Things to Do in Athens - page 2
The Acropolis is Athens’ most famous hill, but one that can’t escape notice (especially as you climb up to the Parthenon) is the nearby Philopappou Hill. This forested hill was once called Mouseion Hill, or “Hill of the Muses,” but has been known as Philopappou Hill since a monument of the same name was built atop the hill in the year 116 C.E. The monument and tomb, the most noticeable part of the hill when viewed from anywhere else in Athens, was for the Roman consul and senator Gaius Julius Antiochus Epiphanes Philopappos. He was a powerful and respected man in Athens, having lived there for many years, and was a prominent theater sponsor. The monument is a partial ruin today, but you can still see aspects of Philopappos’ life carved into the stone.
Adrianou Street is one of the main roads in the Plaka neighborhood of Athens, Greece. It is the oldest commercial street in Athens still in continuous use and with the same layout, direction and use since antiquity. It runs from Thesseion in the Monastiraki flea market towards Hadrian's Arch in the Roman Agora, and it is the largest street in Plaka. The street is located below the Acropolis and is lined with restaurants and cafes.
There are also lots of shops along this road where you can find factory-made items as well as handcrafted pieces sold in shops owned by the artists. It's a popular place to shop for jewelry, postcards, crafts, antiques, and more. Since it is a pedestrian street, it is a good place for a leisurely stroll while exploring the neighborhood. It's also a great place to have dinner with a view of the Acropolis and soak up the atmosphere of ancient Athens.
Bordering the east side of Athens’ focal Syntagma Square, the Parliament Building was completed in 1842 as the royal residence of Otto, the first king of the newly independent Greece. The vast and rather severe Neoclassical palace was designed by German architect Friedrich von Gärtner but was badly damaged by a fire in 1909, when the Royal Family decamped to the Crown Prince’s Palace nearby. It was not until 1932, eight years after the abolition of the Greek monarchy in 1924, that Parliament moved into Von Gärtner’s splendid building, from where its 300 representatives, elected for four years, have directed the country ever since. The Main Library is open to the public and other areas of the Parliament Building can be viewed by pre-booked guided tour.
Psiri sits underneath the Acropolis and along with its neighbors Plaka and Monastiraki, is one of the buzziest districts in Athens. It’s not so long ago that it was a down-at-heel artisan area best known for its abandoned buildings and leather shops, but Psiri is undergoing a facelift and is currently one of the hottest addresses in the city. Yes, its narrow, meandering streets are still covered with graffiti and there are local grocery shops unchanged for decades but today Psiri is a magnet to locals and – increasingly – visitors alike. For starters, it’s slowly becoming home to small independent boutiques selling organic soaps, unusual handmade jewelry, old posters and glittering icons; and often market stalls selling homemade produce line the streets. And by night Psiri undergoes a radical transformation as cool cafés, bars, restaurants and local ouzeries open on to the alleyways and the laidback crowds come strolling in.
One of the world's great museums, Athens’ National Archaeological Museum houses the most important finds from antiquity unearthed from the many archaeological sites scattered throughout Greece. A visit to the National Archaeological Museum provides the ultimate overview of Greek history and art, underscoring their influence on Western civilization. The scores of exhibits range from prehistory through to late antiquity.
Highlights include glittering artifacts from Mycenae, spectacular Minoan frescos from Santorini, and intricate Cycladic figurines. There are objects excavated from Troy, Neolithic ceramics, marble sculptures from the Aegean islands, jewelry and weapons, and mummies and statues from ancient Egypt.
Kotzia Square is located in central Athens, Greece and is lined with neo-classical buildings from the 19th century. One of the buildings here is the City Hall of Athens, which is decorated with busts of famous Athenians such as Pericles and Solon. Another impressive building on the square is the National Bank of Greece. The square was built in 1874 and was originally called Loudovikou Square. The current name is for a former Athens mayor, Konstantinos Kotzias. This square was the starting and finishing point of the men's and women's road race events during the 2004 Summer Olympics.
Covering the period from 1453 to the 1940s, Athens’ National History Museum takes visitors from the Ottoman years right up until the Greek-Italian War. The museum is housed in an ornate Neoclassical palace dating back to 1813 and has seen several incarnations; it was once the home of King Otto, the first Greek monarch after independence in 1832, before being taken over by Greek Parliament, who in turned moved out to the current Parliament Building in Syntagma Square in 1932. Lastly, the Old Parliament building housed the justice ministry before opening as a museum in 1962, showcasing turning points in Greek history from the Byzantine rule to the build up to the Wars of Independence in the 1820s and the disastrous Asia Minor Campaign in 1919.
