Historic sites in Athens | Athens History Tour Ideas

From world famous icons to hidden wonders, the historic sites in Athens are fascinating to explore. In fact, as one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, the historical attractions on offer are central to any trip to this thriving metropolis.

The cradle of democracy, once the centre of a powerful confederation of Greek city-states, the history of Athens lies at the very heart of western civilisation. Though its military might may have waned over the centuries, nonetheless Athens remained at the forefront of cultural life throughout the Roman period and beyond. In modern times, this legacy can still be explored through the historical sites of Athens, which include some of the best known examples of ancient Greek architecture as well as many impressive Roman remains.

Today, the historic sites of Athens are among the very top tourist attractions in the city and draw millions of people every year. To start your exploration of Athens’ historic sites, take a look at the interactive Athens history map above or navigate further by using the links below. Once you’ve chosen those sites you wish to see you can use our itinerary planner to plan your own Athens history tour and then print off a free pocket guidebook.

Our database of Athens’ historic sites is growing all the time, but we may not cover them all. Remember, if you know other historic sites in Athens, you can add them to Trip Historic now by visiting our upload page.

Athens: Site Index

Photo by archer10 (Dennis) (cc)

Agios Eleftherios

Once used as the central church of Athens, Agios Eleftherios is a very small 12th century Byzantine church known as the little cathedral. It is one of the more hidden historic sites of Athens.

DID YOU KNOW?

Agios Eleftherios is a very small yet important Byzantine church in Athens set in the shadow of the city’s cathedral.

Built in the twelfth century, Agios Eleftherios was once the main church in Athens. This fact, coupled with the vision of the diminutive church next to the monolith of Athens Cathedral has led to it being known as the "little cathedral" or Mikri Mitropoli. It is also known by the name Panaghia Gorgoepiikoos.

Photo by Eustaquio Santimano (cc)

Ancient Agora of Athens

The Ancient Agora of Athens was the social, political and commercial hub of the ancient city and is an important stop on any Athens history tour. Start your exploration of this ancient site with the Agora Museum.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Ancient Agora of Athens was a market, a meeting place and the social, political and commercial hub of the ancient city. Whilst initial developed in the sixth century BC, the Ancient Agora of Athens was destroyed, rebuilt and renovated several times, including attacks by the Persians in 480BC, the Romans and by the Scandinavian tribe known as the Herulians in 267BC.

Despite its turbulent history, the Ancient Agora of Athens houses several fascinating sites, including the stunning fifth century BC Temple of Hephaestus. It is also home to the remains of several covered walkways or "stoas" such as the famous Stoa of Zeus where Socrates is said to have debated and met with other philosophers.

A good way to get your bearings within the Ancient Agora of Athens is to start by visiting the Agora Museum, which offers more information on the site.

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Arch of Hadrian - Athens

Left in a slightly unloved state, the Arch of Hadrian is a triumphal gateway built in the second century AD.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Arch of Hadrian of Athens is a triumphal gateway built in the second century AD (circa 132 AD). This is definitely not the most impressive of ancient gateways, its Pentelic marble now damaged by years of exposure to pollution.

Photo by Lauren J. (cc)

Athens Cathedral

One of many religious sites found among the historic areas of Athens, Athens Cathedral was built over the course of two decades in the 19th century.

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Athens Cathedral (Metropolis) was built over the course of two decades in the nineteenth century.

Photo by jaybergesen (cc)

Athens National Archaeological Museum

The largest museum in Greece, Athens National Archaeological Museum houses over 20,000 exhibits. One of the most fascinating historic sites in Athens.

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Athens National Archaeological Museum is the largest museum in Greece, housing over 20,000 exhibits spread over 8,000 square metres of an imposing nineteenth century building.

With permanent exhibitions ranging from the Neolithic era and the Mycenaean era to the Ancient Romans and even the Ancient Egyptians, the Athens National Archaeological Museum’s collection offers a comprehensive insight into the history of Greece throughout the ages, from prehistoric times to the eighteenth century.

Amongst of the most impressive exhibits at the National Archaeological Museum is its collection of Greek sculptures. This vast exhibit includes statues, altars, busts and other pieces from throughout mainland Greece and the Aegean islands. Many of the sculptures are funerary in nature and include sarcophagi and reliefs.

