Athens is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, with its recorded history spanning around 3,400 years. It features some of the greatest tourist attractions in the world, including ancient temples and fabulous museums. In this article I will present some of them.
Cape Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon
A great afternoon trip from Athens, this is one of those spots that is as much a favorite with the locals as it is with the tourists. It's a favorite sunset-viewing spot for everyone, and will give you a classically Greek moment against the ruined monument along with a terrific sea view. While it is possible to visit Sounion by public bus from Athens, most visitors prefer to drive or to take an organized tour. You can book one directly ahead of your trip, through your hotel or by visiting any travel agency in Athens.
Can't get away to the Greek islands? Or already missing the one you just left? Slip away to Piraeus, easily reachable by the Metro, and have dinner at one of the pricy but charming seaside taverns of Microlimano. Piraeus, the port city of Athens, is not quite a Greek island, but it will do. Allow yourself some extra time and stop by the excellent Piraeus Archaeological Museum or the equally-fascinating Nautical Museum first. You can also take an Open-Topped Bus Tour (find prices) between both Athens and Piraeus, making it an easy and interesting way to get back and forth between the two cities.
This is one attraction that gets skipped, partly because it is readily confused with the Roman Agora and while you'd be falling over yourself to visit a Roman agora in Italy, well, this is Greece. (For the same reason, the very nice Egyptian antiquities collection at the National Archaeological Museum gets overlooked, too - except by Greeks.) But this spot offers an easy hour's wandering, with the almost-perfect Temple of Hephaestus, a rebuilt colonnade housing the museum, and many minor monuments. A multiple-site combo ticket makes it a particularly good bargain to combine a visit here with the Acropolis and other nearby sites.
Want to rise above it all, especially on a hot day when the thought of the stony outcrop of the Acropolis seems too warm and bright? Take the easy way up to the wooded top of Lycabettus Hill by using the tubular funicular rail car and escape the heat and, if you're lucky, some of the tourist crowds.
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The war memorial known as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is guarded by the city's famous statuesque evzones, the presidential guards whose uniform of short kilts and pom-pom shoes is based on the attire worn by the klephts (the mountain fighters of the War of Independence). The changing of the guard takes place every hour, while every Sunday at 11:00 the evzones perform an extended changing of the guard ceremony in full ceremonial dress, accompanied by a military band.
Recommended hotels in Athens, Greece by Booking.com
Royal Olympic Hotel
St George Lycabettus
Electra Palace Hotel Athens
National Art Gallery
Greece’s premiere art gallery showcases its permanent collection of modern Greek art and hosts major international exhibitions. Exploring the country’s art movements, the exhibits include post-Byzantine art and works from the Eptanesian School of secular painters; portraits and historical scenes from the War of Independence and the early years of the Greek state; and leading 20th-century painters. Prize exhibits include three masterpieces by El Greco.
Temple of Olympian Zeus
The colossal Temple of Olympian Zeus (or Olympeion) is the largest in Greece and took more than 700 years to build. Fifteen of the original 104 massive (17m-high) Corinthian columns survive, along with the one that toppled over in a gale in 1852. Peisistratos began building the temple in the 6th century BC on the western bank of the Ilissos River, at the site of a smaller temple (590–560 BC) dedicated to the cult of Olympian Zeus (its foundations can be seen on the site), but construction stalled due to lack of funds. A succession of leaders tried to finish the job, making adjustments along the way, which explains inconsistencies in the temple. Hadrian finally finished the task in AD 131. The temple housed a giant gold and ivory statue of Zeus and one of Hadrian.
The first modern Olympic Games, in 1896, were held in the imposing Panathenaic (or Panathenian) marble stadium, on the site of the original 4th-century BC stadium built for Panathenaic athletic contests. The Romans held gladiatorial contests where thousands of wild animals were slaughtered and it was later rebuilt by Herodes Atticus for the Panathenaic Festival in AD 144. The stadium was completely restored for the 1896 Olympics and for the 2004 Games. The stadium, which is known as the Kalimarmaron (meaning ‘beautiful marble’), made a stunning backdrop to the archery competition and the marathon finish. Public access is limited, but it is a site to behold.
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