The Acropolis hill is considered a gem for Athens and all of Greece. With
the Parthenon temple still standing to remind us the grandeur of ancient
Greece, the Acropolis is truly a wonder of the world, containing four
The Parthenon was built between 447 and 432 B.C. and most of the artifacts
from the temple are housed today in the Acropolis museum near the Parthenon.
Also on the Acropolis are the Temple of Athena Nike, the Erechtheion and
the Propylaea. Just below the Acropolis hill are two ancient theaters:
the Dionysos and Odeon of Herod Atticus.
One of the oldest Greek theaters, built in the 4th century B.C., is the
Theater of Dionysus which hosted plays of Euripides, Aristophanes, Sophocles
The reconstructed Herod Atticus amphitheater is used during the summer
to host the Athens Festival. Truly one of the most impressive ancient
monuments in Athens it was built by the Roman ruler Herod Atticus in the
2nd century A.D., (the theater can seat 5,000 spectators and has 32 rows
The ancient Supreme Court, the Areopagus, is located just below the entrance
to the Acropolis. It was here where the first court of homicide was held
and where St. Paul addressed the Athenians in 54 A.D.
At the foot of the Acropolis is the Ancient Agora, known as the commercial
and public centre of ancient Athens. During the Classical Age, Sophocles
and Aristotle taught there. Although much of the marketplace is in ruins,
one can still distinguish the layout of the area. The museum nearby houses
many of the artifacts found in the area.
The Thesseion is located at one end of the Ancient Agora, and it was
first built in 450 B.C.
The Pnyx hill is located on the west side of the Acropolis, now serves
as the theater for the Sound & Light show every evening. But in ancient
times Pnyx, which offers a splendid view of the Acropolis and is a must
for photographers, was the meeting place for Athenians to decide issues.
Also facing the Acropolis is the Philopappou hill, with a funeral monument
of Philopappus (he was a Roman consul of the 2nd century A.D) located
on the top of it. A cave sighted on the Philopappou hill is believed to
have been the prison of Socrates and where he drank his fatal dose of
Once the verve of Athens is located on the north slope of the Acropolis.
Old-timers will tell you stories about Plaka being the centre of nightlife
activity, in the 19th century. It is a pleasant, cobblestone walkway and
cars are banned from most of the area. Narrow streets and winding stairways
and some old mansions are left reminding us of old Athens, which contained
a cluster of 500 houses.
There are taverns and numerous tourist shops in the Plaka area and some
ancient sites worth visiting. The Tower of the Winds, with its water clock,
sun dial and weather vane, built in the 1st century B.C., is a remarkable
octagonal monument. Each side has a relief depicting the wind that blows
from that direction.
At the west side of Plaka is the Roman Agora which includes Hadrian's
Library, built by the Roman ruler in the 2nd century A.D. The Monument
of Lysikratous , a well preserved 4th century B.C. monument rising 21
feet from its base is also worth visiting in the Plaka area.
If it's a bargain you are after and if you still have not decided what
souvenir to take back home, don't forget to visit the Monastiraki Flea
Market ! Here you will find shops selling a wide selection of souvenirs
for all tastes and budgets.
The best time to visit Monastiraki is on Sunday mornings, when the Flea
Market is running full and before the rush hour, later in the afternoon.
The Flea Market is next to the Monastiraki metro station and just off
the square with the same name.
Just two blocks up from Monastiraki Sq., heading towards Syntagma Sq.,
is the Greek Orthodox Cathedral known as Mitropolis. It is a massive structure
composed of stones from 72 demolished cathedrals around the city, destroyed
by the Turks. With an impressive interior, the cathedral was built in
the previous century.
Near the end of the Flea Market is the Keramikos Cemetery located on
Ermou St. going towards Pireos Ave. It was the famous burial ground for
the most important ancient citizens of Athens, (most of the finds of the
cemetery are in the museum within the foundation).