The Neolithic, Mycenaean, Cycladic and Thera exhibits, which make up the National Archaeological Museum’s prehistory collection, encompass everything from tools from 6800 BC to finds from the doomed settlement of Akrotiri in Thera, destroyed by a volcano in the sixteenth century BC. The Mycenaean collection is the largest exhibit at the National Archaeological Museum. This includes excavation finds from Mycenae itself as well as from the settlements of Argolid, Lakonia, Messenia, and Attika.

Athens War Museum

An interesting place to explore, the Athens War Museum houses an extensive range of exhibits relating to the history of war.

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The Athens War Museum houses an extensive range of exhibits relating to the history of war in Greece as well as some relating to wars in other nations.

From weapons and uniforms to maps and prints, the Athens War Museum covers many time periods, from prehistory to World War II and including an exhibit about Alexander the Great.

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Kerameikos

One of the lesser known historical sites of Athens Kerameikos was the site of an important ancient burial ground which also contains the ruins of what was once the ancient city wall.

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Kerameikos is an archaeological site in Athens which contains the remains an important ancient burial ground as well as a series of famous monuments.

Once home to the city’s potters - hence its name meaning pottery - Kerameikos developed to also become the site of a cemetery. In fact, some of the oldest graves found at Kerameikos date back to as far as the third millennium BC. It would serve this function for centuries, including under the Romans up to the sixth century AD.

Yet, in addition to the burial aspects of Kerameikos, such as the Street of Tombs where prominent figures were laid to rest, the site also contains remnants of the entrance to ancient Athens. Visitors can see the ruins of what was the city wall, including the Sacred Gate and the Dipylon Gate. It is also where the Panathenaic procession - a great ancient Athenian festival - began its route. The ruins of the staging area for this procession - the Pompeion - can be found at Kerameikos.

To see finds from the site, such as vases, visit the Kerameikos Museum.

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Roman Agora of Athens

One of several Roman sites in Athens, the Roman Agora contains some of the city’s Roman remains, including the Tower of the Winds monument.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Roman Agora of Athens - also known as the Roman Forum of Athens - was founded in the late first century BC / early first century AD and its construction was funded by Julius Caesar and the Emperor Augustus.

Probably the most impressive historic site at the Roman Agora of Athens is what is known as the Tower of the Winds. A clock, weather vane, sundial and compass all in one, this monument is generally thought to date to the first century BC and is very well preserved.

The Roman Agora of Athens is also home to the Gate of Athena Archegetis (circa 11BC) as well as the remains of some ancient public toilets.

Syntagma Metro Station

One place where you probably wouldn’t expect to find Athens’ historic sites Syntagma Metro Station nonetheless contains a wonderful display of ancient artefacts, uncovered during the station’s construction.

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In the very heart of the city opposite the Parliament, Syntagma Metro Station is both a transport hub and museum.

Dating from the 1990s, when Athens was building its new metro for the 2004 Olympics, the station contains numerous artefacts dating from Classical times - including skeletons - excavated on the site as the station was being built.

A great many items are displayed in the station, the highlight being a glass-walled display behind which a number of these objects can be seen.

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Temple of Hephaestus

The Temple of Hephaestus is a very well preserved ancient Greek temple in the Athenian Agora. Often overlooked in favour of the Parthenon, it is actually one of the best historic sites in Athens.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Temple of Hephaestus is an imposing ancient Greek temple in the Athenian Agora and site of worship of the Greek deity of fire, blacksmiths and sculpture.

Built in the fifth century BC, the Temple of Hephaestus was later incorporated into the Church of Agios Georgios, this accounting for its excellent state of preservation. This site also features as one of our Top 10 tourist attractions in Greece.

Temple of Olympian Zeus

Though little remains of the original structure, the Temple of Olympian Zeus was one of the most impressive ancient temples in Greece and is an interesting stop on any Athens history tour.

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The Temple of Olympian Zeus, also known as the Olympeion is one of the biggest - if not actually the biggest - ancient temples in Greece.

Vast and impressive, the Temple of Olympian Zeus was begun by Peisistratus the Young in the sixth century BC but various events and circumstances meant it took hundreds of years to construct. It was the Roman emperor Hadrian who finally completed it in around 132AD.

