Exploring Athens famous ruins in one day

posted in: Greece | 27

Whilst traveling around Greece I only had one day to check out the capital, Athens. Top of the list was to explore all the famous Ancient Greek ruins and capture the history. As well as this I wanted to see the city briefly away from the historic sites as to be honest, I don’t know much about the city.

Well, I start with the bad but this shouldn’t put anyone off visiting Athens. I found the streets to be dirty, the buildings looking shabby and some (not all) of the people are rude. I was shocked about this as traveling around Greece I found the locals were very friendly. Walking outside the parliament I found there was a minor protest and I have to admit, apart from the ancient ruins, was there anything worth visiting and seeing in the city? There may well have been but I didn’t do enough research to find out.

After spending all day at the ancient sites, there is no time to do anything else. By the end of the day (and before my night bus to my next destination) I was glad to visit the city and see the ancient sites but I was a bit disheartened on my brief experience of Athens. Hopefully it will be better experience for me on my next visit.

Greece, Athens
Theatre of Dionysus Eleuthereus

Sounded a bit strange to write about my feelings of the city at the start of the post. Now the negative experience is out, I grant you the rest of this post will be more uplifting. If you’re reading this and haven’t been to Athens, hopefully this will make you book those flights to come. Here are all the ancient sites I visited in one day and this is how I did it.

Greece, Athens
My first view of Acropolis – not a bad sight at all

A lot of visitors head to the Acropolis which is an ancient citadel located on top of a hill above the city and is an UNESCO World Heritage site. The site has several building which have lots of historic and architectural significance. The heart of these being the Parthenon.

Well, this building is truly impressive despite being damaged in a war many centuries ago by the Venetians, to whom fired a cannonball towards it and with pot luck, hit a lot of gunpowder which was stored here and kaa-boom! The Parthenon we see today is from this explosion. Since then it has became a church, a mosque, some dodgy dealings took place with some Ancient Greek statues and marbles taken to the British Museum in London , UK (sorry guys but I am one of many thousands of Brits who want to see these returned to Athens) and a major restoration project commenced. Walking around the place I did have to keep an eye on where I was walking due to all the marble stones. Even in the dry heat of the sun they still can be slippery.

Greece, Athens
Parthenon – the heart of the Acropolis
Greece, Athens
Parthenon – the heart of the Acropolis
Greece, Athens
Theatre of Dionysus Eleuthereus
Greece, Athens
Odean of Herodes Atticus
Greece, Athens
Parthenon – the heart of the Acropolis
Greece, Athens
The Acropolis
Greece, Athens
Theatre of Dionysus Eleuthereus

Walking around the Acropolis I managed to check out the other historic buildings located here like the Old Temple of Athena, Theatre of Dionysus Eleuthereus and Erechtheum. Despite the place being in ruins here, I could still see how the place is set out. What the buildings were used for (with the help of a guide book of course) and tried to picture how life was in the city. I spent a lot of time walking around, taking it all in and I also took in the wonderful views of Athens. It feels like the Acropolis is located in the very heart of Athens. Every time I turned my head, my eyes could see white buildings going beyond the horizon.

Athens, Greece
A view overlooking Athens from the Acropolis
Greece, Athens
A view overlooking Athens from the Acropolis

After walking down the hillside from the Acropolis, there is still a lot of ruins to see dotted about nearby. One of my favourites is the Temple of Olympian Zeus which has stood since 2AD. Construction, however, began eight centuries before that, so not sure what the hold up was but if I was an owner of a building which I wanted opening very soon and paid a lot of money to do the project, I be pretty dam cheesed off if I had to wait 638 years for its completion!.

I really do love the history behind this place. It was completed when the Romans were in charge. Once done, it had one hundred and four colossal columns and was known to be the largest temple in Greece. However, only after a century the Barbarian’s invaded the city. They pillaged everything from the temple and the place fell into disuse and never got repaired, eventually falling into ruins. Over time, the temple was quarried for building materials to supply material for other projects across the city but somehow most of the outer shell of the temple still stands today, including sixteen of the original columns.

