SIGHTS

Athens is a town full of history…

Below, follows a guide for Athens with the most important places to see while visiting the city:

THE ACROPOLIS AREA

The Acropolis hill is considered a gem for Athens and all of Greece. With the Parthenon temple still standing to remind us the grandeur of ancient Greece, the Acropolis is truly a wonder of the world, containing four ancient buildings.

The Parthenon was built between 447 and 432 B.C. and most of the artifacts from the temple are housed today in the Acropolis museum near the Parthenon.

Also on the Acropolis are the Temple of Athena Nike, the Erechtheion and the Propylaea.

Just below the Acropolis hill are two ancient theaters: the Dionysos and Odeon of Herod Atticus.

One of the oldest Greek theaters, built in the 4 th century B.C., is the Theater of Dionysus which hosted plays of Euripides, Aristophanes, Sophocles and Aeschylus.

The reconstructed Herod Atticus amphitheater is used during the summer to host the Athens Festival. Truly one of the most impressive ancient monuments in Athens it was built by the Roman ruler Herod Atticus in the 2 nd century A.D., (the theater can seat 5,000 spectators and has 32 rows of seats).

The ancient Supreme Court, the Areopagus, is located just below the entrance to the Acropolis. It was here where the first court of homicide was held and where St. Paul addressed the Athenians in 54 A.D.

At the foot of the Acropolis is the Ancient Agora, known as the commercial and public centre of ancient Athens. During the Classical Age, Sophocles and Aristotle taught there. Although much of the marketplace is in ruins, one can still distinguish the layout of the area. The museum nearby houses many of the artifacts found in the area.

The Thesseion is located at one end of the Ancient Agora, and it was first built in 450 B.C.

The Pnyx hill is located on the west side of the Acropolis, now serves as the theater for the Sound & Light show every evening. But in ancient times Pnyx, which offers a splendid view of the Acropolis and is a must for photographers, was the meeting place for Athenians to decide issues.

Also facing the Acropolis is the Philopappou hill, with a funeral monument of Philopappus (he was a Roman consul of the 2 nd century A.D) located on the top of it. A cave sighted on the Philopappou hill is believed to have been the prison of Socrates and where he drank his fatal dose of hemlock.

Plaka : Once the verve of Athens is located on the north slope of the Acropolis. Old-timers will tell you stories about Plaka being the centre of nightlife activity, in the 19 th century. It is a pleasant, cobblestone walkway and cars are banned from most of the area. Narrow streets and winding stairways and some old mansions are left reminding us of old Athens, which contained a cluster of 500 houses.

There are taverns and numerous tourist shops in the Plaka area and some ancient sites worth visiting. The Tower of the Winds, with its water clock, sun dial and weather vane, built in the 1 st century B.C., is a remarkable octagonal monument. Each side has a relief depicting the wind that blows from that direction.

At the west side of Plaka is the Roman Agora which includes Hadrian’s Library, built by the Roman ruler in the 2 nd century A.D. The MonumentofLysikratous, a well preserved 4 th century B.C. monument rising 21 feet from its base is also worth visiting in the Plaka area.

Monastiraki : If it’s a bargain you are after and if you still have not decided what souvenir to take back home, don’t forget to visit the Monastiraki Flea Market! Here you will find shops selling a wide selection of souvenirs for all tastes and budgets.

The best time to visit Monastiraki is on Sunday mornings, when the Flea Market is running full and before the rush hour, later in the afternoon. The Flea Market is next to the Monastiraki metro station and just off the square with the same name.

Just two blocks up from Monastiraki Sq., heading towards Syntagma Sq., is the GreekOrthodox Cathedral known as Mitropolis. It is a massive structure composed of stones from 72 demolished cathedrals around the city, destroyed by the Turks. With an impressive interior, the cathedral was built in the previous century.

Near the end of the Flea Market is the KeramikosCemetery located on Ermou St. going towards Pireos Ave. It was the famous burial ground for the most important ancient citizens of Athens, (most of the finds of the cemetery are in the museum within the foundation).

Hadrian’s Arch : It is located at the end of Amalias Ave. and was built by the Roman ruler in 132 A.D. to mark the boundaries of ancient Athens and his new city. It is located near the Temple of Olympian Zeus.

