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A large part of the town’s historic center has been converted into a 3-kilometer pedestrian zone (the largest in Europe), leading to the major archaeological sites , reconstructing – to a large degree – the ancient landscape.
The establishment of Athens as a city dates back to mythological times. The city’s history is still evident throughout Athens in the form of many Ancient, Roman, Byzantine and modern monuments.
Today’s capital integrates the ancient and medieval history into the contemporary era. Monuments can be found all around the city center, side by side with contemporary constructions such as buildings, roads and train stations.
It goes almost without saying that a visit to the Parthenon in Athens is essential. The historic ruin was created in 447 BC. It was designed by Iktinos and Kallicrates and completed in time for the Great Panathenaic Festival of 438 BC. The temple was built in homage to Athena, the goddess embodying the power and prestige of the city. You can’t help but feel inspired and moved by the weight of so much beauty and history, while enjoying striking views down to the sea.
The National Archaeological Museum of Athens is the largest archaeological museum in Greece and one of the most important museums in the world devoted to ancient Greek art. It was founded at the end of the 19th century to house and protect antiquities from all over Greece, thus displaying their historical, cultural and artistic value. A visit to the museum is a must see . Visit the official website of the museum here.
Designed by Bernard Tchumi in collaboration with Michalis Photiadis; the sparkling new museum, since its opening in June 2009, has already become the city’s top attraction and is expected to become one of the most visited and “must see” museums worldwide. The museum, which exhibits approximately 4.000 artifacts, allows the sculptures to be viewed in natural light, with special glass and climate-control measures, protecting them from sunlight. The most impressive part of the museum is its top floor, where visitors will be able to view the frieze and then look out of the windows to view the Parthenon itself. Visit the official website of the museum here.
The Byzantine and Christian Museum, which is based in Athens, is one of Greece’s national museums. Its areas of competency are centred on – but not limited to – religious artefacts of the Early Christian, Byzantine, Medieval, post-Byzantine and later periods which it exhibits, but also acquires, receives, preserves, conserves, records, documents, researches, studies, publishes and raises awareness of.
The museum has over 25,000 artefacts in its possession. The artefacts date from between the 3rd and 20th century AD, and their provenance encompasses the entire Greek world, as well as regions in which Hellenism flourished. The size and range of the collections and value of the exhibits makes the Museum a veritable treasury of Byzantine and post-Byzantine art and culture. For further information about the museum, visit the official site here.
Τhe Museum of Cycladic Art is dedicated to the study and promotion of ancient cultures of the Aegean and Cyprus, with special emphasis on Cycladic Art of the 3rd millennium BC. It was founded in 1986, to house the collection of Nicholas and Dolly Goulandris. Since then it has grown in size to accommodate new acquisitions, obtained either through direct purchases or through donations by important collectors and institutions. Find out more about the museum of Cycladic Art here.
The Benaki Museum, established and endowed in 1930 by Antonis Benakis in memory of his father Emmanuel Benakis, is housed in the Benakis family mansion in downtown Athens, Greece. The museum houses Greek works of art from the prehistorical to the modern times, an extensive collection of Asian art, hosts periodic exhibitions and maintains a state-of-the-art restoration and conservation workshop. Although the museum initially housed a collection that included Islamic art, Chinese porcelain and exhibits on toys, its 2000 re-opening led to the creation of satellite museums that focused on specific collections, allowing the main museum to focus on Greek culture over the span of the country's history. Visit the official site of the museum here.
The Panathenaic Stadium is a marble-only arena that has hosted athletic competitions as early as 566/565 BC. Located behind the National Gardens, the stadium was first used for ancient Greeks to compete in the Panathenaia festival and importantly hosted the first revival of the Olympic Games in the 1870s. In 2004, it also hosted various events, providing the ultimate homecoming for Greek athletes. The stadium is hard to miss, and open to visitors throughout the year. Beware of soaring temperatures and slippery surfaces in summer.
The Ancient Agora, which means “market” in modern Greek, is situated at the footsteps of the Acropolis and in ancient times it served as the commercial centre of the city but also as a political, cultural and religious centre.
Perched on top of the Lycabettus Hill, the whitewashed chapel of Agios Georgios can be seen from much of central Athens and from it visitors can survey the whole city. Built in the 18th century, the church’s location is first thought to have been a temple of the Akraios Zeus and was a Christian church during the Ottoman occupation, before becoming the Greek Orthodox chapel that it is today. The chapel is accessible either by foot or funicular.
Known as the largest temple in Greece, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, or the Olympeion, was built in the 6th century BC, though it was completed roughly 640 years after in the 2nd century AD, thanks to Emperor Hadrian. During the Roman era, the temple included 104 grand columns; of which 16 still stand today. The temple is located approximately 500 meters (1,640 feet) southeast of the Acropolis and is part of an important archaeological site, enclosed by Hadrian’s Gate.
The Odeon of Herodes Atticus is a theatre built in 161 AD which was then fully restored again in the 1950s. The design was once said by Marcus Arelius to be the finest of its kind, reflecting the traditional style of open air theatres of the time. Operating a no-heels policy, the staggeringly steep and majestic space continues to host captivating performances to this day.
The Stavros Niarchos Foundation is one of the world’s leading private, international philanthropic organizations, providing support in the areas of arts and culture, education, health and sports, and social welfare. The Foundation funds organizations and projects that are expected to achieve a broad, lasting and positive impact for society at large, and exhibit strong leadership and sound management. The Foundation also supports projects that facilitate the formation of public-private partnerships as an effective means for serving public welfare. The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC) in Athens is designed by the renowned architectural firm Renzo Piano Building Workshop and includes the new facilities of the National Library of Greece, and the Greek National Opera, as well as the Stavros Niarchos Park. Visit the official website of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center here.
Plaka is the old historical neighborhood of Athens, clustered around the northern and eastern slopes of the Acropolis, and incorporating labyrinthine streets and neoclassical architecture. Plaka is built on top of the residential areas of the ancient town of Athens. It is without a doubt one of the most picturesque neighborhoods in Athens, with its narrow streets, lovely neoclassical buildings, small cafes, traditional tavernas, souvenir shops and ancient ruins in almost every corner.
Plaka was developed mostly around the ruins of Ancient Agora of Athens in an area that has been continuously inhabited since antiquity. During the Greek War of Independence, Plaka like the rest of Athens was temporarily abandoned by its inhabitants because of the severe battles that took place in 1826. The area was repopulated during the first years of King Otto's rule. At the same period the neighborhood of Anafiotika, featuring traditional Cycladic architecture was built by settlers from the Aegean island of Anafi. Excavations have been taking place continuously since 19th century.
Nowadays, Plaka is a must see area away from the chaotic central of Athens since most street are pedestrian, so it is quite easy to wonder around. whether it is museums or archaeological sites, shopping, eating or drinking, just strolling and looking around or all of the above, Plaka is the perfect place to do so.