Greece, Athens
Temple of Olympian Zeus with the Acropolis in the background

Nearby is the Ancient Agora of Athens which is located northwest of the Acropolis. This is a place definitely worth hitting up. The Agora is made up of a large area full of ancient ruins. It is surrounded with lots of trees and bushes dotted about to give the place a more feel good factor. In the golden age of Ancient Greece, a lot of the juries and political gatherings would take place here. The area started out as houses before becoming land for the government. During this time, fountains, a drainage system and a temple dedicated to the Olympia gods were built. After they were built, they expanded the Agora by building more public buildings, more temples and went crazy planting trees (which is a good thing).

Athens, Greece
A view of the Acropolis from the Agora
Athens, Greece
Ancient Agora
Athens, Greece
Ancient Agora
Athens, Greece
Ancient Agora
Athens, Greece
Ancient Agora

Over the centuries the Persians, the Romans, etc, had come and gone, sieging the place. It then become a residential area before falling into ruins (but in a lot better condition than the other sites around the city). It wasn’t until the 19th century that archaeologists started to excavate the area. However a huge discovery was made in the late 19th century when construction workers of the Athens-Piraeus railway found a large part of the Agora. Because of this discovery the project didn’t come through here and a lot of excavation took place. Work is still taking place today and the archaeologists believe that there is much more to find of the Agora.

Athens, Greece
Ancient Agora

Even though I only checked out three sites around Athens (and there are still plenty to do), these are the places which I saw on my day to the Greek capital and recommend them to all visitors. If anyone is coming here for a day before heading off to other parts of the country (or one of the countries many thousand islands) then these can all be done in one day.

In the summer months take a bottle of water as the heat of the sun can be very hot. You’ll also want to take a pair of sensible walking shoes for the uphill paths and walking on marbled stones. I remember seeing an American woman in high heels getting her heel jammed in between the marble stones and started to scream “Why did the Greeks use these stones to walk on?!?” – one funny moment I will always treasure forever up on the Acropolis.  I seriously can’t wait to get back to Athens to check out the other sites and give the non-Ancient side of the city another chance.

 

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27 Responses

  1. Oh, you should definitely go again! One day is surely not enough, but it’s good that you at least got to go around the ancient site. If you haven’t seen the Acropolis, it’s like you haven’t even been, right! 🙂
    Given that I’ve studied philosophy, I was also fascinated by the actual cell where Socrates was imprisoned once.
    Love your photos, by the way. And next time, try to spend some more time in the cobblestone narrow streets of the Plaka area, a romantic dinner would be perfect there. 🙂

  2. Weldone for getting it done in one day! I haven’t made it over there yet, but I keep getting told it needs a few, but I reckon if you give it enough time you can easily knock it all out in one go! Agora just looks incredible!

  3. Athens is one of my most beautiful travel memories. Not only the story, but also the people have impressed me on this trip. We will definitely go there again. Your pictures have just reminded me how beautiful it was. Thanks, Susanne

  4. Danila Caputo

    I explored the ruins in one day just like you, years ago, with my friends from school, and I have the same exact memories. Shabby buildings and dirty streets. Also we had a pretty bad experience with a very rude shopkeeper, which has put me off from visiting for such a long time. But I’d still like to return one day, this time with my husband, to see how the city has changed!

  5. You make me want to go to Athens now. As someone who loves ancient cities, Athens is certainly on top of my list and not just for the Acropolis. Did you see any strains of the ancient civilization living in Athens today? I love to find this aspect of the old cities.

  6. This is such wonderful and detailed post. I love all the pictures in this post. How i wish i could go to such wonderful places soon. Thanks for sharing.

  7. We really want to visit the ruins of ancient Greece in Athens. We ‘ve been to Greece quite a few times but have never made it to the capital. Was it really busy around the ruins with tour parties? However, unlike the rest of Greece, the modern city of Athens doesn’t sound that nice, looks like they haven’t really done much in the last 2000 years.

  8. I am with you regarding the Parthenon sculptures being returned and the awesome ancient sites – nice pics and writing. Athens has rude people like any city but my experience is much more positive. Hope you are luckier next time.

  9. Athens and Greece have been on our travel plans for years – we can’t seem to make it! It feels that we need months and months to explore the beautiful country. But you are right, one day at a time!

