Sites & Villages
Acropolis hill, the so called “Sacred Rock” of Athens, is the most important site of the city of Athens and one of the most famous monuments of the world. It is the most significant reference point of ancient Greek culture, as well as the symbol of the city of Athens itself as it represent the peak of artistic development of the 5th century BC. During Perikleus Golden Age, ancient Greek civilization was represented in an ideal way on the hill and some of the architectural masterpieces of the period were erected on its ground.
The entrance to the Acropolis site is through the Beule Gate (named after the French archeologist who made the research in the area), built during the 3rd century BC in the Roman times. The original entrance was from the monumental Propylaea and led to the sacred area dedicated to Athena, the patron goddess of the city. Propylea were built by the architect Mnesicles with Pentelic marble. To the south is the Ionian temple of Athena Nike, which is not accessible at the moment.
Parthenon is the most important and characteristic monument of the ancient Greek civilization and still remains its symbol, representing the glory of the ancient Greece. Dedicated to the goddess Athena Parthenos (the virgin) it was completed in 438 BC. This Doric Temple was planned by the architects Ictinus and Kallikrates. It has 8 columns on the narrow sides and 17 on the long ones. The base is curved and the columns become narrower towards the top. Still the effect is making is look straight. The sculptures were designed and manufactured by Phidias who also made the Doric frieze on the walls of the cella. These are the so called Parthenon Marbles that were brought to England in the beginning of the 19th century. Inside the temple was a magnificent statue of Athena from which only the foundations remained.
The Erechtheion is to be found on the north of the hill of the Acropolis. In the south-west is the famous porch with the Caryatids, of which one is exhibited in the British Museum; the remaining is on display in the Acropolis Museum. On the monument itself casts replace the originals.
The temple of Athena Nike, southwest of the entrance, was built about 420 BC. It is a temple of Ionic style. The building is almost square with 4 Ionic columns on each side. Parts of the frieze are in the Acropolis museum.
The Acropolis Museum is located on the site of Acropolis, east of the Parthenon. It exhibits some of the most important sculptures of the ancient Greek art.
The Temple of Olympian Zeus is the largest temple in Greece. It is located east of the Acropolis. The construction of this monumental temple began already in 515 BC but was not finished under the dominance of Hadrian until 131 AD. It had 104 Corinthian columns, each 17 meters high, of which 15 remain today.
The Keramikos was the biggest necropolis in Athens in use from the 12th century until Roman times. It was discovered 1861 during the construction of a big street. One can see the ruins of the fortified enclosure with its two main gates, the Iera Pyli (Sacred Gate) and the Dipylon, public buildings, impressive civilian’s graves and military tombs. The Keramikos is reachable on foot (5 minutes) from the metro station Thission.
The Theatre of Dionysus is located on the south western slope of the Acropolis and signifies the importance the ancient Greeks put of the theatre. On the 5th century theatre no traces remain today. The ruins that we see today are the remains of a theatre built in the 4th century. It had a capacity of 17000 spectators.
The Odeion of Herodes Atticus also known as Herodion as well located south west of the Acropolis was built by the wealthy Roman Herodes Atticus in the memory o his wife Regilla in 161 AD. It could seat around 5000 persons.
Today is functions as theatre. During the summer there are performances of theatre, music and dance organized.
Agora (Ancient Agora) was the heart of civic life and market place. It was the commercial, political and cultural center of Athens. Agora reached its final rectangular form in the 2nd century BC.
The Panathenaic Stadium was built by Lycurgus in a natural hollow formed by the hills Mets and Pangrati in the 2nd half of the 4th century BC. It was used for the athletic competitions of the Great Panathinae Festivals. Herodes Atticus restored the stadium and rebuilt the seats in Pentelic marble. The stadium had a capacity of 50.000 spectators. In modern times the first Olympic Games were held here and it was the stage of the opening ceremony of the Games held in Athens in 2004.
At the east end of the Ancient Agora is the Roman Agora with the Tower of the Winds. The west entrance to the Roman Agora is called Gate of Athena the Archegetis (meaning Athena, the leader) and it was financed and built in the 1st century BC. The commercial center was transferred there and during the Turkish occupation it was used as a housing area.
The Tower of the Winds lies next to the Agora, north of the Acropolis. It is an octagonal monument from Pentelic marble and it was constructed during the 2nd half of the 1st century BC. On each side the so estimated faces of each wind are presented and under its face are straight rays that functioned as a sundial. For the cloudy days or the nights inside the tower exists a hydraulic system for calculating the time. Finally because the tower faces north it’s believed to have been used also as a compass.
