Athens, an ancient city with a modern soul!
Ancient yet modern, classic yet creative, traditional yet constantly changing… Athens is a city of memorable contrasts.
An enduring symbol of democracy, philosophy and all those big-picture ideals of the ancients, Athens also has a unique way of living in the moment. It is versatile and inventive, alive with the power of possibility day and night.
No.1 in a list of Athens landmarks has to be the Acropolis. It’s the city’s Sacred Rock and the cultural trademark of Greece. In fact, little has changed as it was the standout Athens monument in ancient times, especially when with the Parthenon (dedicated to Athena, the goddess of wisdom and protector of the city) was added by Pericles in the 5th century BC. You’ll see the Acropolis from so many different vantage points on your walk, and each time you’ll marvel at how the marble changes shade at different times of the day. The Acropolis has witnessed every changing face of Athens since antiquity and she’s still there, a fitting monument to this great city and willing to share her story with everyone who wants to listen.
The Odeon of Herodes Atticus
Added to the Acropolis complex by the wealthy Roman Herodes Atticus in the 2nd century AD, it’s impossible to contemplate just how many spectators this magnificent theatre has entertained over the years. The Odeon of Herodes Atticus is now the centrepiece venue of the annual Athens Festival, seating almost 5,000 people who never fail to be awed by the setting and exceptional acoustics. As you’re walking past this undisputed Athens landmark, consider that it was once completely enclosed by a wooden roof.
The Panathenaic Stadium
Heading back past Syntagma and through the National Garden, you reach the horseshoe-shaped Panathenaic Stadium – or the Kallimarmaro, as it’s often referred to because of its tiered marble seating. Originally built in the 4th century BC to host the Panathenaic Games, it was restored for the first Modern Olympics, held in Greece in 1896, and is the epic finishing line for the annual Athens Marathon. It is said that a thousand animals were sacrificed in the arena during Hadrian’s inauguration.
If there’s a jewel the crown when it comes to Athens’ green spaces, this is it. Together with neighbouring Zappeion Park, the National Garden covers a full 160 acres smack bang in the middle of the city. Created in the early 19th century at the request of Queen Amalia (wife of Greece’s first king, Otto), it offers tranquillity and escape right by Syntagma Square and the Parliament. There are more than 500 species of trees and plants from around the world (including 25m tall palm trees planted by Amalia and the magnificent Phytolacca tree from South America), as well as ponds, sculptures and busts of prominent Greeks, a Roman mosaic and a sundial.
You can’t miss Lycabettus Hill. It’s Athens’ highest spot and a trip to the top is one of the city’s recommended experiences because of the 360-degree view. The most common way to get there is by funicular but, if you’ve got it in you, you should definitely walk to the summit (almost 300m above sea level). It’s easier than you think as the paved path ascends mostly gradually through a pine forest planted in the late 19th century, containing bridges, benches and even an outdoor theatre. It will make the view from the pristine white church of Agios Giorgos at the top even more special. There is also a café-restaurant for you to savour the moment.