Athens is certainly one of the most historic cities in the world and there is plenty to see if you decide to travel there. It is probably true that no matter where you dig in the city, there is a high likelihood that you will discover new ruins and they continue to find new artifacts and sites continuously. As we walked through the town, we even came across a new find that had recently been discovered during the digging of the subway system. You can certainly hire a guide to take you through all of the famous sites, but it is certainly possible to visit them on your own as we did. These are the places that we enjoyed most while we were in Athens, but be sure to take your time, eat some fresh seafood, and perhaps have sip of ouzo.
The Acropolis – This is really a complex of historic sites that made up an ancient citadel. Sitting atop a rocky mount that overlooks the city, there are many famous ruins that have been reconstructed. There is the Parthenon, the Erechthion, the Temple of Athena Nike, and more. We recommend that you buy a package bundle ticket that provides access to many of the other famous sites as you will likely want to visit them all anyway. No visit to Athens would be complete without going to the Acropolis.
The Agora of Athens – Located at the base of the Acropolis, walking these ancient grounds with the statues, pottery, and stone walls is truly fascinating. The highlight of the site is the Temple of Hephaestus, which is one of the most well-preserved ancient temples in all of Greece. Among the statues that you will see as you walk the ancient roads is the remaining torso of the Roman Emperor Hadrian. There is also a museum on the grounds with many historical artifacts.
Temple of Olympian Zeus – Although it is now just a series of columns, this site must have been a central point for the people of ancient Athens. Looking down at the temple from the Acropolis will give you a sense of its true size as it carves out a large portion of the city.
The Roman Agora – Although smaller than the Agora of Athens, it is definitely still worth visiting. One of the most interesting structures on the site is the Tower of the Winds. It is an ancient clock tower where archeologists have discovered an ancient sun dial, wind vane, and a water clock. There are several outdoor restaurants in the area, which makes it a great place to visit during lunchtime where you can have a meal overlooking the ancient ruins.
The Changing of the Guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier – If you are in Athens on a Sunday, you should definitely make your way to the Syntagma Square at 11:00 am for the changing of the guards. Although the changing of the guards happens every day at 11:00 am, the performances on Sunday has more participants and more elaborate uniforms. While you are there, take time to see the Parliament Building and Presidential Mansion.
Odeon of Herodes Atticus – Sitting on the southwest slope of the Acropolis, this is something that shouldn’t be missed. The Odeon of Herodes Atticus is an ancient amphitheater and standing at the top provides incredible views of the city beyond the columns. Although truly part of the Acropolis, not everyone makes there way to this ancient site, so it is worth pointing this one out on its own.
Acropolis Museum – With nearly 4,000 objects on display, there is a wealth of treasures housed in the museum. Although we didn’t actually make it to the museum during our visit due to it being over the holidays, we have included it on our list as we have heard nothing but wonderful things about the museum.
We have been to many fascinating cities, but Athens is definitely one of our favorites. It is one of those special places where you can really feel as though you’ve been transported back thousands of years in time to see things that could have been lost to time. A week in Athens would allow you to do some day tours to the outlying areas, but you should plan for at least three days in the city itself.
If you are in Athens on a Sunday, you should definitely make your way to the Syntagma Square at 11:00 am for the changing of the guards. Although the changing of the guards happens every day at 11:00, the performance on Sunday has more participants and more elaborate uniforms. There can be large crowds, so you might want to arrive a little early to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which sits in the square outside of the Parliament Building and the Presidential Mansion.
The guards are part of a special military unit called the Evzones and are carefully chosen for the honor to participate based upon their height, fitness, and character. Prior to the start of the ceremonial changing, the guards stand perfectly still and emotionless, very similar to the guards at Buckingham Palace in London. The guards make very dramatic, synchronized movements as the new guards trade places with the previous guards. The special uniforms that the guards where adds to the pageantry of the performance, which is beautiful and somber at the same time.
Having had the opportunity to see both the changing of the guards in London as well as at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery outside of Washington D.C., it was definitely an experience that rivaled either of those, although they are very different. If you have the opportunity to see this very unique ceremony, it will be an experience that you will always remember. There is something truly special about watching members of the military honoring those soldiers who have given their lives to protect their native lands.
One of the sites that is included when you buy the multi-ticket for the Acropolis in Athens, Greece, is the Roman Agora. There is also the Ancient Agora, also known as the Agora of Athens, but the Roman Agora is smaller, yet still interesting. An agora is an open space that is used for markets and public gatherings. The Roman Agora was originally built in the 1st century BC and contains several interesting structures.
One of the most interesting structures on the site is the Tower of the Winds, which is an ancient clock tower. There is a sun dial, wind vane, and water clock that have been excavated by archeologists and the structure is quite fascinating. It is unclear if the tower was built prior to the agora or was added afterwards. On the inside of the tower, you can see where the water entered, having traveled down from the Acropolis, making its way to the center of the tower to be used as a water clock. Wooden beams support the marble roof, which is adorned with classical figures on the exterior.
Another interesting feature of the Roman Agora is the Gate of Athena Archegetis. It is the first ruin that you see as you enter the complex and makes for a dramatic entranceway. The grounds of the agora have a variety of ancient columns and even pottery scattered along the walkways. The site itself is not very large and everything can be seen in about 30 minutes. There are a few outdoor restaurants that line the gates surrounding the Roman Agora and we stopped to have a refreshing drink and a few appetizers.
We truly enjoyed visiting the Roman Agora and it was very interesting. If we hadn’t bought the bundled ticket, we probably wouldn’t have paid the entrance fee to visit the site. You can see much of it just by walking around the gates and looking at the ruins, but it was definitely worth it to see inside of the Tower of the Winds. We highly recommend buying the multi-ticket when visiting the Acropolis, which gives you access to the Ancient Agora, the Acropolis, the Roman Agora, Hadrian’s Library, and more.