The center of political, commercial, administrative, social, cultural, religious activity as well as the seat of justice in ancient Greece was the Agora. The archaeological excavations conducted at the foot of the Acropolis have brought to light this rectangular-shaped area dating back to the second century BC, thanks to the demolition of about 400 modern buildings.
The large open square of the Agora, where citizens could gather to perform a wide range of actions, shows buildings, monuments and small objects that illustrate the importance of this space.
The use of the area as a marketplace is indicated by the numerous stores where potters, shoemakers, bronze workers and sculptors could be found, while the long colonnades testify to a stroll aimed at meeting friends, doing business or philosophizing. The numerous small sanctuaries and temples tell of the religious role of the Agora while the library tells us of its cultural vocation.
After the total destruction of Athens at the hands of the Persians in 480 BC the city was rebuilt during the fifth and fourth centuries BC and during these years the Agora and its buildings were frequented by statesmen such as Themistocles, Pericles and Demosthenes, by poets Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes and writers Thucydides and Herodotus and philosophers such as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. The Agora was the focal point of their various activities and it was here that the concept of democracy was developed and practiced.
The real work of excavation, to bring back to light the Agora, began in 1931: first it was necessary to obtain the green light on the area in question, which covers 24 hectares occupied by 365 modern houses, each of which had to be purchased and demolished.
Although most of the buildings of the Agora have not come down to us in good condition, we can still admire buildings such as the Stoa of Attalus, the only restored structure that was once an ancient commercial center and now houses the Agora Museum, and the Temple of Hephaestus, one of the best preserved Doric temples in the world that is located on the hill overlooking the western end of the Agora.
The Temple of Hephaestus is located on the high ground overlooking the western end of the Agora and is one of the best preserved Doric temples in the world. Around 1300 the temple was transformed into a church dedicated to St. George.
Designed in 449 BC by Ictinus, one of the architects of the Parthenon, in honor of the god of fire and engineering, the Temple of Hephaestus features 34 columns, 6 columns on the short side and 13 on the long sides, and a frieze on the eastern side depicting nine of the 12 labors of Heracles.
To the northeast of the temple are the foundations of the Stoa of Zeus Eleutherios, one of the places where Socrates used to debate.
The Stoa of Attalus is located at the far end of the Agora and is the only restored ancient building of Athens. The Stoà must have constituted a sort of ancient commercial center able to accommodate 21 stores on each floor.
The arcaded palace has two floors and dates back to 138 BC when it was built by the king of Pergamon as a gift to the city of Athens.
The building, 116.50 meters long and 20.05 wide, has 45 columns in Doric style on the ground floor and the same number in Ionic style in the upper gallery and now houses the Agora Museum where they are collected finds from the excavations of the site: ceramics, bronzes, sculptures, coins, inscriptions and many objects of daily use.
Between 1953 and 1956 the Stoà was faithfully reconstructed by the American School of Archaeology with only one difference: the facade was left in natural pentelic marble, while originally it was painted in red and blue.
Built in the second century A.D. a short distance from the Agora by Emperor Hadrian, from whom it takes its name, the Library of Athens contained a cloister surrounded by 100 Corinthian columns with a pool of water in the center.
In addition to books, the Library housed reading rooms, music rooms and a theater.
The structure has had a very troubled history: built in 132 BC, it was destroyed by the Heruli in 267 AD and then rebuilt in 412. In the 5th century AD, the courtyard housed a Christian basilica, which was destroyed and rebuilt in the 7th century.
Finally, during the Turkish occupation the building was the seat of the governor of the city.
Today the library is accessible to the public who can admire the niches in the stone, in which the parchment scrolls were stored.
The library is open from 8 to 15 and access is included in the ticket of the Acropolis.
Inside the Agora you can also admire the Tower of the Winds, a marble building with an octagonal shape. The structure has a diameter of almost 8 meters and is over 12 meters high.
In the upper part of the structure, on each of the sides, can be observed the representations of 8 winds depicted by a male figure.
The Tower, built in the first half of the first century BC to measure time is composed of an octagonal base, consisting of 3 steps, and two porches of Corinthian columns in addition to the conical roof.
This structure was together a sundial, a weather vane, a water clock and a compass. For the ancients, the winds had divine powers and thought that through them they could peer into the future.
Brought to light between 1837 and 1845 by the Greek Archaeological Society, the Tower of the Winds was restored a first time in 1916 and a second time in 1976.
In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article
Tickets for the Agora of Athens can be purchased at the ticket offices located at the entrance. However, it is advisable to buy tickets online: it allows you to skip the queues at the ticket offices and is generally cheaper.
You can choose to buy a ticket for the Agora alone or a combination ticket that gives access to multiple attractions. Both single and combination tickets provide discounts for children, students, and seniors.
In the summer months, the Agora is open from early morning until evening; in the winter, closing time is earlier.
If you are short on time and would like to take part in a more comprehensive tour of the city that includes a visit to the Agora, we recommend a guided tour.
There are two entrances, located at a short walking distance from each other: the main one, always open, is in Adrianou; the other, to the south, is open only during high season.
The best way to get to the Ancient Agora is to take the subway and get off at Monastiraki (blue and green line) or at Thisio (green line): both stops are about 5 minutes walk from the entrances of the Agora.
It is possible to reach the Agora on foot from the Acropolis (calculate about ten minutes), but if you have enough time we recommend that you divide the visit of the Acropolis and the Agora in two separate days.
The Agora of Athens (or Ancient Agora) is located in the heart of the city, south of the central square Monastiraki and at the foot of the Acropolis. Be careful not to confuse it with the Roman Agora, located about 300 meters away.