Updated August 26th, 2021 by Travel the Greek Way
Unique Ancient Landmarks of Athens
Athens, the capital of Greece, is famous for its rich history and the remarkable landmarks it left behind.
So, if you are dreaming of visiting Athens, Greece and you are wondering what is the best sightseeing in Athens, you are going to love this enriched list!
If this is your first time in Athens Greece, this post will help you find out about all the first-rate landmarks and most important monuments you must visit in Athens.
Let me be clear about something: This is not your usual top attractions shortlist in Athens, Greece, or what to do in Athens. I cover in-depth all the most important tourist attractions in Athens, together with not so well known – hidden gems – historical monuments.
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- In a hurry? Check out this Athens Quick reference:
- Where to stay in Athens: Grande Bretagne(luxury), Ancient Agora Apartments (mid-range), A little Taste of Home Guest House(budget)
- Heading to the Greek Islands from Athens? Book your ferry tickets in advance with no-hidden-fees FerryHopper
- Need travel insurance for Greece? Visit World Nomads Travel Insurance Page
- Essential Things to Have for Greece: A Kenneth Cole Expandable Luggage, a Beautiful Summer Dress, and a pair of Keen outdoors sandals for the endless sightseeing in Greece!
The Acropolis of Athens: The Sacred Rock
The word Acropolis comes from the Greek words ἄκρον (akron, “highest point, extremity”) and πόλις (polis, “city”). It is the ancient Athenian Citadel, situated in the center of Athens Greece on the elevated ground of the Hill at 156 m above the sea.
The Acropolis of Athens, a UNESCO-listed World Heritage, is the most striking and complete ancient Greek monumental complex still existing in our times.
Acropolis Sacred Hill contains the remains of important Temples, theatres, and other significant buildings.
The gleam of the white Pentelic marble that those temples were made of, will exalt your spirit and feel part of eternal ancient Greece.
The Acropolis of Athens under the guidance of the great general and statesman Pericles of Athens took about two years of detailed planning and the first stone was laid on 28 July 447 BC, during the Panathenaic festival.
There are two entrances to the Acropolis of Athens, the northwest main one and the eastern entrance right across the Acropolis Museum and less than a minute walk from the Acropolis Metro Station.
Both entrances involve an uphill walk but I prefer the eastern entrance as you can easily see all the monuments in a natural way and you don’t miss any of them by accident.
Accessibility Tip: If you need to use the Acropolis elevator, then choose the main entrance where a new elevator (lift) was installed as of December 2020 for people with disabilities.
It can be reached by the north-eastern side of the Acropolis.
Hours of Operation
- Summer: April 1 to October 31 – 8am to 8pm (last entrance 7.30pm)
- Winter: November 1 to March 31 – 8am to 5am
- Free Entrance: From November to March, admission is free on the first Sunday of the month.
- Closed on: January 1, March 25, May 1, Easter Sunday, the second day of Easter, December 25 & 26
You can purchase your tickets at the ticket office at either entrance – and risk spending an hour or two under the scorching sun – or purchase them in advance from the Acropolis Official Site and skip the line easily.
A combo ticket (€30) permits entry to the Acropolis, Ancient Agora of Athens, Ancient Agora of Athens Museum, Archaeological Museum of Kerameikos, Hadrian’s Library, Kerameikos, Lykeion Archaeological Site, North slope of the Acropolis, Olympieio(Temple of Zeus), Roman Agora of Athens, South Slope of Acropolis, within five days.
Best time to visit Acropolis
During the summer high season(July-August) the least crowded time of the day to visit Acropolis and Parthenon is right at opening time, 8 am or 1-2 hours before closure.
There are usually few people at the time of closure and the sun falling on the Pentelic marble makes the place really dreamy and awe-inspiring.
Some of the most important monuments on the Acropolis of Athens are:
Parthenon Temple on Acropolis
Parthenon Fast Facts:
Year Built: 447-432 BCE
A number of stones used to build the Parthenon: Approx. at 13400 stones
Architects: Iktinos and Kallikrates
Parthenon Cost: 469 talents
Parthenon Temple is a double peripteral temple dedicated to the goddess Athena, patron of Ancient Athens.
It is a large Doric-style temple that housed a spectacular gold and ivory statue of Athena Parthenos that has been lost.
