Divine Athens, glorified in many songs, was always the eternal inspiration for many great artists and poets.
Athens, the capital of shiny Greece, is a city of magical beauty and the ancient cradle of European civilization. Famous for iconic legends of brave heroes and immortal gods of Olympus, antique temples, cute Byzantine churches, and the centuries-old glorious history, divine Athens after two and a half millennia since its foundation still attracts with particular charm, jealously, keeping the memory of long past times.
Take a walk its streets, enjoying its rich history, magnificent architectural achievements, and indulge in divine sounds of the blue Mediterranean Sea. Take a deep breath and feel the specific mixture of alluring sweet scents of lavender, ripe figs, and oranges that make this ambient one of a kind for centuries. Remember this city for its olives, ripe grapes, and diversity of wines that have been produced on this land under the heat of the Greek sun for more than 6500 years. Don’t miss to try them, and you will be aware of their incredible tastes worthy of the gods!
In one of the numerous Athens’ taverns, try to learn Syrtaki dance step by step, following cheerful Bouzouki sounds that will return the smile on your face and remove all your worries at least for a moment. If you are a dreamer and adventurer who loves to explore, the streets of Athens hide many surprises, leading to an almost forgotten world of myths and mystical stories that still live despite the time. Be part of this exciting journey and follow the routes that lead to lovely landmarks you will enjoy and which will make you carry this city in your heart forever.
There is a list of places you should visit to feel its uniqueness and specific spirit that captivates, leaving people breathless.
1. Take a walk to Acropolis hill
Acropolis Hill bathed in the sun, is a spectacular place where you can face the history of ancient Greece just in front of your eyes. It is the most visited historic site of Athens that consists of magnificent, well preserved Antique temples, which are among the most impressive architectural achievements of the ancient world.
Jealously, keeping the memory of the long-past times, Parthenon, the most impressive construction dedicated to the goddess Athena, the protector of the Ancient city of Athens, stands out. Built-in the 5th century BC by the most talented architects Iktinos and Kalikrates during the Golden Era of Pericles’ ruling, it represents the main symbol of Ancient Greek civilization and the most preserved building of classical style, which is considered the pinnacle of the Doric style development. The entire building is decorated with beautiful sculptures, which are considered one of the most important works of ancient Greek art and have enormous artistic value. Among them, one can admire a magnificent statue of the Goddess Athena, a masterful work of the most famous antique sculptor Phidias, made of wood, ivory, and gold.
On the Acropolis hill, there are the other antique constructions. The Propylaea, constructed by Mnesicles during the Pericles’ administration, served as a main entrance to the Parthenon temple.
Situated across the Propylaea entrance, there is the Temple of Athena Nike, the earliest Ionic style construction, built around 420 BC by Kalikrates. It’s dedicated to Athena Nike, a goddess of Victory, worshipped by the citizens during the long Peloponnesian War fought against Sparta and its allies.
The Erechtheion temple is a distinctive, elegant building, famous for its marble statues of women, called Caryatides, supporting its roof instead of pillars. Temple is located on the north side of the Acropolis and named after the mythical king of Athens.
The visit to the Acropolis hill isn’t completed without entering the New Museum of the Acropolis, founded in 2008, which keeps parts of the frieze from the Parthenon, the five original caryatids (sixth in London), and the gold from Mycenae and Poseidon sculptures. The museum brought a new revolution into museology because the ground floor made of glass provides visitors to watch archaeologists in their work.
2. Visit Athenian Agora
Across from the Acropolis hill, one can see the archaeological site, with a rich collection of monuments and ruins from different periods of Athens golden days. It’s Athenian Agora, a former marketplace and the center of ancient Athens, where intense political, commercial, administrative, and social activities were held for several hundred
years. Athenian Agora was a gathering place of merchants, politicians, philosophers, statesmen and ordinary citizens. There is also a magnificent Agora Museum, the building from the 2nd century BC, exhibiting artifacts from every day’s life of the ancient Greeks.
