To think about Ancient Greece is magical – it’s philosophy, democracy, justice, beauty. This golden age of the Western Civilization is still alive in the heart of Athens in the monuments and temples that have survived centuries of invasions and storms.
Today, you just have to enter through the Propylaea to travel back 2,000 years and pass through the same monuments and places where Socrates and Plato once passed by. It’s here, in the Acropolis (which means “upper city”) that this historic world becomes a reality.
Follow our route to get to know everything that Athens’s historic center has to offer you.
THE BEST ROUTE
Acropolis Museum – Theater of Dionysos – Byzantine Cistern – Odeon of Herodes – Propylaea – Temple of Athena Nike – Erechtheion – Parthenon – Areopagus - Roman Agora – Temple of Hephaestus – Stoa of Attalus
We started our journey back in time through the new Acropolis Museum. You can also visit it at the end of your visit, but we thought this was the best way to pique our interest. Built in 2009, this museum is totally modern and very well organized. Here, you can learn more about the artefacts and ruins taken from the archaeological site that is Acropolis.
After visiting the museum, it’s time to begin your walk through the ruins of Athens. Right at the entrance of the archaeological complex, you have the Theater of Dionysos where the first theater was presented to the world in the 6th century BC. Further ahead, you’ll pass by a cistern where Joana and I even saw an archaeologist at work.
Following along the route (always going straight), you’ll get to the Odeon of Herodes Atticus – another theater in the Acropolis; but this one was built in the 2nd century. After being discovered during some excavation works in the 1800s, the complex was restored and, today, it’s still used for theater, music and dance shows during the Festival of Athens! The view of the city from here is just stunning.
Turning to the right, you’ll finally get to the top of the Acropolis. Passing through the Propylaea (the grand entrance into the Acropolis in Ancient Greece), you’ll get to the Temple of Athena Nike where Athenians worshipped the Goddess of Victory. Interestingly enough, she is represented here without her wings on purpose – the idea was that, without her wings, the goddess would have to remain in Athens and protect the city forever.
From here, continue going up to find Erechtheion – the most sacred place in the Acropolis. This is the temple of various gods and heroes (among them Poseidon, a god from Greek mythology that we all know – if not for the movies!). This place has a really interesting story about its six sister caryatids. In the 19th century, Lord Elgin from the UK removed one of the caryatids from the temple (legend says the sisters were so sad, they cried all night). Currently, the remaining 5 are on display at the Acropolis Museum but the 6th is at the British Museum where you can also find other remains of the Greek city. A strange situation that we’re still trying to understand!
Right in front of the Erechtheion, you’ll find the symbol of Greek culture: the Parthenon. One of the most famous monuments in the world, this temple which was constructed in honor of Goddess Athena, survived centuries of invasions and explosions. Today, the building is always under some kind of reconstruction work to restore it – and we hope it continues that way! Being here is superb.
It's now time to descend to admire the view of all the ruins you’ve just visited. So, leave the Acropolis and head to Areopagus (also known as the Hill of Ares) to take in one of the most timeless views in the world.
And from here, it’s another 20-minute walk away from the Acropolis to get to the ancient agora of Athens with its magnificent Tower of the Winds.It was here that Greek public life took place when this territory was occupied by the Roman Empire. Today, you can still see the ruins of many structures that once stood here such as a public latrine from the 1st century, a majestic gateway and a mosque that dates by to the Ottoman times. It’s also here that you’ll find the Tower of the Winds – an ingenious instrument that worked as a sundial, water clock, weather vane and compass at the same time!
On the western corner of this complex, you have the Temple of Hephaestus with its 34 imposing columns. Turning then to modern Athens, you’ll find the Stoa of Attalus, one of the most impressive stoas from Ancient Greece which today is also home of the Museum of the Ancient Agora.
And so your journey in time ends – but there’s still a lot to explore in Athens. Read this post to find out everything about the modern city that Athens has become.
honeymooners, Athens 09/2014