The combination of Doric metopes and the Ionic frieze on the walls are considered unique masterpieces.
The Parthenon Temple is regarded as an enduring symbol of ancient Greece, Athenian Democracy, and Western Civilization.
Parthenon suffered a violent removal of its decorative sculptures by Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin, in 1803, after an agreement he made with Ottoman authorities, as Greece was under Ottoman reign. Elgin looted much of the temple’s sculptural decoration, causing in the procedure horrendous damage onto the Temple, and sold it to the British Museum.
Half of the Parthenon marbles are still today in the British Museum who refuse to return them. Some of the remaining Parthenon marbles can be seen in the Acropolis Museum and a few are still visible on the Temple itself.
Tip: There is an exact replica of the Parthenon Temple in Centennial Park, in Nashville, Tennessee.
Erechteion Temple on Acropolis
The Erechtheion or Erechtheum Temple is a Pentelic marble Ionic style architecture, dedicated to Athena and Poseidon. The Athenians started building it in 421 BC, but due to the Peloponnesian wars, it ended in 406 BC.
Erechteion was named after the demi-god Erechtheus, the mythical Athenian king. It is best known for its porch supported by six draped female figures (Caryatids) as supporting columns.
Rumor says that the Caryatids were sculpted after some beautiful young women from Karyes, a village of the Peloponnese.
One of the Caryatids was removed by Elgin in order to decorate his Scottish mansion and was later sold to the British Museum where it is still today. The Acropolis Museum holds the other five figures, which have been replaced onsite by replicas.
Athena Nike Temple Acropolis
A small Ionic temple located to the right of the Propylaea was built in 421 BC, as a shrine to Athena Nike (Victorious) from a design of the architect Kallikrates.
The temple of Athena Nike, as with all Greek temples, was considered a sacred place for the goddess, represented in its statue, and was not a place where regular people would enter.
The believers would perform the rituals in front of the temple, where a small altar was placed. Only the priestesses, who held a respected position in Greek society, had the privilege of entering the temple.
Propylaia means “Front Doors” and it is a monumental entryway to the Acropolis that included a central building and two wings.
The impressive entrance was built during 437-432 BC under the supervision of the architect Mnesicles. This is a monument in Pentelic marble dedicated to the goddess Athena.
Odeon of Herodes Atticus
Odeon of Herodes Atticus (also called Herodeion or Herodion) is another amazing Athens landmark in Acropolis Hill. The ancient amphitheatre sits beneath the slopes of the Acropolis on the southwest side and it is a stunning open-air Odeon.
It is a Roman stone theatre built by Herodes Atticus, a wealthy Roman, in 160 AD in loving memory of his wife Aspasia Annia Regilla. It was used as a venue for music concerts with a capacity of 5,000.
It lasted intact until it was destroyed and left in ruins by the Heruli in 267 AD.
The Odeon of Herodes Atticus, during the summer, hosts the Athens Festival and famous artists and performers come from all over the world to perform. If you manage to find a ticket, don’t miss the opportunity to watch a play here.
Theatre of Dionysus Eleuthereus
Theatre is in origin a Greek word. The very first theatrical plays were performed in the Theatre of Dionysus, and it is believed to be the first theatre ever constructed.
The sight is often overlooked by tourists to the region who opt to visit the more well-known Temples of Acropolis. However, the significance of this ancient site can’t be understated.
The Theatre of Dionysus Eleuthereus is situated on the south side of the Acropolis in Athens. The theatre’s auditorium had 17.000 seats and all the ancient Greek masterpieces of Aristophanes, Aeschylus, Euripides, and Sophocles were first performed here.
Areopagus or Mars Hill
The Areopagus Hill or Areios Pagos (Rock of Aris) or Mars Hill is a prominent low rock hill located right across the northwest main exit of the Athens Acropolis.
Apostle Paul, while visiting Athens (51 AD) in his trip spreading Christianity to Greece, gave the famous sermon to the Unknown God mentioned at his Areopagus Hill speech in Bible Acts 17:23.
At the entrance of the Areopagus Hill, stands today a stone sign of his speech to the Athenians.
New Acropolis Museum
The Acropolis Museum is, along with the National Archaeological Museum, the most significant museum in Athens and one of the best museums in the world.
