Athens Top Sights
Top Archaeological sights in Athens, Greece
By far the most popular tourist sights in Athens are those related to her ancient culture, with the most important, and indeed an icon of ancient civilization, the Acropolis. Most of the key sights listed below have an entrance fee, but there is a convenient 3 day pass available that we recommend. It covers admission to the Acropolis, the Ancient and Roman Agoras, The Temple of Zeus, the Theater of Dionysus and Keramikos, and it is available at any of their ticket stands.
The Acropolis- The literal meaning of Acropolis in Greek is 'High City'. Many people think the Acropolis is just one temple, but in fact it is a complex of ancient temples dating from the 5th century B.C. that all sit on a large marble outcropping above the city. Take your time on your approach to enjoy the majesty of the view, and to negotiate the rather steep ramp and uneven stairs to enter it. It is well worth the climb. Aim for a visit when it is cool, since there is not a lot of shade. In summer you may want to take water with you. On the Acropolis you will find the following:
Propylaea- This is the entry to the Acropolis. It was once a large structure that covered the entire western front of the Acropolis, and through which ran the Sacred Way. Today all that remains are marble columns and some portions of the ceiling.
Temple of Athena Nike- This small temple sits near the entrance of the Acropolis and it was built to honor the goddess of victory. The columns are an example of Ionic architecture.
Parthenon- The large temple that dominates the Acropolis is dedicated to the goddess Athena. This building is a perfect example of the Doric style of architecture. This very well may be the most recognizable sight in the world.
Erechtheion- This is considered the most beautiful and sacred of the shrines on top of the Acropolis, with its porch of the Caryatids. Legends say that this site was the where a contest between Poseidon (god of the sea) and Athena (goddess of wisdom) took place. The winner of the contest won possession of the city. As you know, the city is named after Athena, the winner. The building itself is an excellent example of Ionic architecture.
Acropolis Museum- This small museum houses many of the treasures that have been unearthed at the Acropolis. Included in the collection are the Caryatids. These statues of maidens once supported the roof of the Erechtheion. (Note that the Caryatids that you see on the Erechtheion today are copies.)
The Ancient Agora- This is the former commercial center of ancient Greece, shall we say downtown Greece 2000 years ago. Here you will find the Temple of Hephaestus, one of the best preserved in all of Greece, and an open air mall which contains 134 columns of the Doric and Ionic styles. The Stoa of Atalus, a beautiful reconstruction of a building dating from 200 B.C. is now a museum filled with objects found at the Agora.
Hadrian's Arch- This famous arch was built by the Roman emperor Hadrian to separate the ancient city of Athens and the new modern Roman city of Hadrian.
Temple of the Olympian Zeus- One hundred years before the Acropolis was built this massive temple was built (6th century B.C.). Today all that remain are some of the columns, but what makes this site special is that you can get close to the columns to get a true feel of the size, scale and work involved in creating the columns from smaller marble 'drums' for a temple of this size.
Theater of Dionysus- Sitting below the Acropolis is the Theater of Dionysus, which dates to the 8th Century B.C.. This open air amphitheater is where ancient dramas of Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophanes debuted to a crowd of over 17,000 people.
Theater of Herodes Atticus- This theater sits next to the Theater of Dionysus. It was built by the Romans in the 2nd Century A.D. and is the site of the Athens Festival in summer months.
Panathinaikon Stadium- This large open air stadium was built of marble in the 4th Century B.C. and can seat 70,000 people. In 1886 the stadium was rebuilt for the first modern Olympic Games which were held here. The opening ceremonies for the 2004 games were also held here.
Keramikos- This was the cemetery of ancient Greece and today is open as an archaeological site.
Roman Agora- This is the former commercial center of the Roman city of Hadrian. Not as impressive as the Ancient Agora of Athens or the Roman Forum in Rome, but it does hold significance for Christians who go to see where St. Paul preached to the Athenians about the "Unknown God".
Athens deserves a minimum stay of 3 nights. We realize that many people visit Athens as a day trip from cruise ships, so we offer Private Tours from Piraeus to make the best of limited time.
Private Guides: See Athens and learn about its history with a private guide. www.PrivateGuidesInEurope.com
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