It is impossible to be in the historical centre of Athens and not to be impressed by the long history of the city. According to archaeological finds, the first inhabitants must have been here over 9000 years ago. However, it is around the 5th century BC when Athens flourished. This period is called the “Golden Age of Pericles”. During that time the city became an important cultural and commercial centre. Meanwhile, the first known type of democracy was born.
Nowadays, millions of people visit the historical centre of Athens annually. At the same time, it is an important hub and part of the everyday life of the locals. In particular, in 2004 the creation of a long pedestrian street around the Acropolis connected the most important archaeological sites. Therefore, the historical centre feels like an open, living museum where you can walk away from the bustle of the city.
Wear your comfortable shoes, your hat and sunscreen and get ready for a walk around the historical centre of Athens!
Undeniably, a visit to the Acropolis hill is a must. This is where the Parthenon stands, the temple dedicated to Athena, the patron goddess of the city of Athens. Next to it stand the smaller temple of Erechtheio with the famous “Caryatides”, the six female statues serving as architectural support. Further, you will meet the temple of Athina Nike. It stands to the right of the Acropolis entrance. Although Acropolis literally means the highest point of the city, this is not true in the case of Athens, as it is the Lecabetus hill that has the highest altitude.
After visiting the “Sacred Rock”, head straight to the Acropolis Museum. There, you will find exhibitions of artefacts found in the area, narrating the story of the human presence on the Acropolis from pre-historic times through late Antiquity.
Video by the Acropolis Museum
Plaka and Anafiotika
Continue your tour to the historical centre of Athens following the pedestrian street just above the Museum. Visit Plaka, one of Athens oldest neighbourhoods with neoclassical mansions, little souvenir shops and tavernas. From here you can also walk up the northeast side of Acropolis hill to the neighbourhood of Anafiotika. Keeping the Cycladic architectural style, brought here by the workers who came here from the island of Anafi to refurbish King Othon’s Palace, the narrow streets and whitewashed houses resemble an island in the heart of Athens.
Dionysiou Areopagitou street and Odeon of Herodes Atticus
Next, you can walk down the Dionysiou Areopagitou pedestrian street, where the locals take their evening stroll. Here you will meet a variety of street musicians and local artists giving amazing performances. If you visit during the summer season, you are going to meet a lot of formally dressed people here. These are the spectators of the ancient theatre of Odeon of Herodes Atticus. Indeed, it would be a great opportunity for you too to watch a play or a concert at the theatre that stands under the Acropolis since Roman times.
Thession, Monastiraki, Kerameikos
Thession, Philopappos Hill, Pnyx
With Acropolis at your right-hand side, continue towards the neighbourhood of Thession. It is a very lively area due to nice cafès and restaurants you will find there. Thession is located under the hill of Philopappos with the Roman Monument and the Pnyx where the Athenians used to hold their assemblies in ancient times. Nowadays, the locals come here to enjoy this lung of green, to walk their dogs or have a picnic.
Ancient Agora, Monastiraki & Syntagma square, Panathenaic Stadium
Once you reach Thession you have two options. The first one is to continue by the ancient Agora with the temple of Hephestus towards the flea market of Monastiraki and follow Ermou Street to the Greek Parliament, at Syntagma Square. The National Gardens and the remainings of the Temple of Olympian Zeus are nearby, as well as the Panathenaic Stadium which hosted the first modern Olympic Games in 1896.
Kerameikos, Metaxourgio, Psyri
The second option is to head towards the ancient cemetery of Kerameikos and the neighbourhoods of Metaxourgio and Psyri an area with an increasing number of restaurants, antique shops and a vivid nightlife.
The Panathenaic Stadium or “Kallimarmaro”, the stadium of the first Modern Olympic Games in the historical centre of Athens. Photo by form PxHere, licensed.
If you are a traveller that loves history and culture don’t miss Laura’s post about her experiences in the historical centre of Athens.
Post featured photo by Alexander Hood, licensed.