I’ve wanted to go to mainland Greece ever since I became interested in Classics and ancient history. To actually visit the places talked about in the plays of Sophocles and Euripides, and walk around the same(ish) city that Socrates and Plato made their home… So when my mum and brother were thinking of going, I jumped right on that bandwagon and tagged along with them!
We were in Athens for two full days and two half days, and we saw so much in that short period of time. There was unfortunately an issue with our transfer at the airport, but we got to the hotel in time to check in and head straight back out for food (priorities!) and a visit to the Temple of Olympian Zeus (the Olympieion). The remaining 16 columns (15 standing) are a small portion of the original 104 which were built, although apparently the temple took over 600 years to build – after which it was only used for about a century before it fell into disrepair… Still, these gargantuan columns are truly a sight to behold.
Day 2 was mainly spent at the Acropolis, which is the home of one of the most well-known temples, the Parthenon. Although unfortunately half covered in scaffolding, just being able to see this building was amazing. Alongside the Parthenon and the Erechtheion on the Acropolis, there is also the stunning view, and the remains of both the Theatre of Dionysos Eleuthereus and the Odeon of Herodes Atticus (the Herodeion). The theatres were probably my highlight, especially the older Theatre of Dionysos, which is on the site of the original theatre where the famous Dionysia was performed, and Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides would have had their plays produced.
We also managed to visit the Athenian Agora on our second day, which was another walk back through history. The extremely well-preserved Temple of Hephaestus (the Hephaisteion) can be found here, which was built in the 5th century BC, and has survived to the present day in it’s original form due to it’s varied uses over the millennia. The government have also rebuilt the Stoa of Attalos on this site, which along with the size of the site and the ruins left upon it, really gives a feel for how it might have looked and felt thousands of years ago.
On our final proper day in Athens, we managed to pack in everything else we wanted to see! We climbed Mt. Lycabettus to see the excellent view of the city; we visited the site of Aristotle’s Lyceum, which was a true experience, even with the lack of any actual buildings; we walked out to the Kerameikos ancient cemetery; and finally we saw the remains of the Roman Agora and the Tower of the Winds.
I was really impressed with Athens. The monuments and ruins are accessible and many are still awe-inspiring. We managed to get an affordable room in a decent hotel, which was right in the centre of the city. You can pretty much walk everywhere, you can get good food at basically every restaurant, and it helped that we had fantastic weather. I’d both recommend to others and certainly would visit again myself.