by Sandy Lai
Considered by many to be the birthplace of Western civilization, Athens is home to the most famous sites of ancient Greece. The goddess Athena, besides giving her name to the city, had many temples that were sacred to her here. There is still much to see of Athen’s past, including of course, the UNESCO Heritage Site of the Acropolis.
It was around one of the city’s many hills, Acropolis, that the first
settlements were found five thousand years ago. Sitting high above today’s city, what we now know as the Acropolis was a fortified town of Athens and dates back to the Late Bronze Age. The Parthenon is the most famous building here, and has been a temple to Athena, a church and a mosque. Unfortunately, the Elgin Marbles once found within are now at the British Museum. While impressive close up, you can get some amazing views of the
Parthenon from Lycabettus Hill. Other temples on the Acropolis dedicated to the Athena are the Erechtheion, which is also dedicated to other gods, and the Temple of Athena Nike in her incarnation as the goddess of victory. You can also see the impressive Theatre of Dionysus and the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, the latter of which is still used for performances.
At the bottom of the Acropolis hill are the districts Plaka, Monastiraki and Thissio. These historic districts have restored homes and Roman ruins. To the west of Plaka is the site of the Ancient Agora and the Roman Forum. The Temple of Hephaestus can be found here, along with many other buildings and monuments. A museum houses many of the relics from the Agora, reconstructed from the Stoa of Attalus. To round out your classical sights, make sure to see the ruins of the Temple of Zeus and Hadrian’s Arch which are within easy walking distance. The ancient cemetery of Kerameikos is also worth a look.
For more modern attractions, look no further than Syntagma Square. The Hellenic Parliament Building used to be the Royal Palace, and you can catch the changing of the guards every hour. Their pom-pommed uniforms are unique to say the least. Located behind Parliament are the National Gardens which is a great place to relax. The recently restored Hotel Grand Bretagne was built in 1842 and is a fine example of a luxury hotel. To the north of the square is the beautiful Numismatic Museum, home to a large collection of ancient coins and figurines.