Exceptional Athens – Greece

View of the Acropolis from Plaka (click to enlarge)Last year, 2015, for the 1st of May weekend I traveled to Athens with my wife and youngest son. We wanted to spent a long weekend in the city and take the opportunity to visit the key historical sites. For my son and I it was a first, for my wife it was a “return”. She spent a year in Athens (Kifissia) in boarding school in the early 80’s. The weather was fabulous. Warm, not hot, with a light breeze coming in from the sea. Ideal to walk around leisurely to the various sites and to spend time on the many terraces for lunch or dinner or an afternoon coffee. To our surprise though we found out that on May 1 all historic sites were closed on account of May 1st Labor Day. So it allowed us to walk around town, get our bearings, enjoy the food along with all the other visiting Greeks. For a trip to Greece I can recommend a guide that is even more detailed, updated and comprehensive on the 100 best things to do in Greece. It is over 10,000 words and packed with practical tips and advice. You can find it here: 100 Best Things To Do In Greece.

Carithides in the Acropolis Museum (click to enlarge)The first priority when visiting Athens should be to go and visit the Acropolis Museum. It’s an outstanding museum in terms of design and lay out. It provides the right background to understand the history of the Acropolis and Athens, the development of the arts, the politics and how people lived in the city throughout the ancient period. One of the many highlights in the museum is the original Cariathides statues on display as the ones at the Temple Cariathides of the Erechtheion on the Acropolis are actually copies.

Part of the Partenon (click to enlarge)The Acropolis visit was a bit of a disappointment as it comes across as a large building site with crates and containers stacked alongside huge moveable cranes. All of it a bit of an eyesore! Rather surprising also when the Acropolis is a Unesco World Heritage site. It appears that the necessary restoration is a slow never ending project. I’d love to see the site without all the building equipment.

Temple Cariathides of the Erechtheion (click to enlarge)One of the more attractive views is the one of the Temple Cariathides of the Erechtheion seen from the Partenon and looking out over the city of Athens with its hills in the background.

Odeon of Herodes theater (click to enlarge)Another impressive feature of the Acropolis is the Odeon of Herodes theater. One of the better views is the one from the top when walking up to the Partenon and looking down into the theater. It’s rather remarkable that it is almost 2000 years old and still in use after the restorations.

Plaka (click to enlarge)One should definitely take the time to walk around the Plaka, Monastiraki and Syntagma areas on the north side of the Acropolis. This is the Athens with its original character, full of winding little streets and alleys. Each has a multitude of souvenir, arts and crafts shops and they are dotted with terraces where you can take a rest with a drink or be tempted to taste Greek gastronomic food for lunch as well as dinner. In my opinion the best view of the Acropolis is from the Monastiraki square, and even better from one of the rooftop cafes on the square.

Temple of Zeus, Athens (click to enlarge)The few tall and large columns left standing at the grounds of the Temple of Olympian Zeus are testimony to how impressive a site and the magnificence of the buildings during its heydays. Sadly, history has not left much of it in place. The grounds are nevertheless beautiful and worthy of a stroll.

Panathenaic Stadium(click to enlarge)A visit to Athens would not be complete without a visit to the Panathenaic stadium which was originally built in the 4th century BC to host the Panathenaic athletic games. After restoration in 1895 the stadium was the setting for the re-birth of the Olympic games created by the French baron de Coubertin in 1896.

The honor guard at Syntagma Square in front of the parliament (click to enlarge)The changing of the honor guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in front of the Parliament building at Syntagma should not be missed. It’s performed by the evzones, the presidential honor guard. Their uniform consists of short kilts and pom-pom shoes based on the clothes used by the klepths who were the mountain fighters in the war of independence.

Last Updated: 28-08-2016

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