To the west of Agora on top of the Agoraios Kolonos hill, there is Hefaisteion (The Temple of Hephaestus), the 5th century Doric temple, one of the best-preserved temples in the whole of Greece today.
3. Enjoy the time at the picturesque Plaka
From the nearby picturesque Plaka, the vibrant Bohemian quarter of Athens with cobblestone streets, one can enjoy a remarkable view of Acropolis. Spend time in one of the Plaka tavernas, which cherishes the traditional spirit and authentic way of life. The enchanting atmosphere with people dancing and singing makes this city district unique and unbelievably beautiful.
Here in Plaka, you can try a diversity of Greek wines and ouzo, enjoying temperamental Syrtaki dance and bouzouki sounds that drive your energy and make you jump on your feet and dance. In this vivid place, even the most uptight ones become cheerful and relaxed, enjoying delicious traditional Greek cuisine dishes, based on vegetables, meat, and olive oil.
In Plaka, you are allowed to climb on tables, crush plates without any guilt, as it is part of Greek tradition. If you find yourself in Athens, spend at least one night in one of the numerous Plaka tavernas, and you will experience famous Greek hospitality, conviviality, and easy-going attitude. You will be thrilled with its spectacular ambient full of optimism and powerful life energy that can brighten your day.
4.Spend some time in Omonia and Syntagma Squares
While you are in Athens, you shouldn’t miss its main tourists’ gathering places, large Omonia and Syntagma squares, located in the center of the city. The Syntagma square is famous for the 19th century Old Royal Palace hosting the Greek Parliament since 1934. The popularity of the Parliament is not because of the building itself, but due to the famous ”Changing of the Guard”, which takes place every afternoon at 18:00 hours. The Greek guards are dressed in beautiful traditional Greek costumes and don’t react to all this crowd, which is created around them, pretending that no one exists. The guards must be stiff, strict, and sometimes it was not easy to cope with curious tourists. This large geometric shaped square, the city’s favored pedestrian area, represents the most visited destination among tourists.
If you want to feel real pulsatile life energy of Athens, visit Omonia, the second largest square in the town, recognizable by the fountain, surrounded by plenty of cheap fast-food restaurants, traditional restaurants offering Greek specialties at favorable prices and picturesque shops, which feature a hectic atmosphere where one can enjoy an exceptional purchasing adventure. With people wandering all-day around, Omonia square is considered the main shopping area of the city, as opposed to the Plaka neighborhood and old city center, which display history, customs, and Greek cultural wealth. Omonia is a typical commercial zone, with usual all-day crowds, where people come for everyday items, cheap eateries, exotic imported goods, and food.
5. Face to face with the turbulent Athens’ history, visiting its museums
Athens is also famous for its numerous museums. It’s not surprising keeping in mind the impressive cultural and historical treasure that has been collected for centuries. The most important is the National Archaeology Museum of Athens, founded in the 19th century and located in the impressive building of the Neoclassical style. With over 11,000 exhibits displayed in an area of 8000m2, it belongs to one of the largest museums in the world. Here, one can see some of the most important artifacts from archaeological sites across Greece, dating from prehistory to late antiquity.
The art and history admirers can also visit the Byzantine museum that offers fascinating insights into the Byzantine period of Greek history. More than 25000 religious artifacts from the Byzantine, early Christian, medieval, and post-Byzantine periods are on display in spacious premises of this renowned neoclassical style building. One can enjoy the impressive Byzantine inheritance of high artistic values that includes magnificent collections of paintings, sculptures, icons, and mosaics. Architectural fragments from Christian basilicas and Byzantine churches represent the highlights of the whole museum’s exhibition. The splendid 5th–century fragment of the mosaic placed in the museum’s courtyard also attracts all visitors’ attention.
6. Discover an impressive Byzantine wealth
Sightseeing beautiful Athens, one can notice numerous churches that belong to the Byzantine architectural style of construction, mostly dating from the 11th -century.
