Cradle of ancient civilization and democracy, Athens is an immense metropolis where at every corner you can come across millenary ruins.
The iconic temples of the Acropolis, first of all the Parthenon, considered the highest expression of classical Greek architecture, the mythical ancient stadium where the modern Olympic Games began, the agora where Socrates taught philosophy and some of the most important museums of ancient art in the world are the wonders that everyone expects to find in Athens.
While proud of its glorious past, the Greek capital looks ahead and pulses with energy. It’s a modern city where you can visit contemporary art galleries, photograph creative street art, rock out at a rock festival or sample craft beers.
Between visits to museums, shopping in the markets, romantic walks at sunset, dinners in typical taverns and escapes to the park or the sea in search of a little ‘cool, a vacation in Athens could well occupy an entire week … but do not worry if you stay fewer days, Athens will steal your heart at first sight.
To say Athens and think of the Acropolis is an immediate association: from almost every corner of the city, at any time of day, you only have to raise your eyes to admire the impressive view of its most famous temple, the Parthenon.
A visit to the Acropolis is a must during a vacation in Athens: lose yourself in this city within the city, at once the soul and the ancient origin of the modern metropolis that extends at its feet.
One of the most iconic monuments in the world, constantly at the top of the charts of must-see tourist attractions, the majestic Parthenon has for thousands of years dominated the city of Athens from above, almost like a protective God.
Built in 432 BC, the Parthenon was already intended to become the city’s main monument: the project was entrusted to the architects Ictinus and Callicrates, supervised by Phidias, one of the greatest exponents of classical art.
The largest Doric temple ever completed, dedicated to the goddess Athena Parthenos, is recognized by all as a symbol of the glory of ancient Greece and Athenian democracy: a true architectural masterpiece, an example of perfection that has resisted over the millennia to earthquakes and armed clashes.
Only the bright colors and gold of the columns and decorations have not resisted the passage of time, but this means that we can now admire the glittering white of the Pentelic marble with which the Parthenon was built (unique case in all of ancient Greece).
The second most famous temple of the Acropolis of Athens is the Temple of Athena Nike, built around 435 BC on a project of Callicrates and recently restored.
This small Ionic temple (the only example of a fully Ionic style building on the Acropolis) stands in a dizzying position on the edge of the sheer rocks of the Acropolis.
The most famous statues of the Acropolis are surely the Caryatids, six impressive columns with the figure of a woman that support the sanctuary of theErechtheion, built on the point where, according to the myth, Poseidon struck the ground with his trident and where the first olive tree grew.
The statues that we admire today at the Acropolis are actually reproductions: the originals are on display at the Acropolis Museum (plus one at the British Museum in London), just outside the archaeological site, but it is equally exciting to see them in their original context.
The impressive theater of Dionysus that we admire today was built between 342 and 326 BC on top of an earlier temple dating from the sixth century BC.
During the heyday of the city of Athens, the theater, which could accommodate up to 17,000 spectators, was the reference point for performances of classical theater: here were staged works of the great Greek playwrights, such as Aristophanes, Euripides and Sophocles.
The Acropolis of Athens is one of the most visited monuments in the world and therefore during peak hours is very crowded: the queues to buy tickets are very long and inside the Acropolis you may find yourself stuck waiting for groups of tourists to pass.
Keep in mind that the Acropolis is almost totally exposed to the sun and in the summer months the heat can be stifling.
To avoid traffic jams and heat stroke, avoid rush hour and visit the Acropolis early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Protect yourself from the sun with a hat and sunscreen and wear comfortable shoes.
There are three entrances to the Acropolis and most tourists enter through the main one on Dionysiou Areopagitou: try the secondary entrances for quicker access.
There are cumulative tickets that allow you entry to the Acropolis and other interesting sites and museums in the city. On Greek national holidays, entry to the Acropolis is free.
The heart of ancient Athens was not, as you might think, the Acropolis, but the ancient Agora, the administrative, political, commercial and social center.
Founded around the 6th century BC, it was devastated and rebuilt several times; today it is an oasis of peace in the chaos of the city center: walking among its ancient ruins immersed in silence is an exciting experience.
