else – and vice versa.
Why Do It? It’s worth a visit for the people watching alone – simply sit back in one of the cafes that overlook the ancient Agora and the metro tracks on Adrianou Street and watch the parade of street musicians, shoppers and even bootleg DVD sellers that run off when the cops arrive.
Good to Know: On other days of the week, it’s an assortment of shops, like clothing stores, gift shops, and places that sell rare CDs and vintage vinyl. It’s one of the liveliest squares in Athens no matter when you happen to be here.
What Is It? This tiny but incredibly scenic neighborhood sits on the northern slopes of the Acropolis hill, adjacent to the entrance to the Agora.
Why Do It? What makes it a standout, is that it looks as if you find it on a Cycladic Island, with its narrow alleys leading to picturesque terraces and white stucco houses with blue doors and windows.
Good to Know: Many of the houses are very well kept, decorated with colorful flowers and Bougainvillea.
What Is It? The Temple of Poseidon, the God of the Sea, sits on a hill overlooking the Aegean at the very tip of the Attiki Peninsula – it’s hard to imagine a more perfect spot for worship.
Why Do It? While it’s not right in Athens, it’s an easy half-day or less trip, just an hour away via taxi, and multiple tour operators offer excursions to visit it too. Built in 444 BC, at the same time as the Parthenon, it was constructed of local marble from Agrilesa. The temple also boasts carved graffiti of Lord Byron, who was said to be so impressed that he carved his name on one of the columns, as well as the most impressive sunsets after the island of Santorini. A small beach can be found below, while the azure waters look as if the sands belong in the Greek Islands.
Good to Know: If you visit in the late afternoon, you can enjoy a swim along with an ouzo and some mezedes, and then watch the sun go down just before returning to the city for dinner.
What Is It? The Port of Piraeus might seem a bit strange on a list of things to do in Athens, but there’s a good reason behind that.
Why Do It? There are few better things than making a trip to this port, as from here, you can hop aboard a ferry and sail off to one or more of the Greek Islands.
Good to Know: Spend your day gazing out over the endless turquoise sea and watching those white buildings and iconic landmarks of the city slowly fade away as the rays of the sun warm your skin.