I was surprised by how much I loved Athens Greece. Travelers to Greece easily get distracted by the allure of the Greek Islands, so Athens can end up an afterthought on many Greece travel itineraries. But Athens is rich in history, culture, and food! And it’s beautiful too! Here are 10 photos from my recent stay that should convince you to visit Athens Greece.
No matter where you are in central Athens, The Acropolis dominates the skyline. This hill, fortified millennia ago with defensive walls, is home to some of the greatest architectural masterworks of Ancient Greece, most of which were built in the 5th century BC. The view of the Acropolis and its famed buildings change as you explore the center of Athens. But from wherever you are, the view is spectacular. I took this photo from the nearby Areopagus hill. In my opinion, this is the prettiest view, since this side of the Acropolis is covered in greenery. From here you can see the Propylaia (the main entrance to the top of the Acropolis), and the small Temple of Athena Nike perched on the corner.
Certainly the most famous structure sitting atop the Acropolis is the Parthenon. This is undoubtedly the most impressive single site for anyone to see during a visit to Athens Greece. The Parthenon was built as temple to the Greek goddess Athena and also served as the city treasury. Sadly, this amazing building was blown up during a 17th century war between the Venetians and Ottomans, fell into disrepair for centuries, and has been in a state of constant restoration over the last several decades. Despite all this, it’s an amazing structure to behold. It’s much larger than I had imagined. And it’s awe-inspiring to stand next to the giant pillars as these ancient ruins emanate the history of western civilization.
(In order to fully appreciate the Parthenon, you also need to visit the large Acropolis Museum located at the foot of the Acropolis. Here you’ll find all kinds of original sculpture and design from the building. Plus faithful recreations of how the Parthenon looked in all it’s 5th century BC glory)
The Odeon of Herodes Atticus
The Acropolis isn’t all about the buildings on top either. Several ancient structures sit along its base, none more impressive than the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. This is a theater built by the Romans in AD 161 during their period of rule over Greece. And almost 2000 years later, it still functions as a theater, with a seating capacity of 5000. Imagine seeing one of the classic Greek plays or one of the world’s great musical artists here!
The Temple of Hephaestus
And, Athens is bursting with other important archeological sites as well. Located at the foot of the Acropolis, you’ll find the large Agora of Athens. This was the commercial and political center of Athens starting in the 6th century BC. As you walk up and down the ancient streets of the Agora, surrounded by the stone foundations of its original buildings, you will be walking in the very place where democracy was born. A highlight of the Agora is the Temple of Hephaestus. It’s the best-preserved ancient temple in all of Greece. In the picture above, a statue of the Roman emperor Hadrian gazes up at it.
The Jockey of Artemision (150 BC)
If you are a history lover, another essential place to visit while in Athens Greece is the National Archeological Museum. It’s considered one of the world’s greatest museums because of its extensive collection of ancient Greek artifacts. The museum is huge with 11,000 different exhibits. It would take days to see it all. But it’s absolutely worth at least a few hours to visit some of the museum’s most important pieces like the statue in the photo above. This is The Jockey of Artemision – a bronze statue from 150 BC. Few bronze statues from the time remain – the bronze was ultimately needed for other purposes. But this exceptionally well-preserved and detailed statue was found at the bottom of the sea in a shipwreck.
Changing of The Guard – Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Athens isn’t without a little bit of modern day pageantry as well. At the top of every hour, there is a ceremonial changing of the guard at Greece’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This is located in front of the Parliament building which, like most of Athen’s best sites, is in the very center of the city. We were staying near the Parliament building, so we walked past this ceremony several times a day. On a couple of occasions, we stopped to watch from start to finish. As I snapped this photo, the woman behind us told us in tearful broken English that the soldier on the left was her son. She was visiting from Thessaloniki, and this was the first chance she had to see him in this role. These guards, called Evzones, are the very elite of the Greek military, and she was rightfully very proud.
The “Decorated” Streets of Athens
Like many cities in Europe, the streets of Athens are covered in graffiti and street art. In certain areas, there is no space untouched. At first it’s a visual shock, and then at a certain point you become numb to it all. Then when you get back home, the streets are boring.
One of My Favorite Athens Eats – Gyro Platters
And now on to eating in Athens. Eating great food is one of my top reasons for travel. Certainly, when you think Greek Food, Gyros most likely come to mind immediately. And eating delicious Gyro platters was a regular highlight of our visit to Athens Greece. The term Gyro refers to shaved meat – usually from large rotating vertical spits. I only ever saw two kinds – chicken and pork. Never the beef/lamb mix that is so commonly associated with gyros in the US. You can get it wrapped up in a pita, or served on a platter (my preference). Sure, the components are straight forward – shaved meat, pita, fries, tomatoes, and tzatziki. But the flavors in Greece are 1000 times better than any Gyro I’ve ever had elsewhere. Pictured are chicken Gyro platters from o Gyros Pou Gyrevis – a small hole in the wall Gyro joint near the Acropolis Museum.
Grilled Seafood at Athens Central Market
If you are a seafood lover like me, then you will find plenty of great seafood when you visit Athens Greece. Athens sits right on the Aegean Sea, after all. When it comes to seafood, I love simplicity. And in my mind, it doesn’t get any better than food we found at Taverna Aris, located inside of the large Athens Central Market. Fresh caught squid and sea bass, grilled over charcoal, with a few herbs, sea salt, olive oil, and citrus. Plus eating at a table inside the market. With a 4 Euro carafe of house white wine. It just really doesn’t get any better!! In fact, I awarded this meal my favorite travel food of 2022.
Yogurt – The Best Greek Dessert
Like pretty much anywhere in Europe, you can find Gelato just about everywhere in Athens. But my favorite dessert shop during our visit to Athens Greece was Fresko Yogurt Bar. Choose from several tangy fresh yogurt options (varying fat content, and even a sheep’s milk option), and top it however you want. From the more traditional honey topping (several different types) to multiple fruit, nut, and candy options. Greek yogurt with honey is now a regular part of my morning back at home.
Dinner with a View
And no visit to Athens Greece would be complete without a rooftop dinner while watching the sunset over a lighted Acropolis and Parthenon. In Athens, you will find a multitude of bars and restaurants with great rooftop views. Our meal…and this view…was at Sense – a restaurant atop the AthensWas Design Hotel. I researched lots of rooftop options, and decided this spot would offer us the best food with the very best view. And we were not disappointed!
I trust that these photos helped convince you to visit Athens Greece. It’s one of our favorite European cities so far. And try to stay in Athens for more than a day or two if possible – there is so much to see and experience.
If you would like to read about some other great places to visit in Greece, then check out these posts:
If you would like further insight on traveling around Greece in general, then check out these posts: