The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
A monument over
which a guard of honor keeps vigil The 1100 am changing of the guard
on Sundays is a picturesque small ceremony.
The Greek House of Parliaments.
This is a neoclassical building overlooking the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Formerly used as the residential palace of Greece’s first king, Otto
(1832-1862), it houses since 1933 the Greek Parliament. Adjoining the
building is the National Garden stretching as far as the Zappeion Exhibition
and Congress Hall, which stands in its own park.
South Slope of the Acropolis
The numerous sanctuaries and public buildings which once clustered the
base of the Acropolis bear witness to the varied cultural and religious
activities of ancient Athens. To the north were the cult centers of
Persephone, Pan, Eros and Demeter, to the east those of the Dioscuri and
Theseus and in the south Asclepios, Dionysos and the Nymphs were honored.
Today, only the remains of the southern slope have been unearthed, and can
be accessed near the Theatre of Dionysos. This impressive structure was
reconstructed in stone and marble in the 4th century BC, on the site of
the original wooden theatre that served the city in its theatrical heyday
more than a century earlier. To the east there are the remains of the
Odeion of Pericles (c.443 BC), used for recitals and meetings of citizens,
whilst to the west is the long line of the Stoa of Eumenes, constructed in
the 2nd century BC to shelter the crowds of theatre-goers.
The agora, or "market", was the busy hub of commercial and social life in
ancient Athens, the place where citizens would meet to sell their produce
and discuss issues of the day. Today, this expansive and remarkably green
site is dominated by the Temple of Hephaistos. Dating to the 5th century
BC, it is the best preserved Doric temple in Greece and a wonderful sight
to behold. Nearby, the Stoa of Attalos (2nd century BC) houses a museum
displaying objects recovered from the site along with a scale model of the
Agora – a useful navigational reference for visitors. There are three
entrances to the Agora, of which the entrances on Adrianou or Polygnotou
streets in the north and west are most convenient if visiting from Plaka.
At the southern entrance, the 11th century AD Church of the Holy Apostles,
with its lovely Byzantine frescoes, is something of a surprise, albeit a
So, what did you learn from Athens?
You paid homage to the Parthenon, went wild in Monastiraki,
got tipsy in Plaka, stared at the Evzones, took a look at Parliament House and the Academy, mingled with the crowds in Syntagma Square and Omonia, drove down to the sea, climbed up
Lykabettus, exchanged niceties with hundreds at a reception or two distinguished yourself at that conference you attended,
excelled at the Olympic Stadium, calmed down in the tranquility of the Keramikos.
And all of a sudden you discovered that you hadn’t discovered Athens. Because you can’t get to know Athens in a month or even a
year. Yet you can get to know Athens in a moment.
Seek out those moments in Athens: Let yourself get lost on the bus or while walking, go to
neighborhoods unlisted in the official program, stroll
through trodden by tourists paths, knock at an unfamiliar door,
rent a boat, keep your eye out for unknown spots (most of which
will be known), find a forgotten “tavernaki”, take a walk on
Mars Hill (Arios Pagos) or around the theatre of Herod Atticus,
but also amble through the crooked lanes of an old residential
district, by night or by day.
In order to get to know Athens you have to lose your way.
Even if you don’t find Athens, you’ll surely find yourself.
The Keramikos served as Athens’ cemetery for over 1000 years. Entering at
the western end, visitors first encounter part of the Themistokleian Wall,
built in the 5th century BC to protect passage to the city’s port,
Piraeus. The remains of the Dipylon Gate, which marked the beginning of
the Panathenaic Way, and of the Sacred Gate, through which initiates of
the mysteries at Eleusis would have passed, break the wall in two places
on the site. Located between the two, the spacious Pompeion housed sacred
items used at the Panathenaia, the city’s most important religious and
dramatic festival. But the Keramikos’ main attraction is the Street of
Tombs, which is lined with the funerary monuments of the ancient city’s
most prominent citizens. The original steal are on display at the National
Archaeological Museum and at Keramikos’ Oberlaender Museum, but a wander
around the site itself provides the most engaging glimpse of ancient life
The Lycabettus (Licavitos) Hill
Clad in pinewoods and crowned by the picturesque white chapel of St. George the hill
provides a fine panoramic view over the entire city. There is a restaurant and pastryshop on the top. Access is by funicular or
Below the Tomb of the Unkown
Soldier stretches the most central square in Athens lined by a large
number of pastryshops, which are usually filled with a lively crowd of
Athenians and foreigners.
It is the oldest and most picturesque
quarter in Athens spreading around the Acropolis. Winding, narrow
alleys are flanked by single storey houses set next to elegant
mansions. There are also several small tavern as and nightclubs as
well as shops selling popular arts and crafts. Combined, they make Plaka one of the most attractive corners of Athens.
This is in reality an extension of Plaka. It is the part of the city with the greatest number of antique
dealers and gift shops of every kind.
Formerly the home of the
celebrated archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann, it is one of the most
beautiful buildings in Athens and stands at the upper end of Panepistimiou St. On the same street a little further down, are the
neoclassical buildings of the Academy, the University and the National Library. Technical University in Patission St. is in the same style of
Visible from almost every quarter of the city, this towering mass of rock
is the crowning symbol of Athens and testament to a golden era in Greece’s
history. Literally meaning ‘high city’, the Acropolis was at the centre of
civic life as long ago as the 13th century BC. But it was not until the
Classical period that its most famous monuments were erected. At the
instigation of Pericles, a prominent citizen and then general of Athens, a
major civic building project commenced in the 440s and 430s BC. Its focus
was to celebrate the Athenian victory over the Persians, who had sacked
the Acropolis - the principal sanctuary of Athena, patron goddess of the
city – just a few decades earlier. Under the direction of the
celebrated sculptor Phidias, first the glorious Parthenon, then the
Propylaia and next the Erectheion were constructed, with renovations made
to the smaller Temple of Athena Nike. A magnificent city of temples was
created which was a potent symbol of Athenian wealth, power and
achievement. Only a few buildings would be added to the Acropolis in later
times, and these, such as the Temple of Rome and Augustus, attest
primarily to the Roman presence in Athens.
Today, over 2000 years on,
the Acropolis has suffered centuries of looting, earthquakes, pollution
and even an explosion. The lavish decoration of its colossal monuments has
faded, its marble and bronze statues either destroyed or salvaged for
display in museums, leaving just a relic of its ancient incarnation. But
with its grandiose situation, monumental proportions and elegant Classical
design outlined in the gleaming white marble of its construction, it is
still a sight that is guaranteed to inspire awe and wonder. Don’t miss the
Acropolis Museum on the south-east corner, which houses a collection of
sculptures and relief recovered from the site.
The Acropolis newly illuminated at
night before the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games on 13th August
2004; the work of acclaimed lighting artist Pierre Bideau.
A summer performance of music, theatre or dance at the historic open-air Odeion of Herodes Atticus on
the south-slope of the Acropolis.
A picnic in the shade of the ruins
of the Ancient Agora, propped against an ancient column or amidst the
rubble of its many buildings.
Acropolis - The Ancient Centre
Rising up from
the modern day districts of Plaka, Aerides and Anafiotika, with the
glorious white marble of the Parthenon glistening at its peak, the
Acropolis stands sentinel above the ruins of ancient Athens. To the
north-west are the remains of the Ancient Night view of the Acropolis.
Agora, marketplace of that long ago city and today a shaded, green area
topped by the beautifully preserved Temple of Hephaistos. North-west
again is the Keramikos cemetery with its eerie Street of Tombs, and
sprawled along the Acropolis’ southern slopes, Greek and Roman ruins –
the Theatre of Dionysos, Stoa of Eumenes and Odeion of Pericles – sit
side by side; an enduring reminder of the city’s Golden Age. From the
breezy heights of Filopappou Hill there are splendid panoramic views of
the archaeological sites clustered amidst the modern city.
Plaka is the historic heart and tourist hub of Athens. Its narrow cobbled streets,
lined with souvenir shops, hotels, restaurants and cafes, lead the way
to the steep streets and ochre-white buildings of Anafiotika, huddled
beneath the Acropolis. The area is also home to several delightful small
museums, amongst them the Kanellopoulos Museum and Museum of Greek
Important to visit
Odeion of Herodes Atticus
This 2nd century AD
structure at the western side of the Acropolis’ southern slope was built
by the wealthy Roman Herodes Atticus in honor of his wife Regilla.
Today, nearly 2000 years on, it is still used during the summer months
for performances of dance, theatre and music at the popular Athens
Festival. Contact the Greek Festival ticket office or website for full
listings of what’s on in 2004. The site is not open to the public except
The still largely
unexcavated Roman Agora served as the city's commercial center from the
1st century BC to the 4th century AD. The main attractions for visitors
today on this relatively small site are the Gate of Tower of the Winds Athena Archegetis (1st century AD) and the
octagonal Tower of the Winds (1st century BC). The latter is the best preserved of the city’s Roman
monuments. An ingenious construction, it originally functioned as a
sundial, water clock, weather vane and compass. Relieves around the
tower personify the eight winds, known by the Athenians as 'Aerides',
‘The Windy Ones’. Just steps away, touching the southern edge of Plateia
Monastirakiou, is the Library of Hadrian. Dating to the 2nd century AD,
this was once a vast building which housed not only books but a theatre,
music and lecture rooms.
Temple of Olympian Zeus
temple, the largest in Greece, was begun in the 6th century BC by the
tyrant Peisistratos and completed some 700 years later by that most avid
of builders, the Emperor Hadrian. The site is worth visiting if only to
marvel at the sheer scale of it; the columns alone, of which just 13
remain of the original 104, measure 17 meters high with a base diameter
of almost 2 meters. Near the entrance to the site, at the traffic-choked
intersection of Vassilissis Olgas and Amalias, the blackened Arch of
Hadrian once served to divide the ancient city from the Roman one. On
the north face the inscription states ‘This is Athens, the ancient city
of Theseus’, whilst the south face reads, ‘This is the city of Hadrian,
and not of Theseus’.