The archaeological site of the Temple of Olympian Zeus contains not just the ancient temple but also other ruins. Amongst these are some other ancient temples, the remains of a defensive wall, some Roman baths and even homes.

Photo by Historvius

The Acropolis

The most famous landmark in Athens, the Acropolis dominates the skyline and contains a host of famous ancient Greek remains, including The Parthenon.

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The Acropolis is one of the most recognisable historic sites in the world and remains an inspirational monument to the achievements of Ancient Greek civilisation.

Standing tall above the Greek city of Athens, the Acropolis contains a number of buildings and monuments from Greek Antiquity, including the Parthenon, the Erechtheion, the Propylaia and the temple of Athena Nike.

The majority of sites on the Acropolis were constructed in the 5th Century BC, during the ‘golden age’ of Athens and under the stewardship of Athenian statesman Pericles. After the original site was burned to the ground in 480BC during the Persian Wars, the Athenians set to re-building their city with monuments that would bear testament to the greatness of their state.

The Acropolis continued to be developed throughout the Hellenistic, Macedonian and Roman periods. After the area became Christianised, the Acropolis complex was largely converted for use as a Christian centre, with the Parthenon serving as a Cathedral.

However, by the early middle ages, the Acropolis was more frequently used as a defensive fortification by the various occupiers of the city. During a battle between Venetian and Ottoman forces in 1687, the Parthenon suffered severe damage which was never repaired.

These impressive monuments have largely stood the test of time through invasion, conquest and war and the Acropolis stands as one of the greatest historic destinations in the world.

Today, the Acropolis is an extremely popular historic site and caters for a multitude of tourists every year. The recently opened Acropolis Museum, which lies nearby, contains an amazing array of displays and artefacts from the Acropolis itself.

The Acropolis is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and also features as one of our Top 10 tourist attractions in Greece.

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The Acropolis Museum

Recently opened, the Acropolis Museum contains excellent collections from Ancient Greece and general Athenian history. A crucial stop for anyone exploring the history of Athens.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Acropolis Museum is a stunningly located and constructed archaeological museum housing a myriad of Ancient Greek artefacts, particularly those relating to the Acropolis and the Parthenon, both of which can be seen from the museum's top floor panoramic windows.

Housed in an eminently modern building and using multimedia presentations side by side with ancient artefacts, the Acropolis Museum is both fascinating and accessible.

The undoubted highlight of the Acropolis Museum is the top floor where the Parthenon sculptures are beautifully displayed in the order in which they would have graced the original Parthenon.

Pointedly, there are gaps, filled by plaster-cast reproductions, which await the return of the originals - the Elgin Marbles - which are currently found in the British Museum having been brought to England ('stolen' in the view of some) at the end of the 18th Century by Lord Elgin. This site also features as one of our Top 10 tourist attractions in Greece.

The Agora Museum - Athens

Giving an excellent insight into Athens’ ancient market, the Agora Museum displays artefacts from the Ancient Agora and is housed within the reconstructed Stoa of Attalos.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Agora Museum displays finds and artefacts from the site of the Ancient Agora of Athens. It is also located within the reconstructed ancient building of the Stoa of Attalos.

Originally constructed in the mid-second century BC, the Stoa of Attalos - once a popular shopping precinct and meeting place - is named after the king who built it, Attalos II of Pergamum.

For those visiting the Ancient Agora of Athens, the Agora Museum is a good place to start as it helps you make sense of the ruins with models of how the site would once have looked.

The Beule Gate

Part of the Acropolis complex, the Beule Gate was built in the third century AD as part of a defensive wall.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Beule Gate is one of the first things you see when entering the Acropolis complex and was built in the third century AD as part of a defensive wall.

Discovered in 1852, the Beule Gate was named after archaeologist Ernest Beule.

The Choragic Monument of Lysicrates

Lysicrates' monument to commemorate first prize in a dramatic performance that he had sponsored around 335 BCE.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Choragic Monument of Lysicrates was the first Greek monument built in the Corinthian order.

The frieze decoration depicts the adventure of Dionysos with the pirates, whom he turned into dolphins.

Lysicrates is the man who paid for the monument, which commemorates a chorus that he sponsored who won first place in a competition.

