Greek mythology was my first love
I grew up with Athena & Atlas, Persephone & Poseidon. Icharus taught me to dream higher & Tantalus taught me about deceit. It was probably one of the earliest genres I read or had read to me, so as you can imagine Greece was a dream of mine.
& landing in Athens was a dream come true.
The first step was arriving at our Airbnb, which was an absolutely stunning loft in the center of the city. The accessibility was not even the best feature of the apartment, it was the views!
Yes, that view is of the Acropolis, & my first look at the ancient Greece of the gods. I was simply stunned.
After I got over the initial shock & awe of the Acropolis views, it was time to hit the streets of Athens & travel back in time. Our first stop was the Temple of Zeus.
Tip – Buy the combined ticket
While entry to each location is 6 €, the combined ticket is 30 € & valid for 5 days which provides access to 7 historic sites (some of which I’m going to cover here!)
Temple of Olympian Zeus
As we approached the Temple of Zeus I started to see those pillars rise & I felt like a child again. I was in awe of what I was seeing, and still not believing that I was seeing it with my own eyes!
Zeus was the head of the Greek gods (who resided on Mount Olympus), it’s only right he had the largest temple (at the time it was built). The temple started to be constructed around 6th century BC and was finished construction a whole 638 years later! Unfortunately, what remains is just a fraction of the temple (only 21 out of 104 columns still stand), but you get a good idea how massive this once was. Ruins lay all around the temple that you can go off & explore!
This was history that we were witnessing. I have always been enamored with historical places. I always imagine myself standing there in its prime, back in Ancient Greece. If only, right!?
Our next stop was Hadrian’s library, built in 132 AD by Emperor Hadrian. It held rolls of papyrus “books” & had rooms where scholars could lecture or used as reading rooms.
I loved walking through here the most. It’s one of the larger preserved spaces from Ancient Greece, but probably one of the most destroyed. On top of the library, churches were built & those remains mix with Hadrian’s library.
There’s even a very small museum on site with some statues & stonework that has survived.
The best part of Athens was that everything was within walking distance! You can easily see the majority of the sites in one day.
The Roman forum & ancient agora are super close to Hadrian’s library. At the end of this post I’ve even included a map of Ancient Athens for your next trip!
The Ancient & Roman Agoras
The Ancient Agora was essentially a public meeting space. Some agoras, like this one, had stalls for merchants to sell their goods. I can’t even tell you how many laps I did, walking in circles around the agora trying to imagine the market & people walking around doing their daily activities. Seriously, if you know anyone testing a time machine, I sign up to be a guinea pig if they can send me here!
Located in the Roman Agora is the Tower of the Winds. An interesting little tower built by a Macedonian astronomer that I would reccomend taking a step inside.
The Acropolis of Athens
Probably one of the most iconic sites of Ancient Athens, the Acropolis sits high above the city. It’s name literally means high (akron) & city (polis), & although it’s technically the Acropolis of Athens (or Cecropia in ancient times) most people know it simply as The Acropolis.
The Acropolis of Athens consists of remains of several ancient buildings & temples, the most famous being The Parthenon dedicated to the goddess Athena.
I want to say we got super lucky because we were in low season, which is my favorite time to travel. The level of tourists are much lower, we also went around 3-4 PM to avoid any crowds. This allowed us to get great shots all around The Acropolis. While it was October, you can see from my pictures I was clearly in summer clothes! Just make sure you pack a sweater because it does get chilly at night.
The view from the top of the Acropolis is absolutely stunning. It competed with our Airbnb’s view of this very hilltop! You see the entire city, and, well I’ll let the picture speak for itself:
The view going up (or down) the Acropolis are just as stunning. The pathway is also lined with tons of ruins, fallen columns, & statues. The time spent exploring the Acropolis was probably one of my favorite memories of Athens. Even more so because it was practically empty!
Also, please don’t be that person climbing on the ruins. Seriously, don’t do it. Plus, there is a whistle happy attendant watching you at all times. She sees everything, trust me, don’t be that idiot!
After what I’m sure will be a lot of walking around the hilltop, just below the Acropolis is the Plaka neighborhood. There’s a whole bunch of super touristy restaurants that line the street up. Go ahead if you want, I did drink a refreshing mojito but service is horrible and prices are jacked up. Just walk a couple of blocks down & you’ll find awesome spots with great happy hour deals!
There are even more places that you can enter with your combined ticket that I haven’t even mentioned! These are all of the places that the combined ticket offers:
- The Acropolis
- The Ancient Agora & Museum
- Kerameikos & Museum
- The Temple of Olympian Zeus
- The Roman Agora & Tower of the Winds
- Hadrian’s Library
- Aristotle’s Lyceum
The only location we did not go to was Aristotle’s Lyceum. I really did want to go here but unfortunately, time & distance were not on our side! It was founded by Aristotle based on Plato’s principles and mandatory for Ancient Athenian boys as part of their military service. The ruins you can visit today are part of the gymnasium, baths, & library!
There’s plenty of places around the city to get your fill of Greek history and culture. The museums & galleries around the city hold treasures & stories of the past. If wandering outside isn’t your thing, check out the National Archaeological Museum, Acropolis Museum, Benaki Museum, & even the National Library of Greece.
This museum consist of 3 buildings, & held SO much Greek literature that they had to make a new National Library of Greece. Even if you don’t go in, walk around and take it all in.
Athens is a city where myths come to life. Stepping back in time, to a land where gods ruled while they mingled with humans. A country that has given the world incredible authors & philosophers. Not to mention the best souvlaki ever! We’ll leave that for another time. If Athens is too far, just pick up a book (or let’s be honest, Google) and let your mind travel to the time of Hera, Hercules, & Poseidon.
& if you’re ever in Athens, take a look at the map of the Ancient sites below! I’ve even mapped it walking the same route I went!