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2 July, 2016

Athens: 10 things to do

Posted in : Exotic Destinations on by : Rubina Rahiman Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

“I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world.”

― Socrates

Greece, the cradle of Western civilisation is the birth place of democracy, leaders such as Agamemnon, Pericles and Alexander the Great. Greek mythology brought to life the God Zeus, Goddess Hera, the beautiful Aphrodite, and the mighty Hercules. In 776 BC,  Hercules started the Olympic Games in honour of Zeus and were held every 4 years in Olympia.

Philosophers such as Socrates and Plato played a role in bringing higher learning to the Western world.

Each monument in Athens tells a story. To walk its streets, to wander around the Acropolis and other areas really does take you back in time. No other city has retained so much of its ancient history than Athens, Greece.

My son, Bilal’s top ten picks of attractions in Athens!

Acropolis means ‘high city’ in Greek. Standing since the Bronze Age and rebuilt in the 5th century BC during the golden age of Pericles, the Acropolis of Athens, is an ancient citadel on a high rocky hill above the city of Athens. Acropolis is the crowning glory of Ancient Athens, with its many monuments atop its rocky base including the awesome Parthenon and Temple of Athena Nike. It is the stage on which decisions crucial to Western civilisation have been made.

Parthenon, a truly iconic landmark built in the 5th century BC was a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena. This magnificent art piece has all the pillars tilted towards centre of the building. The prime destination for millions of visitors was for many centuries a place of worship for Athena, the city’s patron Goddess.

Temple of Olympian Zeus

This temple dedicated to Zeus, King of the Olympian gods, used to be the largest in Greece, even larger than the Parthenon in the Acropolis. Now, only a handful of pillars remain and this spectacular and massive monument is a great introduction to Athenian ruins. There is an interesting fallen column that fell in an earthquake around the 1700 and it remains as it fell, looking like casino chips stacked horizontally.

Acropolis Museum

If you have very little time, this is the ONE museum to visit in Athens. Sterling example of an archaeological museum in a modern setting, this exhilarating museum brings the acropolis to life; from the moment one walks into the grounds of this museum with its glass covered floors that make you walk with your head down looking at ancient Athens whilst working your way into the museum with “Out of this world ” marble carvings thousands of years old!

Hadrian’s Arch

A monumental gateway, built in AD 131 by the Roman Emperor Hadrian, a great admirer of Greece  marked the border between the old and the new city of Athens in the Roman period. The legacy the Romans left in this great city is epitomised in this flawless piece of antiquity and is well-preserved in all its glory. A marvellous gateway to the Temple of the Olympian Zeus.

Plaka

Right beneath Acropolis Hill, Plaka is the oldest and most charming district in Athens. Ruins of ancient Roman structures and Byzantine churches create a unique mosaic of the city’s history. Picturesque narrow alleys with gorgeous preserved buildings add character to Plaka district.

Roman Agora

A public open space used for assemblies and markets is a gorgeous mix of history and nature.  It was the centre of society in ancient Athens. The Ancient Agora is dominated by  the Hephisterias Temple nestled in a wooded area filled with cyprus trees and olive trees, almost experience what it must have been like 2400 years ago. This temple  which was built two years before the Parthenon is the best-preserved of temples in Athens.

Monastiraki

This becomes a very beautiful place in the evening. As soon as you come out of Monastiraki metro station you will see a huge square. Wind your way around a maze of historic streets and indoor and outdoor markets with lots of stops to sip coffee and watch the world go by with the Acropolis seated majestically on the mount above.

Syntagma Square

Also known as “Constitution Square”, this is the heart of Athens in many ways. It’s a large, open square which often hosts holiday events, it’s the location of several of Athens’ most renowned luxury hotels, it’s an intense public transportation hub, and it actually has the Parliament Building along one side of the square. Pedestrian-only Ermou Street leads off of it, providing access to some of Athens’ better upscale shopping.

Changing of the Guard ceremonies take place at the Presidential Mansion and at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which is off Syntagma Square below the Hellenic Parliament.This ceremony is 24 times daily but the main one takes place each Sunday at 11 am. The two guards standing in front of the parliament without blinking, wearing a very elegant traditional Greek outfit, are certainly worth watching.

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