Rich with treasures, steeped in history and full of intrigue around every corner – welcome to Athens. If you love culture and history, then you are in the right place. Whilst there are many newfangled structures that you can admire, to get a true sense of Ancient Greece, you have to follow in the fabled footsteps of the Athenian greats and meander around some of the best historic sites in Athens.
Temple of Olympian Zeus
When in Athens, it’s important to keep it in the family and if you have ticked Athena off your must-visit historic, then why not mosey on over to the Temple of Olympian Zeus. Zeus’ temple took more than 600 years to complete and in its heyday would have been the largest temple in ancient Athens.
Sadly, the Temple of Olympian Zeus was destroyed less than 100 years after it was completed when it was desecrated after a savage invasion. Fast forward to the present day and only 16 columns of this iconic landmark remain, but even in its current incarnation, it still paints a compelling picture of what it might have looked like in ancient Greece.
Sitting atop of an ancient hill in the north of the city is Erechtheion. It’s hard to fathom how the ancient Greeks crafted this unusual temple and it is regarded as quite the feat of engineering, especially for its time. This unique temple was built in honour of both Athena and Poseidon – who was the God of the sea and waters, as well as the God of horses and earthquakes.
Both Athena and Poseidon battled each other in one of the biggest competitions in Ancient Greece and the victorious contender would have their name afforded to the city. Of course, Athena was the winner and subsequently became the city’s patron deity. The city’s most sacred temple, the Erechtheion, on the other hand, was shared between Athena and Poseidon.
It was crafted between 421 and 406 B.C.E to honour both Athena and Poseidon as well as to glorify the great city at the height of its power and influence.
Theatre of Dionysus
The phrase ‘Greek drama’ couldn’t be more apt when it comes to the theatre of Dionysus which sits on the Acropolis Hill. It is one of the most famous and well-preserved theatres from ancient Greece and was dedicated to Dionysus, the god of wine making and ecstasy.
Initial performances were theatrical reimaginings of plays written by the great tragic Greek poets and, whilst there are no records detailing the date it was created, it was widely thought that it would have been around the late 6th century, although it had been rebuilt several times.
Only 20 sections remain, all of which have been preserved and depict insightful inscriptions showing which thrones belonged to elected rulers and which were intended for the citizens of Athens.
Did you think we would miss the world-famous Acropolis off our list? This ancient citadel might be last on the list, but it certainly isn’t the least. The site itself is epic and it is the home to some of the most significant and important surviving buildings created in ancient Greece. It is one of the 18 UNESCO heritage sites and was the centre of Athens’s religious life for several centuries. Really, it’s no surprise that millions of tourists flock to see this site in Athens year after year.
This includes the Erechtheion, the Temple of Athena Nike and of course the Parthenon which sits at the highest point of the Acropolis, lording over the other monuments in the most majestic fashion.
The Parthenon was built between 447 B.C.E and 432 B.C.E and of course was an architectural dedication to guess who – none other than the goddess Athena! At over 2000 years old and a survivor of wars, sieges and fires, it is an enduring legacy to ancient Greece and is undoubtedly unmissable.
Statue of Athena
The Varvakeion Athena, the Roman reproduction of the original Statue of Athena can be found within the National Archaeological Museum of Athens. It is a marble copy of the Athena Parthenos, created by Phydias, that originally stood in the Parthenon and is considered to be the most accurate version of Athena. The museum is the largest of its kind in Greece and is one of the most important museums in the world thanks to its commitment to protecting antiquities from all over Greece.