Temple of Olympian Zeus : The largest ancient temple in Greece is the Temple of Olympian Zeus. Its building started in the beginning of the 6 th century B.C. and was not completed until 700 years later. The temple was dedicated to the supreme god Zeus and 14 of its original 104 very tall Corinthian style columns still stand today.

Syntagma Square : It is now recognized as the center of Athens, an acre-large plaza filled with outdoor café, trees and a fountain in the center. (Here, is also the Syntagma metro Stat.). In Syntagma someone will find every type of tourist shops and shopping malls, airline offices, banks, fast food restaurants and other restaurants as well as first class hotels. Also called Constitution Square by foreigners, is facing the Parliament building. In front of the Parliament is the Tomb of the UnknownSoldier, where all visiting dignitaries lay wreaths, and is guarded day and night by two soldiers (called: evzones) dressed in the traditional skirted uniforms. On Sundays at 10.30 A.M. the soldiers, accompanied by a military band, march from the Parliament building in full regalia. Across Syntagma is the best known Grande Bretagne hotel, established in 1862, has become a landmark in Athens and its seven floors have hosted dignitaries from around the world.

National Garden : It is located behind the Parliament building. The park has numerous walkways surrounded by all kinds of trees. There are also two small artificial lakes filled with ducks and swans, a playground for the youngsters and plenty of benches.

Inside the National Garden is the Zappeion Hall which was built to be used during the 1 st Modern Olympic Games in 1896. The hall now is used for cultural and commercial exhibitions.

Olympic Stadium : It is situated across the National Garden, on Vas. Konstantinou Ave. and hosted the 1 st Modern Olympic Games in 1896. The stadium can seat up to 90,000 spectators and is sometimes used for major sporting events and concerts. During the 2004 Olympic Games, the events of Archery and Marathon finish will be hosted there. It is also called Panathinaiko Stadium or Kallimarmaron by the locals, and is located at the same site where the ancient Athenians had a stadium built in 330 B.C.

Presidential Palace : In earlier times when the country was ruled by monarchs it was the Royal Palace. The palace was originally built as a home for the crown prince in the previous century but is now used by the President to host dignitaries. The Presidential Palace is located on Herodes Atticus St. behind the National Garden. Outside the Presidential Palace is an evzone guard.

Other areas : On the way to Omonia Sq. from Syntagma Sq. on Panepistimiou St., is the impressive neoclassic University, National Library and Academy buildings, all built in the previous century.

The next important square after Syntagma is Omonia Sq. (where the metro stat. is located) which is considered to be the most crowded place in Athens. It offers many hotels and tourist shops, fast food restaurants, snack bars and coffee shops, shopping malls, kiosks and banks.

Mt. Lycabettus : The highest hill inside Athens, offering a panoramic view of the city. On the top of the 912-foot high hill is a small 19th century chapel of St. George. Not far is a cafeteria. You can reach the top of Mt. Lycabettus either by foot, by car or by a funicular (railway) which can be taken from Kolonaki.

Pedion Areos Park : A large park on Alexandra Ave. has a playground and plenty of shady areas. Yet another escape route in the busy Athens.

Byzantine churches : In the centre of Athens half a dozen Byzantine era churches of interest to visitors are located.

Near the Mitropoleos Sq. is St. Eleftherios, a small church built in marble and decorated with a frieze, containing several interesting icons inside. The church is also known as Panaghia Gorgoepikos and was built in the 13 th century. AghiaKapnikareas is right in the middle of one of the busiest streets of Athens, Ermou St. This little 10 th century church has a double dome and a number of tiny roofs. The 11 th century Church of Aghias Dynamis is unique in that it is situated in the middle of a sidewalk on Mitropoleos St. beneath an arcade.

Aghii Theodori near Klathmonos Sq. was also built in the 11 th century and has some very interesting wall paintings.

Near the Thesseion is yet another 11 th century church that has been restored, Aghii Apostoli. It was among the first Athenian churches. The 11 th century Church of Aghios Nikodimos at Filellinon St. has become since 1949 a Russian Orthodox church. It was restored by the Czar Nicholaos I and Alexander II.

 

 

©2006 Info Editions