Having been a Latin scholar, or at least according to my high school language teacher, I have always been fascinated with the ancient artifacts and notorious monuments within the city of Athens. Coming from the U.S. with a history that fits into a textbook, Athens holds a wealth of stories and legends in its cobbled walkways, momentous structures and godly towers that have seen centuries upon centuries of civilizations. Although we were only stopping in Athens for a single day on our way to the Greek Isles, we made sure we didn’t miss out on the magnificent landmarks this metropolitan had to offer.
From most points in the city you can see the Acropolis of Athens, an ancient citadel on top of a rocky mountain that holds significant remains of numerous Greek architecture and artifacts. However, despite being able to see our target end point, we continually got lost in the crooked alley ways and had to ask for help multiple times. Luckily, many locals noticed our disorientation and directed us onto the correct route. Since we had arrived later in the day, we didn’t make it to the site until after 5pm, which worked in our favor since the crowds had thinned out tremendously. As the most sought after attraction, I would aim to arrive early, circa 8am, or later in the early evening to get the most out of your visit. Make sure you wear comfortable, grippy shoes as it’s quite the hike to get to the top and the stairways can be slick. The cost to enter the site is only about 20 euros and can be used to see other ruins in the area.
As you make your way up the mountain, the Theatre of Dionysus Eleuthereus is one of the first sites you’ll see. This major theater in Athens is dedicated to Dionysus (hence the name), who was the god of plays and wine. As many as 17,000 people could fit into the theater and due to its slope-like structure, the acoustics made for excellent performances. It’s even suggested as the birth place of Greek tragedies. Cut into the southern cliff of Acropolis, it’s believed to be the first stone theater ever built.
Further up the mountain you’ll reach the propylaea, a monumental gateway into the area of Greek architecture which serves as the entrance point into the Acropolis of Athens. This was built under the direction of Pericles, an Athenian leader, at the conclusion of the Persian War.
At the top of Acropolis you’ll be able to freely wander around in identified areas to the Caryatid Porch of the Erechtheion, which is one of the finest displays of sculpted female figures serving as an architectural support.
Of course, you’ll also witness the remains of the Parthenon, a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena. Its construction began in 447 B.C. It’s a breath-taking site, after having witnessed this building in numerous texts and articles. To actually be able to experience the magnitude of these remains is a wondrous moment.
Not only can you witness these sites, but the view of Athens is astounding. The tan and brown colored homes stretch out as far as you can see, one side seemingly going on forever, the other side reaching out towards the turquoise sea. From atop of Acropolis you’ll see Mount Lycabettus, a limestone hill towards the center of Athens.
After meandering through the site, we made our way down to Plaka located on the northern and eastern slopes of Acropolis. Filled with what they refer to as ‘labyrinthine streets’ and ‘neoclassical architecture’, it’s easy to lose yourself within the ‘Neighborhood of the Gods’. Shops and restaurants are around every corner and make for a delightful evening. As the Greeks do, we didn’t sit down to eat dinner until after 8pm when the streets came to life with young and old people alike making their way to nighttime festivities. After delicious Greek salads and fresh seafood (a must in Athens), we headed back to our hotel to prepare for our early ferry the following morning.
As we made our way up to our room at the Electra Hotel, a hotel worker overheard us talking about the view of Acropolis and asked if we’d like to see if from the roof of our hotel. We showed us up a hidden flight of stairs that led right onto the roof of the hotel. If you look beyond the air conditioners and pipes, you’ll see Acropolis of Athens in the distance. The perfect way to end our adventurous day.
Athens offers so much in terms of historical artifacts and rich cultural traditions. A day isn’t nearly enough to see all that this magnificent city has to offer, but a visit to the Acropolis of Athens and Plaka are sure to wet your taste buds to come back and visit again.
Have you ever been to Greece? Anyone else study Latin?!