With more than 7,000 years of history, the city of Athens is an incredible experience. Everywhere you walk, you stumble upon historic ruins and archeological sites. The Acropolis is the center of the city, and the Parthenon atop this ancient hill has inspired western architecture for more than 2,000 years.
The Acropolis of Athens
The ancient Acropolis hill has been settled by humans for more than 6000 years. Today, ruins of buildings from the Greek Golden Age remain with multiple ancient templates and theaters dating back to 500-300 BC. All of the buildings on top of the Acropolis were built to complement one another, and the giant Parthenon temple is the crowning jewel of them all.
Athens is named after their patron goddess Athena, and the Acropolis served as the center for the worship of Athena for hundreds of years. While many other structures (like the Ancient Agora) were pillaged and destroyed over the years, the Parthenon was always revered and remained intact for thousands of years. However, during the “Great Turkish War” in 1687, an explosion occurred that severely damaged the Parthenon and the ancient treasure kept within.
Travel guide Rick Steves has an excellent free podcast that provides a walking tour of the Acropolis. You can access that podcast at this link. If you have time, be sure to stop by the nearby Ancient Agora where Rick Steves offers another excellent walking tour.
Areopagus (Mars Hill)
Nearby the Acropolis, you can explore the famous Areopagus, a prominent rock with an incredible view of the city. This is the site where the Apostle Paul delivered his famous sermon from Acts 17, and the text from his sermon is engraved on a large plaque.
This site served many purposes throughout the years. At times, it served as a high court and a meeting place for democratic functions. Today, you can enjoy an incredible 360 view of both the Acropolis.
The Acropolis Museum
Before visiting the Acropolis, take a trip to the new Acropolis museum that was built in 2009. The architecture of the museum is stunning and provides a beautiful setting to enjoy these ancient masterpieces. In recent years, modern pollution caused more damage to the statues than 2,000 years of natural weather. To prevent further damage, the statues have been moved indoors.
The shape of the museum mirrors the layout of the Parthenon building on the Acropolis. On the top floor, you can view all of the surviving statues that were originally positioned along the top of the Parthenon.
The Acropolis was also the central location for Greek democracy. On the Acropolis hill, official decisions and declarations were etched in stone and put on display so that any citizen could read what had been decided. Additionally, visitors would give “tributes” to the goddess Athena, and throughout the museum, you will find various “tributes” including a bust of Alexander the Great and other prominent historical figures.
The Panathenaic Stadium is a short walk from the Acropolis, and this is the site of the first modern Olympics held in 1896. The stadium was originally built in 330 BC, and in 144 AD, a Roman Senator rebuilt the stadium using marble. In the present day, it is the only stadium in the world made entirely of marble.
Getting to the Beach
While Athens is full of history, as a modern city, it can be quite crowded and dirty with pollution. If you want a quick escape to the beach, take a bus to the Tram, and then take T5 or T4 to the “Edem” stop (Google maps can easily help you find your way). This is the first stop with free public beach access, but you could continue taking the tram south and hop on and hop off along the coastline. There are several beautiful places to eat with ocean views, and further down the coast are several shopping centers with American brands.
Many people recognize this iconic image with the beautiful white buildings and blue roofs along the Mediterranean. It’s a classic Greece image, but unfortunately, you will not find this view anywhere in Athens (despite the fact that many gift shops sell all kinds of gifts with this picture and “Athens” written on it).
If you want to see this view, then you have to go to Santorini. Don’t worry though. It’s easy to get there by ferry, and it is a lovely weekend trip and a classic Greek experience. To learn more, read our blog post on Santorini here.
Where to stay
You will want to find a place as close to the Acropolis as possible. All of the major sites are very close to one another, and the Acropolis is at the heart of the action. We stayed in a place that was a short 30-minute walk to the Acropolis, and this was perfect for us.
If you want to save a substantial amount of money, consider staying at an AirBnb instead of a hotel. AirBnb is a fantastic way to travel. If you’d like to learn more about how AirBnbs can save you a ton of money on your next trip, read our tips here.
The metro is a bit limited in Greece, but if you buy a 5-day transportation pass, you’ll be able to easily use the buses to travel anywhere in the city. We recommend using the Google Maps app to plan your route.