Free Things to do in Athens: The Arch of Hadrian

One of my best Photos of the Arch of Hadrian in Athens taken by me

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If you are looking for the top free things to do in Athens, Greece, then the Arch of Hadrian should be top of your list.

In this post, I will tell you everything you need to know about the Arch of Hadrian to make your visit as memorable as possible.

As well as explaining all about where it is, how to get there and the fascinating history. I will even provide you with the best places to take photos, selfies and the perfect Instagram.

So, sit back, make yourself comfortable, and begin my perfect guide to the Arch of Hadrian.

What is the Arch of Hadrian?

The Arch of Hadrian, or Hadrian’s Gate, is one of Athens’s most popular things to see…and it’s free. Still debated today is why it was built, its purpose, and who and/or what it commemorated.

Whilst the Arch of Hadrian looks like an arch, it’s perhaps a gateway. It spanned an ancient road from the centre of Athens to many structures on the city’s eastern side that still stand today, including the Temple of Olympian Zeus.

Where is the Arch of Hadrian?

When was it built?

Completed in 131-132 A.D., it is not sure who commissioned the Arch of Hadrian; however, it was probably the citizens of Athens. There are suggestions it was built to celebrate the arrival of the Roman emperor Hadrian and honour him for his many gifts to Athens. Hadrian had been a citizen of Athens for almost 20 years before the arch started construction.

What is it made of

The Arch of Hadrian is made entirely of Pentelic marble, which comes from Mt. Pentelikon, 18.2 km northeast of the arch. This type of marble was also used for Athens’s Parthenon and many other notable structures. However, the quality of Pentelic marble can vary significantly.

The lower-grade marble used for this arch had more inclusions than what is typically used in Athenian buildings. Despite this, the arch was constructed without cement or mortar from solid marble, using clamps to connect the cut stones. It stands 18m high, 13.5m wide, and 2.3m deep. Its design is entirely symmetrically from front to back and side to side.

What are the best things to see

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.

Best places for photos, selfies, and the perfect Instagram

The best places for photos, videos, selfies, and Perfect Instagram shots are facing towards the arch’s peak, facing the Acropolis of Athens and the Parthenon, and facing the Temple of Olympian Zeus.


There you have it, a pretty good guide to one of the many free things to see in Athens; the Arch of Hadrian. It’s a great place to visit, I highly recommend you do it, and of course it’s free

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this blog post. If you’re interested in learning more about other great things to do in Athens, then take a look below or for much more, just wander through my site.


Further reading

Ancient Sites