So it took me a while to narrow this down – I absolutely love Athens and think everything is essential! However, these are my three absolute MUST see things in Athens, Greece ❤
- New Acropolis Museum
This is a wonderful place – it is an air-conditioned, beautifully planned, and exceptional example of Greek history on show. Yes there are other museums which cover more, but the sheer extent of the collection in the NAM and the knowledge you can gain from a visit there is worth a visit.
The statue gallery and the view from the top floor are worth the visit all on their own.
It is 5 Euro for general admission (3 Euros reduced and free for a range of people including students from EU Countries. Details http://www.theacropolismuseum.gr/en/content/reduced-free-admission-acropolis-museum)
- The Athenian Agora
A sprawling gorgeousness in the centre of ancient Athens, this was the spot for all of the important things – politics, markets, worship. It sits under the acropolis, you can look up and see the fortifications built after the Persian Wars. The Agora houses some lovely inscriptions and two gorgeous buildings. The Stoa of Attalos was built in the Second Century BC, and reconstructed in the early 1950’s by the American School in Athens as faithfully as archaeology would allow. It is a beautiful building and fronts the Agora Museum. Also in the Agora is the Temple to Hephaestus, its amazing condition is thanks to its varied and continued use from its construction in 415 BC until 1934 when it stopped being a museum and became an archaeological site.
Open Daily 08.00-20.00 Last Admission: 19.45 (However I have heard that it closes at 3pm so CHECK LOCALLY before planning your visit! Admission is 8 Euros, Reduced: 4 Euros (details at http://odysseus.culture.gr/h/3/eh355.jsp?obj_id=2485 )
Psyrri is my favourite neighbourhood in Athens, you can find almost anything here. Amazing local restaurants? Yes. Cool stores? Yes. Cheap but good accommodation? Yes Actual local life? Yes. Plus – markets, street art, and an amazing atmosphere. You can spend hours wandering around this little area of Athens, if you stay here you can see it and have easy access to the rest of Athens.
Notice how I haven’t mentioned the biggest, most famous attraction? You know, that big temple thing on the big hill? The acropolis is incredible, I have lost count of how many times I have been up there. The acropolis and the Parthenon are on MY OWN PERSONAL absolute must do list, but I am not everyone. If you are not in Athens for a long time, don’t like the heat, have a problem with crowds (hello anxiety friends, you are not alone) or don’t have the physical ability to climb a big hill** – then you don’t need to go up to the acropolis. Obviously you get a more vivid experience of the place if you climb the steps, face up to the sheer size of the Parthenon, and see the incredible sprawl of Athens. But I believe that if you choose not to go, and go to the New Acropolis Museum instead you won’t have done the Parthenon – or yourself – a disservice.
The museum houses all the wonderful things found on the acropolis and they are displayed beautifully, with accompanying information as well as a kid’s challenge. There is a restaurant, which is the first place I had baked feta and for that alone I am grateful, from which you can look up at the Parthenon and wonder at the sight. The floor which showcases the Parthenon frieze (controversy in a different post perhaps) is laid out so you can follow the procession as you would walking around the Parthenon itself. For an ancient site other than the acropolis I suggest the Athenian Agora for a few reasons: it is shady – not everywhere but considerably more so than the acropolis, it is more accessible (more does not equal completely unfortunately), and it has some gorgeous ancient ruins.
This is my absolute must do in Athens, it may be different from yours – what would you say is an absolute necessity in this amazing city?
** I mean this in a sprained ankle/severe asthma kind of physically unable, there is a lift for access to wheelchair users installed a few years ago. For a much fuller treatment than I can give on disabled access to the acropolis please see http://www.sagetraveling.com/Disabled-Access-at-the-Acropolis