With landmarks that are centuries old, if not millennia, you can’t visit Athens without going on a historic site-crawl from monument to monument.
With a rich 3,000 year old history, Athens is one of the world’s oldest cities, and there are plenty of thousand-year-old Byzantine churches, ottoman architecture, and ruins that pre date Christianity to explore.
Being an EU member in the Schengen Area most people can travel back in time to ancient Athens quite easily, though before doing so it’s important to check if you need to organize an ETIAS for Greece.
After that’s sorted, the following are the best monuments you should visit!
The Best Monuments to Visit in Athens
It’s in every travel guide, on every postcard, and on every top list regarding Athens, and that’s because this is one monument it would be an absolute shame to miss.
The Acropolis is the most important ancient site in the Western world. It is a collection of ancient buildings crowned by the Parthenon, and stands sentinel over Athens, visible from almost everywhere within the city.
The Parthenon is the most famous building of the Acropolis, a large temple dating back around 2,400 years. It has powerful Doric pillars that will make you feel tiny, and incredible details woven into the structure.
The Acropolis of Athens is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, preserved as a universal symbol of the classical spirit and of human civilization. It is possibly the most striking and complete ancient Greek monumental complex that still exists today.
The Acropolis is open from 8am to 6:30 pm every day. Entrance costs roughly 20 Euro, which also allows you entry into the Ancient Agora, Kerameikos, Roman Agora, Tower of the Winds and the Temple of Olympian Zeus.
Odeon of Herodes Atticus
The Odeon of Herodes Atticus is absolutely worth a visit; an open-air, semi-circular stone amphitheater that is situated in the southwest of Athens, built in 161 AD, and still used for performances to this day.
The theater was actually destroyed 100 years after it was built, though has gone through much restoration over the years (particularly during the 1950s). It has hosted the likes of of Frank Sinatra and Luciano Paverotti, and performances continue to be held here – there is seating for up to 5,000.
With its ancient Roman arches and three story stage building, this is known as Athens’ most majestic stage. From the Athens Art Festival, to majestic ballets and arias, and ancient Greek tragedies, witnessing a performance here under the night sky is completely magic.
Events are held between May to early October. If you’re visiting out of season, you can get a great shot of the theater during your visit to the Acropolis; the climb up to the Acropolis allows you to peer down into the odeon from above.
Image credit: Thodorisv [CC BY-SA 4.0] via Wikimedia Commons
Another area to check out is the Panathenaic Stadium; an ancient-turned modern multi-purpose stadium with a capacity of 45,000, although in 1896 it could fit 80,000.
The stadium was built in limestone in 330 BC, and rebuilt in marble in 144 AD by Herodes Atticus. It was originally built for the ancient Panathenaic Games which were held every four years in Athens from 566 BC to the 3rd century AD, and then for the first ever modern Olympics in 1896.
Between the 4th century AD and the Olympics in the 1890’s, the stadium was largely abandoned, though despite undergoing many transformations in the late 19th century, still remains the only stadium in the world built entirely out of marble.
Locals today call the stadium “Kallimarmaro” (made of fine marble). Fun fact: the word “stadium” comes from the ancient Greek measure of length, where one “stadion” was approximately 185 metres and equivalent to the length of the track.
A ticket gets you an audio tour, admission to a small exhibit on the modern Olympics, and the chance to take your photo on a winners’ pedestal. If you want to feel like an elite athlete in training, the stadium welcomes morning joggers every day from 7.30 am – 9am.
Image credit: George E. Koronaios [CC BY-SA 4.0] via Wikimedia Commons
National Archaeology Museum
Image credit: Zde [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons
The largest archaeological museum in Greece and one of the most important museums devoted to ancient Greek art in the world, the National Archaeology Museum is a great way to see many historically significant antiques in one place.
The museum was founded at the end of the 19th century to house and protect antiquities from all over Greece, and today provides a home for over 11,000 exhibits which date back to the Neolithic period.
The building is a landmark in itself; an imposing neoclassical building, built at the end of the 19th century, with dozens of halls on each floor, and many incredible exhibits.
There are five major permanent collections: the collection of prehistoric antiquities, the collection of sculpture works, the vase and miniature collection, the collection of metalworking works, and the unique for Greece collection of Egyptian and Eastern Antiquities with works of art, dating from the pre-emptive period (5000 BC) to the times of the Roman conquest.
Don’t miss The Mask of Agamemnon; dating back to the Greek Bronze Age, made in the 16th century BC, this is a gold death mask that was discovered in 1876 in Mycenae. It was used to cover the face of an important person upon death.
On display is also the Antikythera Mechanism, thought to be the world’s first ever computer. The mechanical device spent 2,000 years under the sea before it was discovered by sponge divers off the coast of the island Antikythera in 1901.