The 7 ancient wonders of Athens

Athens

A guide on the most beautiful ancient sites of Athens, by the team at Greeklist.

As the cradle of Western civilization and the birthplace of democracy, Athens is home to an array of ancient sites that offer a glimpse into its illustrious past. From majestic temples and grand theaters to historic agoras and even a monumental stadium, these landmarks tell the stories of gods, philosophers, and citizens who shaped the world we live in today. In this guide, we’ll take you on a journey through the top seven ancient sites in Athens, each a testament to the city’s enduring legacy and timeless charm!

The Top-7 ancient sites of Athens

Here is our pick of the best ancient sites of the 5.000 years old city:

The Acropolis and The Parthenon

The Parthenon

    • Description: The Acropolis is an ancient citadel situated on a high rocky outcrop above Athens, containing some of the most significant ancient buildings in history. The most famous structure here is the Parthenon, a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena, constructed during the Golden Age of Athens in the 5th century BC.
    • Highlights: Parthenon, Erechtheion, Temple of Athena Nike, and Propylaea. The Parthenon is an enduring symbol of ancient Greece and Athenian democracy, while the Erechtheion is known for its distinctive Caryatids (sculpted female figures serving as architectural supports).
    • Tips: Visit early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the crowds and the heat. Don’t forget to explore the Acropolis Museum nearby, which houses a vast collection of artifacts from the Acropolis site.

The Stoa of Atalos

Stoa of Attalos

  • Description: The Stoa of Attalos is a grand, two-story colonnaded building that was originally constructed in the 2nd century BC. It was a gift to Athens by King Attalos II Philadelphus and served as a covered walkway and marketplace.
  • Highlights: The reconstructed building now houses the Museum of the Ancient Agora, where you can see artifacts that reveal the daily life, commerce, and politics of ancient Athens.
  • Tips: Spend time walking around to appreciate the architecture and explore the museum exhibits, which include pottery, sculptures, coins, and everyday items from ancient Greece.
  • Location: Andrianou 24 Str., Athens

The Temple of Olympian Zeus

Temple of Olympian Zeus

  • Description: Also known as the Olympieion, this colossal temple was dedicated to Zeus, the king of the Olympian gods. Construction began in the 6th century BC but was only completed under the Roman Emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century AD, making it one of the largest temples in ancient Greece.
  • Highlights: The massive remaining columns, which give a sense of the grand scale of the original temple. Initially, there were 104 colossal columns, of which 16 remain standing today.
  • Tips: Pair your visit with a stroll through the nearby National Garden for a relaxing break. The site offers a great view of the Acropolis, especially in the early morning or late afternoon light.
  • Location: Centre of Athens

The Theatre of Dionysus

Theatre of Dionysus

  • Description: Considered the world’s first theater, and is situated on the south slope of the Acropolis and was dedicated to Dionysus, the god of wine and theater. It was the birthplace of Greek drama, where many of the great plays of Aeschylus and Aristophanes were first performed.
  • Highlights: The ancient seating, which could accommodate up to 17,000 spectators, and the remains of the stage area. The site offers insights into the development of Greek theater and performance.
  • Tips: Combine your visit with a trip to the Acropolis as it is located nearby. Check for any cultural events or performances that might be happening at the site to enhance your experience.
  • Location: Mitseon Str. 25, Athens

 Kallimarmaro (Panathenaic Stadium)

Kalimarmaro

  • Description: Also known as the Panathenaic Stadium, Kallimarmaro is the only stadium in the world built entirely of marble. Originally constructed in 330 BC for the Panathenaea, it was rebuilt in marble by Herodes Atticus in the 2nd century AD and renovated again for the first modern Olympic Games in 1896.
  • Highlights: The striking white marble structure, the track where the modern Olympic Games were revived, and the stands that can hold up to 50,000 spectators.
  • Tips: Visit the stadium and take a walk on the track. The site also offers a small museum displaying memorabilia from the modern Olympics. Don’t miss the chance to climb to the top for a panoramic view of Athens.
  • Location: Vasileos Konstantinou Avenue, Athens

