Athens is one of the most historic capitals of Europe, as from the Neolithic era until today it has never ceased to be inhabited. Throughout its long, fascinating history, the culmination came in the 5th century b.C.E. (Golden Age of Pericles), while to this day the city retains its universal radiance, due to the values and culture that it showed in antiquity. Political thought, theater, the arts, philosophy, science, architecture and so many manifestations of the human intelect have reached their peak in a unique, in world history, time chronicle. Athens is considered the womb of Western culture, while countless concepts “born” here have enriched many languages and inspired different cultures. Over the centuries, the city has seen a variety of conquerors, who have left their mark on monuments with special glamor and charm, creating a rare historic palimpsest. In 1834 it was declared the capital of the modern Greek state, starting from the echo of its classical past, but in the two centuries that followed it developed into a modern metropolitan center. Visiting Athens, you will come in contact with the history of 6,000 years, with monuments and masterpieces of art from antiquity and the medieval era to the architectural heritage of the 19th and 20th centuries. The natural landscape of the wider area, the modern infrastructure, and the liveliness of the city’s residents makes Athens an ideal destination for a city break.
Around the Acropolis
Your walk can begin from the archeological site of the temple of Olympian Zeus (6th century BCE), one of the largest temples of antiquity, in front of which you can see the Hadrian’s Gate (131 CE), which is the symbolic entrance of the city. From there, tour Dionysiou Areopagitou (on the south side of the Acropolis), where you will find the ancient theater of Dionysus (5th century BCE), where four important ancient Greek poets, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophanes, presented their works for the first time. The continuation of the route will lead you to the gallery of Eumenes (2nd century BCE), will allow you to visit the ruins of Asklipieion (5th century BCE), as well as the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, a monument of the Roman period on the southwestern slope of the Acropolis built in 161 CE, that even nowadays hosts great performances as part of festivals held there throughout the year. From this point you can start your ascent to the archeological site that operates on the Acropolis, where some of the most important monuments of architecture, such as the Parthenon, Propylaea, Erechtheion and the temple of Athena or Apteros Niki, may be visited. The unique view will enchant you, while your visit can be completed with a walk to the Acropolis Museum, located 300 meters away from the archeological site, to admire 4,000 finds of major archaeological importance, from nearby excavations, which are representative of the important role that the city played as a religious center.
Completing your visit to the museum, you have the option to visit the site of Arios Pagos, the world’s oldest court, and later relax on Philopappos Hill, with its beautiful cobbled streets and the homonymous Roman monument. Near Filopappou you will find Pnyx, the place where ancient Athenian citizens used to gather to carry out their democratic duties. Continuing your walk along the sidewalk you will find yourself in the Agora, the commercial, political, and cultural center of ancient Athens. Do not miss a visit to the archeological site, before continuing the route to the cemetery of Kerameikos, which hosts impressive tombstones, and sculptures.
Areas around the historic center
The neighborhood of Plaka (on the east side of the Acropolis), which has been inhabited continuously since antiquity until today, is the “heart” of the historic center of Athens. Taking a walk through the narrow, labyrinthine alleys, between the houses and the mansions from the time of the Ottoman Empire and the Neoclassical period (19th century), you’ll have a feeling that you are traveling back in time. In the area, important places to visit are the monument of Lysikrates, the Roman market, the Tower of the Winds (1st century CE) and the Library of Hadrian (132 CE), in the courtyard of which three-aisled (7th century) and a single-aisle basilica (1st century) churches were erected, true masterpieces of Byzantine architecture. Here you will also see samples of the architecture of the Ottoman period such as the Fethiye Mosque, the Tzistaraki Mosque, the Bath of the Winds, the Muslim School, etc. Important museums (Museum of Greek Folk Art, Museum of Greek Children’s Art, Museum of Greek Folk Musical Instruments, Frysira Museum, etc.), picturesque taverns, cafes, bars and shops with souvenirs and Greek traditional products operate in the area. Leaving Plaka, we reach Monastiraki, one of the most characteristic areas with the aroma of “old” Athens, narrow streets and the open-air flee market, where you may find whatever one wants. Next to Monastiraki, is the area of Psyri, a picturesque, neoclassical Athenian neighborhood, with intense nightlife that is worth experiencing during your stay.
