Named after Athena, the Goddess of wisdom and courage, Athens is a city filled with friendly people and a vibrant culture. Many famous landmarks in Athens, Greece illustrate its intense history and the local people’s passion for ancient mythology.
The Greek capital is also home to several archaeological sites that feature sculptures and ruins. Many of these were built to celebrate famous Greek Gods and Goddesses and still influence the city today.
In a country where it is impossible to feel bored, this guide will share with you some of the most famous Athens landmarks that you must see when you visit the city. You should set aside at least two days in Athens to see as many Greek landmarks as you can.
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Using the map of Athens, you can explore all the landmarks.
The Parthenon is the iconic temple ruins that sit at the very top of the Acropolis of Athens. Construction of the original temple began in 447 BC, and it stood as the emblem of ancient Greece. Up close, this is a visually stunning European landmark. If you look closely, you can see tiny sculptures and other flairs that make ancient Greek architecture so impressive.
There are two ticket options, an acropolis-only or a combination ticket. With the number of archaeological sites that Athens’ boasts, it might be worth purchasing the combination option that allows you to explore six other areas to get your money’s worth. It is also possible to enter for free throughout the year, so it is worth checking before you go.
Not only is the Parthenon beautiful, but the walk up the hill towards the Acropolis is well worth the 20-minute climb. As you ascend, you are treated to a view of the terracotta roofs nestled inside Athens’ rugged landscape for miles around.
The Acropolis Museum is home to some of the most famous artefacts found on the Athenian Acropolis site. Much of the floor in the museum is made of transparent glass, allowing you to see the excavations that lie below.
This is a fascinating museum, whether you have a particular interest in Greek and Roman history or just want to spend a few hours away from the hot weather.
Admission starts at just €5 in the winter, and the museum even has a modern restaurant that serves tasty food if you start to get peckish as you wander around.
Hadrian’s Library is one of the most famous monuments in Athens, Greece. Roman Emperor Hadrian built it in 132 AD. Typical of its Roman architectural style, it originally had 100 columns adorning the outside. As you wander around the structure, you can get a feel of how the Romans lived.
The library was previously used to store rolls of Papyrus, the ancient Greek equivalent of books, and hosting music and lecture rooms. Even though the building is not in great condition today, it is still exciting to imagine how magnificent it would have been in Roman times. You can visit this site for just €4, or it is included in the Acropolis combination ticket.
Since Athens is the home of the modern Olympic games, it is only right that you visit the Panathenaic Stadium. This is the only stadium in the world that is built completely from marble. The stadium was originally built for ancient Greek athletics championships, where naked male athletes competed against each other.
Most recently, the stadium was used for the 2004 Olympics hosted in Athens and was also the location of the 2011 Special Olympics summer games. The stadium is also often converted into a concert space – though it is worth visiting whether there is a concert on or not, as it is unlike any other stadium that exists.
As the name suggests, this is the first known cemetery to be built in the city in 1837. The cemetery not only has some of the most famous Greeks buried here, like the poet Giorgos Seferis and the infamous Odysseas Androutsos, but also acts as an open-air museum for visitors to explore.
With romantic Neoclassical sculptures throughout the park, it is the perfect place to spend a couple of hours if you are in the centre of the city and want a tranquil, albeit slightly eerie walk, amongst some of the most remarkable people Greece has ever seen.
Situated in the heart of Athens, Syntagma Square is the bustling hub of the city. The square is overlooked by Greek Parliament, and you will often find people relaxing near the water fountain in the square on a hot summer’s day.
The square is located nearby to the popular Plaka and Monastiraki neighbourhoods, and so it is the perfect starting point in the morning.
This really is the square of the people. Greeks often gather here, whether it is to celebrate or to protest. No trip is complete without a wander through this iconic landmark in Athens.
This is another famous landmark that features in many iconic photographs. The Temple of Hephaestus was designed by Iktinus in approximately 450BC, who also created the Parthenon and other architectural feats around the city.
