Athens is definitely one of the best cities in Greece – with 12 top sites to visit.
12 Top Sites to visit in Athens, Greece.
And most of the main attractions are nicely grouped together.
Athens is the home of ancient treasures. Our very first destination was the Panathenaic Stadium. The world’s ancient Olympics were here, as well as the first modern Olympics in 1896! Then, in the 2004 Olympics, the stadium was used for the historic marathon finish and archery contests.
As a stadium, it’s horseshoe shaped, although the track is an oval. The track is pretty narrow and the 400 m is a bitch. Now 2600 after it was built, it’s no longer flat either, but slopy! Today, this theatre would cost a fortune as it was built 100% in marble! Nothing but the best for the goddess Athena, in whose honor the Panathenic Games (first Olympics) were held. Today, you can go for a jog there between 7.30 – 9 am – although do check Covid restrictions before you leave.
You can see it for free from the outside but it’s about a $5 to visit the inside.
Theater of Dionysus
The Stadium is next to the rocky hill of the Acropolis – the most famous hill in all of Greece with several top sites to visit in Athens. On the south side of the Acropolis lies Theater of Dionysus, classical Greek plays were first presented. It was the first stone theatre ever created. The theatre was build to honor Dionysus, who is the god of fertility. Some fun fact: a large statue of the god had been placed in the front row so that the god himself could watch the plays. According to tradition, in 534 or 535 BC, Thespis astounded audiences by leaping on to the back of a wooden cart and reciting poetry as if he was the characters whose lines he was reading. In doing so he became the world’s first actor, in the Theater of Dionysus.
The building next to it on the Acropolis is the Parthenon — the ultimate top site to visit in Athens, On the list of the UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, the Parthenon is Greece’s most famous temple – and there are many temples in Greece – trust me! The temple is dedicated to the goddess Athena, from which the city derives its name. The temple has 65 imposing giant columns and maintaining / restoring the site seems an ongoing operation. The site dates back to between 447 and 438 B.C. It’s truly ancient. Pro travellers tip: go see the temple at (sunrise or) sunset for the most splendid pictures with literally ‘glowing’ marble. On the North side of the hill, you’ll also find a second temple, Erectheion, another Greek temple, which personally love even more as it features statues of beautiful ladies (Caryatids) rather than columns.
Athens houses some of the world’s greatest museum collections. And of course, let’s start with the Acropolis Museum (which sits at the foot of the Acropolis, and which first gallery exhibits ‘The Finds of the Acropolis Slopes’ , flowing on to galleries of the various ages of the Acoropolis. Then, on the 3rd floor is the Parthenon gallery, and this is where you’ll find all the statues that used to be in the Parthenon. The museum is as vast as the Parthenon was large with: thousands of marble and stone busts and statues!
After all this sightseeing, it’s time for some relaxation and/or shopping therapy?!* Below the Acropolis, is the restored historical Plaka neighborhood. Here you can shop for olive oil soaps, worry beads, handmade leather sandals, evil eye talismans and handmade Greek pottery, or simply sip a drink or have some lunch at a local bar and do some people watching. (BTW Plaka is a great neighborhood to stay if you’re a first time visitor to Athens.)
Monastiraki Flea Market
Worthy of its own mentioning, it is the colorful and large Monastiraki Flea market, also ‘right there’. Think of this as a ‘flea market’-neighborhood! In this maze of alleys and pedestrian streets, you can shop for some authentic relics, antiques and jewelry, or some indigenous flavors, besides artisanal soaps, handmade sandals and souvenir T-shirts. This lively area also hosts some well-known iconic landmarks, like the ruins of Hadrian’s Library, the Ancient Agora and the rebuilt Stoa of Attalos. The remains of both the Greek and Roman agoras remind us that in ancient times, this also was an area to shop. The streets surrounding the market areas are filled with traditional tavernas and restaurants, many with splendid Acropolis views.
Rooftop Bar Sunset
Talking about sunsets, we recommend visiting one of Athens’ rooftop bars that overlook the Acropolis. There’s https://aforathens.com/bar-restaurant/, https://www.tripadvisor.ca/Restaurant_Review-g189400-d866612-Reviews-Galaxy_Restaurant_Bar-Athens_Attica.html or try the Tudor Hall restaurant (https://www.tudorhall.gr/) on the 7th floor of the https://www.marriott.com/en-us/hotels/athgl-king-george-a-luxury-collection-hotel-athens/overview/ .
National Archaeological Museum
When restored, time for more sight seeing?! How about the National Archaeological Museum? This is really a MUST-DO, even if you’re not so ‘into museums’. Amongst its 11,000 Greek arti-facts and treasures, the highlights to look out for:
The Antikythera mechanism – hand tool used to calculate the dates of religious holidays.
the Santorini frescoes.
the gilded funeral mask of King Agamemnon of Mycenae (15th century B.C).
a life-size bronze statue of a boy riding a horse, named ‘Jockey of Artemision’.
delicate golden hairnets adorned with small busts of Aphrodite or Artemis.
