Things to see in Athens

Tourist information

Greek National Tourism Organisation (GNTO)
Dionysiou Areopagitou 18-20, Makrigianni
Tel: 210 331 0392.
Websites: www.gnto.gr; www.breathtakingathens.com
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 0900-1900, Sat-Sun 1000-1600.

Passes

It is possible to buy a block ticket for the 'Archaeological Sites of Athens'. The ticket is valid for four days and can be bought at any of the participating sites. These include the Acropolis, the Theatre of Dionysus, the Agorá, Kerameikós, the Roman Forum and the Temple of Olympian Zeus.

Agorá (Market)

Although the site is now a jumble of monuments and ruins from different periods, in Athens' heyday, the Agorá was the focus of city life, serving not only as a place of trade but also as the city's political, administrative and cultural heart. Law courts, temples and public offices were all based in this area, where ordinary Athenians, stall holders and merchants mingled with officials, politicians and philosophers. The site is dominated by the fifth-century BC Hephaisteion (Temple of Haephaistos), one of the best-preserved ancient temples in Greece. The fascinating Museo tis Agoras (Museum of Agorá) contains an eccentric array of everyday artefacts found in the area. It is housed in the second-century BC Stoa Attalou (Stoa of Attalos), which is thought to have been an early shopping arcade containing 42 separate shops.

Opening Times: Daily 0800-1900 (summer); daily 0830-1500 (winter).
Admission Fees: Yes
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Adrianou 24, Monastiráki, Athens, Greece
Telephone: 210 321 0180.
Akrópoli (Acropolis)

The Acropolis (upper city) dominates both the city's skyline and any tourist's itinerary. It is a rocky outcrop upon which the original settlement in Athens was founded. The Acropolis site includes four sacred buildings, all from the Golden Age of Pericles (461-429BC). The steep ascent to the summit leads to the Propylaea, a monumental entrance to the site in Ionic and Doric styles. The Temple of Athena Nike is to the left of the Propylaea; the original was destroyed by Turkish forces in the 17th century but has been beautifully restored.

The Parthenon is the largest building on the Acropolis and an icon of Western civilisation. Built entirely from marble, it was intended as a sanctuary for the goddess Athena and housed a statue (no longer in existence) of her. Despite the tourists, the perfect harmony of the structure is still awe-inspiring. The Erechtheion temple is a dual shrine to Athena and Poseidon-Erechtheus and was built on the site of the mythical battle between the two deities. The south side features a series of six support columns designed as maidens or caryatids.

Opening Times: Daily 0800-1900 (summer); daily 0830-1500 (winter).
Admission Fees: Yes
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: Yes
Address: Acropolis Hill, Athens, Greece
Telephone: 210 321 0219.
Néo Mouseío Akrópolis (New Acropolis Museum)

The New Acropolis Museum finally opened in 2009. An impressive ultra-modern glass-and-concrete structure designed by Swiss architect Bernard Tschumi, it showcases ancient statues and artefacts from the Acropolis site. The star exhibit, displayed on the top floor, is the marble frieze that once ran around the top of the Parthenon – although almost half the pieces are missing. Greeks hope it will persuade the British Museum in London to return those pieces - the controversial Parthenon Marbles, seized by Lord Elgin in 1799. Within the museum, there is an excellent cafe-restaurant, affording spectacular views onto the Acropolis hill.

Opening Times: Tue-Thu and Sat-Sun 0800-2000, Fri 0800-2200 (Apr-Oct); Tues-Thur 0900-1700, Fri 0900-2200, Sat-Sun 0900-2000 (Nov-Mar).
Admission Fees: Yes
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Makrigianni 2-4, Pláka, Athens, Greece
Telephone: 210 900 0900.
Olympieion (Temple of Olympian Zeus)

Lying close to the National Gardens and Pláka, 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 AD131 under the Roman Emperor Hadrian. It was damaged by an earthquake during the medieval period, and much of the stone subsequently carried away for use on other buildings. Today, 16 of the original 104 marble columns, which are 17m (56ft) high, survive. On the edge of the site stands the triumphal arch named Hadrian's Arch. Both monuments are beautifully floodlit by night.

Opening Times: Daily 0800-1900 (summer); daily 0830-1500 (winter).
Admission Fees: Yes
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Leoforos Vassilissis. Olgas and Amalias, Athens, Greece
Telephone: 210 922 6330.
Ethnikó Archaiologikó Mouseio (National Archaeological Museum)

Housed in a late 19th-century building, the renovated Archaeological Museum is undoubtedly the best museum in Greece with one of the finest collections of ancient and classical Greek artefacts in the world. Fascinating pieces include the Mycenaen Collection featuring hordes of finely crafted gold work dating from between the 16th and 11th centuries BC, and the Bronze Collection, including an imposing bronze statue of Poseidon from 460BC. There’s no way you can do it all in one day, so decide what you really want to see, and concentrate on that. Refreshments are available in the museum café overlooking the idyllically peaceful internal sculpture garden.

Opening Times: Mon 1300-2000, Tues-Sun 0800-1500 (sometimes extended in summer to 1900); daily 0830-1500 (winter).
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Patission 44, Omonia, Athens, Greece
Telephone: 213 214 4800.
Théatro Dionysou (Theatre of Dionysus)

On the southern slopes of the Acropolis Hill, the Théatro Dionysou was home to the original performances of the tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripedes and the comedies of Aristophanes. This stone auditorium, from the fourth century BC, held 17,000 spectators and the ruins remain one of the most atmospheric of Athens' ancient sites. It is undergoing a controversial restoration scheme, scheduled for completion in 2015. During this period it will however remain open to the public.

