Athens: Main Sights

The Ancient Capital of Greece

Athens Main Sights

Still dominating the skyline of Athens 2500 years after it was built, the Acropolis is a truly world-class sight that no traveller should miss. At the top stands the Parthenon, the magnificent marble temple dedicated to the goddess Athena and dating from the 5th century BC. It is the largest Doric temple ever built in Greece. Also on the Acropolis is the Erectheion, another temple dedicated to Athena, Poseidon and the Athenian king Erecthonius, decorated with caryatids, or statues of young maidens, and the Temple of Athena Nike, while below are the Theatre of Dionysos and the Roman-era Odeon of Herodes Atticus, which still hosts music and drama performances today.

National Archaeological Museum
Home to Greece’s most important archaeological treasures, the National Archaeological Museum displays a huge number of finds from across the country. You could spend days here without seeing everything. The Mycenaean antiquities on show include the famous Mask of Agamemnon. Also here are Cycladic figurines from the 3rd century BC, bronze and marble statues of gods and goddesses, Minoan frescoes from Santorini, Hellenistic and Roman sculpture and beautifully designed pottery from the Neolithic period onwards.

Benaki Museum
Founded in 1931 to house the private collections of a wealthy Greek merchant, this museum displays a diverse assemblage of artefacts ranging from ecclesiastical silver and religious icons to paintings –including works by El Greco – as well as textiles, woodcarvings, pottery, jewellery and a noted collection of Greek regional folk costumes.

Ancient Agora
This Agora, or marketplace, was the heart of ancient Athens, and the buildings here have been carefully restored to their appearance during the Roman period. The Stoa of Attalos, rebuilt in the 1950s, contains a fascinating museum with artefacts relating to everyday life in ancient Athens while other noteworthy buildings include the Temple of Hephaestus, built in the 5th century BC, the Stoa of Zeus Eleutherios, where Socrates delivered his speeches and the 10th century Church of the Holy Apostles, built to commemorate the visit of St Paul to the Agora in the 1st century AD.

Museum of Cycladic Art
This modern museum houses one of the finest and most important collections of ancient Cycladic art, dating from 3000-2000 BC and gathered from across Greece and its islands. Also on show is ancient Cypriot art, pottery and Hellenistic and Roman sculptures.

National Gardens
Laid out behind the National Parliament building, this lush park is a rare and much cherished area of greenery in central Athens. Created in the 1840s as a private royal park, the gardens are criss-crossed with shady pathways and dotted with ponds and flowerbeds.

The historic centre of the old city, the Plaka is the main tourist thoroughfare in Athens. Inevitably, it has become very commercialised and crowded, but despite the proliferation of tacky souvenir shops it retains much of its unique charm. Wandering along its narrow lanes, you’ll find medieval churches – including the lovely 12th century Panagia Gorgoepikoos - quirky little museums, ancient Greek and Roman remains and plenty of cafes and tavernas where you can stop off for refreshment.