10 Must see historic attractions in Athens
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8 Must-See Historical Attractions In Athens

As one of the most historically significant cities in the world, it’s no wonder that Athens draws in visitors from all over the globe. This ancient and vibrant city is home to some of the most awe-inspiring historical attractions in the world.

This historic destination has something for everyone, from majestic temples to breathtaking ruins. Read on for everything you need to know about planning your perfect historical tour around Athens!

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Ancient City Of Athens

Greece’s capital and largest city is also one of the oldest in the world, with landmarks dating back to the 5th Century BC. However, it doesn’t seem to get the same attention as Paris, Rome, or London. 

Many people, including myself, have a love-hate relationship with the city. On the one hand, it has the history, culture, beaches, and nightlife to satisfy most tourists, but it’s also hectic, densely populated, and plagued by traffic jams and pollution. However, even with this in mind, I find it one of the most fascinating cities in Europe and believe it’s a city not to be missed.

Many tourists stay for just enough time to check out the famous Acropolis and then leave as soon as possible, eager to go island hopping around the beautiful Greek islands. Although this is a must-do when visiting Greece, you should stay in Athens for a few days to see more than just the famous Acropolis.

The city centre is relatively small, dominated by its hilltop Acropolis. Seeing all the sights on foot can be easy for most; however, the city is quite hilly, so walking around can be tiresome for some, especially in the summer heat. For those of you with mobility issues or who would like to take the weight off your feet, you’ll be pleased to know the city has an excellent public transport system.

How To Get Around Athens

Travelling on foot is a great way to get a feel for the city and take in the sights, mainly since many of Athens’s main attractions are in the city centre. However, if you want to travel further afield or rest your legs, there are plenty of public transport options.

The public transport system in Athens offers various electronic tickets and rechargeable monthly and yearly travel cards.

Different types of tickets

The following tickets are valid for the city’s public buses, trolleybuses, metro, tram and commuter trains during a given time:

  • 90-minute ticket: € 1.20 (£1)
  • 24-hour ticket: € 4.10 (£3.60)
  • 5-day ticket: € 8.20 (£7.20)
  • 3-day tourist ticket (includes return transport from the airport): € 22 (£19.20)

Seniors over 65, teenagers under 18, and university students under 25 can purchase reduced-fare tickets.

Children under seven can travel for free on all means of transport.

Public transport tickets are available at the city’s metro stations, tram stops, train stations, newsagents and bus ticket stalls.

Warnings and tips:

  • Don’t forget to validate your transport ticket when you get on any means of transportation. The journey must always be less than 90 minutes long.
  • There are no turnstiles in the metro stations, so you must validate your ticket at the yellow vending machines before getting on the platform.
  • If you’re caught without a ticket, you will be charged a fine equal to 60 times the 90-minute single journey.

Arriving in Athens

You have several public transportation options from Athens International Airport into the city centre, such as the subway and the X95 and X96 bus lines. You can, of course, take a taxi if you prefer for around €40.

Airport Tickets:

  • Express Bus Lines €5.50 (1-way from/to the airport)
  • Metro Airport Ticket €9 (2-way ticket €16)
  • Airport Metro Ticket From/To Pallini-Kantza-Koropi €5.50
  • 3-day tourist ticket (includes return transport from the airport): € 22 (£19.20)

Metro

The Athens Metro is not extensive but is contemporary and runs smoothly. Two companies run the subway’s three lines, although they share tariffs, travel cards and tickets.

The lines are not only identifiable by numbers but also by colour:

  • Line 1 (green): The major stations on line 1 are Piraeus (the city’s main port), Peace and Friendship Stadium, Karaiskakis Stadium, home to the Olympiacos soccer team, and Omonia and Monastiraki.
  • Line 2 (red): This line connects Athens railway station with Omonia Square, Syntagma Square and the Acropolis.
  • Line 3 (blue): This line connects Athens International Airport with the city centre, stopping at Syntagma Square and Monastiraki.

Bus

The buses and trolleybuses of Athens connect various areas of the city and its suburbs and are an easy and cheap way to get around. Operating hours vary according to line/day/season. In general, they run from 05:00 to midnight. You can see all the timetables, maps, and real-time information about any bus line on the official website. 

