Few sights in the world compare to Athens’ Acropolis, with its Parthenon temple perched high on a rocky crag keeping watch over centuries of civilization. The Acropolis is one of the world’s most breathtaking ancient ruins. A reminder of the glory of ancient Athens, the Acropolis was the center of the ancient city and functioned as a citadel in its protected hilltop location.
National Gardens and the Zappeion
Located next to the Greek parliament, the National Garden is a large green space behind the Temple of Olympian Zeus and home to the Zappeion. If you have had enough sun during your day of sightseeing, this is a quiet, shady place to relax and cool off. Inviting trails lead through tall trees and offer a reprieve from the busy streets. It’s also a free attraction in Athens.
Ancient Agora: Ruins of the Marketplace
The ancient Agora was the marketplace and the center of everyday life in ancient Athens. For an impressive view of the Agora from afar, head to the north wall of the Acropolis or the roads from the Areopagus.
The best place to enter the Agora is at the north gate off Adrianoú Street (near the Church of Saint Philip). The Greek word “Agora” means to “gather and orate,” indicating that this site was a location of public speaking. The Agora was a place of administration and commerce as well as the meeting place of the Agora tou Dimou, a civic decision-making group. Athletic events and theater performances were also held here.
The Roman Agora & Hadrian’s Library
Adjacent to the Ancient Agora is the site of the Roman Agora. While it may all seem like one site, these buildings were constructed later, and construction eventually moved on to the site of the Ancient Agora. One of the easily recognizable sites here is the Tower of the Winds.
On the edge of the Roman Agora is the ancient Hadrian’s Library, founded by Emperor Hadrian in AD 132. Even later, during Byzantine times, three churches were built near the site of the library.
Olympieion: Temple of Olympian Zeus
Dedicated to Zeus, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, also called the Olympieion, was the largest temple in ancient Greece. Though the Parthenon is better preserved, the Temple of Olympian Zeus was an even more monumental structure in its day. The temple dates to the sixth century BC but was not completed until the second century AD by the Emperor Hadrian. In front of the Olympieion, not far from the entrance, stands Hadrian’s Arch at the end of Dionysiou Areopagitou.
Panathenaic Stadium & Olympic Stadium
Ancient Athens’s largest building, the Panathenaic Stadium, has a capacity for 60,000 spectators. Constructed around 335 BC during the era of Herodes Atticus, the venue hosted the Panathenaic Games.