Museums of Athens
National Archeological Museum, opened in 1874, it is located at Patission Street. It is five minute walk from Viktoria station and a ten minute walk from Omonoia station. It has the finest collection of Greek antiquities.
The vast exhibition space – numerous galleries on each floor accounting for a total of 8,000 square meters – house five large permanent collections: The Prehistoric Collection, which includes works of the great civilizations that developed in the Aegean from the 6000 to 1050 BC (Neolithic, Cycladic, Mycenaean), and finds from the prehistoric settlement at Thira. The Sculptures Collection, which shows the development of ancient Greek sculpture from the 7th to the 5th centuries BC with unique masterpieces. The Vase and Minor Objects Collection: contains representative works of ancient Greek pottery from the 11th century BC to the Roman period. The Metallurgy Collection, with many fundamental statues, figurines and minor objects. Furthermore is houses the only Egyptian and Near Eastern Antiquities Collection in Greece, with works dating from the pre-dynastic period (5000 BC) to the Roman conquest.
Address: 44 Patission Str.
Tel: +30 210 8217724
Access: Metro – Omonia, bus No. 224, 226
Open: Tuesday-Sunday & Holiday: 08.30-15:00
Tickets (Feb. 2009): Full: €7, Reduced: €3, Free under 19 yrs, EC Students
Benaki Museum The Benaki Museum was founded in 1930 by Antonis Benakis.
The central building re-opened to the public in the summer of 2000 and in it is presented the historical and cultural development of Hellenism. Exhibits span the Neolithic Age to the twentieth century. Many of them are masterpieces of Greek art or are of seminal significance for Greek history: from Antiquity and the Roman era to the Byzantine Age, from the Fall of Constantinople (1453), the period of Frankish rule and the Ottoman Occupation, to the outbreak of the Greek War of Independence (1821), and from the time of the formation of the Modern Greek State until the Asia Minor Catastrophe (1922).
The temporary exhibition gallery hosts exhibitions and diverse other events each year, thus enriching the visitor’s image of Hellenic civilization.
Address: 1, Koumbari Str. & Vas. Sofias Av.
Tel: +30 210 3671000
Access: Trolley buses 3, 7, 8, 13
Metro lines 2, 3 (Syntagma & Evangelismos stations)
Open: Wednesday, Friday, And Saturday: 08.30-17:00
Tickets (Feb. 2009): Full € 6, Reduced: €3
The Museum of Cycladic Art Goulandris is devoted to the study and promotion of ancient Greek art. It was founded in 1986 in order to house the collection of Cycladic and Ancient Greek art belonging to Nicholas and Dolly Goulandris. Starting in the early Sixties, and with a permit by the Greek State, the couple collected Greek antiquities, with special interest in the prehistoric art from the Cycladic islands.
Address: 4 Neophytou Douka Str.
Tel: +30 210 7228321-3
Open: Monday – Wednesday – Friday – Saturday: 10:00 – 17:00
Thursday: 10:00 – 20:00
Sunday: 11:00 – 17:00
Tickets (Feb. 2009): Full €7, Reduced: €3,5 Free under 18 yrs
The Byzantine Museum was founded in 1914. From 1930 on it has been housed in the “Ilisia” mansion, which belonged to the Duchess of Placentia and was built in 1848 by the architect Stamatis Kleanthes. In recent years an addition and a large extension with basement and buildings in part above ground have been made.
The collections of the Byzantine Museum show the course of Greek art from the 4th to the 19th century. They comprise sculptural works, paintings and small works of all sorts. These works represent the artistic production of the Greek area, and other regions both central and peripheral of the Byzantine Empire and subsequently of Hellenism on into post-Byzantine times.
Address: 22 Vasilissis Sophias Ave.
Tel: +30 210 7211027
Open: Tuesday-Sunday: 08.30-15.00 Summer:Tuesday-Sunday: 08.30-19.30
Tickets (Feb. 2009): Full € 4, Reduced: € 2 Free under 18 yrs
The National Historical Museum shows artifacts from the War of Independence. There are paintings portraying important events, a collection of documents from this time and medals, weapons from the Byzantine period. One highlight is Byron/s helmet and sword.
The museum is houses in the building of the old parliament (Vouli).