It houses every artifact found on the Acropolis Hill, including the Parthenon remaining marbles, the original Caryatids from Erechtheion, and other stunning artifacts from the Greek Bronze Age to Roman and Byzantine Greece. Acropolis Museum Website: General Admission Fee, 10 euros.
Not to be missed! Beneath the museum lies an entire excavated ancient Greek neighborhood – ancient houses, streets, and baths – spanning from the classical to the byzantine years.
Coco-mat Athens BC: A fantastic hotel I highly recommend near Acropolis and Acropolis Museum, with terraces facing the Acropolis Hill, with a modern touch, comfortable beds, and superb breakfast. Check it out for availability and prices on Booking.com
Southwest to Acropolis is situated beautiful wooded Philopappos Hill. On the hill, you will discover important monuments such as:
- The 16th Church of Agios Dimitrios Loumbardiaris
- the so-called prison of the great Greek philosopher Socrates
- the Tombs of Kimon
- the Koili Odos (ancient street)
- the Iroon
- the Pnyx Hill
- the Philopappos Monument and a spectacular view of the Acropolis, Lycabettus Hill, the Athens ‘ plain, its surrounding mountains all the way to the Aegean Sea and its islands.
Philopappos Hill is an easy hike in the heart of Athens full of surprises, monuments, and stunning views. There is no entrance fee, and you can visit whenever you wish.
The ancient Agora of Athens (also called the Classical Agora) is the best-known example of an ancient Greek agora, located to the northwest of the Acropolis, some 20 minutes walk. Founded in the 6th c BC and made of marble, it was the most important political and administrative center of Athens.
Excavations to the Athenian Agora commenced in 1931 by the American School of Classical Studies. On their website we read:
“Here (in the Ancient Agora) administrative, political, judicial, commercial, social, cultural, and religious activities all found a place together in the heart of Athens, and the square was surrounded by the public buildings necessary to run the Athenian government.”
There are two imposing buildings in the Ancient Agora:
The Hephaisteion or Temple of Hephaestus, the best-preserved example of a Doric temple in mainland Greece on the right side of the site.
The Stoa of Attalos, on your left, was rebuilt from the ground by the American School of Classical Studies which serves today as a Museum with the findings from the Agora sight.
Nearby superb accommodation with amazing views, trusted by Booking.com:
- Ciel Living Athens: check out its roof restaurant view, the fine rooms, highly professional staff, and in the very center of Athens. Easy walking to all restaurants and landmarks. Check it out on Booking for availability and prices.
Kerameikos Archaeological Site
Kerameikos archaeological site is just 10-minute far from Ancient Agora.
Why is Kerameikos important? It was initially a large settlement of potters (ceramic – Kerameikos) and vase painters, and the main production center of the famous Attic vases.
The settlement was close to the Iridanos river, where traces are still existing today.
Sometimes, you even find frogs there, when there has been a lot of rain. Because Iridanos was overflowing often, they turned the place into a cemetery.
It developed into the most important cemetery of ancient Athens and was continuously in use from the 9th century BC until Roman times.
The Library of Hadrian (aka Hadrian’s Library) in Athens was constructed between 132-134 CE by Roman Emperor Hadrian.
The library was the largest in Athens. It was used to store important literary works and documents as well as to offer a place to hear lectures and host various philosophical schools.
Places to visit in Athens close by? It is next to the Tzistarakis Mosque in Monastiraki square and a 5-minute walk far from the Ancient Agora.
The Roman Agora was built (approx) 5 centuries later than Ancient Agora, between 19 and 11 B.C. with a donation of Julius Caesar and Augustus. It is located in the north of Acropolis in the Plaka area.
After the invasion of the Herulae in A.D. 267, the administrative and commercial center of Athens was transferred from the Ancient Agora to the Roman Agora and the Library of Hadrian.
Inside the Roman Agora, you will see the Turkish Fethiye Mosque built in 1456 AD, and a museum today, and the Tower of the Winds or Horologion of Andronikos Kyrristos.
The Tower of the Winds is a tall, octagonal building made of Pentelic marble, which served as an ancient meteorological station.
