Athens has been a true center of culture since ancient times. The city was the hub of the Greek world for a long time and dominated political and social ideas. From Athens, Greek culture spread to Asia Minor and significantly influenced developments there. In addition, the city is a true testimony of antiquity. Hardly any other city in Europe has as many preserved monuments from antiquity as Athens. In modern times, Athens is therefore still a cultural greatness that invites you to visit. The first modern Olympic Games were held here. Athens location with the port of Piraeus and the international airport predestines the city as a metropolis. Greece’s economy, culture and education take place primarily in the capital.
A city trip to Athens needs to be well planned, because the abundance of sights demands a lot of decision-making from every visitor. Besides the ancient sites, Athens offers numerous museums.
Tip 1: Acropolis
On a limestone plateau at 156 meters above sea level is the “Upper City”, as the sacred precinct of the Acropolis is called. It was the seat of kings, a protective castle for Athens and the center of the Hellenic world. In its heyday, 5,000 people lived here. Traces of settlement date back to the Neolithic period. Since 1986, the buildings made of Attic marble have been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The Greek state awarded it the distinction of a European cultural heritage seal. To this day, the Acropolis characterizes the cityscape and has lost none of its appeal. The ruins, metopes and frescoes visit 2 million guests annually.
High above the city, it is surrounded by monumental structures built between 467 BC and 406 BC. Besides the world-famous Parthenon, there are other ancient remains such as the Erechteion with the Caryatids, the Temple of Nike or even the Propylaea. The Acropolis in Athens was dedicated to the patron goddess of the city of Athens and equally to the namesake of the city itself – the goddess Athena. The Acropolis in Athens owes its present architecture and form to the ancient statesman Pericles. After the attack of the Persians and the destruction of large parts of Athens, Pericles made it his task to rebuild the Acropolis after the reconquest of Athens by the Greeks and to let it shine in a new face.
The aforementioned Parthenon (Greek: παρθενών) is one of the most spectacular testimonies of Greek ancient architecture and certainly one of the main attractions when you are high up on the Acropolis of Athens. Parthenon, the so-called Maiden’s Chamber, is dedicated to the city goddess Pallas Athena Parthenon. For over 2,500 years it has crowned the Acropolis in Athens and is one of the most famous buildings in the world.
Tip 2: Acropolis Museum
The new Acropolis Museum in Athens was opened in 2009. With its top-class collection of timeless antiquities from the Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic as well as the Roman periods, this museum is a truly unique sight for any visitor to Athens. In the rooms of the museum, ancient statues of those periods, the magnificent specimens representing the influential work of glorious ancient sculptors such as Praxitelis, Antinoros, Kalikrates, some of the remains of the Parthenon frieze, the period ceramics collections with great highlights of the Geometric, Classical as well as Hellenistic periods are waiting to captivate the visitor.
The museum has an exhibition area of 25,000 square meters. It is located on the site of the so-called Makrygiannis plot. This is a place of historical importance where a systematic excavation by the University of Athens took place during several years. During the archaeological works, remains of the local settlement were uncovered, which can be dated from the prehistoric period to the Byzantine era. The site of the completed excavation was integrated into the building of the new Acropolis Museum, where the excavated remains of the different periods can be viewed “in situ” below a glass surface on the first floor of the museum.
Tip 3: Agora
Athens in ancient times was known not only for impressive buildings, but especially for its civilization. After all, Greece is the birthplace of modern democracy, philosophy, debate and science.
Much of Athenian life took place in the city’s 2,000-year-old marketplace, the Agora. It was a trading center, a place for discussions and elections, and a social platform for meeting, socializing, and getting to know new people.
You can dive even deeper into the Greek antiquity, if you look at the partly very well preserved buildings. Among them is the temple of Hephaistos. The marble temple is even one of the best preserved temples in all of Greece. The Orchestra was the venue of the city until the Dionysus Theater took over this function. Today there are competition monuments. Among the excavations you will also find the altar of the Twelve Gods, remains of the Temple of Ares, which was not always located in the Agora and many other historical witnesses.
Tip 4: Central Market
The Athens Central Market consists of several halls that are built together. Especially interesting for tourists are, for example, the many stalls with fish and seafood, most of it fresh from the sea around Greece. Loudly the merchants sell their goods, the whole thing seems almost oriental.
At very many stalls meat is also sold. The prices are lower than in the supermarkets of Athens. Many Greeks still buy their food on the central market of Athens.
One should also pay attention to the vendors in front of the halls of the Athens Central Market, who sell spices, dried legumes and the like. There are also some interesting stores on the other side of the big street in front of the Athens Central Market. Only very few stores are for tourists, it is essentially still a traditional market.
In the market hall there are some simple restaurants next to each other. These are cheap and offer real Greek food like in old times. An insider tip, especially for visitors from abroad!
Tip 5: Plaka
If you want to see one of the most historic and important parts of Athens, your way will lead you directly to Plaka. This part of the city has a very special flair that brings back the ancient times and gives you a feeling of how it must have been in the past.
During the day you can stroll through the narrow and romantic streets and just let yourself be enchanted. Take a look at the restored parts of the city, where also the Athenians like to come to enjoy life. Find a cozy restaurant with a view of the Acropolis overlooking the district and indulge in Greek delicacies. In Plaka there are great souvenir stores where you can buy a souvenir for the ones back home. In the many boutiques you can stock up on some new clothes. In the evening it gets crowded in Plaka. Locals and tourists come here to enjoy a glass of Greek wine on warm summer evenings.