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Below are a few suggestions about what you can do while in Athens:
Walking around Athens
You can start from the commercial heart of the city, Omonoia Square, which combines modern and neoclassical architecture and walk up Panepistimiou street passing by the National Library, the University of Athens, the National Academy, the Catholic Cathedral and many other impressive buildings of the Modern Greek era.
By then, you should have reached Syntagma Square, one of the busiest places of Athens, where the Parliament is located. You will know you are in the right place when you see the Evzones –the presidential guard- in front of the monument of the Unknown Soldier.On your right is Amalias Avenue where you will find the gate of the National Garden. Walk among typical and rare plants and trees until the Zappeion (Conference and Exhibition Hall), appears before you. A few meters away stands the Panathinaikon Stadium, the cradle of the Olympic Games (1896).
On your way to the Acropolis, stop to visit the Corinthian pillars, remains of Zeus’ temple and the Arch of the Emperor Hadrian, where the pedestrian street, Dionisiou Areopagitou, begins to lead you to the Odeon of Herodus Atticus at the foot of the Acropolis Sacred Rock. Walking up the hill, you will enter the site through Propylea and visit the Parthenon, the most important and characteristic monument of the ancient Greek civilization which still remains its international symbol, the Temple of Athena Nike, the Erectheion and the Museum of the Acropolis.
With these pictures in mind, walk downhill to Plaka, the oldest neighbourhood of Athens, and taste the typical Greek cuisine in one of the traditional taverns or have a frappe (iced coffee) in one of the numerous cafes.
Other highlights you should not miss: Archaelogical Museum, Museum of Cycladic Art, Benaki Museum, National Gallery, Byzantine Museum, Frissiras Museum of Contemporary Greek and European Painting, Lycabetus Hill, Monastiraki, Thiseion, the Olympic Athletic Center of Athens (OAKA), Faliro-Glyfada coastline by tramway. For an Athenian night out, choose between Psiri (city center) bars and taverns, and seaside open-air bars and beach clubs.
The Acropolis – The Parthenon
A monument that constitutes the symbol of Greece worldwide, stands on the “sacred rock” of Athens, the Acropolis. The Parthenon, a marble temple dedicated to Goddess Athena, along with the other monuments of the Acropolis, are all excellent pieces of art, reflecting the Classical period and the Golden Age of ancient Athens in the 5th and 4th centuries BC.
Herodeion (Odeion of Herodes Atticus)
Built in 161 AD by Tiberius Claudius Atticus Herodes, the Odeon was built in the memory of his late wife. Today, concerts, plays and ballets are still performed in it. You can either admire its beauty and architecture in the morning or treat yourself with the lifetime experience of attending a concert. Herodeion’s natural setting of the Arcades in front, the Parthenon in the back and the moon up in the sky will certainly fascinate you!
The New Acropolis Museum
The Acropolis Museum is an archaeological site-specific museum, housing the most famous works of classical antiquity. These works are artistic expressions of a deep political change that transformed the ancient city of Athens during the 5th century BC, subsequently marking entire eras from antiquity to modernity. The exhibition program aims to provide visitors with all the key information gleaned from the archaeological finds from the Acropolis. Exhibits are presented not solely as works of art, but also as evidence of the historical and social context of the period from which they developed. The exhibition is organized with topographic, chronological and thematic clustering of the collections. The sculptural adornments and various votives enable visitors to become familiar with the sanctuaries and monuments of the Athenian Acropolis, and assisted by the Museum narrative they have the opportunity to achieve a comprehensive understanding of the entire history of the Acropolis in antiquity. The Museum presents works with distinctive characteristics from the Archaic Period and its collection from this period includes significant works by famous artists. These works ceased to be visible after the Persian invasion of 480 BC, which destroyed the Acropolis. After the Persian destruction, the Athenians buried many of the surviving votive statues in pits on the Sacred Rock. These works represent the Athens of Solon, Peisistratos, and Kleisthenes; the Athens of the 6th century BC with the economic developments and social realignments that led to the birth of democracy. Many of the nineteenth century archaeological finds from these pits are presented in the Archaic Gallery on the first floor. The exhibition also includes archaeological evidence from the first human settlements on the slopes of the Acropolis and from the Sanctuaries which developed on the slopes of the Hill. Finally, the exhibition program includes the original remains of an ancient Athenian neighborhood located in the lower levels of the Museum. Extensive archaeological excavations conducted during preparations for the Museum’s construction revealed private houses, bathhouses, shops, workshops, and roads. Portable finds are exhibited on the same level as the excavation in a specially designed exhibition area. Visitors are also able to walk at close proximity to the excavation, over a network of metal ramps.
Benaki boasts one of the most extensive collections in Greece, covering several periods ranging from the prehistoric, ancient and roman periods to the Byzantine and the neo-Hellenic period. Among its particularly interesting collections are those of Toys, Games, Chinese and Islamic art.
Museum of Cycladic Art
Devoted to the study and promotion of ancient Greek art, the Museum of Cycladic Art hosts two permanent collections. The Cycladic Collection, with marble statuettes and ceramic pots from the prehistoric period of the Cycladic islands (3200-2000 B.C.), and the Ancient Greek Collection, which exhibits objects of art from the 15th century BC to the 4th century AD. The museum also hosts several temporary collections in its new wing, which is housed in the magnificent neo-classical Stathatos Mansion.
National Archaelogical Museum of Athens
The National Archaeological Museum of Athens with its numerous exhibits allows you to monitor the history of Ancient Greek art, which dates between the Neolithic period and the Roman period.
The Byzantine Museum is dedicated exclusively to the art style, which flourished since the founding of the city of Constantinople (330 AC), the capital of the Byzantine Empire, until its fall in 1453. The museum has been recently restored and almost tripled in size.
Originally built in the 4th century BC for the athletic competitions of the Great Panathinaia (ancient Greek festivities), the Panathinaikon Stadium took its final form during its most recent restoration at the end of the 19th century. It is made of marble and the Greeks also call it “Kallimarmaron” (meaning “made of beautiful marble”). It was the venue for the first modern Olympic Games, in 1896.