It’s hard to find a country more steeped in history than Greece and its capital, Athens, is a veritable Mecca for avid historians and amateur anthropologists. While many of its iconic attractions are well known, there are also myriad smaller and more out of the way sites to uncover on a visit to the city. For those with just a small amount of time, however, here are three attractions that shouldn’t be missed in order to catch a glimpse of the fascinating history of Athens.
Visiting Plaka is like taking a giant step back in time. The Plaka District is a micro-cosm of authentic Greek culture, and its cool shaded streets, tiny family restaurants and laid back ambience are a joy to experience. One of the most picturesque places in the city, the Plaka is situated beneath the watchful gaze of the Acropolis in a delightfully private setting. It’s hard to believe the hustle and bustle of Athens is so close as you wander along the gently curving streets or dine in a cosy café under the shade of an ancient knarled tree. The Jewish Museum here is well worth a few hours, as is the Folk-Art Museum.
In ancient Greece, Agora was a bustling market and meeting place. People came to discuss and debate everything from politics to art to the meaning of life; in fact, it is said this very site was the birthplace of what we now know as democracy. Today it’s not hard to imagine such scenes as you wander the ruins and enjoy inspiring views over the Acropolis and beyond. The Temple of Hephaistos here is a smaller version of the Parthenon, with the same Doric columns – although, unlike the Parthenon, its roof is, incredibly, still partially intact.
The iconic and much-loved jewel in Athens’ crown is, of course, the magnificent Parthenon, which dates back to 447BC. Situated atop the Acropolis, presiding over the city, the massive columns and instantly recognisable angular form of the structure is a truly breath-taking sight. Built to honour the patron saint of the city, the goddess Athena Parthenos, the Parthenon is remarkably intact – although it was partially destroyed by the Persians while still under construction – and some of its sculptures are considered the most important relics of Classical Greece in existence.
Although these three important historical sites in Athens will merely scratch the surface in terms of learning about the city’s turbulent history, they’ll make a good start and have you eager to discover more.
How to Get to Athens
Athens International Airport is a major hub of air traffic for Greece. Servicing both domestic and international flights it is the country’s busiest airport, with an annual traffic of over 15 million passengers. Shuttle Direct provides both shared and private transfers from Athens Airport to the city centre and surrounding area. Situated 45 kilometres from the city, the journey takes around 40 minutes on one of Shuttle Direct’s safe, convenient transfer services.
Where to Stay
Athinaikon – Ideally situated right in the heart of the city in the Psiri district, the Athinaikon is also within walking distance of the famous Plaka and Acropolis. Featuring comfortable rooms with air-conditioning, heating, private bathrooms and a maid service, the Athinaikon also offers luggage storage and free Wi-Fi. Just three minutes from the nearest Metro station, the hotel offers the perfect home away from home base for exploring Athens.
Adrian Hotel – Under the shadow of the Acropolis, the elegantly appointed Adrian Hotel boasts an ideal position which allows you to make the most of Athens. Rooms feature a chic, contemporary décor, private balconies, air-conditioning and soundproofing. The hotel’s stunning rooftop terrace has views over the Parthenon, Acropolis and the Plaka. There is a Metro station close by and the Adrian Hotel is within minutes of many of the iconic Athens attractions.
Electra Palace Hotel – Set in the heart of the delightful Plaka, overlooking the famous Acropolis, the Electra Palace Hotel Athens is both welcoming and luxurious. Within walking distance of the city’s iconic attractions, the hotel features a host of lavish facilities, including spa with indoor pool and sauna, rooftop Mediterranean restaurant with terrace and pool, and beautifully appointed rooms.