The highest point in Athens. You can walk to the top using the footpaths but it is fun to catch the funicular railway (Telefrik). It is about a ten minute walk from Kolonaki square through some steep backstreets, but the funicular station is not well signposted. The little trains run every thirty minutes, and more frequently in busy times and costs six euros return. The views from the top are absolutely stunning.
10 minutes walk from Kolonaki square.
Google map: bit.ly/11w8a1O
We were making our way to the Parthenon and it was quite a surprise to come across this village at the foot of the Acropolis.
This white washed village which was carved out of the rocks is reminiscent of a village in Santorini. It was dug out of the rocks by stonemasons from the island of Anafi (near Santorini) who were working on King Otto's Athens palace in the early 19th century. To remind them of home, they tried to recreate their homes of the islands. Anafiotika unsurprisingly means 'Anafi style'.
Just be aware that these are people's homes though the inhabitants (many descendants of the original stone masons) are used to tourists now.
As a matter of interest, there is a plaque dedicated to Konstantinos Koukidis who fell from the Acropolis wrapped in the Greek flag during the German occupation of Greece. The plaque is by the church of St George of the rock.
North east slope of Acropolis
Easiest way to get to the village is to go up Thespidos from Adrianou, and then turn right onto Stratonos. At the end of that street you will come to the whitewashed church of St George of the rock. This is the base of the village and you can then ascend via the winding paths into the village itself.
Google map: bit.ly/IadzQQ
Most people visit the three main buildings of the Acropolis - the Parthenon, Erychtheon and Propylaia - and then they go home. But as you go downhill from the Propylaia, turn to the right, almost back on your tracks, and you'll find yourself on the north slope of the Acropolis, and probably alone, despite the crowds a few yards away. Here are caves and springs in the rocks; in the Cave of Pan, we watched the water slowly bubbling up in a muddy spring. Here are little rock-cut niches for worshipping the gods. The great buildings of the Acropolis give you a feel for the 'official' Greek culture of Pericles' time - but underneath it, there's a different world, more in touch perhaps with its Mycenean roots.
Google map: tinyurl.com/33pwp8s
I've not been to its namesake on top of the Hilton but I imagine they couldn't be more different. Located in a shopping arcade (!) the Galaxy is an old-school bar that doesn't feel like it's changed since the 60s. Pictures of Kerouac, Balzac, Jack London and Beethoven behind the bar. Dapper barman serving seasoned drinkers.
Stadiou 10 (in shopping arcade)
210 322 7733
Nearest metro: Syntagma
For the best views of the Acropolis, climb Philopappos just before sunset. Turn back and watch the Parthenon turn from white through gold to pink and then watch the floodlights come on. One of the best free views in the world.
Walk up the Dionysou Areopagitou (a wide pedestrian road between the Acropolis and the new museum) and up through the park
Situated at the foot of the famous Acropolis, this stunning new museum dedicated to the findings and artefacts is now open. At an entrance price of only €1 it is a bargain for visitors. As you move to the upper levels, the full glory of the Parthenon and the Acropolis itself are magically manifest.
Avoid the scores of tacky tourist shops that spring up in Plaka during the summer months - your friends and family won't miss the miniature Acropolis keyring or T-Shirts printed with 'It's all Greek to Me' you could have wasted your Euros on.
Instead, there are two brilliant places to pick up local and traditional Greek handicrafts.
Oikotexnia is run by the Institute of Social Protection, so you will be helping to preserve and promote traditional Greek handicrafts as well as scoring some top quality souvenirs. Best buys include knotted carpets, fluffy Flokatis rugs, embroidered cushions and tablecloths.
The Centre of Hellenic Traditions is a haven from Plaka's mass-produced tat and sells Greek art, icons, pottery, wood carvings, embroideries, and prints. Best of all, there's a charming cafe on-site for enjoying a view of the Acropolis
Oikotexnia, Filellinon 14, Plaka
Centre of Hellenic Tradition, Mitropoleos 3 and Pandrossou 36 in the Plaka
An easy stroll up this pine-covered hill offers one of the best views of the Acropolis, and is known as the 'hill of muses' for inspiring poets with its beauty.
A maze of paths winds lazily to the top and is well-shaded - ideal for coping with the blistering August heat. Most people come here for the views of the Acropolis opposite and southern Athens stretching to the sea, but you'll come across many more historic sights on your travels.
Highlights include the cave where Socrates was imprisoned, the Pnyx, a limestone theatre carved into the hillside, and the birthplace of Athenian democracy, and the Neo-Classical Old Observatory.
If you have time, make sure you catch a performance of traditional Greek dance at the Dora Stratou Dance Theatre, and a enjoy a coffee at the Loumbardiaris cafe.
Just below the Acropolis lies this enchanting area of whitewashed cottages which were built by migrant workers from Anafi island when Athens was first established as capital of Greece. Although the city is busy and loud, the old-fashioned style and quiet alleys make Anafiotika feel like a tiny island village.
Between Lysicrates Monument and Kanellopoulos Museum, Plaka.