Opening Times: Daily 0800-1900 (summer); daily 0830-1500 (winter).
Admission Fees: Yes
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: D Areopagitou, Pláka, Athens, Greece
Telephone: 210 322 4625.
Mouseio Benaki (Benaki Museum)

The museum houses the private collection of Antonios Benakis (1873-1954), the son of a wealthy Greek from Alexandria, Egypt. Displayed in a neo-classical mansion, the collection traces the development of Greek art, from the Stone Age up to the 20th century, with jewellery, ceramics, painting, sculpture, furniture and costumes laid out in chronological order. Highlights include the Thessaly Treasure (a stash of second century BC gold jewellery) and two of El Greco’s early religious-themed oil paintings. There is a roof top terrace café and a museum shop selling reproductions of the exhibits on display.

Opening Times: Wed and Fri 0900-1700, Thurs and Sat 0900-2400, Sun 0900-1500.
Admission Fees: Yes
Disabled Access: No
Unesco: No
Address: Vassilissis Sofias & Koumbari 1, Kolonaki, Athens, Greece
Telephone: 210 367 1000.
Mouseío Ellinikis Laikis Technis (Museum of Greek Folk Art)

Lying on the edge of Pláka, this museum displays a vast and colourful collection of folk art that dates from 1650 onwards. Works are divided into specific sections devoted to costumes, embroidery, weaving, gold and silver jewellery, woodwork, weaponry, Greek shadow theatre and hand-painted ceramics. The highlights are the traditional costumes, set off against suggestive reconstructions of houses relating to their specific regions. Another highlight is the Theofilis Room, the reconstruction of a house on the island of Lesvos, which was frescoed by Theofilis Hadjimichael (1868-1934). There are also several annexes – separate buildings where more exhibits from the collection are on display.

Opening Times: Tues-Sun 0830-1430.
Admission Fees: Yes
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Kidathineon 17, Pláka, Athens, Greece
Telephone: 210 321 3018.
Mouseío Ellinikón Mousikon Orgánon (Museum of Greek Musical Instruments)

Housed in a renovated 19th-century mansion in the heart of Pláka, the Museum of Greek Musical Instruments displays a collection accumulated by the musicologist, Fivos Anoyanakis. Of the total 1,200 exhibits, only about 600 are on view. This museum is great fun - each display case is accompanied by a headset, so that visitors can listen to the sound of the instruments. Films in the entrance feature their construction and performance. Information is provided in English. In the adjoining walled garden, music recitals are occasionally staged on summer evenings.

Opening Times: Tues and Thurs-Sun 1000-1400, Wed 1200-1800.
Admission Fees: No
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Diogenous 1-3, Pláka, Athens, Greece
Telephone: 210 325 4119.
Mouseío Kykladikís Téchnis (Museum of Cycladic Art)

The museum houses the private collection of Nikolas P Goulandris. Beautiful exhibits (such as marble female figurines, thought to have been fertility symbols, and decorated clay vases, placed in graves as votive offerings) from the Cycladic civilisation (3000-2000BC) form the focus of the collection, but other artefacts cover the pre-Minoan Bronze Age and the post-Mycenaen age up to 700BC, and a collection of Ancient Cypriot Art was added in 2004. The museum shop offers an excellent selection of quality reproduction pieces, while the light and airy atrium café is a good place for coffee or a light lunch.

Opening Times: Mon, Wed, Fri and Sat 1000-1700, Thurs 1000-2000, Sun 1100-1700.
Admission Fees: Yes
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Neofítou Dhouká 4, Kolonáki, Athens, Greece
Telephone: 210 722 8321.
Panathinaiko Stádio (Panathenaic Stadium)

Also know to locals as Kalimarmaro, the elegant three-sided white marble stadium was built in 1896, for the first of the modern-day Olympic Games. The design by Ernst Ziller was based on the plan of a fourth-century-BC stadium that originally stood on the site. Located in the Pangrati neighbourhood, during the 2004 Olympic Games, this stadium hosted the fencing contests and the marathon ended here. It should not be confused with the modern Olympic Stadium in the north of the city at Maroussi that formed the centre stage of the 2004 Olympics.

Opening Times: Daily dawn-dusk.
Admission Fees: No
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Leoforos Ardhittou, Athens, Greece
Vizantino Mouseio (Byzantine Museum)

Housed in the grounds of a delightful neoclassical villa, this museum's open-plan exhibition space lies below the central courtyard, with exhibits presented in chronological order, tracing the development of Byzantium up until the empire’s fall in 1453, as well as looking at the influence Byzantine culture has had on art up to the present day. Besides boasting one of the richest collections of religious icons in the world, the museum exhibits mosaics, frescoes, sculptural works and jewellery from the area that is now Greece, as well as from other regions of the former Byzantine Empire.

Opening Times: Tues-Sun 0800-1500 (sometimes extended in summer).
Admission Fees: Yes
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Vassilissis Sofias 22, Kolonáki, Athens, Greece
Telephone: 213 213 9572.
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