Athens Top Ten
Flying to Athens? Take in our Top Tens
By TTM on 26 May 2008 in Travel Articles
Any visitor to Athens must be struck by the surreal feel of modern life built up around ancient temples and monuments. Taking a taxi from the old to the new town, its easy to miss the ancient Temple of Zeus, the father of all gods, as you whizz by. Sit down for a coffee and as you sip your coffee you not only get to enjoy the buzzing alfresco cafe culture, but may also get to feast your eyes on the amazing Acropolis high above you.
In the mix are Byzantine, medieval and 19th century monuments and some of the most highly regarded museums in the world. And to top it all off, getting around is both easy and enjoyable. The metro is easy to use and pristinely clean with stations that look like mini aiports. What's more, for those with a moment to stop and stare, the metro stations are homes to ancient relics found on site and preserved as museum pieces for all to enjoy.
The best time to go is late May and June when temperatures are pleasant and when the Athens Epidaurus Festival begins (www.greekfestival.gr) and runs throughout summer.
1. The Acropolis and the Parthenon
The Parthenon was used by different peoples for different activities. By the 5th century the Parthenon was used as a church, and during the Ottoman occupation it used as a mosque and during the Erechthheion as a harem.
The Parthenon is in ruins now and its downfall started with the Ottomans. They kep kept gunpowder in the temple which was disastrous when the Venetians shelled it during the siege of 1687. Later in 1899 Lord Elgin removed sculptures (the Elgin marbles) and brougt them to the UK where they have remained.
Address: Acropolis Hill, Plaka, Tel: 00 30 210 321 4172
2. The Temple of Olympian Zeus and Hadrians Arch
The awesome temple was built by the tyranical Pisistratus in 510BC but work was abandoned when Pisistratus' son, Hippias, was overthrown in 510BC. Later in the 3rd century BC when Green during Macedonia domination of Greece. Hellenistic king Antiochus IV of Syria hired Roman architect Cossutius to design the largest temple ever. When the king dies in 164BC work was stopped. Roman Emperor Hadrian, a great admirer of Greek culture took up the mantle in the 2nd century AD and it finally completed in 129.
In 1852 one of the last remaining columns was blown down by a storm and its still lying there.
At the entrace of the site is Hadrian's Arch. This was erected in 131 AD as part of the wall that separated the old and new cities of Athens.
Address: Amalias Avenue
3. Take a walk around Plaka
The are two main streets: Kydatheneon which is easy to walk to from Constitution Square (the main square) and the other, the oldest, Adrianou begins at the Monastiraki flea market. From these, a mele of quaint narrow streets fan out hosting pretty houses with quaint gardens and tidy forecourts.
Tucked away are some really interesting museums too such as the Children and the Music Museum along with Greek Forlk Art Museum and the Jewish Museum.
Plaka also has its fair share of architectural gems such as the Roman bath of the winds, the Lysicrates monument and next door the Capuchin Monastery where Lord Byron stayed. Most appealling are the surrounding eateries, tavernas and trendy bars.
4. Kolonaki District - Chic and Trendy
5. Parliament Building, The Evzones and the Changing of the Guard
The Parliamentary government resumed in 1926 and the building was renovated and brought back to grandeur. This is where issues of the day are debated and it is televised.
Standing guard are the evzones. These are soldiers dressed in traditional gear that the soldiers wore when rebels won the War of Independence. This comprises a red hat, a pleated skirt with 400 pleats, one for each year under Turkish rule, white tights and shoes with red pom poms. It's hard to imagine them in combat dressed like that. The changing of the guard happens every hour and is entertaining to watch. They don't walk or march, the kick the legs high as if in dance. Apparently the guards are chosen from the compulory Greek military, and they are the tallest and most handsome the army has to offer.
The National Gardens alongside the Parliament where once only royalty were allowed to venture, are now open to the public. A stroll through its well tended paths, orange trees and flowers bends is very calming. You will pass the 19th century Zappeion Hall that serves as an exhibition centre.
6. Syntagma Metro Station
Address: Constitution Square
7. Lycabettus Hill (Lykavittos in Greek)
8. The National Archaeological Museum
Address: 44 Patission Street (Tel: 00 30 210 821 7717)
9. Ancient Agora
Today there are three standing structures: The 11th century Church of the Holy Apostles which was deconsecrated a mere 50 years ago; the Temple of Hephaistos, where the frieze is a must-see; and the Stoa of Attalos which had been rebuilt in the 1950s to house the Agora Museum. This is located near the entrance and worth visiting for the ancient finds.
Address: Adranou 24, Monastiraki, Tel 00 30 210 321 0185
10. Benaki Museum
Address: Vassilissis Sofias & Koumbari 1, Kolonaki Tel: 00 30 210 367 1000
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