It was designed by a famous astronomer (Andronikos of Kyrrhos) to be an elaborate water clock, sundial (on the outside), and weather vane. Its name “Tower of the Winds” is derived from the personifications of the 8 winds carved on the 8 sides of the building.
Right outside the Roman Agora gate and close to the Tower of the Winds lie the ruins of Medreses, a Muslim religious school, built in 1721 and of which only the gate survives today.
Plaka excellent accommodation suggestions by Booking.com:
Old City of Athens, Plaka
Right under the north slope of the Acropolis lies Anafiotika, a tiny neighborhood in Plaka. The place has small whitewashed houses built according to Cycladic architecture.
Wandering among these houses will make you feel as though you were teleported to a Greek island.
The story behind Anafiotika Plaka: In 1840, experienced builders from the island of Anafi came to Athens to work on the new Royal Palace and excavation sites around the Acropolis.
The law allowed them to build their own house as long as they built it from sunset to sunrise, which they did but that’s why the houses are all small and erratically built.
I have written an article exclusively for Plaka Boutique Hotel Accommodation, read it here for detailed reviews of the best hotels in Plaka
Choragic Monument of Lysicrates
In Plaka lies the only surviving choragic monument, a trophy awarded in 334 BC for the winning dramatic chorus.
In the theatre of Dionysus, writers competed with each other who has written the best play. The competitors were sponsored by “choregoi”, namely wealthy patrons of the dramatic arts. If the chorēgos’ play won, he then received a prize in the form of a bronze tripod.
As it happens Lysicrates did receive the first of such prizes and commissioned the monument, in 334 BC.
The monument can be found on Tripodon Street, it is in very good condition, and behind it, there is a beautiful garden where you can have a refreshment while admiring the Athenian Landmark.
If you are looking for the best luxury accommodation in Plaka: A77 Suites by Andronis is highly recommended.
Temple of Olympian Zeus & Adrian’s Arch
The Temple of Olympian Zeus also known as the Olympieion or Columns of the Olympian Zeus is a former colossal temple. It is located a short distance from the Acropolis Museum or the Monument of Lysicrates.
During the Roman period the temple, which included 104 colossal Corinthian columns, was renowned as the largest temple in Greece.
The temple suffered over the centuries and much of its material was reused in other buildings. Fifteen columns remain standing today and a sixteenth column lies on the ground where it fell during a storm in 1852.
Admission to the site is included with the Acropolis combo ticket (€30), which permits entry to the Acropolis and six other sites (including this one) within five days.
Right outside the Temple of Olympian Zeus, facing the main Amalias St stands Adrian’s Arch, a Pentelic marble monument, erected in 131-132 A.D. in honor of Roman Emperor Hadrian, a benefactor of the city of Athens.
Akadimia Platonos area is around 3 km far from Syntagma Square, which is named after Plato’s Academy, which he founded in the area in 387 BC and which continued to operate until it was destroyed by the Roman Sulla in 86 BC.
Plato’s Academy is the first “University” of the western world where science and philosophy were taught to students.
Aristotle studied there for twenty years (367–347 BC) before founding his own school, the Lyceum.
The site was rediscovered in the late 20th century and the visitor can see the ruins of the Sacred House Geometric Era, the Gymnasium and the Peristyle Building (4th century BC), which is perhaps the only major building that belonged to the actual Academy of Plato.
Always open to the public, with no entrance fee. Official Site of Plato Academy with interesting details about the site.
How to get to Platonic Academy? The easiest way is to get a taxi if you stay around Acropolis. It shouldn’t cost you more than 5 euro and you can arrange to pick you up in half an hour or an hour later after your visit to the park.
Lyceum Of Aristotle
The site of the 4th century BC of Lyceum of Aristotle was discovered in downtown Athens only 14 years ago.
The Lyceum is mostly renowned for the philosophical school founded there by Aristotle upon his return to Athens in 335 BC after being the private tutor of the young prince Alexander of Macedon, the future Alexander the Great, since 343 BC.
Why Lyceum of Aristotle is important? Because it’s one of the three oldest gymnasia in Athens, the other two being Plato’s Academy and Kynosarges by the river Ilissos.
How to get there? It is at Rigilis st, between the Syntagma Metro and Evangelismos Metro stations. You can easily walk there from Syntagma square, a 10-15 minute beautiful walk by the National Garden.