The Roman Agora

Roman Agora

  • Description: Built during the Roman period to replace the older Greek Agora, this marketplace became the center of public life in later years. It was an important hub of commerce and social activity in Roman Athens.
  • Highlights: The Tower of the Winds, an ancient clock and weather station and the Gate of Athena Archegetis, the monumental entrance to the agora.
  • Tips: Visit the Tower of the Winds, which features intricate reliefs and functions as an early example of a weather station and timepiece. Enjoy the quiet ambiance compared to the bustling Acropolis, making it a great spot for a peaceful exploration.
  • Location: Polygnotou 15 Str., Athens

The Library of Hadrian

Library of Hadrian

  • Description: Constructed by Roman Emperor Hadrian in AD 132, this library complex was once a grand center of learning and philosophy. It housed a vast collection of books and served as a cultural and intellectual hub in Roman Athens.
  • Highlights: The remains of the grand façade with its impressive columns, the central courtyard with remnants of reading rooms, and the overall layout reflecting the grandeur of Roman architecture.
  • Tips: It’s centrally located near Monastiraki Square, making it easy to combine with visits to other nearby attractions. Take your time to imagine the intellectual exchanges that took place here in ancient times.
  • LocationAreos 3 Str., Athens

Where to stay in Athens

With all the ancient sites  we mentioned situated in the city center, you can easily explore these historic landmarks over a weekend, making it an ideal destination for a short but enriching getaway.

Here are some suggestions!

Find more Greeklist exclusive Hotel deals for Athens and HotelBrain here!

General Tips for Visiting Ancient Sites in Athens

Here are a few tips for a comfortable adventure!

Exploring Athens

Best Time to Visit

  • Timing: Plan your visits for early morning or late afternoon to avoid the midday heat and the busiest crowds. This will also give you the chance to experience the sites in the soft light of sunrise or sunset, enhancing their beauty and making for great photo opportunities. Check the weather here.
  • Season: Spring (April to June) and fall (September to October) are ideal seasons for visiting Athens, as the weather is pleasant and there are fewer tourists compared to the peak summer months.

Tickets & Guided Tours

  • Combined Tickets: Save time and money by purchasing a combined ticket, which grants you access to multiple archaeological sites, including the Acropolis, Ancient Agora, Roman Agora, and others. This is particularly convenient if you plan to visit several sites over a couple of days.
  • Tours: Hiring a guide or joining a guided tour can significantly enhance your experience. Knowledgeable guides provide in-depth historical context, interesting anecdotes, and detailed explanations that you might miss otherwise.

What to Bring

  • Shoes: Wear comfortable walking shoes, as you’ll be navigating uneven terrain and climbing steps at many of the ancient sites.
  • Hydration and Sun Protection: Athens can get quite hot, especially in the summer. Carry a refillable water bottle to stay hydrated, and wear a hat and sunscreen to protect yourself from the sun. Sunglasses are also recommended to reduce glare.
  • Miscellaneous: A small backpack can be useful for carrying your essentials. If you plan to visit several sites in one day, consider packing a light snack. A camera or smartphone with a good camera is a must for capturing the stunning ancient architecture.

Embrace the Timeless Charm of Athens

As you explore the ancient sites of Athens, you’ll find yourself walking in the footsteps of philosophers, warriors, and gods. Each landmark tells a story of a bygone era, yet their presence in the bustling city center makes them a living part of modern Athens. Whether it’s the grandeur of the Acropolis, the serenity of the Ancient Agora, or the majesty of the Temple of Olympian Zeus, these sites offer a unique glimpse into the rich tapestry of Greek history. With a well-planned itinerary, you can immerse yourself in this extraordinary journey through time, even within a weekend. Enjoy your adventure through the timeless charm of Athens!

Into the Heart of Athens

For an  extensive guide of Athens, check here!

Also, don’t miss four islands close to Athens for quick escapes!

And finally, take the chance and taste the best Greek dishes!

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