Literally “high city,” the Acropolis is Greece’s great marvel. Ascend through the olive groves of the lower slopes to reach the marble crown, before passing through the Propylaia gateway. You’ll see the Temple of Athena Nike, the Erechtheion and the Parthenon along with numerous fragments arranged for reassembly. The state’s grand plan is to put right centuries of sackings, lootings and decay.
The Acropolis Museum
The Acropolis Museum is an absolute must see. Inside the modern exterior visitors can discover the ancient aesthetic wisdom of the Acropolis and feel the atmosphere of ancient Athens. The Gallery of the Slopes of the Acropolis, the Archaic Gallery and the Parthenon Gallery display sculptures, inscriptions, finds from sanctuaries, as well as objects used in everyday life. Visitors can also watch conservators working, speak to an archeologist host and acquire small souvenirs from the museum shop. The restaurant on the second floor offers a breath taking view of the Acropolis.
Twilight is the best time to venture up this abrupt peak. At 745 ft. (277 m), Lycabettus stands high above Athens, commanding a clear view across the Attica basin and the Aegean. Facing the viewing platform is Agios Georgios, the tiny white-stuccoed chapel of St. George. There is also a superb café, although prices match the altitude. To get there, hike up the path that starts at the end of Aristippou Street in Kolonaki and winds upwards. Or you can opt for the funicular ($8.20), which leaves from Ploutarchou and Aristippou Streets.
Monastiraki Flea Market
In the morning, make your way to the flea market at Avissynias Square for a jumble of curios, from books to paintings, clothes to trinkets. Afterward, cross Athinas Street to Psiri, where interlocking streets secret away a wealth of galleries and vintage stores.
Changing of the Guard
Although the guards change hourly, there is a big ceremony once a week. These ceremonial guards, the Evzones, stand motionless at the tomb of their Unknown Soldier. They are volunteers—Getting into this unit is an honor, and they have to be over 6 ft. tall. They wear white tights, a white skirt, a white blouse with very full sleeves, an embroidered vest, red cap, and shoes with big pom-poms. The uniform is based on the clothing of the Klephts, mountain fighters who fought the Turks from the 15th Century until Greek independence in the 19th Century. The two guards stand inside small guardhouses. Just before the ceremony they step outside it, and soldiers in regular uniforms tidy them up. We watched a guy smooth out the tassels on the guard’s sash so each thread laid flat. At the appointed time a military band comes down the street, followed by dozens of these guards. After they reach the paved area in front of parliament, there is a lot of marching around, presenting arms, etc. Eventually, the two replacement guards go up the few steps to the booths and the other two leave.
A walk through the oldest neighborhood in Athens is a must and one of the most pleasurable activities especially in the early evening. There are hundreds of shops from kitchy tourist to the workshops of some really great artisans. There are several good restaurants where you can sit outside almost year round. There are also some nice little ouzeries that are cozy when it is too cold to sit outside. The famous Brettos distillary on Kydatheneon could be in this top 10 list on its own. The out-door Cine Paris where you can watch a move on the roof of a building below the lit walls of the Acropolis could too. There are ancient Greek and Roman ruins scattered around as well as some beautiful 19th century and older buildings and several Byzantine churches.
The Ancient Agora
Of all Athens’ ruins, the famed marketplace of Agoramakes the most fitting start to your sightseeing — it stands testament to Athens’ status as a cradle of Western civilization. It was, in Socrates and Plato’s day, the heart of public life, and among the site’s extensive excavations you’ll find temples, a concert hall and long, colonnaded arcades.
For its size, Athens is remarkably low-rise. A good way to get a feelfor life at street level is to stroll through Anafiotika, a 19th century neighborhood on the northern slopes of the Acropolis hill, beside the entrance to the Agora. The masons who built it hailed from the island of Anafi, and were brought here by King Otto I to build his palace. Nestled above Plaka, Athens’ center, and bustling Monastiraki, the old bazaar, Anafiotika seems far removed. There, bougainvilleas splash whitewashed walls and cats stalk sunny paths, evoking the island life the masons left behind.
The Acropolis Museum
National Archeological Museum
Byzantine & Christian Museum
Cycladic Art Museum
Museum of the City of Athens