Whilst this temple has been damaged by numerous earthquakes and invasions, it is still one of the best-preserved ancient temples in the whole of Greece.
You can see straight through the temple, and up close, you get the sense of how much the Greeks loved to incorporate intricately designed columns and artistic touches on their buildings.
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is the cenotaph dedicated to the Greek soldiers killed during war. It is located in front of the parliament building and is famous for being guarded by the Evzones of the Presidential Guard in their traditional outfits.
The tomb itself is made from beautiful limestone, with intricate details inscribed into the tomb. Carved into the wall is a soldier wearing just a helmet and wielding a shield.
Locals and tourists alike gather in Syntagma Square every Sunday morning at 11 am to watch the changing of the guards at this landmark. This is a wonderful experience to catch if you are in the nearby area.
Another temple located on the Acropolis of Athens is the landmark dedicated to Goddesses Athena and Nike. This stunning temple was initially destroyed by the Turks in 1686, before being rebuilt in 1834 after the Independence of Greece.
Though it is the smallest of the Acropolis structures, the Temple of Athena Nike holds just as much historical importance to the city. Cultists previously used it to worship the Goddesses.
Like other temples in Athens, the sculptures on this monument are awe-inspiring. Although, the statues on this temple, in particular, are known for their excellent wet drapery – this involved showing the body as if it was covered in a wet cloth.
If you visit the other famous landmarks on the Acropolis, it is definitely worth visiting this stunning temple.
Dedicated to perhaps one of the most famous Greek Gods, the Temple of Olympian Zeus sits at the centre of Athens. Originally the temple was grand, with 104 giant columns adorning the structure. Though most of them were destroyed in a barbaric attack in 267AD, leaving just 15 standing.
Today, the temple is an open-air museum that exhibits one of the most famous archaeological sites in Greece. Its central location means that you have great views of the Acropolis and other historical sites scattered across the city as you walk through the grounds.
This is an impressive landmark, and despite one of the columns lying broken across the floor, it is considered one of the greatest Athens monuments in the city.
As one of the most famous stages in Greece, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus has welcomed many of the world’s greatest performers. The view from the seats in this magnificent theatre span across the whole of the city and, I would argue, offers the best viewpoint in Athens.
The Odeon was originally built in 161AD by Herodes Atticus and was dedicated to his Roman wife. It is incredible to see what once was a theatre used for ancient Greek performances still used by modern artists today.
If you cannot purchase tickets for an event here, you can still explore the Odeon during the daytime. Situated inside the Acropolis, on the way up the hill to the Parthenon, this is a famous landmark in Athens that cannot be missed.
This is an often-overlooked landmark in Athens, but the Kerameikos Cemetery is a stunning archaeological site situated in the downtown part of the city. The area is said to either be named after local pottery workshops that filled the space before the cemetery existed, or after Keramos, the son of Dionysus and Ariadne. Either way, this is a beautiful part of the city that deserves to be explored.
The site also boasts the Sacred Gate and Walls of Athens, used when the city was previously divided in ancient times. The cemetery is filled with detailed tombs of famous citizens and is a great way to spend a few hours seeing one of the less frequented landmarks. The cemetery is open every day (except Mondays!) from 8 am until 3 pm.
Located beneath the northern slope of the Acropolis, the Ancient Agora of Athens is an exciting archaeological site used for over 5000 years. An Agora was a common monument in ancient Greek cities, used as a place where citizens could gather and participate in various communal activities.
Visited by the most famous of philosophers, lots of modern political ideas were all born here. As Athens was the birthplace of democracy, it is exciting to visit this Agora and wonder exactly what was discussed here. A variety of trees and other greenery surround the Agora, making it the perfect place for a serene walk.
Another famous Agora in the city is the Roman Agora, located to the east of its ancient counterpart. This landmark was originally an open market constructed in the 1st Century BC and was funded using Julius Caesar and Augustus’ money.