Not sure when you’ll be travelling to visit Athens, but on Sunday 11:00 am** you can witness the changing of the guards (in traditional uniforms) before the Hellenic Parliament Building at Syntagma Square. Quite a spectacle! Syntagma Square is considered the centre of Athens. Besides the changing of the guards, the square also ‘hosts’ major events like political demonstrations and celebrations. This is located on the NE corner of the National Garden (i.e. which is diagonally opposite of the park to where the “Olympic” Panathenaic stadium is situated.) ** A mini version of it all is on the top of the hour, every hour, every day.
Akadimia Platonos or… Lycabettus Hill
Athens is also the birthplace of Plato ( 428-348 BCE), where he founded the world’s first university, The Academy, in the 380s BCE. Remnants of the buildings where he used to teach remain in park ‘Akadimia Platonos‘ on the outskirts of Athens.
Whether you are aware of it or not, Plato is still very much alive today in modern America. His most famous work is the Republic, which details a wise society run by a philosopher. His famous dialogues showcase his metaphysical theory of forms. OK. It’s not that this park is so ‘amazing’ to look at. And it’s out of the way too. More important perhaps is that you become aware of the many amazing roots our western society has in ancient Athens, Greece.
So, if this park is a tat too far to your itiniary, consider taking a stroll in the Lycabettus Hill, which is a popular park for locals to go. There is a little cable car that takes you to the top of the hill in 10 minutes and gives you a spectacular panoramic view of the city. Lycabettus Hill is located a bit north of the other sites mentioned here, and again, is particularly popular at sunset.
An alternative park is Philopappos hills. You can climb up on it and gain some amazing views.
Agora of Athens
This ancient landmark is the most famous agora of Greece. Today, you can visit the ruins of what once was a gathering place & a museum with arti-facts. It’s near the Acropolis and the Monastiraki square. Sort of inbetween.
Gateway to the Greek islands
Athens is also the gateway to the Greek islands and other places to visit in Greece, such as Delphi. Most airlines fly into Athens for any greek destination.
Your Tour to See the Top Sites in Athens
The suggested tour around Athens: Acropolis + Acropolis Museum, the ancient Agora of Athens. Then walk to Temple of Olympian Zeus, Hadrian’s Arch, Stadium and Botanical Gardens.
Best Daytrip out of Athens: the Athens Riviera!
Take a tour to Cape Sounion and be sure to see the Temple of Poseidon (God of the Sea) along the way.
Check out Aimanakia. Athenian Riviera
Or Monastery of Kaisariani, only 8 km out of Athens…
Lake Marathon is eight kilometers west of the Marathon village, on the road to the Church of Ayios Stéfanos. Marathon was celebrated in antiquity as the place where Theseus killed the bull of Marathon and the scene of the first great battle between the Greeks and Persians in 490 BC.
As there is obviously a lot of walking involved, it makes sense to wear comfortable shoes. Furthermore, some sites actually prohibit high heel shoes as they may damage the property!
Buy the combined ticket for the Acropolis and surrounding attactions.
Some food recommendations in Athens:
Mam – Cheese pie
Kostas Soulvaki – pork souvlaki
Souvlaki Lefteris o Politis – kebab spicy souvlaki
Diporto – old style Athens food
Taverna Agrinio – amazing grilled meat
Taverna Moschos – seafood
Taverna To Trigono – grilled meat, incredible lamb
Just in case you are ‘all excited’ about learning THE 10 best things in Paris, I have to warn you that there really isn’t an agreed up ‘top 10’ of best things to visit in Paris.
What constitutes ‘best’ depends on who you are and what excites you. However, most of the ‘Top 10’ destinations within Paris that I’m highlighting here should be included in the itinerary of any visit to Paris, as they are of international fame and universal interest.
Paris has always been a place for kings, royal prestige, art and romance. So, in this context then, let me offer …
Oh, London — That centre of everybody’s travel dreams. London is has a huge variety of attractions, historical, contemporary, fashion, literature, music, theatre, business, and last but not least, tourist attractions. Choosing the Top 10 Attractions In London is bound to leave out a few excellent alternatives, but at least you’ll know that you can’t go wrong with the 10 I picked for you now.
Starting with tourist attractions, most surprisingly for London being a world city and one of the best tourist destinations for all budgets, luxury … down to budget tourist accommodation available,…. many of the London’s best tourist attractions are FREE for visitors.
This museum hosts just the best range of objects that will fascinate and tickle the imagination of young and old. You can find arti-facts from around the world from prehistoric to modern times. Does that mean there are dinosaurs there on display??? Take a look and find out… It’s free.
One of the world’s most important museums. It is Britain’s national museum of modern art and hold very important expositions of world famous contemporary artists. It is located in an iconic former power station. Unique. Worthy of a visit. And best of all, your visit to the permanent collection will be free.
Ah,… you guessed it right! THIS is the museum where you can find the infamous dinosaurs in London. The museum houses the collection of the biggest, tallest and rarest animals in the world. And yes, it is FREE!
It’s obvious. 10 months of the year, Malta is scuba divers and swimmers’ haven. Then, the temperature really drops in January and February, and we’re all ashore. Now what?!! While there is plenty of boozing up to do in places like Valletta, in truth, there are a few way-more cultural things to do as well. In fact, some are simply out of this world. Like to be entertained and ensure that the kids won’t go crazy but learn something new that they can’t get in school?