The heart of the city’s historic center has more than 2,500 shops of all kinds and is developed on the streets and alleys that surround Ermou Street. The western border of the shopping center is Athinas Street, the City Hall building, Varvakeio Market and Kotzia Square. Within the boundaries of the historic center of the city one can meet other characteristic and very picturesque neighborhoods such as the area of Makrigianni, Ano Petralona and Thissio. Follow Kerameikou Street to find yourself in Metaxourgeio, or the paved part of Ermou that leads to Gazi, the area where the city’s old gas plant operated, in the building that now houses the cultural center of the Municipality of Athens, also known as “Technopolis”.
The squares of Syntagma and Omonoia are the most central squares of the city. They are connected to each other by Panepistimiou and Stadiou streets, where some of the most beautiful and imposing neoclassical buildings in all of Athens are located. In Syntagma Square the building of the Greek Parliament and, right in front it, the monument of the Unknown Soldier dominates the scenery. Near the Parliament, you can enter the National Garden, with an area of 160 acres, on the south side of which is Zappeion. Around the Garden, visitors can admire the Presidential Palace and, a little further down, Panathinaiko Stadium (Kallimarmaro), where the first Olympic Games in modern history took place. From there, crossing the Mets area, the road leads to the First Cemetery of Athens, the oldest cemetery in Athens, which is essentially an open-air sculpture gallery, as it is rich in magnificent tomb sculptures, created by the most important sculptors of the 19th and 20th centuries. Going down Panepistimiou Street you will find yourself in front of the neoclassical “Athens trilogy” (National Library, University, Athens Academy), three imposing neoclassical mansions built in the 19th century, before your stride led you to Omonia Square, which was recently renovated.
From Omonia turn to Patision Street, a busy street along which you can find the National Technical University of Athens and the National Archaeological Museum, which houses rare archeological finds from the Neolithic era to the Roman Period. Near the Museum, is the area of Exarchia, a charming and very lively neighborhood, a popular hangout and meeting place but also a place of residence for many students and artists. From Exarchia, crossing the district of Neapoli, one can climb the verdant hill of Lycabettus. From the top of the hill you can admire the stunning view of the city, up to the sea. Go down to the Kolonaki district, where important museums such as the Museum of Cycladic Art, the Benaki Museum, the Byzantine and Christian Museum, the War Museum, and the National Gallery operate.
Municipalities that border with the municipality of Athens, offer visitors the opportunity to get a taste of the modern daily life of the residents. In the southern suburbs, which stretch along the Saronic Gulf from the municipality of Piraeus to the municipality of Vouliagmeni, you can take a walk on the beach front and visit sports facilities, organized as well as free beaches, shopping malls and entertainment venues. The municipality of Piraeus hosts the largest port in Greece, while the route along the coastal front will lead you to the temple of Poseidon (5th century BCE) at Cape Sounio (58 km south). To the east it is worth visiting the monastery of Kaisariani (5 km east) built in the 11th century. In the municipality of Marathon, near Athens (northeast front) it is worth visiting the Tomb of Marathon but also the site where the famous battle took place in 490 BCE. About 23 km west, is the municipality of Elefsina, with archeological sites of special importance and to the north you will find the municipality of Maroussi, where the facilities of the Olympic Center of Athens operate, which hosted many of the 2004 Olympic Games, as well as the opening and closing ceremonies. Further north is the municipality of Kifissia, perhaps the most elegant suburb of Athens, with beautiful villas and impressive 19th century mansions. The magnificent natural landscape is completed by the mountainous areas of Parnitha, Penteli and Ymittos, which are an ideal destination for lovers of hiking
Source of original content: www.visitgreece.gr
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