The Choragic Monument of Lysicrates is located on the ancient Street of the Tripods near the Acropolis in Athens (so named for the tripod prizes awarded to choric victories. In 1669 the monument and surrounding area were incorporated into the Capuchin monastery. In the 1820s all of the buildings of the monastery, with the exception of the Choragic Monument, were destroyed by Ottoman forces.

 

The Erechtheion

Part of the Acropolis complex, the Erechtheion is a well preserved Greek temple. Its distinctive architecture includes a number of large column-statues depicting the ancient women of Karyes.

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The Erechtheion is a well preserved ancient temple within the Acropolis complex where its believed namesake, the legendary Greek king Erechtheus, is thought to have come to worship.

Immersed in myth and legend, the Erechtheion was home to several cults, including those of Poseidon, Athena and, of course, Erechtheus himself.

Completed in around 406BC, the Erechtheion is a distinctive building whose large columns are statues depicting women. These statues are known as Karyatides, derived from the fact that they were inspired by the women of Karyes in Lakonia.

Four of the original six statues are now on display in the adjoining Acropolis Museum having been replaced by copies in the Erechtheion itself. Of the remaining two statues, one is in the British Museum as part of the Elgin Marbles. Only a few fragments of the final statue survive, also displayed in the Acropolis Museum.

Photo by Historvius

The Parthenon

The Parthenon is probably the most famous surviving site from Ancient Greece. An imposing ancient Greek temple, which stands atop the Acropolis, it is the most popular historic site in Athens.

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The Parthenon is probably the most famous surviving site from Ancient Greece. Standing at the heart of The Acropolis in the centre of Athens, the Parthenon is a monument to Classical Greek civilisation.

Built during the golden age of Pericles - the famous Athenian statesman - the Parthenon was originally constructed to be a temple to the Ancient Greek goddess Athena.

The Parthenon was built in the mid-fifth Century BC and replaced an earlier construction on the site which had been destroyed during the Persian Wars. Through the centuries, the Parthenon has also been used as a Christian Church and a Muslim Mosque.

The Parthenon was heavily damaged in 1687 during a conflict between the Ottoman Empire and the Venetians. Many of the surviving sculptures from the Parthenon were removed from the site in the early 19th Century by the Earl of Elgin and are now on display in the British Museum.

Today the Parthenon remains on the ‘must-see’ list of most history enthusiasts and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Propylaia

Once forming the grand entranceway to the Acropolis, the Propylaia is one of the most imposing and impressive sites in the complex.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Propylaia (also spelt Propylaea) was the grand entranceway to the Acropolis. Begun in approximately 437BC under the supervision of the architect Mnesikles, works on the Propylaia continued until 432BC, but were never completed.

Nevertheless, even in its unfinished state, the Propylaia is considered to be of great architectural importance and beauty. It would have been a grand structure, with many external Doric and internal Ionic columns, all built in Pentelic marble.

The Propylaia was fairly well preserved until the seventeenth century, when it was devastated by an explosion. Today, its ruins form a dramatic sight within the Acropolis complex.

Theatre of Dionysus

A picturesque stop when exploring the historical sites of Athens, the Theatre of Dionysus was one of the most important theatres in Ancient Greece.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Theatre of Dionysus in Athens was one of the most important theatres in Ancient Greece.

Initially built of timber in the sixth century BC, the Theatre of Dionysus was named in honour of the Greek deity of wine and theatre. It soon became a focal point of Ancient Greek social life, with plays, festivals and competitions all taking place there. In fact, the Theatre of Dionysus played host to masterpieces by some of the most important playwrights of the time, including Sophocles and Euripides.

By 326BC, the Theatre of Dionysus had been expanded and renovated, able to seat up to 17,000 people and with added stone tiers. Some of the seating can still be seen today.

Photo by Jorge Lascar (cc)

Theatre of Herodes Atticus

Capable of seating up to 5,000 people, the Theatre of Herodes Atticus is a Roman amphitheatre built in Athens in 161AD. It is one the best preserved of Athens’ historic sites.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Theatre of Herodes Atticus, also known as the Odeon, is a Greco-Roman theatre built in 161 AD.

It is named after an affluent Greek-born Roman senator, Herodes Atticus, who constructed it in commemoration of his wife, Regilia.

Able to seat up to 5,000 people, the Theatre of Herodes Atticus was mostly used for music shows and festivals, a function which the now restored structure still performs today.