greece

Exploring the Ancient Ruins of Athens, Greece

Ah, Greece. The fascinating country with an even more fascinating history – and mythology. Travel back in time and imagine the city as it was during the classical period of ancient Greece. Back when Athens was the center for the arts, learning and philosophy.

Visit the ruins  of what once was a spectacular library. Visit the ruins of the many temples built in honor of the Greek gods and goddesses. Visit the ancient cemetery. Ancient theaters. The stadium. For the love of Zeus – just put on some good shoes, bring your camera and visit absolutely everything!

I visited Athens with my significant other. What was supposed to be a relaxing beach vacation on the outskirts of Athens, turned out to be more of an educational city trip instead. After just a day of doing nothing, we both realized how difficult it is for two restless adventure-seekers to be able to enjoy a full week of laziness, so we decided to take the local bus (KTEL) to Cape Sounio (photos below) to see the beautiful ruins of the Temple of Poseidon. Two days later we took the bus the opposite direction, to the city of Athens where we spent a complete day exploring the city. Two days later, we went back to the city for another full day of exploring monuments, ruins and everything else that makes Athens as fascinating as it is. In Athens, you never really run out of things to do.

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As we got off the bus in Athens we were kind of clueless as to where to start – and we didn’t even know where we were, except that we were somewhat close to the Acropolis. Turned out we were right in front of the Parliament House – just in time to see the changing of the guard. A fun experience for tourists. And it’s totally free. Too bad I forgot to take pictures of the ceremony.

We continued to the Temple of Olympian Zeus, where we were given the option to buy individual tickets to see the temple only – or a package which allows you to visit multiple sites on the same ticket. We already knew we wanted to visit the Acropolis anyway, so we went with the package deal. Considering we ended up visiting every single site listed on the ticket, we definitely made the right decision – which also saved us a lot of money!

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While on our way to the next site, we made a quick stop to photograph the Arch of Hadrian, a monumental gateway between the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the rock of the Acropolis. Speaking of Acropolis; did you know that the word acropolis comes from the Greek words “akron” (highest point) and “polis” (city)?

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Ancient citadel, historical Acropolis was as captivating as I expected it to be. But also as crowded – and under renovation. Even with cranes, workers and selfie-taking tourists blocking the full view, visiting these ruins is a magical experience unlike any other. I overheard tourists comparing it to Rome, but this is nothing like Rome. This is Athens. They are both beautiful cities and might have certain similarities, but you shouldn’t compare. The Greek gods would not approve of comments like that. I don’t know about you, but when in Greece, I think it’s a good idea not to mess with them!

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The Parthenon, a former temple on the Acropolis. The temple was dedicated to the goddess Athena.

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Built at the foot of the Acropolis, there’s the Theater of Dionysus. It was used as a theater since the sixth century Before Christ, and has recently been brought back to life as it has been renovated and will apparently be hosting more and more theater performances in the future.

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As fascinating as the ruins are, there’s also another reason to visit the Acropolis. Just check out this gorgeous view over the city!

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After visiting the Acropolis, we walked down the hill – only to walk up another one, to get a great view over the Acropolis from a distance. While on top of the Areopagus rock (Areopagus translates to “Ares’ Hill”) we enjoyed the view – together with a bunch of other tourists. A lot of tourists visit this rock because it was, supposedly, from this location Apostle Paul had delivered his famous speech, “Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands”.

We didn’t hang out there for too long as we were both starting to feel quite thirsty and slightly tired. We needed to sit down somewhere, preferably a nice little cafe or restaurant – with an ice-cold, refreshing beverage.

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We wanted to visit Hadrian’s Library the same day, but had to save it for later as it was closed by the time we got there. On our second day trip to Athens, we did indeed get to visit this library created by Roman Emperor Hadrian. Once the largest library in Athens, now only ruins are left.img_20161011_212110

We also visited the Temple of Hephaestus. I was surprised by how well-preserved this temple is!

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The last site we visited was Kerameikos, the ancient cemetery of Athens which is an archaeology site and museum….and for some reason it’s also the home of land turtles? At least we found five individual turtles wandering around the site, happy and healthy.

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18 comments on “Exploring the Ancient Ruins of Athens, Greece

  1. Sara White

    Athens never used to interest me that much as a destination in and of itself (I always thought of it as a stop-over on the way to one of those gorgeous islands), but I’m seeing more and more about the city that’s really convincing me to give it a go, at least for a weekend. I’d be interested in reading your opinion of the city itself, apart from the ruins – I’ve heard some really mixed things, so I’m really curious to learn more!

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    • Athens was a pleasant surprise, actually. At least the old town. There’s a lot of narrow little streets with shops, restaurants and cafes. Really charming.Typical Greek architecture, cobblestone streets… And then there’s the modern city center with high fashion stores, regular stores, coffee shops – the usual. I didn’t spend too much time in that part of Athens as it’s just like any other modern city center.
      But the old town was lovely! (and it’s close to most of the famous sites)

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  2. My friend visited Athens a few years ago and I was jealous of her pictures then! This has added to it, I would love to see what you saw! Looked like a lovely trip

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  3. I love Athens, been there many times and will go again and again. There’s some much things to do. Nice photos. You can learn a lot of history just by visiting all the sites.

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  4. Glad you enjoyed the ruins! This is what our trips often look like since my significant other is an archaeologist 🙂 I didn’t use to enjoy ruins so much before we met but now I truly love it with all his professional explanaions and curiosities.

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  5. I’ve been to Greece twice but never to Athens. I’ve always chosen the beach destinations, but I think that I might have missed out. For my next trip to Greece, I will plan a stopover in Athens. A few days should suffice. What do you think?

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  6. I have had Greece on my mind for a long time now. Hopefully I will be able to go there soon enough. Athens looks so gorgeous and that view from the Acropolis is just beautiful. I would have gone for the package deal as well since I am in love with anything historic.

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  7. authenticfoodquest

    On my first trip to Greece, I listened to the “bad” advice of a friend who told me to skip Athens and go directly to the islands. As a result, we only planned a half day in Athens. I was so captivated by the history and sites, but could not visit it all. Reading your post is great because I can now see all the wonderful and historical sites I missed in Athens. Well done and glad you had a great time.

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    • I’m sorry you missed out! You don’t really get to see a lot in such a short matter of time. And rushing from one site to another is not great either.
      Maybe your friend wasn’t really info visiting historical sites?
      I have a friend who went to Dubrovnik in Croatia and thought it was boring because there were “too many old buildings and stuff” and she wanted to do extreme sports.

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  8. emmaeatsandexplores

    I only stopped at Athens for one night on my way to the island of spetzes! I’m desperate to go back and see what it really has to offer – your photos make it look amazing!

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  9. Soraya @ Hello Raya

    Wow I am in absolute awe by how incredible Athens look!!! What a fascinating cultural history this country holds. I agree – I don’t think there would be much time for the lazy resort type holiday. It’ll be filled with so much educational history!

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    • My partner took me there initially for a lazy resort vacation, but it completely turned into an educational one instead. We both got bored just hanging out by the pool 🙂

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