When you think of Greece , you think of Athens . This ever expanding city with its roots firmly placed in the past, is also a modern city. With the mountains of Aigaleo, Pendeli, Parnitha and Hymettus as a backdrop, the city faces the Saronic Gulf . The sacred rock Acropolis which dominates Athens sky line, Athens was not always the capital of Greece . It was not until the city was free of Turkish rule in 1834, that it was proclaimed the capital of Greece . Walking around Athens , you are surrounded by ruins from the past as well as the more modern developments of a major city.
One of the most visited sites in Athens has to be the Acropolis, The name Acropolis means Upper City in Greek, this 156 metre high limestone rock on which stands the Parthenon Temple . The Acropolis has been inhabited since Neolithic times. Throughout the centuries people have lived on the rock and in caves along the northern side of the rock. Eventually the settlements spread to the surrounding areas. The City prospered and grew and was named Athens , after Athena the Goddess of Wisdom.
The present temple dedicated to the Goddess Athena. was built between 447 – 432 BC on the site of two previous temples. Stone temples were first built upon the rock in the 6 th century BC replacing wooden temples The Parthenon is admired by all who see it, for its beauty and design. The so called Elgin Stones, which once decorated the top of the temple, on display in London . The Greek authorities have tried and are still trying to get the stones back to Greece . Sculptures from the Parthenon are to be found in the Acropolis Museum . During its time the Parthenon has been a mosque and Christian Orthodox church. Buildings on the Acropolis were badly damaged during the Venetian siege in 1687. From the top of the Acropolis you are rewarded with fantastic views over the city and the Saronic Gulf .
Temple of Athena Nike
This temple dedicated to Athena Nike, was built in the 5 th century BC this elegant building stand to the right of the Propylaea, the entrance to the Acropolis and was erected to commemorate the victory over the Persians. Scenes from the battle are depicted on the frieze around the temple.
This temple is known for its magnificence of the Caryatids, young priestesses who support part of the roof with their heads. The temple is dedicated to Hero king Erechtheus later identified as Poseidon. It was on this site according to legend that Athena and Poseidon, contested for protection of Athens . Athena won by producing an olive tree from the ground.
Theatre of Dionysus
At the foot of the Acropolis to the south lies the theatre of Dionysus, where plays by the great dramatists of the time were presented. The theatre could sit about 20,000 spectators. The seats at the front were made out of marble and were where reserved for the elite of the Athenian society, originally the all the seats in the theatre were of wood, later replaced with stone in 342 – 326 BC. The Romans rebuilt part of the theatre and held performances here.
Odeum of Herod Atticus
Also at the foot of the Acropolis is the theatre of Herod Atticus. Erected in about 2 nd century AD it was built as a memorial for his wife. The theatre can sit about 5.000 spectators; it is the style of a typical roman theatre. Even today the theatre is still in use, showing musicals and plays during the Festival of Athens which is held here every year.
The Acropolis Museum
Situated on the south eastern corner of the Acropolis, the museum has many irreplaceable and valuable artefacts. Which date from the Archaic 800 – 600 BC through to the Classical 500 – 400 BC, Hellenistic 300 BC and the Roman periods.
In the nine rooms which make up the museum, you will see some of the finest and beautiful works of art created by highly skilled stonemasons of the time.
Around the city of Athens you will find other interesting museums. The National Archaeological Museum , the Byzantine and Benaki Museum are the main museums. There are museums for Art, History, Theatre and Geology, plus other minor museums. The National Archaeological Museum houses some of the most unique artefacts of Greek culture in the world. The Mycenaean collection with its gold jewellery and precious stones is especially unique. The Byzantine Museum has a wide collection of icons, frescoes, statues and other artefacts. Many of the artefacts are from the churches in and around the surrounding area. The Benaki Museum has a wide range of exhibits, ranging from art, jewellery to porcelain.
In and around Athens
Plaka is Athens answer to Times Square, Covent Garden it is area of narrow winding streets and here can you enjoy yourself, browsing and shopping in the shops, sitting in one of the tavernas that line the streets. Visit a night club, listen to the street musicians, and admire the neo-classical buildings. Plaka has something for everybody and is a must for the tourist visiting Athens .
Taking a cable car or going on foot you reach the summit on the summit of the hill is the Chapel of St. George. The view is spectacular; there is a restaurant and a snack bar where you can refresh yourselves.
Around the square which is in the heart of the city, are the more luxurious hotels and offices. And a wide range of eating establishments, the Greek parliament and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where soldiers of the Greek army stand guard dressed in national costume.
The Temple of Hephaestos
The temple is one of the best preserved of all the Greek temples, it is also known by the locals as “Thissio
Rebuilt for the Olympics in 1896 it stands on the site of an older stadium, which was built in 330BC it can seat about 60,000 spectators.