Here’s our top 5 Best Things to do in Malta in Winter (that are great things to do, year-round).
1) Visit the Elephants!
Did you know that in prehistoric times Malta did have dwarf elephants walking around? Yep, they did. The prehistoric ‘Ghar Dalam Cave’ in the South of Malta holds an interesting museum with remains of a dwarf elephant from 500,000 years ago. Think: Ice Age!
2) Visit the oldest calendar in the world.
No comparison to what your grandma has hanging in the kitchen, this calendar has monolithic proportions and consists of gigantic stones. Think of sizes like 1 x 1x 3 m.
I am not going to show you how the calendar works — suspense — but you can find it in the beautiful megalithic temple, Mnajdra, next to the Ħaġar Qim temple.
3) Visit Ħaġar Qim, next to the calendar temple, dedicated to Mother Earth.
Ħaġar Qim is a megalithic temple complex in Il-Qrendi. It stems from the Ġgantija phase. That is 3600 – 3200 BC. Now, that’s old. It is among the most ancient religious sites on Earth.
4) Visit Valletta’s Dockyard.
Surrounded by water and sited on the most strategic location in all of Europe when it comes to international water ways, Valletta once upon a time was all about ships.
The Knights of Malta created the dockyard in the Grand Harbour for their fleet of galleys in Medieval times. Up from Valletta’s high points along its walls, and on ferries between Vittoriosa /Senglea and Valleta you can have magnificent views of the dockyards.
Medieval history is followed by a wealth of British and other navy battles and boats. Even if you have no interest in the history of boats, still go for a walk along the city walls or the water’s edge as the harbour and dockyard in the evening offers very pretty views.
5) ‘Wine and Dine’ by waters’s edge.
Or wine and lunch, for that matter. This has been a most enjoyable past time in places as far ranging as ‘Otters’ overlooking the sea at Marsarlforn Bay in Gozo to ‘Enchante’ in Senglea (overlooking the harbour of Vittoriosa on Malta). Both incredibly good value places. Excellent food and service with reasonable prices.
Those are my top 5 things to do in Malta in Winter. Hope you and your family enjoy them too.
Enjoying la dolce vita in Italy is easy for the Italians. They know just how their system works, what to do, where to go and how to go about things.
1. Behave like a good guest.
Even if you speak a few words of Italian, rest assured, everyone will instantly know that you are not Italian. To travel well in Italy, you don’t need to desperately try to look and be Italian, it just means you should be yourself, as a good guest. Being a good guest means playing things by the Italian rules. One of these would be to not touch things in stores like you normally would in North America. It’s not done.
2. Adapt to local circumstances.
Expect to experience Italy in Italy and not North America in an Italian setting. There is no two ways about it: the Italians do things in their own peculiar ways. E.g. You have to go to this counter to pay and to that counter to pick up your meat or bakery goods. One handles the money, the other the food.
Just when you think they are extremely good with hygiene, don’t be surprised if you find no toilet paper, soap, nor a toilet seat in many public places, cafes and restaurants. Don’t bother complaining about it. Just bring your own gear along.
These two examples might be easy to fit in with. Much harder on the American mind is the fact that shops and restaurants have their own set hours. Shops open in the morning and close at 1 pm for lunch. Restaurants start lunch at 1 pm till 3 pm, and are close till 8 pm when they open again for dinner. Set an alarm clock to wake up early so you can get things done and bring a few snacks along to help you manage this rather rigid restaurant schedule.
Overall, enjoy rather than get annoyed when things are arranged differently than they are at home. After all, this is why you are in Italy. To experience something new. Relax, and enjoy some more gelato as you find something else to do because whatever you planned is closed, and none knows when they will open again because someone is on strike.
3. Be polite.
Italians are generally courteous and polite and certain manners will open doors for you. Italians say ‘buon giorno’ when they walk into the shop, and not only the shop keeper but also the other clients greet them back. Just participate in this by saying ‘buon giorno’ when you walk into a store. Observe local politeness and follow suit.
4. Practice walking before your trip and bring sensible shoes.
I always advice guests to take their smaller children for long walks for a few weeks prior to coming for a visit to Italy. Italy means walking. And bring and wear comfortable, flat shoes while here.
Between uneven cobble stones outside(see photo) and slippery marble floors inside, Italian flooring is a challenge.
While you will see young Italian fashionistas wearing super high heels, realize that they usually are not walking very far, i.e. just from their little scooter to the coffee shop. They are certainly not going on a 5 mile sight-seeing tour through Rome like you may be. So, be like an Italian grandmother instead: wear flat, comfortable shoes and you’ll be so happy that you did.
Italia is best experienced rather than raced through. Yes, it’s true: Italia is one big giant outdoor museum and there is just soo much to be seen. However, to get the best out of your Italian trip, you have to actually slow down, have fewer plans and go with the flow. In practical terms that mean that you should spend at least 3-4 days in each location and do a lot fewer sights than are on offer. Just pick a top 3 and add if you have time. Remember that the best thing about visiting Italy is simply being there.