Exceptional Museums to visit in the area:
- Byzantine & Christian Museum
- Museum of Cycladic Art
- Benaki Museum
- Goulandris Museum
- Greek national Gallery
The Greek Parliament sits right in the very center of Athens, where the city’s heart beats and all the great political events have happened.
The lean neoclassic structure was designed by Friedrich von Gärtner and completed in 1843. It first served as a Palace until 1924, when a referendum abolished the monarchy. It is next to the National Gardens and Zappeion Megaron.
In front of the Parliament House, there is the monument, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It is guarded by the Greek army, the Evzones, dressed in the official traditional Greek uniforms, and every half an hour they engage in a disciplined and proud ceremonial pacing.
The changing of the guards is a ceremony that is very impressive and takes place every hour.
What else is there?
- The legendary and most luxurious hotel in Greece: Grande Bretagne Hotel
- The beginning of Ermou St, one of the most commercial streets of Athens
- The exhibition of antiquities found in the Syntagma metro
- The National Gardens and the Zappeion
Only a metro station away from Syntagma Square, at Panepistimiou Metro, stand three elegant, monumental pieces of neoclassical buildings, widely known as the Athens Trilogy.
They were designed in the mid-19th century by the Danish Hansen and built between 1864 to around 1890.
- The National Library of Greece, a doric-inspired element and built of Pentelic Marble – just like the masterpieces of the 5th century BC – holds some 2.000.000 volumes of books and over 4.500 manuscripts
- The University houses some administrative services and offers its impressive halls for ceremonial events.
- And the – inspired by the Propylaea – Academy, is dedicated to the preservation of Hellenic intellectual heritage. The entrance is guarded by Plato and Socrates statues, the two great philosophers who along with Aristotle laid the foundations of Western thought and civilization.
The Panathenaic Stadium or Kallimarmaro is one of the main historic attractions of Athens and the only stadium in the world built entirely of marble.
The stadium was excavated in 1869 and hosted the opening and closing ceremonies of the first modern Olympics in 1896.
Today, it is used as the finishing point for the annual Athens Classic Marathon as well as the last venue in Greece from where the Olympic flame handover ceremony to the host nation takes place.
Entrance fee: General Admission ticket. 5,00 €.
Where is it located? It is across the National Garden and quite close to the Temple of Zeus and Lyceum of Aristotle.
The Zappeion Megaron (Mansion) was built to support the modern Olympic Games. It was sponsored by Evangelis or Evangelos Zappas, a Greek patriot, and businessman, and one of the founders of the modern Olympic Games. When he died in 1865, his cousin Konstantinos Zappas, continued Evangelis’ dream to revive the modern Olympic Games.
During the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, the Zappeion was used as the main fencing hall, hosting matches in its atrium.
In 2004 served as the headquarters for the Athens Olympic Organizing Committee and in 2014 the Zappeion served as the headquarters of the Hellenic Presidency of the Council of the European Union. It currently serves as an exhibition and event center.
What else is around?
- The beautiful National Park of Athens, the Temple of Zeus and Hadrian’s Arch right across its main entrance
- The Athens Gate Hotel
Lycabettus Hill & Chapel of St George
St George Lycabettus is a Greek Orthodox church perched on top of the highest hill in the center of Athens, Lycabettus Hill.
It has arguably the best panoramic view of all of Athens, Acropolis Hill, and surrounding mountains. Besides offering a stunning view, Lycabettus hill houses the Chapel of St. Isidoros, the Lycabettus Theatre, the St George church, and the restaurant with stunning views of Athens below you.
What else is there?
- Hotel St George Lycabettus
- Kolonaki, the posh area of Athens for premier luxury shopping, pricey restaurants and very expensive boutiques and art galleries. Celebrities, old Athenians, new-rich and wannabe rich all mixed together along with art galleries, super expensive delis and very high-end shopping.
How to get there?
If you are up for a short hike, it is about 10 minutes to get to Kolonaki from Syntagma Square and another 10 to start climbing. However, it may be too much of a strive if you are visiting Greece in the summer.
Alternatively, take the cable car or even better, a taxi from your residence straight up to the hill.
I live in Athens but I wish one day I can stay in any of those contemporary and stylish Boutique Hotels in Kolonaki:
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