15 Incredible Reasons To Visit Athens, Greece
Athens, Greece is one of the most famous cities in the world, primarily because of its prominence in human history. As a modern destination however it’s somewhat overshadowed by its own region, with the major cities of Italy and the beautiful Greek Isles getting more attention. These are all amazing places to visit, but there are some excellent reasons to visit and spend time in Athens as well. These are some that come to mind.
1. The Acropolis
The Acropolis is impossible to do justice to in any description, but UNESCO at least described it about as well as it can be done: a universal symbol of the classical spirit and civilization bequeathed by Greek antiquity to the world. Basically, it’s a plateau over the city of Athens where there are startlingly well-preserved remnants of the world of the Ancient Greeks - most notably the Parthenon, an old temple of Athena.
2. National Archaeological Museum
In a way it’s almost strange that Greece has an archaeological museum at all. The Acropolis is, after all, something of a museum in itself. However, the National Archaeological Museum is a top draw in the city, consisting of thousands of exhibits that include sculptures, everyday objects, pottery, and anything else you could think of from deep in Greece’s fascinating history.
3. The Plaka
The Plaka is effectively a neighborhood, or in a way the Athenian version of an “Old Town.” It’s located in the shadow of the Acropolis and is one of the pockets of the city in which cars aren’t allowed. This gives it a delightfully old-school vibe, as do the homes and cafés that exist around its winding streets. It’s a must-see area when in town.
4. The National Garden
The National Garden in Athens functions somewhat like a city park in that it offers a refuge from city life. Thousands of plants give it a lush, natural feel, and its multiple entrances on all sides make it accessible to much of the city.
5. The Temple Of Hephaestus
Some are surprised to learn just how many ancient structures there are in Athens beyond the Parthenon and its immediate surroundings on the Acropolis. But the Temple of Hephaestus is almost just as impressive, despite being nowhere near as famous. This temple was built in the 5th century B.C. and still stands in the ancient Agora.
6. Herod Atticus Odeon
Herod Atticus Odeon is a stunning outdoor amphitheater built into one of the slops leading up to the Acropolis. Theaters like this one are dotted around the ancient world, but this is one of the most impressive of them.
7. Greek Dining
Greek dining is famous around the world. It’s sort of a blend of traditional Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors with some of its own twists - perfectly suited for a nation that in ancient times represented a sort of midpoint between the eastern and western worlds. It’s a delicious cuisine, and while you can enjoy it in themed restaurants around the world, the freshness and authenticity of it in Greece is otherworldly.
8. The Temple Of Olympian Zeus
This temple, also called the Olympieion, was built over a 600-year period stretching from B.C. into A.D., and ultimately its finish was presided over by the Roman emperor Hadrian (who was known as something of a builder-emperor). Though it now consists of just over a dozen standing columns and is not on elevated ground like the Parthenon, it’s believed to have been the biggest temple in all of Greece when it stood in its entirety.
9. Nearby Casinos
For some reason, Athens doesn’t get much attention among Mediterranean casino sites. There was even a list written up of the best casinos to visit in 2018 and it included several Mediterranean sites, including in Istria, Malaga, and Barcelona. Athens didn’t make that list, but there are in fact some fun casinos in and around the city, which can make for a nice bit of entertainment alongside the sightseeing.
10. Acropolis Museum
Here again it doesn’t necessarily seem like a museum is needed given that the Acropolis displays plenty of ancient history all on its own. But the museum will show you specific artifacts and teach you more about the area, and so is well worth stopping by.
11. Byzantine Museum
When considering the glory of Ancient Greece it’s almost easy to forget how many other chapters of history influenced the land. The Byzantine Museum is a nice reminder in this regard. It exists in an old palace, consists of seemingly endless artifacts, and teaches you all about the post-Roman, pre-medieval Byzantine era of Greek history - which, incidentally, is one of the country’s most impressive chapters in terms of art and culture.
12. Wine Bars
Greece isn’t quite Italy when it comes to wine production, but Athens has become known for its wine bars. They’re all over the city and in many cases represent the best ways to enjoy a classy night out in town. Oinoscent and Fabrica de Vino are two particularly interesting places to check out.
13. Mount Lycabettus
Lycabettus is at this point something of a neighborhood within Greece. But the 300m mountain at its core is the attraction. It stands out on the Greek skyline as a fairly sharp peak with a base covered in evergreen. But you can actually scale this mid-size mountain, and you’ll find a 19th century chapel and an active restaurant on top!
14. The Agora
The concept of an agora is very much at the core of what we know about Greek culture. It was an artistic, political, and even athletic center of activity - a thriving, active area that more or less defined a city’s personality. Athens had its own, naturally, and you can still visit the ancient Agora (where you’ll find the Temple of Hephaestus, as mentioned).
15. Penteli Observatory
Moving away from history and culture, the Penteli Observatory is another very cool place to check out in Athens. In addition to providing some of the best views you can possibly enjoy of the city itself, the observatory houses a massive telescope through which visitors can see sensational glimpses of the night sky.
Jon Hunter is a writer and poet living in New York City. When he's not traveling, he enjoys trivia nights and visiting art museums around the city.