Few places are steeped in classical history, riches and relics as the ancient city of Athens, Greece. Known as the Cradle of Western Civilization, a trip to the city named after the goddess of wisdom and courage Athena, is a walk back in time where innovation and achievement meet the worlds of mathematics, architecture, literature, the arts, politics, science and culture.
Whether you are a simply a curious traveler or an avid history buff, no trip to Athens would be complete without a visit to these destinations.
Situated on a hill with a picturesque view of the city lies one of the most well-preserved ruins in the world. Aptly named the Acropolis (meaning highest point of the city), the UNESCO-listed site is comprised of the Parthenon, the Temple of Athena, Propylaia and Erechtheion. Built in 5th century BC when the Athenian Empire was at the height of its ruling power, the temple city is at the center of Athens and filled with majestic marble facades over 2000 years old, miraculously surviving wars and earthquakes. While you are there, be sure to check out the Odeon of Pericles and the birthplace of Greek drama and the oldest stone theatre in the world, the Theatre of Dionysus.
One of the most iconic structures in the world, the Parthenon is the largest Doric temple in Greece and took some 15 years to build. Its purpose was to house the statue of Athena (considered the earliest Ionic temple) and serve as the city’s treasury. Characterized by its use of Doric columns designed to create an optical illusion, it is indeed an architectural marvel.
Sacred artifacts and ancient relics await at the Acropolis Museum, dating back to the Mycenean period 1600-1100 BCE. Built in 1976, it serves as a conservation center for Greek artifacts including classical sculptures, friezes and portraits from the Greek Bronze Age to Byzantine Greece and the statue of the Goddess Athena.
If archaeological relics are of interest, this museum will not disappoint. Housing more than 11,000 exhibits ranging from 500 BCS to the Roman Empire, it is the largest museum of its kind. Highlights include the bronze statue of Zeus, the gold funeral Mask of Agamemnon and a vast Egyptian art collection.
Located just below the Acropolis in the center of the city, the ancient site of Agora houses a collection of ruins. While the area has seen its share of construction and demolition, you can view the rebuilt Stoa of Attalus, a classical colonnaded building that houses the Museum of Ancient Agora. Made of limestone and marble, the large-scale structure is representative of Hellenistic art and design and notable as the first modern shopping center of its day with21 shops on two floors. Be sure to check out the Doric styled Temple of Hephaestus (God of craftsmanship) located on top of the Agoraios Kolonos hill.
Other highlights in Athens include a visit to the Panathinaiko Stadium who played host to the first Olympian games in 1896 (and the only stadium in the world constructed of marble). Built in 161 AD, the 5,000 seat Odeon of Herodes amphitheater is still a popular venue where Pavarotti, Maria Callas, Frank Sinatra and Elton John have all performed. Snap a picture at the Arch of Hadrian, a marble gateway built in honor of the Roman Emperor Hadrian who was credited for building a quarter of the city. The Athena Nike Temple (Goddess of victory) and Temple of Olympia Zeus are also popular attractions.
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