Ancient Athens – Sights Not To Miss

Greece holidays in Athens makes for an awesome trip for anyone with even the slightest interest in history and Ancient Athens. Whether you opt to spend your entire break here or you’re just planning to visit on a day trip, there are some sights you really shouldn’t miss. Actually, you could easily spend weeks exploring all the different ancient buildings in this historical treasure trove, but below you’ll find a quick introduction to the essentials. Happy exploring!

The Acropolis

Athens’s most famous archaeological site is the Acropolis – a sprawling citadel perched high above the city centre (making it very easy to find!).

Home to a number of really important buildings, such as the world-famous Parthenon, it’s the number one place to visit if you want to get to grips with some ancient Greek history.

As well as having a nose around the buildings themselves, you should also plan to visit the Acropolis Museum, which is about 300 m away from the site itself. What makes this so interesting is that it houses all those amazing finds discovered in the Acropolis and nearby foothills, so be prepared to see some real gems!

The Parthenon

Dedicated to the Greek goddess Athena, the Parthenon is one of those buildings that always looks familiar, even if you’ve never seen it in person, since there are images of its in countless books and TV programmes. So, why’s it so special? Well, it’s widely regarded as the most important example of surviving classical Greek architecture and it’s also a really vital site in terms of Greek art, thanks to its impressive decorative sculptures. Don’t miss out on a trip here – it really is a wonderful slice of history and no visit to the city is complete without it!

Theatre of Dionysus

Also in the Acropolis, the Theatre of Dionysus dates back to the 6th century BC, when it was built in timber. Between 342 and 326 BC, it was redone in marble and stone to seat a whopping 17,000. It’s still an impossibly vast site, though just 20 of the original 64 tiers have survived. When you visit, make sure you take a peek at some of the thrones situated on the lower levels. Once upon a time, these were used by powerful officials and one of the most important thrones (thought to be reserved for the Priest of Dionysus) features carvings of griffins and lions’ paws.

Temple of the Olympian Zeus

If you thought the Theatre of Dionysus was big, wait until you see the Temple of Olympian Zeus. In fact, this is the largest temple in Greece, but knowing that will probably still not prepare you for its sheer size – its columns are 17 m high and, back in its heyday, there were 104 of them. Today, just 15 remain, but it’s still a seriously impressive sight.

An interesting fact about this temple is that it took 700 years to build..! Its stop-start construction (thanks to a lack of funds) explains why you can spot different architectural influences in the temple, which was finally finished by Hadrian in 131 AD.

Last, but not least, you should make sure you see Hadrian’s Arch – built in 132 AD (also by Hadrian), it is a vast monument intended to act as a dividing marker between the ancient and Roman cities. So, it stands as a kind of symbolic entrance to Athens’s most richly historical area, making it a must-visit during your stay. Have you traveled to Greece before? If so, which was your favorite historical site?

(photo credits:  1 –  2 –  3)

7 Responses to Ancient Athens – Sights Not To Miss

  1. Jessica August 13, 2012 at 3:23 pm #

    Just a note- that picture you used of the Parthenon is actually the sandstone (hence the brown color) replica in Nashville, TN that was build in the 1890s for the city’s centennial. Why the centennial celebration for a Tennessee city required a replica of an ancient Greek building, I will never understand. Anyways, the original, as I’m sure you know, is nowhere near as complete as this.

    Thanks for the tips! Hoping to make it there in the next year or two 🙂

    • Nathan August 14, 2012 at 10:54 am #

      Hey Jessica – yes thanks for pointing that out :p thought the photo looked better, but I suppose it was a “bit” misleading wasn’t it 🙂

      Hope you enjoy your time in Greece when you get over there, it’s a wonderful country.

      • Jessica August 15, 2012 at 5:35 pm #

        Misleading- meh! If anyone makes it to the actual Acropolis expecting it to look like that, they probably deserve the disappointment 🙂

  2. Ayelet - All Colores August 18, 2012 at 4:44 pm #

    I read coverage about the beaches in Greece and I saw photos of the beaches in Greece, and was really happy to read your post about the history sites, which I think might make Greece extra special. Haven’t been yet, maybe one day 🙂

  3. Chris Booth August 19, 2012 at 5:34 pm #

    I’d certainly add the Kerameikos to that list. It’s a huge cemetery and almost always empty, but it’s a very interesting place. The small museum is excellent as well.

  4. San Diego RV Camper August 20, 2012 at 5:52 am #

    I remember studying about these places during my history class. I think we also discussed these in our world literature classes. Truly a wonderful place, Athens. I haven’t gone to Greece yet but I certainly would want to see these places, too. How was the weather when you went there?

  5. Ana September 6, 2012 at 2:04 pm #

    I loved the newly opened museum at the base of the Acropolis. There’s so much history packed in there that you need at least a day to take it all in. Other than that, Athens is full of historic sites which are visit-worthy.