Particularly impressive is the Temple of Hephaestus, on top of a small hill on the western side of the agora. Built in 449 ac by Ictinus, one of the architects of the Parthenon, it is the best preserved Doric temple in all of classical Greece, supported by 34 majestic columns.
The Ancient Agora ticket also includes admission to a well-maintained museum that displays artifacts found on the site of the agora. The museum is housed within the Stoa of Attalus, a monumental-looking ancient shopping area with 43 Doric columns.
Don’t confuse the ancient Agora with the Roman Agora (or Roman forum), which was later. This was where the administrative center of the city moved during Roman times: you can still see the foundations of several buildings, the latrines, the Gate of Athena Archegetis and the octagonal Tower of the Winds.
The Panathenaic Stadium of Athens (also known as Kallimarmaron) could be called the “temple of the Olympics and sport”.
Nestled between two hills surrounded by greenery, this gigantic pentelic marble stadium, capable of holding up to 70,000 spectators, was built in the 4th century BC as the site of the Panathenaic Games; millennia later, the stadium became the historic site of the first Olympic Games of the modern era.
During the visit to the stadium you can discover curiosities and anecdotes about the games of ancient and modern times, wander up and down the steps of the stadium, try to run like a professional athlete and admire the original Olympic torches of our time … unlit, of course.
It’s no wonder that Athens, the cradle of Western civilization, abounds in extraordinary museums of ancient art: you could devote an entire vacation to visiting museums alone.
If, however, you have time to make a choice, the obligatory stop is the rich National Archaeological Museum, the largest collection in the world of artifacts from ancient Greece (more than 11,000!), from the Neolithic era to the Cycladic, classical and Mycenaean periods, housed in a grandiose neoclassical building.
One of the highlights of the collection is the magnificent bronze statue of the god who is about to launch the arrow: it has never been ascertained whether it is Zeus or Poseidon, what is certain is that the dramatic force of this extraordinary sculptural work leaves every visitor speechless.
Other interesting museums to visit:
The sultry city of Athens offers many ways to escape from the heat and city traffic, oases of green in the heart of the city.
Right in the middle of the old town, a stone’s throw from the Parliament and the Syntagma shopping area, you can find some coolness in the spacious and elegant National Gardens.
If, in addition to the coolness, you also want a beautiful view of the city and are willing to walk a little longer, climb the hills of Filopappou and Lykavittos, the best places to admire the sunset in Athens.
The first one is also called Hill of the Muses and according to the legend it is the place where Theseus and the Amazons fought; today its slopes dotted with pine trees are the perfect place for a relaxing walk at the end of which you can enjoy a magnificent view of the Acropolis.
The most romantic walk in Athens is probably the one that takes you to the top of Lykavittos Hill starting from Kolonaki: you can choose whether to reach the top in silence along a steep path and admiring the view of the city or to arrive more comfortably by cable car.
At the top of the hill stands the tiny Chapel of St. George, while just before reaching the top you can have a break in a chic bar-restaurant.
Athens is a city with a millennial history and one of the most valuable artistic and cultural heritage in the world. It is worth deepening your knowledge of this city with a guided tour in the company of an expert guide who will tell you the history and curiosities of one of the most fascinating capitals of Europe.
You can choose the classic hop on hop off bus tour, thanks to which you can comfortably visit all the main tourist attractions of the city, or something more exclusive like a private tour of the Acropolis.
If you need a break from the city, take one of the many day trips to the nearby islands, where you can combine cultural visits with a refreshing dip in the sea.
Among the numerous tours and excursions around Athens that are organized, we have selected the best ones for you!
Reaching Athens from the United Kingdom is fast and cheap thanks to the many direct flights, also of low cost airlines, departing from different cities. Starting from London you will be in Athens in just three hours!
If you want to combine a visit to the capital a few days of relaxation at sea, from the port of Piraeus in Athens many ferries depart to the Greek islands.
To see all the facilities and book accommodation in Athens use the form below, entering the dates of your stay.