Boasting numerous World Heritage monuments, architectural wonders of times long gone, charming churches, renowned museums, and picturesque neighbourhoods, the Greek capital teems with exciting attractions to satisfy even the most demanding visitors. Here’s our rundown of the top 10 attractions to visit and the best spots to explore in the wondrous city of Athens.
It’s hard to think of Athens without the majestic hill of Acropolis and the imposing temple of Parthenon immediately coming to mind.
Acropolis hill is beyond any doubt the city’s most iconic landmark and by far its most popular attraction.
If a few hours is all you have to spend in the Greek capital, then this is the place to head to.
The monuments that have been perched on top of the Acropolis for well over two thousand years are the most prominent examples of the architecture of Greek antiquity, celebrated throughout the western world.
If you’re visiting Athens from November to March, keep in mind that admission for the Acropolis is free on the first Sunday of each month.
The Acropolis Museum is the most modern jewel of Athens city.
Designed by architects Tschumi and Photiades and located on the foot of the Acropolis hill, the spectacular museum is the ideal complement to the ancient monuments.
After marveling at the ruins on the hill, a visit to his museum will provide valuable historical and cultural insight on Classical Greece and its golden era.
Its impressive collections include surviving sculptures, artifacts, as well as the famous Caryatids and other exhibits from several different periods housed in a dazzling building offering views to the ruins below through a transparent glass floor and the Acropolis itself through sloped ceiling windows. Inside the museum, you’ll also find a few shops, a reading lounge and a restaurant with astonishing views.
Museum of Cycladic Art
Located in the upscale scenic neighbourhood of Kolonaki in the center of Athens, the Museum of Cycladic art is one of the most interesting attractions in the city.
It’s home to more than three thousand exhibits, remnants of the ancient Cycladic, Cypriot and Greek civilizations. The exhibits include sculptures, vases, weapons, marble figurines and other artifacts presented on four spacious floors.
On the fourth floor, modernity and antiquity meet with an exhibition called “Scenes from the daily life in antiquity” that presents visitors with visual art in the form of photography recreations that are used as the backdrop to the museum’s objects.
After relaxing at the museum’s stylish cafe, you can also visit the neighbouring mansion that houses contemporary art exhibitions.
The National Gardens
Nestled in the very heart of Athens, the National Gardens offer an opportunity to get away from the crowds and the city’s busy streets to enjoy a relaxing morning in a small natural haven.
The charming royal gardens were commissioned by the first queen of Greece Amalia in the nineteenth century and it includes several gravel paths that wind among the tall trees and duck ponds, a small zoo with peacocks and goats, a colorful playground for the younger visitors and a cozy cafe for the older ones.
There are several entrances to the gardens from side to side.
While there, do not omit to also visit the Zappeion exhibition hall and its gardens that lie just a few minutes away from the national gardens.
Translating to “Hill of Wolves” in Greek, Lycabettus Hill is one of the several hills overlooking Athens and the Attica basin, a great place to get a feel of the vast urban landscape below and one of the most instagrammable spots in the city.
To get there, you can choose between taking your time to hike up the hill from Kolonaki or riding the cable car to the top.
Apart from the stunning panoramas, on Lycabettus hill, you’ll find the picturesque chapel of St. George as well as a small café, a lavish restaurant, and the famous open-air theater.
If you’re visiting Athens during summertime, make sure to check out the theater’s schedule for concerts and events.
Plaka is probably the most iconic neighbourhoods of Athens and one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Europe.
It stretches just below Acropolis hill and it’s extremely popular with visitors and locals alike. Charming narrow cobblestone alleyways, small hidden squares with traditional restaurants and ice cream shops, intriguing museums, beautiful churches, and open-air cinemas are only a few of the gems you’ll discover in Plaka.
It’s a great place to get acquainted with the Greek capital’s remarkable architecture and the local gastronomy and nightlife scene. Along the way, you’ll come across numerous street vendors selling souvenirs and all kinds of colorful knickknacks and ornaments.
If you visit Plaka, be sure to stroll through the adjoining neighbourhood of Anafiotika as well that resembles a Greek island village.
Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre
Only a few kilometers away from the loud and busy city center of Athens, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center is a true urban oasis.
It opened its doors in 2017 and instantly became one of the most impressive attractions of the city.
Its main building stands atop a hill overlooking Faliron Bay and the lush park that surrounds it stretches for an impressive 170.00 square meters encompassing an artificial canal, lavish gardens, cafés, and playgrounds as well as the Greek National Opera and the National Library’s buildings.
There are several cultural events, concerts, and parties taking place within the complex all year round with thousands of locals flocking in to enjoy hot evenings by the sea.
The easiest way to get there is by tram or the shuttle bus that departs from Syntagma square.
Odeon of Herodes Atticus
The Odeon of Herodes Atticus is a wide amphitheater that lies on the southern slope of Acropolis hill.
It was built in 161 AD and named after the homonymous affluent Athenian citizen who was its founder.
Having undergone a complete restoration process in the ’50s, the famous auditorium can seat up to five thousand people and it hosts a large number of cultural events like art festivals, concerts, and even stand-up comedy acts.
The theater is most famous as the official venue of the world-renowned Athens & Epidaurus Festival.
Even though you can visit the monument any day, it is highly recommended to attend an event taking place in the theater to fully grasp its atmosphere and impeccable acoustics.
Benaki Museum of Greek Culture
Benaki Museum of Greek Culture is perhaps the city’s most popular museum among those who want to gain an understanding of Greek history, arts and culture from prehistoric times up to the modern age.
It was founded by Antonis Benakis in the 19th century and it has been constantly attracting thousands of visitors annually ever since.
The museum’s building complex displays virtually countless exhibits – artifacts from the Bronze Age, sculptures from Classical Greece, Byzantine artworks, Islamic art, World War II uniforms, traditional costumes, old furniture, and modern paintings.
Art lovers that like to take their time when exploring museums might even need to schedule multiple visits to this one in order to be able to go through all the collections.
It’s almost impossible to visit this ancient stadium without instantly getting an inexplicable urge to start running along its tracks like a true Olympian athlete amidst the roar of an imaginary crowd.
Panathenaic Stadium was built in the 4th century BC and was originally used for a series of athletic events and contests.
It was completely restored for the very first modern Olympic games in 1896 and has been a popular attraction since. Nowadays, it serves as a venue for concerts and events with a capacity of 70.000 seats.
Visiting this monument should definitely be on your Athens bucket list if you want to play track star and get a glimpse into the rich history of athletics in ancient Greece.
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