Address: 13 Stadiou Street
Tel: +30 210 3237617
Open: Tuesday-Sunday: 09.00-14.00
Tickets (Feb. 2009): Full € 3, Reduced: € 1,5 Free under 18 yrs, Sunday free entrance
The Museum of Greek Folk Art houses in different sections various exhibitions. Entrance Fee is always for one section only. It has a superb collection of secular and religious art, mainly from the 18th and 19th century. It shows objects of folk art: embroidery, weaving, costumes, masquerades, shadow theatre, metalwork, pottery, woodcarving, folk painting and stone carving.
Address: 17 Kydathineon, Plaka
Access: Metro Stations Syntagma or Monastiraki
Tel: +30 210 3229031
Open: Monday-Sunday: 09.00-14.00
Tickets (Feb. 2009): Full €2, Reduced: €1 Free under 18 yrs
Web info at: http://odysseus.culture.gr/h/1/eh155.jsp?obj_id=3319
Interesting Areas of Athens
Syntagma Square is the central square of the Greek capital. Its name means ‘the constitution’ and there is situated the huge stately neoclassical building, former royal palace, right next to the National Garden, where today is the Parliament of Greece. The Square is quite elegant, large and full of greenery, surrounded by luxury hotels. Underground you find the most beautiful and historically interesting underground stations in the world.
In front of the square is the monument to the Unknown Soldier, where the change of the guard takes place daily. The ceremony is very much appreciated by children and tourists. Lately the square has been renovated with beautiful gardens, fountains and open-air cafes, thus regaining its old charm.
The square is a central point to access all the major attractions of Athens, particularly ‘museum mile’ along Vassilissis Sophias Avenue which runs from Syntagma Square. Here most of Athens museums are clustered, including the Benaki Museum, Museum of Cycladic Art and the Byzantine Museum. At the west (bottom) part of Syntagma square is the beginning of Ermou Street (the main shopping district of Athens) that leads to Monastiraki square.
Omonia square is the cardinal centre of the city as well as a transit point. The circle accesses Tritis Septembriou in the north (September 3rd, exit), Panepistimiou (entrance), Agiou Konstantinou in the west (formerly entrance/exit, now exit), Panagi Tsaldari accessing Peiraios (entrance/exit, now entrance), Athinas (entrance/exit) in the south and now a walkway, while Stadiou (named after the ancient Stadium) in the southeast (exit) once continued the circle. It is served by a train station used by the Athens Metro and the Ilektrikos, appropriately named Omonoia Station.
Omonia Square has undergone the most radical architectural and urban plan changes in Athens during its last century of history. The square is always changing; it seems as if it were always searching for its true identity, without finding a fully satisfying image. This can be said both of its shape, having first been square with open air cafes and small villas, then circular with a very big fountain and lastly semi-circular, modern and very minimalist surrounded by tall buildings.
Plaka is the picturesque old historical neighborhood of Athens, clustered around the northern and eastern slopes of the Acropolis, and incorporating maze streets and neoclassical architecture. Excavations have proven that Adrianou Street is the oldest street in Athens still in continuous use with the exact same layout since antiquity. An absolute curious city neighborhood is the one of Anafiotika. This part of Plaka was built against the northern slope of the Acropolis by work immigrants from the Aegean island of Anafi in the early 19th century and it features traditional Cycladic architecture.
Plaka is built on top of the residential areas of the ancient town of Athens. It is visited by hundreds of thousands of tourists around the year, and is under strict zoning and conservation regulations. Vehicles are not allowed in Plaka but most streets are so narrow that cars would not be able to pass through anyway.
The neighborhood of Monastiraki is a flea market in the old town of Athens. It’s placed under the shadow of Acropolis at the South West section of the magisterial Sacred Rock and next to the Ancient Market and Attalos loft. Monastiraki is the best place to stroll and to buy souvenirs from Greece at low prices, without necessarily having to bargain. Monastiraki is also the place where you can find antique furniture and is the home of coin -and not only- collectors. On sunny days especially Sundays the area is ideal for walks under the Parthenon and stops for an ouzo and a few mezedes. The whole area was named after Monastiraki Square, where the metro station is. The main street of this area is Pandrossou and Adrianou Street.
The Monastiraki Metro Station, located on the square, serves both Line 1 and Line 3.
The Thiseio square is on one side by neoclassical buildings. On the other side is Thiseion garden, the first of the city’s public gardens. The square is full of outdoor cafes, which offer wonderful views of the Acropolis.
