Ancient Sites In Athens
What are the best ancient sites in Athens to visit? Where are they, and where can I buy tickets online to beat the queues? Over the years, I’ve been asked these same questions many times.
When they come to Athens, almost everyone wants to see the Parthenon. But did you know that Athens has the best collection of ancient sites in the world, and they are all within walking distance of each other?
Whether your plan to visit Athens for a day, a weekend or an extended holiday, my travel guide answers those questions and a lot more for your holiday plans.
In terms of ancient sites, there are so many that I want to show you, so let’s begin the journey, shall we.
Let’s begin our journey with the Parthenon. Perhaps the most famous building in the world, the Parthenon, is the epitome of ancient Greece. Built to express ancient Athen’s glory, it remains the city’s emblem. It is, after all, the most popular thing to see in Athens, with around two million visits every year.
Sitting on the top of the Acropolis of Athens, it is not the only exciting ancient site to see there. Standing next to the Parthenon is the Erechtheion. This is where Poseidon and Athena battled for the patronage of Athens. Built between 421BC and 406 BC. It was almost entirely destroyed by a Turkish shell in 1827.
You will see the Caryatid Porch of the Maidens, located on the south side of the Erechtheion, is one of the temple’s most iconic and recognizable features. The six female figures, known as caryatids that support the entablature, are sculpted in slightly different poses and dressed in flowing garments. It is believed that the Caryatid Porch was intended to be used as an entrance for women, as men would have used the main entrance on the temple’s east side.
Also very close to the Parthenon is the Temple of Athena Nike. Built between 426 BC and 421 BC to commemorate the Athenians’ victories over the Persians.
As you go through the entrance on your way up the Acropolis of Athens, one of the first ancient sites you will see is the Theatre of Dionysus. Cut into the southern cliff face of the Acropolis, the Theatre of Dionysus is the birthplace of Greek tragedy and was the first theatre built of stone.
Just after this is the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, one of the world’s oldest and finest open-air theatres. Just as it was almost 2000 years ago, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus is still used today for performances with up to 5,000 spectators.
We leave the Acropolis of Athens and move on to the Ancient Agora of Athens. This was the heart of Ancient Athens, the centre of Athenian democracy, religious and social activity, and the seat of justice. Here you can walk the same places and paths as Socrates, St. Paul, and Plato
Whilst there, be sure to visit the Temple of Hephaestus, the best-preserved ancient temple in the world. Hephaestus was the patron god of metal-working, fire and craftsmanship. During the time, there were many potters’ workshops and metal-working shops situated around the temple.
It is particularly special to visit the temple first thing in the morning as it looks stunning and is a testament to the sophisticated world of the Ancient Greeks.
Moving away from the Ancient Agora of Athens, we have a short walk to the Temple of Olympian Zeus. Awe-inspiring even in ruins, the Athenian temple of Olympian Zeus is the largest in Greece, exceeding even the Parthenon in size. Also known as the Olympieion or Columns of the Olympian Zeus, it was dedicated to the Olympian Zeus, a name originating from his position as head of the Olympian gods.
On our way back, you could visit the Arch of Hadrian. Is it an arch or a gateway? That’s the 1900-year mystery. The Arch of Hadrian, or Hadrian’s Gate, is one of Athens’s most popular things to see. Still debated today is why it was built. Look for the Still debated today after 1900 years, the two inscriptions are carved on the architrave of the arch’s lower level.
On the northwest side (towards the Acropolis), the inscription reads:
- ΑΙΔ’ ΕΙΣΙΝ ΑΘΗΝΑΙ ΘΗΣΕΩΣ Η ΠΡΙΝ ΠΟΛΙΣ (this is Athens, the ancient city of Theseus.
The inscription on the southeast side facing the Temple of Olympian Zeus reads:
- ΑΙΔ’ ΕΙΣ’ ΑΔΡΙΑΝΟΥ ΚΟΥΧΙ ΘΗΣΕΩΣ ΠΟΛΙΣ (this is the city of Hadrian, and not of Theseus.
Not far from the Arch of Hadrian is the Panathenaic Stadium. Home to the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens seats up to 50,000. It is the only stadium in the world made from marble. Whilst you’re there, why not go for a run around the track in the footsteps of the great and famous athletes. The track is made of marble, which gives it its unique characteristic among all other stadiums in the world.
Well, I hope those ancient sites give you a good starting point to discover a little more about Athens and ancient Greece.