Heading to the top of the Hill of the Muses (Museion) offers a great perspective on the Acropolis, Athens’ most famous landmark. There are no large structures between the two hills and fewer coach trips around so it’s the ideal spot to appreciate the sight from a distance – and snap a photo or two.
The Temple of Olympian Zeus is one of the landmarks of Athens like Acropolis and Parthenon. Its construction began during the 6th century BC and finished in the 2nd century AD by the Roman Emperor Hadrian. The temple of Zeus is situated next to Zappeion at the junction of Vasilissis Amalias and Vasilissis Olgas Avenues, the main entrance is at Vasilissis Olgas Avenue 1. On the same field you can visit Hadrian's Arch.
Plaka is one of the most popular spots in Athens. Since Melina Mercury cleaned up the area from the noisy bars and night clubs, today Plaka is a quiet small Greek village inside the overcrowded Athens center.
Best time to enjoy Plaka is early spring and late October when the tourist wave has gone. There are many places and museums to visit in Plaka among them the museums of Greek folk art, the Children's Museum, the Frissiras Museum of Greek painting and the Greek music instruments museum. In Plaka you can see also the Roman bath of the Winds and the Lysicrates monument, next to it was the Capuchin Monastery where Lord Byron stayed. Across the Adrianou street and on the steps of Plaka you will find many shops, cafes and restaurants.
One of the most famous historical places in Greece is Delphi. If you stay in Athens you can take a day trip to Delphi. Visit the museum to see the statue of the Charioteer of Delphi, the temple of Apollo and enjoy the mountain view.
Information and more about Greece:
If you fancy a break from the busy tourist trail around Athens in the summer, but want to continue the sightseeing take a 20-40 minute ferry trip to the island of Aegina. Here you can visit the beautiful Temple of Afaia – one of the oldest surviving and well-preserved ancient temples in Greece.
As it is tucked away on a pine-clad hill, the temple attracts only a few travellers so it’s definitely a place to escape the crowds. I went at the height of season last summer and was joined by just two or three others.
Also once you've visited the temple, you can relax on some of the lovely beaches (either in Aghios Marina, or the ones within walking distance of Aegina Town) and still make it back to Athens before evening.
Take a Flying Dolphin ferry to Aegina from Piraeus port (costs around 10-15 euros). This will take you to Aegina Town - here you can jump on the Aghios Marina bus which will drop you right outside the temple
The Acropolis and the museums are free on Sundays all day.
And if you have a European student card you get in for free at other times. I have a rather dodgy looking student card from five years ago for a language school I worked at in Spain, and that was good enough for every place I went to in Greece (Mycenae, Corinth, etc...).
In pre-classical times (before the 5th-century BC), the Areopagus (or "Hill of Ares") was originally the meeting place of the council of elders of Athens. In this sense, it could almost be considered the exact birthplace of Athenian democracy. It is mentioned in the Bible, and was later the site of classical Athens' homicide court. This latter use probably stems from its purported status as the place at which Ares was tried for the murder of Poseidon's son. It is also a very short walk from the Parthenon.
While standing in the shadow of the Parthenon, literally and figuratively, the Temple of Olympian Zeus is a magnificent structure. It is deceptively large, set as it is in large field adjacent to the ancient Agora (marketplace), but has remained much more intact than its more famous neighbour.
The grassy ruins of the ancient agora, if not the walkway of Dionysiou Areopagitou. Here amongst the butterflies and bees you’ll experience Athens at its most magical and atmospheric.
Entrances on Adrianou and on the descent from the Acropolis, Monastiraki; Tel: 210 321 0185; Nearest metro: Monastiraki or Thisio; Open: 8am-7pm daily May-Oct, 8am-5pm daily Nov-Apr, (museum closes 30mins before site); Admission: €4, €2 concessions, free to holders of €12 Acropolis ticket (no credit cards); www.culture.gr/
The highpoint of any trip to Greece is a visit to the Acropolis – if only to discover as Freud did, that it exists “just as we learnt at school”. As monuments go it’s breathtaking, no matter how many times you see it up close. But climbing the limestone rock is neither kind nor easy in the torturous Athenian heat. The trip should be made early morning, or (gates permitting) at sunset when the capital is bathed in red, violet and blue.
Dionysiou Areopagitou; Tel: 210 321 0219; Nearest metro: Akropoli; Open: 8am-sunset daily Apr-Dec, 8.30am-2.30pm daily Jan-Mar; Admission: €12, €6 concessions, free to under-18s, free to all Sun Nov-Mar (no credit cards); www.culture.gr/
Take in Athens’ archaeological sites with a stroll along the cobbled causeway that connects them in a giant, car-free park. The best starting point is Dionysiou Areopagitou, the stupendous boulevard beneath the Acropolis. This idyllic walk is the stuff of dreams. Unbeatably atmospheric, it takes you through the core of ancient Athens, past all its ancient gems down to the necropolis of Kerameikos and the ghostly remains of a more modern age – the gasworks at Gazi.
Nearest metro: Acropolis
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