  10. I really want to visit Athens at some point, though I’ve heard similar things to your experience that people really didn’t take to the city itself – dirty, a bit shabby, so it must be accurate as you’re not the first person I’ve heard this from. The ancient sites however everyone has said are truly impressive, so I think this is definitely where I’ll focus my time. I can’t imagine how incredible it would be to see something like the Parthenon at the Acropolis up close knowing just how much history has played out here!

  11. It’s a massive place to explore for a day. A bottle of big water could help here and of course a sensible shoes and not a high heels is indeed necessary! haha This ancient site is incredible and looks very historic! I haven’t been to Europe but will definitely do including Greece once I move in! All photos are mega impressive, I wonder how I’d feel like when I get to see it with my own eyes!

  12. I’ve been to Athens years ago on a school fieldtrip, and I remember not being particularly impressed with the city. We did visit the Akropolis, which was obviously interesting even for a teenager! If I revisited, I wouldn’t want to pack everything in only one day- however you managed to see quite a lot.

  13. I’m heading there in July. Thanks for the tips

  14. It’s a pity you took away such negative memories of ordinary Athens. But I guess that’s what authentic travelling is all about. Not everything can be good or pretty. At least you had a great experience discovering the old ruins. The Parthenon, the Acropolis, the temple of Olympian Zeus, and the Ancient Agora all look very impressive.

  15. Carol Colborn

    Wow, truly just a day? These are the most important ancient sites: Parthenon, Acropolis, Agora. I can therefore go do as you did!

  16. This sounds great !! That you’ve covered all the major places in this Historic city. I’ve read about Athens that it will take minimum 2 days to cover all the places but you’ve done it in one day.

  17. You have great photos of the ancient sites. I have only been to Crete and Cyprus so far of the Greek areas but want to visit the mainland some day and visit a lot of the ancient sites.

  18. Oh sad that you had bad experience of Athens.
    My experience is totally different. I loved every bit of Athens, people, ruins, buildings, shops, souvenirs food…. everything. I hope I get an opportunity to visit again.

  19. Hi Danik,

    Sounds like a fun time overall. So interesting; your first impression of the city. My wife felt the same way. She did spend time in a not too nice part of city so I have to be fair but Athens itself did not vibe with her either. To each their own.

    Ryan

  20. I have plans to visit Greece, hopefully this year, and my original plan was to visit Athens in one day and then head off to the islands. I love the history in this city and the ruins are just stunning and blow me away with just how long they have been standing. They really knew how to build things back then! Thank you for the suggestions on where to visit while I am there!

  21. Greece was always a destination where we’d love to go! We already made it to islands and this year we are going to Athens so this post came in the right time! Great writing and the photography is really good!
    Sending good vibes only,
    xx

    Patricia & Miguel
    http://www.freeoversea.com

  22. Great post and awesome pics. Athens is on our list and hope to make it some day. Thank you for sharing and the great suggestions. Happy travels.

  23. We had the same feelings when we first arrived in Athens. I thought the streets were dirty and tons of graffiti; I couldn’t believe I had not read about it before getting there so thanks for your honesty. The history is incredible and a must-experience.

  24. Oh, I am sorry that you didn’t start with a good impression. I had a same feeling when I visited Paris, but everyone says I should go back to Paris to see more, my feeling about the city might change. I think you should do the same and go back and spend more time there. I am going to Greece in 3 weeks. I will stay in Athens for 3 days and then go and visit a few Islands.

  25. Greece was the second country we visited in Europe and that was years ago. I need to go back and explore more of Greece, but we did spend a lot of time in Athens. And we loved everything about the city.

  26. It’s crazy that I’ve been to so many places so far away – and still didn’t make it to Greece which is relatively close. Seeing your pictures I realize once again that I should go there as soon as I can – I just love this cradle of culture!

  27. I agree these are the top historical ruins to visit in a day in Athens. Acropolis with parthenon and Theatre of Dionysus Eleuthereus is amazing and also the Temple of Olympian Zeus and Ancient Agora are fantastic places to visit as well. Love all your pictures, we had an extra day so we went to Cape Sounion and that was really amazing as well!

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