It is located at the end of Amalias Ave. and was built by the Roman ruler
in 132 A.D. to mark the boundaries of ancient Athens and his new city.
It is located near the Temple of Olympian Zeus.
Temple of Olympian Zeus
The largest ancient temple in Greece is the Temple of Olympian Zeus. Its
building started in the beginning of the 6th century B.C. and was not
completed until 700 years later. The temple was dedicated to the supreme
god Zeus and 14 of its original 104 very tall Corinthian style columns
still stand today.
It is now recognized as the center of Athens, an acre-large plaza filled
with outdoor caf?, trees and a fountain in the center. (Here, is also
the Syntagma metro Stat.). In Syntagma someone will find every type of
tourist shops and shopping malls, airline offices, banks, fast food restaurants
and other restaurants as well as first class hotels. Also called Constitution
Square by foreigners, is facing the Parliament building. In front of the
Parliament is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier , where all visiting dignitaries
lay wreaths, and is guarded day and night by two soldiers (called: evzones)
dressed in the traditional skirted uniforms. On Sundays at 10.30 A.M.
the soldiers, accompanied by a military band, march from the Parliament
building in full regalia. Across Syntagma is the best known Grande Bretagne
hotel, established in 1862, has become a landmark in Athens and its seven
floors have hosted dignitaries from around the world.
It is located behind the Parliament building. The park has numerous walkways
surrounded by all kinds of trees. There are also two small artificial
lakes filled with ducks and swans, a playground for the youngsters and
plenty of benches.
Inside the National Garden is the Zappeion Hall which was built to be
used during the 1st Modern Olympic Games in 1896 . The hall now is used
for cultural and commercial exhibitions.
It is situated across the National Garden, on Vas. Konstantinou Ave. and
hosted the 1st Modern Olympic Games in 1896. The stadium can seat up to
90,000 spectators and is sometimes used for major sporting events and
concerts. During the 2004 Olympic Games, the events of Archery and Marathon
finish will be hosted there. It is also called Panathinaiko Stadium or
Kallimarmaron by the locals, and is located at the same site where the
ancient Athenians had a stadium built in 330 B.C.
In earlier times when the country was ruled by monarchs it was the Royal
Palace. The palace was originally built as a home for the crown prince
in the previous century but is now used by the President to host dignitaries.
The Presidential Palace is located on Herodes Atticus St. behind the National
Garden. Outside the Presidential Palace is an evzone guard.
On the way to Omonia Sq. from Syntagma Sq. on Panepistimiou St., is the
impressive neoclassic University, National Library and Academy buildings,
all built in the previous century.
The next important square after Syntagma is Omonia Sq. (where the metro
stat. is located) which is considered to be the most crowded place in
Athens. It offers many hotels and tourist shops, fast food restaurants,
snack bars and coffee shops, shopping malls, kiosks and banks.
The highest hill inside Athens, offering a panoramic view of the city.
On the top of the 912-foot high hill is a small 19th century chapel of
St. George. Not far is a cafeteria. You can reach the top of Mt. Lycabettus
either by foot, by car or by a funicular (railway) which can be taken
Pedion Areos Park
A large park on Alexandra Ave. has a playground and plenty of shady areas.
Yet another escape route in the busy Athens.
In the centre of Athens half a dozen Byzantine era churches of interest
to visitors are located.
Near the Mitropoleos Sq. is St. Eleftherios, a small church built in
marble and decorated with a frieze, containing several interesting icons
inside. The church is also known as Panaghia Gorgoepikos and was built
in the 13th century. Aghia Kapnikareas is right in the middle of one of
the busiest streets of Athens, Ermou St. This little 10th century church
has a double dome and a number of tiny roofs. The 11th century Church
of Aghias Dynamis is unique in that it is situated in the middle of a
sidewalk on Mitropoleos St. beneath an arcade.
