Although Athens covers a large area, the main landmarks of the ancient Greek, Roman, and Byzantine periods are conveniently near to the modern town center, it still manages to maintain its authentic side. Modern visitors have the ancient Athenians to thank for this ease of getting to main landmarks around the town. Old Athens was tiny compared to today's extensive metropolis, which means that all the must sees are conveniently bunched in a fairly easy to manage rectangle.
The Acropolis, so called the "Sacred Rock" of Athens, is the most essential ancient monument in the western world. Crowned by the Parthenon, it erects sentinel over Athens, visible from around the town. Marble monuments gleam white in the midday sun and take on a honey hue at dusk, whereas at night they are intensely illuminated. Pericles set about transforming the Acropolis into a town of temples after being informed by the Delphic oracle in 510 BC that it should become a province of the gods. Unsurpassed in grace and harmony, the Parthenon is the largest Doric temple ever completed in Greece, the only one built totally (excepting its wooden roof) of Pentelic marble. The Parthenon had a dual purpose to house the giant statue of Athena commissioned by Pericles and to serve as the treasury for the tribute money that had been moved from Delos. It was built on the site of four earlier temples, all dedicated to the worship of Athena. Beside the Parthenon is the Erechtheion, dedicated to the worship of the two principal gods of Attica, Athena and Poseidon the Temple of Athena Nike, and the Propylaea, the monumental gateway of the Acropolis
The Acropolis Museum is considered as one of the most major museums in the world. This museum contains portable objects that could be removed from the Acropolis since mid-nineteenth century. Several masterpieces have been stolen during Greece s many occupations, but the museum is nevertheless housing many masterpieces from the Athenian Sanctuary of Temenos of Athena Parthenos. The museum shows only sculptures and statues from the monuments of the Acropolis. The vases and inscriptions are contained in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens and Epigraphical Museum.
Although the place is now a mixture of monuments and ruins from diverse periods, in Athens heyday the Agor was the centre of town life, serving not only as a place of trade but also as the town s political, administrative and cultural centre. Law courts, temples and public offices were all created in this area, where ordinary Athenians, stall holders and merchants socialized with officials, politicians and philosophers. The place was first developed in the 6th century BC. It was devastated by the Persians in 480 BC, but a new agora was erected in its place almost immediately. It was flourishing by Pericles' time and continued to do so until AD 267, when it was destroyed by the Herulians, a Gothic tribe from Scandinavia. The site is dominated by the Hephaisteion (Temple of Haephaistos), The gioi Ap stoloi (Church of the Holy Apostles) and The fascinating Museo tis Agoras (Museum of Agor ).
The ancient Kerameikos was on the north west fringes of ancient Athens and expanded both inside and outside the walls which now traverse the place of the excavations. In the focus of the place very close to each other, can be seen the two most popular gates of ancient Athens, the Dipylon and the Sacred Gate. The area around these gates was the most ancient and hugest cemetery known in Attica. It was also the burial site of the citizens honoured by the town of Athens. Kerameikos according to the traveller Pausanias was named after Keramos a hero of the deme of Kerameis. But most undoubtedly the name is due to a settlement of potters on the banks of the Iridanos river. The ancient demos of Kerameikos contained an area much larger than the one excavated. It is believed that it stretched from the north west limits of the Agora to the grove named after the hero Academos.
This place is located close the top of Mt. Hymettus, 5 km east of Athens. This church was erected in the 11th century in the Greek-cross plan and dedicated to the Presentation of the Virgin. It was initially a temple to the glory of Demeter, the goddess of agriculture and nature. The actual monastery was erected with the remains of the second temple built there during the Roman period (100-300 AD), which explains the four columns supporting its dome. The 17th century wall paintings, a work of Ioannis Ipatos, can be admired in the lobby of the church.
Museum of Greek Folk art
This museum is very fascinating and very different from the other Athenian museums, since it is housing wealthy collections of objects representing all branches of folk art from 1650 till today. Visitors will be able to admire objects like embroidery, weaving, costumes, masquerades and more. The museum is situated in Plaka, 17, Kydathineon Street.
Temple of Olympian Zeus
The greatest temple of Greece was started by Peisistratos in the 6th century BC, but was abandoned for insufficiency of money. This was one of largest temples in the ancient world, being dedicated to the god of all gods, Zeus. Building work began in 515BC, but was only completed some 700 years later in AD 131 under the Roman Emperor Hadrian. Today, 16 of the original 104 marble columns, which are 17m (56ft) high, survive. On the edge of the place stands the triumphal arch named Hadrian s Arch.
The Byzantine and Christian Museum
This museum was founded in 1914 and is introducing an essential collection of Greek ecclesiastical art from the 4th century to the 19th century: Byzantine and post- Byzantine icons, sculpture, manuscripts, wall paintings, mosaics, wood carvings and several objects (cloth, coins, pottery, etc). The Museum is situated in the central neighbourhood of Kolonaki, 22 Vassilis Sofias Av.
The church of the Holy Apostles
This church was erected in the 11th century in the name of St Paul who used to teach and preach in the Agora. It is staying nearby the southern entrance of the Ancient Agora. It got renovated to its original form in 1954-57, whilst its 19th century additions were removed. Fine Byzantine wall paintings can be admired inside this wonderful little church.
The church of Agii Theodori
This small church, located west of Plateia Klafthmonos, was probably built over the ruins of an earlier construction and is possibly the oldest Byzantine church in Athens. Throughout the opening phase of the Greek Revolution in 1821 the church was severely damaged, but was restored in 1840. It is a attractive structure with walls built in the typical cloisonn masonry and decorated with brick, Cufic ornaments and terracotta frieze of animals and plants. The paintings in the interior wall are dated to the 19th century.
The National Archaeological Museum of Athens
The National Archaeological Museum of Athens is the most greatest and most significant museum in Greece, and his exhibits are between the finest collections of the world. One can admire prehistoric items, sculptures, pottery and minor art, bronzes and Egyptian art, everything followed by detailed explanations in English. Some of the temporary exhibitions organised by the museum must not be missed. It is situated close the Omonoia square, on Patission Street 44.