For the traveler looking for rich history and breathtaking monuments and scenery, it doesn't get much better than Athens, Greece. The city of Athens is known for its impact on art, philosophy, science and politics. Groundbreaking thinkers like Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato studied there. With such credentials, it can be overwhelming to visit. Below, we've compiled just a few of the most significant places to help you plan your trip.
1. The Acropolis and the Parthenon: The view from the Acropolis is breathtaking. Perched high over the city, its views are unmatched. Translating literally to “high city,” the Acropolis is covered in many beautiful historical temples including the Parthenon.
The Parthenon is a major highlight of this high city. It is a large Doric temple dedicated to the goddess Athena Parthenos. The Parthenon is representative of the Classical period. Built between 447 and 438 BC, the Parthenon reflects this period with its attention to small details and mathematically perfect architectural design. It is well known for being flawless. It has few straight lines; even the pillars are curved intentionally to make it feel more intrinsic, alluding to the Athenian’s naturalistic perspective.
2. The Agoras:
The Agoras in Athens were public gathering places, often used as marketplaces, civic centers or classrooms. Though it may look like just a bunch of old rocks and rubble, this place has some serious history. There are two locations: one is called the Roman Agora and the other is known as the Ancient Agora, which is from the classical period of Athens. Both sites are connected to one another through an ancient gate called the Gate of Athena Archegetis. The people of Athens came here to share ideas. Socrates himself walked the streets of the Agora in Athens.
3. The Ancient Agora Museum
The Ancient Agora Museum lines the east end of the Ancient Agora. This is a great combination for a visit; you can see the Agora then wander into the museum and learn more about the ancient ruins. The museum contains the findings of the excavations of the Agoras. It is housed in the ancient Stoa of Attalos, which was once a type of commercial center where people could do business. It was restored by the American School of Classical Studies in Athens.
4. Plato's Academy:
What seems at first glance to be a simple, flat piece of land, is actually an important site in the history of philosophy. This is the site of Plato’s Academy, known as The Academy. Formed by Plato around 387 BC, it took place in a small grove or garden in Athens. It had no building and no curriculum, but was organized more like an association or club. "Students" would gather informally in the grove to hear Plato or other members speak about philosophy, politics, science and more. Plato acted as their guide and even after his death the “school” kept running. The Academy continued to operate until it was banned in 529 AD. The archeological site was subsequently excavated and can be visited in the modern subdivision of Akadimia Platonos.
5. The Academy of Athens
The Academy of Athens was established in 1926 to honor the tradition of Plato’s Academy. According to the website, the Academy of Athens’ main purpose is the “cultivation and advancement of the Sciences, Humanities and Fine Arts, the conduct of scientific research and study, and the offer of learned advices to the state in these areas.” The academy also participates in international scientific organizations, hosts publications, and awards scholarships and grants. This academy carries on what Plato’s academy could not in modern times by holding on to the rich history of philosophy and taking it forward with them in their work.
6. Theatre of Dionysos
The Theatre of Dionysos is the world’s first theatre. It can be found on the south slope of the Acropolis. This theatre is not as well preserved as the ever popular Odeon of Herodes Atticus, but is a central part of art and theatre histories, especially for Athens. The Athenians used it for festivals in honor of the god Dionysus, and its performances played an important social and political role.
7. Odeon of Herodes Atticus
Also known as the “Herodeon,” this theatre is found on the southwest side of the Acropolis. This well known amphitheater was built in 161 AD and was (and still is) used for music concerns. It was built with a three story stone front wall and had a wooden roof. It was destroyed in 267 AD but restored in the 1950s. After its restoration, it became home to the Athens Festival that runs from May through October every year. Visiting the theatre during these months will give you experience with many Greek and international performances, including dance, theatre, music and visual arts.
8. The National Archaeological Museum
The National Archaeological Museum in Athens is one of the largest museums in Greece. It’s a great place to get a full dose of Greek history and Art from beginning to modern day. It was originally created to hold all of the artifacts found in and around Athens but now holds items from all over the country. The museum holds over 11,000 exhibits including five large permanent collections: the Prehistoric Collection, the Sculptures Collection, the Vase and Minor Objects Collection, the Metallurgy Collection and lastly the Egyptian and Near Eastern Antiquities Collection.
Athens is a place of reflection, discovery, and beauty. From Plato to the Parthenon, the Agoras to Aristotle, the city is a hotbed of cultural history, waiting to be explored.