Tram

Modern, clean, eco-friendly trams in Athens are a comfortable means of transportation, and the most popular lines run along the city’s coastline.

The network has three lines with 48 stops:

  • Line 3 (blue): Connects the Peace and Friendship Stadium and Voula.
  • Line 4 (red): Runs between Syntagma Square and the Peace and Friendship Stadium.
  • Line 3 (blue): Runs between Syntagma and Voula.

Taxi

Yellow taxis are widely available in Athens, although they can be quite expensive. If you do use them, make sure the meter is turned on. It’s illegal for drivers not to use the meter. However, some drivers might try to get sneaky to rip you off. 

Best Time To Visit Athens

Athens is a beautiful city with much to offer year-round, but I recommend visiting in late spring or early fall when days are pleasantly warm and evenings are cooler with fewer crowds!

During the summer (July-August), the city is packed with tourists, which means long queues and busy streets. At this time of year, the city can also become incredibly hot and stuffy, which can make it unbearable for some.

Winters in Athens can be mild, but they can still be far too chilly to explore outside. If you don’t mind the cold weather, a trip to Athens in Winter can be ideal, especially if you want to avoid the crowds!

Where To Stay In Athens

When visiting the mesmerising city of Athens, there are plenty of great areas to stay in. Central neighbourhoods like Plaka, Monastiraki and Syntagma boast various accommodation options. These neighbourhoods are charming and very close to most of the city’s top attractions so you can get to them on foot. 

Another great area for visitors is near the coast at Glyfada Beach, which offers guests luxury stays overlooking the Aegean Sea. A central location like this makes it easy to explore the Acropolis and other nearby attractions daily and then relax on the stunning beach by night.

For those on a budget, Psyrri and Gazi have some fantastic hostels and apartments available at reasonable prices. This area also provides delicious food and easy access to some of Athens’ hottest night spots.

Avoid Metazourgeio, the streets to the north and west of Omonia Square, and the north of Panagi Tsaldari. These areas are known for high levels of crime and are best avoided.

When booking accommodation in Athens, I recommend using Booking.com. Not only will you get the best prices, but you can also filter results for your needs and check real-life reviews.

8 Must-See Historical Sites Of Athens: 

1. The Acropolis

The Acropolis is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is the most famous historical site in Greece and possibly Europe. Its first human inhabitants occupied this site and the nearby Ancient Agora in 7000 BC. 

This magnificent structure is thought to have been built between 490 and 250 BC. If you enter the site at the quieter east entrance near the Akropoli metro station, you can check out the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. This large amphitheatre was built in AD 161 by the wealthy Roman Herodes Atticus in memory of his wife, Regilla.

As you continue around the side of the mount, you will come across the Temple of Nike. This tiny marble temple is the earliest Ionic temple designed by Kallicrates and was dedicated to the goddess Athena Nike. In Greek, Nike means victory (Athena is the goddess of Victory).

As you continue up the hill, you will be met by the Parthenon itself. Its magnificent columns sweep up to what was once some of the finest carvings of their time. The triangle structures topping the east and west facades were filled with elaborately carved sculptures.

As you circle the Parthenon, you will then come across the Erechtheion, named after the mythical king of Athens, and the Porch of the Caryatids; these sculptures were modelled on the women of Karyai. 

It is thought that the Erechtheion housed the cults of Poseidon and Athena; according to myths, these gods and goddesses competed for the city’s affection. Poseidon struck the ground with his trident, producing a salt spring, while Athena produced an olive tree. The flourishing olive tree that now sits beside the Erechtheion is thought to be the sacred tree that Athena produced to seize victory in the contest for Athens.

Tips: If visiting the Acropolis during peak times, I recommend purchasing tickets beforehand to avoid the massive queues. To save money, buy a combo ticket for €30, including entrance to the Acropolis, Roman Agora, Theatre of Dionysus, Kerameikos, Temple of Olympian Zeus, Hadrian’s Library, The Roman Agora, and the South of the Acropolis. 

2. The Acropolis Museum

The new €130 million Acropolis museum lies at the foot of the Acropolis’s southern slope. It is a modern, purpose-built museum that houses many of the surviving Greek treasures. This collection includes artefacts that were previously held in storage and those that have been returned from foreign museums. 

