Athens - named after the Greek goddess Athena - is a city located in the south of the Greek territory and in ancient times developed unrivalled power in the region and the world. Its soil, which was not very fertile, made it difficult to access food such as wheat and for the entire population to survive. However, being located among hills, the cultivation of olive trees and grapes favoured the production of olive oil and wine, still today a significant part of Greek cuisine, which has Mediterranean characteristics.
One of the first factors that led Athens to stand out and gain power was the Port of Piraeus, which is one of the largest ports in the Mediterranean. It was this port that boosted maritime trade and made it possible to extend Athenian rule in the 8th century BC. Athens was a Mycenaean city, that is, it was part of the Mycenaean Civilisation, which was based on trade and involved several cities, in the period from 1600 to 1050 BC, among them Athens.
It is regarded as the cradle of Western civilisation and democracy, largely due to the impact of its cultural and political achievements during the 4th and 5th centuries BC on the rest of the European continent. Today, it is a cosmopolitan metropolis and the economic, financial, industrial, political and cultural centre of Greece.
10 Places to visit in Athens
The acropolis of Athens is the pearl of the city, this small town built on the hill. On the acropolis we can still see remnants of the Parthenon, a magnificent temple built in 432 BC dedicated to the goddess Athena, all built in marble. The word "acropolis" means high city, and was built as protection against invaders, always fortified. It is important to say that the Acropolis of Athens is not the only one in Greece. Practically every Greek city has its own and these were spaces for socializing and religious manifestations.
2. Acropolis Museum
The visit to the Acropolis Museum complements the previous tour, as it gives more information about the Acropolis and life in Ancient Greece. In this museum, opened in 2007, are various pieces, sculptures and artifacts recovered and restored, as well as explanations, models and films telling more about the history and art behind the monuments.
Without doubt, the most impressive pieces in the museum are the six original Cariátides. The museum even leaves an empty space for the missing column, which is in the British Museum.
3. Temple of Olympian Zeus and Hadrian's Arch
Close to the National Gardens is the Temple of Olympian Zeus and Hadrian's Arch. This is one of the largest temples dedicated to Zeus. Construction began in 512 BC but was not completed until over 600 years later, in 125 AD, by the Roman Emperor Hadrian.
Admission is included in the Acropolis ticket and the archaeological sites combo. If you only want to enter this temple, it costs 2 euros. It is open from 8am to 8pm.
The Arch, which stands outside the temple complex, was built around 130 AD, in homage to the emperor, in a style very reminiscent of the other Roman triumphal arches.
4. Roman Agora
The Roman Agora was built between 19 and 11 BC, with donations from Julius Cesar and Augustus. Later, due to invasions by enemies, it replaced the ancient Agora as an administrative and commercial centre.
5. Syntagma Square
It is the main square in Athens and is right in the geographical and political centre of the city: this is where the Greek Parliament is located and where the main protests and public demonstrations take place. From there you can walk to any of the main attractions. It is worth checking out the changing of the guard: the Evzones, or guards, wear a typical Greek outfit.
The exchange takes place at all hours of the day.
Plaka is probably the most touristic district of Athens. This area, which lies at the foot of the Acropolis, used to be the Turkish district. The small streets are closed to cars and form a maze, going up and down hills. There are many small shops and restaurants serving typical food and drinks.
7. Mount Licabeto and Kolonaki
Kolonaki is the chicest neighbourhood in Athens, full of famous boutiques, bars and charming restaurants. It is also where the city's wealthy population lives. And that's where Mount Licabeto is, which offers, in my opinion, the most beautiful view of the capital. From the top you can see all of Athens, including the Aegean Sea in the background.
The hill is 277 meters high and is the highest point in the city. At the top there is a small church, a bar and a restaurant. I had a beer and a souvlaki.
8. Panathenaic Stadium
The Panathenaic Stadium is one of the oldest in the world, it hosted the first modern Olympics in 1896 and was built on the remnants of an ancient Greek stadium. There are still events there today. There is also a museum inside.
First built 6 centuries before Christ, the stadium where the Olympic Games began has undergone several changes throughout history. Today it is open to the public (ticket 10€) and it is worth the visit to understand its magnitude and also to take a few runs on the track, it gives some beautiful pictures!
9. National Archaeological Museum
The National Archaeological Museum is a world apart for those who want to explore even more ancient artefacts found in the city over the centuries of occupation. This is one of the most important history museums in the world and boasts an extensive collection of Greek artefacts and works of art, from its earliest days to the end of the Romanised era.
It is another picturesque neighborhood in the old city of Athens, for those who like shopping this is the place to go. You can also visit the Tsisdarakis mosque.
How to get There?
Athens International Airport Elefthérios Venizélos is 30 km from the centre.
Buses: Airport Express (X93, X95, X96, X97) and X80 to Piraeus (50 minutes to the centre, 6 euros).
Metro: Metro every 30 minutes - line 3, (40 minutes to the centre,10 euros).
Taxi: between 25 and 35 euros (about 40 minutes ride)