The epicenter of modern-day Athens, Kolonaki Square is the most fashionable spot for a coffee break in the city, located right at the heart of the upmarket Kolonaki district. Nestled in the shadows of Mount Lykavettos, the leafy square offers an idyllic setting and its many terrace cafés are brimming with locals during the summer months. This is the place to sip a cappuccino at a glitzy café, spot Greek celebrities and socialites, and browse the designer boutiques of adjoining streets like Anagnostopoulou and Patriarchou Ioakim. The square is also buzzing with activity in the evening hours, when the neighborhood’s many restaurants, bars and nightclubs fill up with Athens’ most glamorous.
Now supported by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, the Athens Numismatic Museum first opened in 1834 and has been relocated several times during its lifetime; its present resting place is the Iliou Melathron (Palace of Iliou), a late 19th century Neo-classical mansion that was once home to German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann, who discovered Troy. The house, designed by Ernest Ziller in 1881, is as big an attraction as the museum and is surrounded on three sides by manicured gardens full of replicas of classical statues. Inside, a series of grand apartments are filled with highly patterned marble floors, elaborately painted ceilings and wall paintings reflecting Schliemann’s interest in ancient civilizations.
More Things to Do in Athens
The Byzantine and Christian Museum is housed in the lovely Neo-Classical Villa Ilissia in the Athens suburb of the same name; it was built in 1848 as the residence of Sophie de Marbois-Lebrun, the philanthropic US-born Duchess of Plaisance. Having had an architectural facelift in 2004, the museum has one of the best displays of Byzantine icons and mosaics on earth. Its priceless exhibits are laid out chronologically to trace the development of early Christian and Greek Byzantine culture from the 4th century onwards, drawing on more than 25,000 treasures from across the Greek world including religious statuary removed from ruined churches in Attica. Among the Coptic priestly vestments, pottery, the frescoes, armor and fragmented mosaics is a world-beating collection of more than 3,000 glittering Byzantine icons. Modern-day religious art in Greece is covered in a series of ever-changing temporary exhibits.
The Benaki Museum competes with the Acropolis Museum and National Museum of Archaeology as one of the top three museums in Athens. It was established in 1930 by wealthy philanthropist Antonis Benakis in his neo-classical family mansion opposite the National Gardens, and he kick-started the collection by donating nearly 40,000 pieces of Byzantine and Islamic art to the museum. Further donations from private collectors over the decades swelled the exhibitions and resulted in the museum being extended several times.
Following a revamp in the early 21st century, the oriental and Islamic art was moved to thesatellite Museum of Islamic Art in Kerameikos and there is also an annexe on Pireos Street in the newly trendy district of Rouf, showcasing all that’s best on the Athens contemporary art scene. The Benaki Museum itself now concentrates solely on Greek history from the fall of Constantinople in 1453 through the formation of the Greek state in 1821 and on to the 1922.
The Monument of Lysicrates is the best preserved choragic monument in Athens, Greece. In ancient times, statues like this one were built as a base for placing trophies. Theater competitions were organized each year, and the sponsor of the winning performance won a trophy. This particular one was built by Lysicrates, a wealthy citizen of Athens, in the 4th century BC. It stands over 30 feet high and is crowned with a capital in the shape of acanthus leaves. The bronze trophy would have been placed on top of this capital.
On top of the pedestal, you can see a tholos, which is a circular structure with Corinthian columns and covered with a marble roof. Beneath the roof you can see a frieze that shows scenes from the winning play along with Dionysus, the patron god of the stage. The monument was integrated into a Capuchin monastery that was built in the same location in the mid 1600s, which is part of the reason it has survived.
Delphi is the second-most important archeological site in Greece (after the Acropolis in Athens). In ancient times Delphi was considered the place where heaven and earth met so the gods were close-by. Established around the 7th century BC, Delphi was a sanctuary to the god Apollo. It was here that the Oracle of Delphi was situated, the most trusted oracle in the ancient world from which the spirit of Apollo gave advice on everything from domestic matters to wars.
Delphi had a theatre and temples as well as the oracle, and has a well preserved stadium which once held chariot races. These were excavated from the mid-1800s and today the ruins stand impressively in their mountain landscape. Many believe the place to have a special magic and report being moved spiritually when visiting Delphi. Ancient engravings on the stone such as 'Know Thyself' and 'Nothing in Excess' could be from today's self-help movement.
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