The ancient city of Athens is the birthplace of western civilisation democracy, arts, science and philosophy and was the home of Plato and Socrates amongst others, while still dominating its 5th Century sites including the incredible hilltop Citadel of the Acropolis.
The Acropolis is the most recognised structure in Athens. Built on a rocky outcrop above the city, the highlights are the Parthenon, a former Temple and dedicated to the goddess Athena. It is seen as one of the highest achievements of the Doric Order and Classical Greece’s most significant building. The 420 B.C. Temple of Athena Nike was the first completed Ionic Order Temple built on the hill and dedicated to the two goddesses Athena and Nike. The Propylaea, which serves as the Gateway and the Erectheion, the ancient Greek Temple on the north side of the Acropolis dedicated to both Athena and Poseidon. On the high stylobate of the south porch of the Erechtheion there are six maidens, who take the place of columns in supporting the entablature.
In 2009, the Acropolis Museum was unveiled to house the many thousands of artefacts, which were discovered on the archaeological site of the Acropolis. Sitting over three levels you will be taken on a chronological journey through the centuries, starting with the hill’s archaic discoveries in a large trapezoidal hall that also has discoveries from the Erechtheion, the Propylaea Gateway and the Temple of Athena Nike. Continue to marvel at the marbles from the frieze (including metopes) and the pediments of the Parthenon in a hall with the same dimensions, column spacing and orientation as the Temple. The museum was built over ancient ruins and the ground floor has glass panels showing the foundations below.
The National Archaeological Museum is a paradise of ancient art, where the galleries are packed with exhibits and where you can see the 16th Century Mask of Agamemnon, a gold funerary mask most likely made for Mycenaean Royalty.
The local gastronomy should be enjoyed while in Athens from Spanakopita, a savoury Spinach, Feta and Onion pie to Tiropita a traditional Cheese and Egg pie or the trusted Souvlaki with meat garnished with Onions, Tomatoes and Tzatziki all wrapped up in pita bread. With so much on offer you will be in foodie heaven and don't forget to try an Ouzo or two.
The Plaka sits in the shadow of the Acropolis with its alleyways and 19th Century facades decorated with flowering Bougainvillea. Here you will find lots of family run shops selling everything from ceramics to handmade jewellery to specialty foods, olives and spices. From the Plaka you can walk to Monastiraki, a characteristic area of Old Athens with narrow streets and where the city’s traditional Bazaar “Yousouroum” is held. While the Plaka is known for sightseeing and shopping, Psiri comes alive in the evening as the nightlife quarter of Athens. The streets are full of partygoers where there is an endless amount of nightclubs, tavernas, bars and restaurants.
Syntagma Square is the most important square of the city with its central fountain and statues all back dropped by the Parliament building. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is located under the facade of the Old Royal Palace on Syntagma Square. This cenotaph is for all Greek soldiers who have fallen during the wars. The tomb is watched over by the Evzones (Elite Infantry) of the Presidential Guard and there’s a small changing of the guard ceremony that takes place on the hour, every hour.
Why not take the funicular to the Mount Lycabettus summit, which is located Northeast of the city centre. This cretaceous limestone peak rises 300 metres and its lower slopes are decked in pine trees. Once reaching the top you will be given the most spectacular panorama over the city where you will see the Acropolis, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the Piraeus Coast and peaks like Pentelicus, which yielded the marble for the Acropolis.
Piraeus is the vibrant port city of Athens. On any one day you will find hundreds if not thousands of people travelling across the Aegean Sea by ferry or cruise ships. It also has some sites, which may interest you including the 5th Century Long Walls with the remains of ancient Temples and other buildings. There is also the Neoclassical Municipal Theatre, the Peace and Friendship Stadium and the G. Karaiskakis Stadium. There are also several museums including the Archaeological and the Hellenic Maritime Museum. Piraeus has a plethora of taverns, bars, coffee shops, entertainment and shopping all with an amazing sea view.