When it comes to core civilizations that have shaped the world as we know it today, the ancient Greeks top or come close to topping the lists of most people. Their wisdom, knowledge, ideas and discoveries have formed the foundation of modern life, and the centre of it all during the height of Greek civilization was found in Athens.
While many of their former structures may be a little worse for wear (OK, a lot worse) these days, their bones remind us of the gifts they gave us, and of the mortality of our present societal structure. Gloomy thoughts aside, this city is a history lover’s paradise, as the guide below will reveal…
By far, the biggest attraction that draws travelers to the capital city of Greece is the Acropolis of Athens, which is home to the heaviest concentration of Greek ruins found anywhere throughout the expanse of this ancient civilization.
While this high point served as a defensive point for the rest of the city as part back as 2,500 years in the past, this seven acre plateau also housed some of Athens most significant holy places, which included the likes of the Parthenon, the Temple of Hephaestus, Erechtheion, and the Temple of Athena Nike.
These weathered ruins have been been the recipient of funding in recent years to shore up their stability, as the grandiose columns, finely carved sculptures and intricate reliefs have quickly become a matter of Greek national pride.
While many of the aforementioned ruins are impressive by themselves, the vast majority of the artifacts contained within have been moved, as exposure to the elements and potential thievery have led to their institutionalization in places like the National Archaeological Museum.
Here, Greek national treasures dating from the time before written history straight up to recent centuries are securely displayed here in an expansive collection that will dazzle those that are into the implements that our ancestors used to carry on with their daily lives centuries or milennia ago.
While many of the best antiquities have been acquired by government institutions like the British Museum or the previously mentioned Greek equivalent, private collectors have also gathered together impressive collections of the remains of Greece’s past.
The best of these can be found at the Museum of Cycladic Art, where sculptures and other art forms from this obscure Aegean civilization (which rose and then died out between 5,300 to 4,000 years ago) can be found alongside a variety of ancient Greek and Cypriot artifacts.
In addition to perusing its extensive exhibits, lectures, educational programs for children and more are available for visitors to help indulge their need for artistic education.
There are more ruins in Athens outside of the Acropolis that are well worth seeing before heading out to places like the islands or inland towards Meteora. One such set of ruins includes the Temple of Olympian Zeus, which was dedicated to the king of all Greek gods. While only the grand columns that once held up its lofty roof remains, its scale once it was completed in the 2nd century AD made it one of the most massive temples in the world at the time of its completion.
Being the birthplace of democracy, the Ancient Agora of Athens planted the seeds from which more equitable forms of government grew many centuries later, making it worth a visit on these merits alone.
This place was the hub of not only political life in Athens (where citizens could introduce bills and vote directly on them), but also one of commerce, justice, and worship. While many of the former buildings have little left of them save for their foundations, a number of broken columns and statues still remain, which are enough to make you ruminate on how daily life was back in that ancient era.
First built in the 6th century BCE, and then renovated a number of times through the ages, the Panathenaic Stadium has been at the center of Greek athletic endeavors from the start of their civilization right up to the present day.
They started by hosting the Panathenaic Games held in honor of the goddess Athena, then after lying in ruin for almost 2,000 years, it was refurbished by Evangelis Zappas, who sought to revive the ancient Olympic Games.
After a few false starts in the 1870’s, the first modern Olympic Games were held here in 1896. Additionally, when Athens hosted the Summer Games in 2004, archery and the end of the marathon were held here, thereby bringing Greece’s gift to world sports home once more.