Though much of this Agora has fallen, a few of the imposing columns still stand, as well as the stunning gateway that would have welcomed many Romans at its prime. This is also a stunning example of Greek architecture, and it is fun to spot the differences between the two Agoras.
Whilst exploring Athens’ stunning architectural feats will leave you inspired, if you would instead rather wander through a bustling market filled with locals, then the Monastiraki flea market is the perfect way to spend a morning.
During the week, this market can be too touristy, but on Sundays, the locals gather to sell all kinds of exciting things – including art and handmade jewellery.
The neighbourhood of Monastiraki is known for being urban and cool, and the market is situated right next to the busy square. Visiting the market is a great way to become immersed in the city and mingle with locals, sharing stories and laughs.
If you don’t have time for Greek Island hopping, you should definitely make time to visit Anafiotika. This is a tiny neighbourhood that lies within Plaka, and the buildings are akin to those you would find in Mykonos or Santorini.
Though most of the homes here were destroyed by archaeologists in the 1950’s, as you stroll around the area, you will be surrounded by lush greenery and the colourful buildings that remain.
Antifiotika is the perfect escape from the busy city centre and offers incredible views of Lycabettus Hill and the Athens’ cityscape – this is especially recommended in the evening, as the glow from the city illuminates the area.
Mount Lycabettus is famously the highest point of Athens. Locals and tourists alike ascend the hill every day to get incredible views of the city.
Depending on your fitness levels, it can take around an hour to walk up to the very top of Mount Lycabettus. However, the viewpoint is worth every second of the steep climb.
There is even a cable car that can carry you to the top of the hill – this is recommended to avoid the hard work. Though, it is nice to walk down and take in some of the sights that the cable car misses.
This museum features antiquities from around Athens which are displayed to celebrate the explosive historical events that took place in this city. Ideally located in the Exarcheia area in central Athens, this is one of the most important museums in the world.
The Museum was built by the Greek government in 1889, and during World War II, the artefacts were sealed in boxes and buried underground to avoid being destroyed.
In front of the museum, there is a neo-classical garden which is decorated with sculptures – this alone is worth a wander around, as these are some of the most beautiful in Athens.
Since the museum is so large, it is a good idea to take a guided tour to get the most out of your experience. If you would rather explore alone, there are museum guides and audio tours in multiple languages available to purchase.
The archaeological site of the infamous Plato’s Academy is used today by Athenians as a public park. It is a great place to have a picnic and relax in the blazing summer heat. It is common for locals to gather here in the evenings to unwind with a drink or two.
The Academy was originally built in 338BC, when Plato founded his philosophical school that went on to become so famous throughout the rest of the world.
The park features lots of green space and many unidentifiable stone ruins that are incredibly interesting to view. Several plaques scattered throughout the park give clues to the historical significance of Plato and his work and his importance in Greek culture.
The Temple of Poseidon sits in Sounion at the very southern coast of the Attica peninsula. This is the archaeological site that is said to be where Aegeus, the King of Athens, fell into the sea. As it is only an hour’s drive from the centre of Athens, this is a famous landmark well-worthy of a day trip from Athens.
The temple itself is colossal, with the majority of its columns still standing. There’s a nearby café where you can grab lunch, as well as steps down to a small but gorgeous beach.
If you stand at the edge of the cliffs here, you can see the Greek islands of Kea, Kythnos and Serifos. Though the temple looks beautiful at any time of the day, it is even more impressive with the orange hues of sunset and sunrise.
Every year Athens attracts over 500,000 visitors, and it's easy to see why this colourful city is so popular with tourists. One of the best things about this city is that it is so walkable.
Most of these famous Greek landmarks in Athens are less than 30 minutes apart on foot, and the beauty of the city ensures that each walk will be a feast for the eyes.
Though I have mentioned just 20 tourist attractions today, as you wander through the Athenian streets, you will be greeted by an abundance of sculptures and ruins that are testament to the city’s rich history.
This article was edited by Loredana Elena.
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