What to do in Athens, Greece
Greece: The cradle of western civilization
Greece is the cradle of Western civilization, the home of gods and goddesses and the Olympics, a country where whitewashed homes on sun-baked islands dot turquoise blue seas. A trip to Greece really can feel like setting foot in heaven - especially when you combine that stunning beauty and culture with the country’s still-reasonable prices and its strong tradition for enjoying a fun night out. Your Greece vacation will probably begin in Athens, where most international flights arrive. There is a lot to see and do in Athens, so you want to make sure to hit these particular highlights.
The Acropolis and the Parthenon (of course!)
The Acropolis in Athens is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for a reason. The collection of ancient buildings sits on a flat-topped rock that rises out of the center of Athens, like the city’s historic heart.
Settlements on the Acropolis date back to the early Neolithic era, but what you will find there today are the ruins of temples and memorials built and rebuilt in the golden age of Athens in the 5th century BC.
In the thousands of years since, the Acropolis has seen invasions and war, destruction and celebration. Greece is currently trying to get back some Parthenon sculptures from the British Museum.
Through it all, the Parthenon, and its temples honoring Athena, goddess of wisdom, still stand as testaments to a classic and ancient time.
The National Archaeological Museum
The Archaeological Museum is another don’t miss site. With more than 20,000 exhibits from Greece’s dynamic history, this museum is home to the best of what this country’s past has to offer. The ancient Greeks were scholars and artists, leaving many advanced and beautiful works. Their world view was ruled by a host of gods, and the myths of the Greek gods seem like a far-out soap opera. Even if you're heading out to visit archaeological sites in other parts of the country, this will give you some good background information to start with.
A Great Night Out
Athenians makes the most of their warm, starry evenings, by sitting and enjoying a leisurely meal and ample amounts of laughter, music and ouzo with friends and family. There are many fine restaurants all over Athens, but for a truly great night out, you can head to the historic Plaka district, which sits at the base of the Acropolis. It's a pedestrian area - perfect for strolling, and there are lots of restaurants with tables outside. For somewhere less touristy, look for a place in the fashionable Psyrri, Gazi or Kolonaki districts.
Go for a Hike
Put on some comfortable walking shoes and head up Mount Lycabettus, or Lykavittos. Easy winding walking paths lead to the top of the hill, or you can take the cable car, if you prefer. Either way, the view from the top is spectacular, with Athens at your feet, the Acropolis rising out of the city, and if it’s a clear day, you can see out as far as the port of Piraeus.
Democracy in Action
It was the Greeks who invented the idea of democracy, citizen involvement and public discourse, and those traditions still run strong today. For a look at the classical roots of this political ideal, head to the Ancient Agora. It was once the center of the Athenian government, and was a place for all citizens to gather, discuss and argue.
Today, that same thing happens in Syntagma Square, right by the Greek Parliament. It’s surrounded by the serene and lovely National Gardens, and is the site of fairly frequent Greek protests and political demonstrations. If there’s no protest on when you visit, you can still watch the changing of the guard ceremony in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Greece is one of the most fascinating countries in the world to explore. From the warmth and passion of the people, to the fresh Mediterranean cuisine, and the thousands of years of history that come alive in this modern city, a trip to Athens is bound to be a trip of a lifetime.
Explore Athens, Greece
Read more about Athens
- Greece Vacation: 5 Useful Tips for a Great Trip
- 5 Ways to Let Your Inner Zorba Out in Greece
- Greek Islands - Delos, Birthplace of Apollo
- Greek Islands - Books and movies
- Budget Travel Greece - Tips for a Cheap Vacation
- Honeymoon in Greece - Five Tourist Attractions in Greece for Newlyweds
- What to do in Rome, Italy
- What to do in Sedona, Arizona
- What to Do in Killarney, Ireland
More by this Author
Sun-soaked, historic and beautiful, Sicily is an extraordinary place to visit. Often overlooked for Italy’s more northern attractions, a visit to Sicily is like discovering a well-kept and delightful secret. From...
Here are ten ancient ruins of Rome, Italy that are definitely worth seeing. When you're planning your trip to Rome, save time for these ancient highlights!
How ever well you think you know Venice, Italy, you're in for a some surprises! One of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, it's still possible to escape the crowds in its narrow streets and hidden...