Among many that adorn the streets of Athens, there is the Church of the Holy Apostles located on the site of the ancient Agora, the only remaining religious building from this period after the archaeological excavation. Typical of Byzantine architecture it is built of stone with an oval dome that is slightly smaller and gives a sense of disproportion, supported by four pillars. The interior of the dome is decorated with beautiful frescoes representing Hristos Pantocrator (Ruler of All), John the Baptist, adorable little cherubim, and archangels. On the walls of the church, one can also admire well-preserved frescos and a large part of 11th –century iconostasis (partition with icons and religious figures).
If you take a relaxing walk through the streets of Athens, you’ll find many pleasant surprises hidden in the town’s corners and squares. The exceptional art masterpieces that adorn the interior of churches make them lovely places to spend time in, for those who are passionate art lovers and adore the delightful mixture of colors and value all that is old and beautiful.
In the walking zones of Athens, one can find quite a significant treasure of Byzantine artistic wealth that Greeks are very proud of. So, if you are curious person, full of desire for exploring, the adventurous type, who doesn’t stand idea to be held in one place, take a peek in these hidden secret places and be part of an exciting adventure.
It’s recommended to visit the Church of St. Nicodemus (11th century), located below the Syntagma Square, Church of Saint Theodore (second half of the 11th century), located next to the Klaftmonosa market, near Syntagma square. Then take a walk to Panaghia Kapnikaréa Church (the 11 century), located in the corner of Ermoú and Kalamiótous Street, and Church of Our Lady Gorgoepiokos – Holy Elefterije (end of the 12th century), located next to the Archbishopric of Athens, which probably illustrates the Athenian style the best.
7. In the search for active time
If you want to spend pleasant moments swimming, enjoying many water sports activities in this town, you can do it, too! Near Athens, there are sandy beaches that provide salvation from the unbearable heat during the long summer days.
Among many, the most visited is Glyfada beach that gives the stamp to this city, providing many facilities for spending extraordinary time far away from every day’s noise and the crowd.
On Glyfada beach, you can enjoy the Mediterranean atmosphere, extraordinary weather conditions, and beautiful sparkling water. Here, people are having a great time, adhering to the rules -” Enjoy the day like it’s your last! ”
8. Experience the exciting purchasing adventure
Athens is a city of colorful markets that represent a real paradise for those who are purchasing addicts and cannot resist the temptation. If you share the opinion that large shopping malls all over the world resemble each other, then you’ve come to the right place.
In Athens’ back streets, in its small shops, you can find lovely things at affordable prices, without any fear that you can’t afford the most you like. These places are colorful Plaka, and Monastiraki square, full of noisy sellers who enjoy bargaining with customers. Many colorful markets, which abound in the richness of fruits and vegetables, leather goods, ceramics, authentic Greek souvenirs, and clothing, are evidence that Greeks were a well-known trading nation for centuries.
9. Take a walk to Piraeus port
At the end of the warm day, it is recommended to visit the Athens port of Piraeus, the largest one in the whole of Greece and one of the largest in the Mediterranean area.
Here, you can enjoy a romantic walk admiring stunning scenes of the ships that come and go, and a peaceful ambient which hasn’t changed much despite the time.
If you are food admirer, indulge in the beautiful atmosphere of vintage cute little restaurants, and taverns, offering fresh fish, delicious souvlaki and gyros accompanied by the wide diversity of wines until dawn.
10.Experience the most romantic Sounion sunsets
Visit Sounion, the most southern point of the Attic peninsula, situated 65 km south of Athens. Here, you will encounter the remains of the 5th -century BC Poseidon temple, dedicated to Poseidon, the Antique god of the sea, built in the Doric style. The whole area is famous for the most beautiful sunsets in entire Greece. Do not miss the opportunity to attend this unique spectacle, admire the gorgeous sunset between the pillars of the Poseidon temple, whereas it will be perhaps one of the most stunning sights for the lifetime.
This is just a short guide on how to spend a perfect holiday in Athens. This city, so beautiful and unique, has so many more things to offer, giving you numerous opportunities and freedom to choose whatever you like. Its history, cultural wealth, divine sights, and above all its people hospitable and full of passion for life make this city one of a kind. Come and discover why so many people keep this city in their hearts forever!
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