There's nothing we can tell you that
hasn't been said many times about
Athens' ancient citadel.
The Acropolis is on an abrupt rocky
outcrop above the city and has
world-renowned Classical landmarks that
people spend whole lifetimes waiting to
see in the flesh.
The pinnacle of these is of course the
Parthenon, but The Propylea, the
Erectheion and the Temple of Athena Nike
are indispensible, and you can skip the
queues and get enthralling inside facts
and titbits about ancient Greek
democracy and philosophy with a
The going is steep and slippery on
timeworn marble, until you reach the
flat summit, and be prepared for cranes
and scaffolding, which are an
understandable necessity for a World
Seen as the greatest achievement of the
Doric Order and Classical Greece's most
significant building to make it to the 21st
Century, the Parthenon is a symbol of
western civilisation and Athenian democracy.
The Parthenon was dedicated to the goddess
Athena and begun in 447 BC, when the
Athenian Empire was the dominant force in
Co-designed, by Ictinus and Callicrates, at
that time it was a city treasury before
becoming a church in the 6th century and
then a mosque in the 1460s.
Notoriously, some of the Parthenon's
sculptures were plundered by The Earl of
Elgin at the start of the 18th century and
were later sold to the British Museum where
The remainder of the original frieze and
pediment sculpture is the highlight of the
Acropolis Museum, which follows.
On the north side of the Acropolis is a
temple to Athena and Poseidon, built in
the Ionic Order from 421 to 406 BC.
After antiquity this monument had all
sorts of uses, as a Byzantine church, a
palace in the Frankish period and much
later a residence for the Ottoman
The thing you have to see, and the
Erechtheion's defining image, is the
southern Porch of the Maidens.
This has six magnificent caryatids
supporting its roof, carved by
Callimachus or Alcamenes.
The current caryatids are casts, and
five of the originals are now in the
Acropolis museum and a sixth is at the
An antidote to both the silent ancient
temples and traffic-heavy modern city, Plaka
lies on top of ancient Athens's residential
quarters in the shadow of the Acropolis.
It's a district of tight, twisting alleys
with 19th-century facades garlanded with
flowering bougainvillea in summer.
Plaka is jam-packed with family-run shops,
each with something alluring, from ceramics,
musical instruments, handmade jewellery to
specialty food shops stacked high with
olives and spices.
And whether you want to pick up a gyro or
sit down to a meze Plaka is a go-to for
dining and nightlife.
Below the rocky notheastern slope of the
Acropolis is Anafiotika, a steep whitewashed
neighbourhood settled in the 19th-century
reign of Otto of Greece when workers moved
here during the renovation of King Othon's
Temple of Olympian Zeus
Now, not much of this temple east of the Acropolis has been left standing, but what remains is more than enough to tell you that it used to be vast.
The Temple of Olympian Zeus had an extremely long construction period, started in the 6th century BC but not completed until the rule of Emperor Hadrian in the 2nd Century AD. In that time the prevalent order had switched to Corinthian, and the 15 surviving columns of an original 104 have scrolls and acanthus patterns.
The temple was pulled down during the Herulian sack of Athens in 267, little more than a century after it was completed , and its stone was quarried for other buildings around the city.
Ancient Agora of Athens
Reserved for trade and public gatherings, the Agora was the centre of Classical Athens and is cushioned by the Acropolis to the southeast and the Agoraios Kolonos hill to the south.
It was drawn up in the 6th century BC and is a wide-ranging site with the ruins of more than 30 buildings and monuments.
Download a map, go slow and let you imagination wander.
Or hire a guide who will explain the ancient customs that once took place where you stand, like ostracism, in which potential threats to the state were preemptively forced into exile.
Museum of the Ancient Agora
One of the monuments in the Agora, the Stoa of Attalos, was totally reconstructed in the 1950s.
This covered walkway was first built by Attalos II in the mid-2nd century BC but was wrecked by the Herules in 267. The new building was as faithful as possible to the archaeological knowledge of the day and hosts the Museum of the Ancient Agora, showing off the artefacts brought to light during excavations in the area by the American School of Classical Studies.
Awaiting you are Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age and Geometric period figurines, weapons and vases recovered from tombs and wells.
You can also see some thrilling pieces relating to Athenian democracy in the Classical and Late Classical periods, like an official bronze weight, shards of pottery used in ostracism ballots (ostracons), clay measuring devices, bronze and lead ballot disks once used in trials.
The Place Royale, the Royal
Erected for the 1896 Olympics, the Panathenaic Stadium is a modern reconstruction of an ancient stadium built for the Panathenaic Games in 330 BC. Two hundred years later that ancient monument would be rendered in marble by the Athenian Roman senator Herodes Atticus.
With a U-shape layout, the Panethenaic Stadium is an almost exact replica of the construction from the 2nd century BC, and like its ancient ancestor is composed completely from marble.
It was seen around the world during the 2004 Athens Olympics when it staged the archery events and was the finish line for both the men's and women's marathon.
The stadium can hold 45,000 spectators and from its highest tiers you can see the Acropolis and the National Garden.