The area of Psirri is a new place of nightlife in Athens. This is a neighborhood within the old part of the city of Athens in Greece right next to Monastiraki. In the old days Psiri had mainly small shops like shoe makers, tinworks etc and only very poor people lived there. Today many old buildings are renovated and restored and transformed into gourmet restaurants, “Mezedopoleia” (restaurants that offer mezedes, the small starter plates shared from all on the table), “Rebetadika” (mezedopoleia with rebetiki live music), bars or even theaters. At night during the week but also for lunch on the weekends the places are packed and live goes on until the early morning hours. Although you can’t characterize Psirri as a beautiful area it has a unique fresh artistic atmosphere.
Kolonaki, literally it means “Little Column”, is the main a wealthy, chic and up market district in the center of Athens city and it is located on the southwestern slopes of Lycabettus hill close to Syntagma Square. Kolonaki is a fashionable meeting area. As one of the capital’s leading shopping areas, it includes a number of high-end boutiques from young adult and casual fashion to prestigious haute couture from Greek and international designers. One of its main shopping streets, Voukourestiou Street, is now known for its jewelry shops. There are a plenty of options for nightlife, including bars, ouzeries, and taverns. Outdoor seating on pedestrian walks is typical, creating a lively atmosphere at night.
Lycabettus Hill is a popular tourist destination. Lycabettus appears in various legends. Popular stories suggest it was once the refuge of wolves, possibly the origin of its name (which means “the one (the hill) that is walked by wolves”). The height of Kolonaki is quite literally the top of Lykabettus Hill. The peak affords views of the entire basin that Athens sits in and is worth a visit, especially at sundown. On clear days you can see all the way to the Saronic Gulf islands of Aegina and Salamis while enjoying a drink or meal.
Glyfada is the most cosmopolitan of Athens, situated in the southern parts of the Athens. It is 25 km from Athens Airport and has excellent connections by bus to/from the airport. Glyfada is home to many of Greece’s millionaires, ministers and celebrities, stretches out from the foot of the Hymettus Mountain down to the coastline. Sometimes Glyfada is called the Athens Riviera. It is the largest of Athens’ southern suburbs. This fashionable suburb is known in Greece for its up market cafes, posh restaurants, boutiques and cosmopolitan summer clubs. During the summer the clubs on Poseidon Street offer live music with the most popular Greek artists.
The Municipality of Piraeus
Piraeus is the port of Athens and the main port of Greece. Piraeus lies about 10 km south-west of central Athens and is an independent municipality. In the area of Piraeus there are 3 port sections. The biggest port is on the western side of the small Piraeus peninsula. From there all ferryboats and hydrofoils depart to all parts of island Greece.
Picturesque and in fashion are the smaller port, only yachts dock here, the Zea Marina and especially the Mikrolimano, which literally means small port, where you can find good taverns, fish taverns and bars. The better accommodations are in this area, not too close to the port.
Piraeus and Athens are well connected by the metro – the station is direct opposite the main port. Frequent bus connections to/from the airport, from/to Syntagma square.
The Maritime Museum Piraeus is a good opportunity if you have some time in Piraeus.
Among the exhibits there are models of ancient and modern ships, paintings by some of the greatest 19th and 20th century Greek painters of seascapes (Prossalendis, Volanakis, Hadjis, etc.); also guns, maps, flags, medals, nautical instruments, etc. There is also a specialized library in the Museum with 10,000 volumes and rich archival material, a photographic and film collection, which includes, among others, the archives of Admiral Kriezis and approximately 200 maps (16th -20th centuries).
Address: Akti Themistokleous, Freatida, Zas Marina Piraeus
Access: Metro Stations Syntagma of Monastiraki
Tel: +30 210 4516264
Open: Tuesday-Friday: 09.00-14.00 Saturday: 09.00-13.30
Tickets (Feb. 2009): Full € 1,5, Reduced: €1 Free under 18 yrs
The City and Port of Rafina
Rafina is located on the east coast of Attica, and it’s the second most important port for ferries. It is a smaller, quieter and less confusing than the vast port of Piraeus. There are ferry boat and high speed connections to Tinos, Mykonos, Paros, Naxos, and Amorgos.
You can take ferries for some islands like Andros, Hydra, Lesvos and Limnos etc.
Around the port you can find nice taverns and a choice of accommodations in different categories.
There is a frequent bus connection to/from Athens and to/from Athens airport (Eleftherios Venizelos). Tickets (February 2009) cost € 3 per way and the trip takes about 30 minutes (depending of traffic).