Aghii Theodori near Klathmonos Sq. was also built in the 11th century
and has some very interesting wall paintings.
Near the Thesseion is yet another 11th century church that has been restored,
Aghii Apostoli. It was among the first Athenian churches. The 11th century
Church of Aghios Nikodimos at Filellinon St. has become since 1949 a Russian
Orthodox church. It was restored by the Czar Nicholaos I and Alexander
Other Greece Attractions
Steeped in Homeric history and culture, scented by wild fennel and basil,
Crete welcomes and overwhelms visitors with its wealth of myths, legends
and history, a blessed and dramatic landscape, an extraordinary fusion
of past and present, and an abundance of choices and experiences.
Crete was the birthplace of one of Europe's oldest and most fascinating
civilisations, the Minoan. Iraklio, the capital, has some fine musuems
in which you can learn more about the island's history, or you can visit
the ancient Minoan site of Knossos. Hania has a beautiful old Venetian
Whitewashed walls, deep blue sky, olive groves, fig trees, azure Aegean
waters...the heavenly Dodecanese Islands have all this and more. In this
diverse group of islands you can experience the traditional life without
the tourist trappings.
This Dionysian group of islands is perched on the easternmost edge of
the Aegean, where ancient history jumps out at you at every turn. Island-hop
your way to heaven, or just indulge in a spot of people-watching in the
bar and beach scene of the big resorts.
Give into temptation and succumb to the lure of the idyllic Ionian group
of islands - Corfu, Paxi, Lefkada, Kefallonia, Ithaki, Zakynthos and Kythira
- far more lush than those barren Aegean islands, and tinged with a distinctly
Each island has its idiosyncrasies of culture and cuisine, and differing
dollops of European and British influences. Their surfeit of charms include
mountainside monasteries, Venetian campaniles, unspoilt villages, ancient
olive groves, famous wines, white beaches and ludicrously blue-heaven
The monasteries of Meteora are one of the most extraordinary sights in
mainland Greece. Built into and on top of huge pinnacles of smooth rock,
the earliest monasteries were reached by climbing articulated removable
ladders. Later, windlasses were used so monks could be hauled up in nets,
a method used until the 1920s.
The monasteries provided monks with peaceful havens from increasing bloodshed
as the Byzantine Empire waned at the end of the 14th century.
Apprehensive visitors enquiring how often the ropes were replaced were
told 'When the Lord lets them break'. These days access to the monasteries
is by steps hewn into the rocks and the windlasses are used only for hauling
Northeastern Aegean Islands
There are seven major islands in the northeastern group: Samos, Chios,
Ikaria, Lesvos, Limnos, Samothraki and Thasos. Huge distances separate
them, so island hopping is not as easy as it is within the Cyclades and
Dodecanese. Most of these islands are large and have very distinctive
characters. Samos, the birthplace of philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras,
is lush and humid with mountains skirted by pine, sycamore and oak-forested
hills. Egg-shaped Samothraki has dramatic natural attributes, culminating
in the mighty peak of Mt Fengari, which looms over valleys of massive
gnarled oak and plane trees, thick forests of olive trees and damp dark
glades where waterfalls plunge into deep icy pools.
Greece's southern peninsula is rich in history and scenically diverse.
Packed into its northeastern corner are the ancient sites of Epidaurus,
Corinth and Mycenae. The ghostly Byzantine city of Mystras clambers up
the slopes of Mt Taygetos, its winding paths and stairways leading to
deserted palaces and fresco-adorned churches.
Saronic Gulf Islands
The five Saronic Gulf islands are the closest of all to Athens, and Salamis
is virtually a suburb of the capital. Aegina, Hydra, Spetses and Poros
are all surprisingly varied in architecture and terrain, but they all
receive an inordinate number of tourists and are expensive. Hydra, once
the rendezvous of artists, writers and beautiful people, is now overrun
with holiday-makers but manages to retain an air of superiority and grandeur.
