How to Make the Most of Athens: Take a Full Tour of Ancient Greek Sites

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Athens National Archaeological Museum

The heyday of the ancient Greek civilization even pre-dates the Roman Empire.

Visit the Athens National Archaeological Museum to put your Athens experiences into some kind of context.

The Athens National Archaeological Museum contains thousands of examples of human sculpture and pottery to show just how developed the Greek civilization was.

In particular, look out for the life-size bronze of a boy on a horse, and spot how well the artist captures the scene. It took the West almost 2,000 years to come close to this artistic quality again.

The Athens Archaeological Museum also gives some context to the civilization.

There are displays from Ancient Egypt, which highlight their fascination with the dead, and the afterlife, and their gods. These were also important subjects in Ancient Greece.

Likewise, the pottery from the Minoan and Mycenaean cultures, which pre-date the Ancient Greeks show how pottery skills were developed.

The museum also shows how the Romans used the skills of Ancient Greece to develop their empire.

National Archaeological Museum
Athens, National Archaeological Museum hall. Courtesy: wikimedia.org

The Acropolis and the Parthenon

Every visitor to Athens comes to see the Acropolis and the world-famous Parthenon.

Unfortunately, despite the sheer beauty of the Parthenon, there isn’t too much to see, despite the wonderful panoramic view of Athens from the top of the mountain.

The exhibits are shrouded in scaffolding and closed off, most of the beautiful sculptures originally on the site are now displayed in museums around the world, and the sheer number of visitors can make the trip a frustrating experience.

parthenon in athens greece
Parthenon, the temple that dominates the hill of the Acropolis at Athens

The Acropolis was originally a place of temples reserved for the Gods, and even today, many visitors cannot get a good feel for the life of the Ancient Greeks solely from a visit to the Acropolis.

The Theatre of Dionysus

The ruin of the Theatre of Dionysus is on the southern slope of the Acropolis. Although it is not far from the Acropolis most will find this attraction a less busy experience.

Theatre was very important to the Ancient Greeks, and the remains of this 17,000-seat theatre demonstrate this.

Nearby, is a temple to Asclepius, a healer God. The ill of Ancient Athens would come to this temple to place their faith and their offerings (usually bronze or clay figures) in this God.

theatre of dionysus athens
The Theatre of Dionysus in Athens.
Courtesy: Neil Howard / flickr.com

The Ancient Agora

The admission ticket for the Acropolis also allows visitors admission to a number of other sites including Ancient Agora. This was the center of ancient Athens from 600BC to AD267.

At Ancient Agora, the visitor can see a reconstructed Stoa, which was a market and meeting place, and see the best-preserved Doric temple in Greece, in the Temple of Hephaestus.

Ancient Agora in Athens, Greece
The Ancient Agora in Athens, Greece

There are plenty of ruins and explanation signs to explore, and the sprawling Ancient Agora site gives a better feel for what day-to-day life must have been like. Best of all, Ancient Agora isn’t as busy with tourists.

Keramikos: The City Cemetery

You can tell much about a civilization from how they treat their dead, so a visit to Keramikos is important.

Many of the beautiful statues and tombs that the Greeks used to adorn the burial grounds of the good and powerful are in the Athens Archaeological Museum. However, there are faithful copies at the Keramikos so it retains a powerful atmosphere.

Most of the dead were buried alongside the ancient main road, part of which is exposed to allow the visitor to retrace the steps taken by the Ancient Greeks.

The main gates to the city, the Dipylon Gates is also on this site. This was a bustling area with market stalls and sellers offering their wares, and it is easy to create a picture of everyday life.

Again, access to the Keramikos site can be gained through the main Acropolis admission ticket.

The ancient cemetery of Kerameikos
The ancient cemetery of Keramikos is an extraordinary sight.

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