As you enter the grounds you will be met with a Plexiglas floor that displays the newly uncovered ruins excavated during the museum’s construction. Just inside the museum, you’ll encounter the foyer gallery, which has an ascending glass floor that allows glimpses of the ruins below. The museum has been cleverly thought out and has an abundance of statues, pottery and other artefacts found within the Acropolis site. 

This museum is a must if you want to delve deeper into Greek mythology and the history of the Acropolis.

3. The Ancient Agora 

This was by far my favourite site. The Ancient Athenian Agora was the centre of ancient Athens and was set around a large open square that residents used for a variety of purposes, such as markets, religious festivals, and dramatic performances. Parts of this huge site are still being excavated, but you can still wander around the site and visit the new museum housed in the Stoa of Attalos, which was originally built around 200 BC.

Inside the museum, you will find a selection of the thousands of objects recovered in the past 75 years, reflecting the area’s use from 3000 BC to 1500 AD. Walking around the grounds, you will also find many artefacts and items of interest, as well as the very well-preserved Temple of Hephaistos.

4. Hadrian’s Arch

Hadrian’s Arch stands on the edge of one of the busiest avenues. This arch was Built by the order of the Roman emperor Hadrian in AD 132 and is thought to commemorate the consecration of the Temple of Zeus. The northwest frieze inscriptions read, ‘This is Athens, the Ancient city of Theseus’ whilst the southeast frieze reads, ‘This is the city of Hadrian, and not of Theseus.’ This shows that the arch was a dividing point between the ancient and Roman cities.

5. Temple of Olympian Zeus

The building of the Temple of Olympian Zeus started in the 6th century BC but was never finished. It was only 700 years later, in 131 AD, that Hadrian finished it. Originally, there stood 104 Corinthian columns, of which only 15 remain standing.

6. Panathenaic Stadium

The original racecourse stadium was built around 330 BC but was later rebuilt in marble in 144 AD by Herodes Atticus and had a capacity of 50,000 seats. It is thought to be the only marble stadium in the world and is known to be the site of the first modern Olympic Games. The Panathenaic stadium is still used today and is also where the handover ceremony for the Olympic flame is held every four years.

7. Kerameikos

Kerameikos is a neighbourhood northeast of Athens, also known as Ceramicus (meaning ceramic in English). The area’s name comes from the potters who lived there.

Themistocles built a city wall around Athens in 478 BC to protect the Agora, dividing the neighbourhood of Kerameikos in two. Since it was customary for the Athenians to bury the deceased outside the city, the outer part of Kerameikos became the city’s largest and most important cemetery.

The cemetery was long forgotten and buried until construction began in 1862 on the now-Pireos Street. During the building works, fragments of funerary monuments were found.

Today, the archaeological site is open to the public and is a peaceful place to explore. There is also a small museum that houses some of the cemetery’s more unique findings.

8. National Archaeological Museum Of Athens

The National Archaeological Museum was founded at the end of the 19th century. It is not only the largest archaeological museum in Greece, but its collection of Ancient Greek art is considered one of the finest in the world. 

The collection is displayed along the museum’s two floors. It is divided into various exhibitions, including the Prehistory Collection, the Sculpture Collection, the Vase and Minor Objects Collection and the Metallurgy Collection. It also houses a varied art collection from Ancient Egypt.

Visitors will get a good idea of Ancient Greek civilisation by visiting this vast museum, which includes pots carved out of stone, bronze objects, jewellery, mummies, small ceramic objects, ivory, marble, and glass objects, and several gold funerary masks.

Final Thoughts

No matter what time of year you visit Athens, there is always something to see and do. The city is rich in culture and history, and there are a variety of historical attractions to choose from. From the Acropolis to the Ancient Agora, Athens has something for everyone. So, if you’re looking for a place to explore and learn about new cultures, add Athens to your list of must-see places.

Thanks so much for stopping by; I appreciate everyone who takes the time to read and make it to the end! I have lots of exciting new content in the next few weeks, so make sure you pop back to catch up! 

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Happy travels!

10 Must see historic attractions in Athens
10 Must see historic attractions in Athens

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