Motor vehicles, including mopeds, are banned from the island: donkeys
There are four inhabited islands in this mountainous and pine-forested
northern archipelago: Skiathos, Skopelos, Alonnisos and Skyros. They are
all heavily touristed and expensive. People go to Skiathos for the exquisite
beaches and the nightlife; if you're there for anything else, you'll probably
leave quickly. Skopelos is less commercialised than Skiathos, but is following
hot on its trail. There are some lovely sheltered beaches, but they are
often pebbled rather than sandy. Alonnisos is still a serene island, partly
because the rocky terrain makes building an airport runway impossible.
The water around Alonnisos has been declared a marine park and consequently
is the cleanest in the Aegean. Every house has a cesspit, so no waste
goes into the sea. Skyros is less developed than the other three, designed
to attract posers rather than package tourists.
Stuck out in the Libyan Sea south of Crete, Gavdos Island is the most
southerly place in Europe. Rumour has it that this was the island where
Calypso the sea nymph held Odysseus captive on his way home from the Trojan
War. The island has three small villages and pleasant beaches, and it
is perfect for those craving isolation.
The Little Cyclades islands were densely populated in antiquity, as evident
from the large number of graves that have been found, but these days they
are inhabited only by a few goatherds and an increasing, though still
relatively small, number of visitors attracted to the pristine beaches.
Santorini is regarded by many as the most spectacular of the Greek islands.
Thousands come to marvel at its sea-filled caldera, a vestige of what
was probably the world's largest volcanic eruption. Its landscapes of
blue-domed roofs, dazzling white walls and black-sand beaches contrast
the charming with the unearthly.
The eruption that caused the caldera is believed by some myth-makers
to have caused the disappearance of Atlantis. The island's violent volcanic
history is visible everywhere you look - in its black beaches, earthquake-damaged
dwellings and raw cliffs of lava plunging into the sea. Volcanic activity
has been low-key for the past few decades, but minor tremors occur pretty
frequently and experts reckon the caldera could bubble up once again at
any moment. For lovers of impermanence and drama, no other place even
To get some background into this island's extraordinary history, head
to the Megaron Gyzi museum of local memorabilia in Fira, with fascinating
photos of the town before and after the disastrous 1956 quake. The Museum
of Prehistoric Thira houses impressive finds from the ancient site of
Akrotiri, destroyed in the 1650 BC eruption. Look out for the gold ibex
figurine, found in mint condition in 1999 and dating from the 17th century
Grey rocky mountains, mottled with defiant clumps of green scrub, characterise
the inner Mani region of the Peloponnese. The people of the Mani claim
to be direct descendants of the Spartans, the fierce warriors who chose
to withdraw to the mountains rather than serve under foreign masters.
Until independence, the Maniots lived in clans led by chieftans. With
fertile land scarce, blood-feuds were a way of life, so families constructed
towers to use as refuges. To this day Maniots are regarded by Greeks as
fiercely independent, royalist and right-wing. Areopoli, the capital of
the Mani, is aptly named after Ares, the god of war. In the narrow, cobbled
streets of the old town, grim tower houses stand proud and vigilant. The
Diros caves, 11km (6.8mi) south of Areopoli, were inhabited by Neolithic
people and may extend as far north as Sparta. Visitors are taken on a
boat trip along the subterranean river through narrow tunnels and immense
caverns filled with myriad clusters of stalactites and stalagmites. Further
south, there are stark, barren mountains, broken only by deserted settlements
of mighty towers. Vathia, the most dramatic of the traditional villages
in this region, is a barnacle-like cluster of tower houses perched on
a lofty rock.
As with many inaccessible mountainous areas in Greece, the Zagoria villages
maintained a high degree of autonomy in Turkish times, so their culture
flourished. The houses are built of slate and the villages, with their
winding cobbled and stepped streets, look as if they've leapt straight
out of Grimm's fairy tales.