Historical Things to Do in Athens besides the Acropolis

by Katherine Poseidon

When you’re standing on top of the Acropolis and looking out at the sprawl of the Athens metropolis, it might be easy to think not much else of the ancient city has survived in the concrete jungle laid out in front of you. But nestled around the Acropolis are plenty of other smaller ancient sites that are a little bit off the beaten path, and provide a more closely accessible glimpse of Ancient Athens.

If you feel like you have already ‘done’ Athens and seen the main sites but find yourself wandering around in Plaka on your last evening before perhaps hitting the islands, here are a few more things to do in Athens, focused on ancient sites that you might have missed. They can all be enjoyed (from the outside/for free) on an evening walk through Plaka – check out the Google Map (further down) to orient yourself, and enjoy!

#1 Hadrian's Arch

Hadrian's Arch (Αψίδα του Αδριανού) in Athens, built 131 or 132 AD

Starting near busy Syntagma Square, this arch was built in honour of the emperor Hadrian in the second century BC. It's difficult to get a good look at it if you're speeding by on Amalias Avenue, which passes directly below it, but it's worth stopping to take a closer look at its decoration. It was built along an ancient road leading straight from the Temple of Olympian Zeus (behind the arch) to the Lysicrates Monument.

Address: Leoforos Vasilissis Amalias, Athens 105 57.
Nearest metro station: Acropolis metro station

#2 Lysicrates Monument

Lysicrates Monument in Athens (Μνημείο του Λυσικράτη / Φανάρι του Διογένους), built 334/335 BC

This monument is officially called the 'Choragic' monument, which refers to its benefactor - Lysicrates the choregos, a wealthy citizen who acted as a patron of the arts. It was built in the 4th century BC, to honour one of the arts’ prizes he sponsored (the Ancient Greek version of the Oscars!). This monument tends to blend into the background amid the hustle and bustle of Adrianou Street, but you can walk straight up to it and might even see children climbing over the ruins around the base. Again this area offers a number of cafes surrounding the monument, which provide excellent people watching. 

Address: Tripodon Street.
Nearest metro station: Acropolis metro station

what if you had a guided walk in this area's secret spots with an insider?

#3 Roman Agora

Roman Agora (Ρωμαϊκή Αγορά) in Athens, built between 19 and 11 BC

It can be easy to miss the Roman Agora if you’ve already seen The Agora – or rather, the ancient Greek, pre-Roman agora). There are in fact two different Agoras though, and both are worth seeing. At one end is the Gate of Athena Archegetis, which served as the entrance, and was dedicated to the goddess by the people of Athens, with donations from Julius Caesar and Augustus. This site served as a market area, with some beautiful surviving columns and even a public toilet for market-goers. Visit in the late afternoon to catch the Mediterranean light on the marble or stop for a coffee in one of the nearby cafes. 

Address: The main entrance is on a small side street off Adrianou street.
Nearest metro station: Monastiraki
Opening hours | tickets: 8am-3pm (latest update 13 Apr 2016) | Site ticket: EUR 6 - unified ticket (for 10 major ancient sites, such as the Acropolis and the Roman Agora): EUR 30

#4 Tower of the Winds

Tower of the Winds (Ναός του Αιόλου) in Athens, built -most likely- around 50BC

At the other end of the Roman Agora is the Tower of the Winds, which is a major landmark of Athens ('Aiolou' street is named because it leads towards the tower - Aiolus is the god of the winds!). It was originally built as a kind of water clock and sundial, but it's better known (and named) for the carvings of the eight winds on each of its each faces. In Christian times it became a bell tower, while the Ottomans used it as a tekke, a monastery for Sufi dervishes. It was undergoing restoration and has just recently been uncovered, so enjoy its shine!

Address: The main entrance is on a small side street off Adrianou street.
Nearest metro station: Monastiraki
Opening hours | tickets: 8am-3pm (latest update 13 Apr 2016) | Site ticket: EUR 6 - unified ticket (for 10 major ancient sites, such as the Acropolis and the Roman Agora): EUR 30

#5 Hadrian's Library

Hadrian's Library (Βιβλιοθήκη του Αδριανού) in Athens, built 132 AD

Just a few steps beyond Monastiraki square lies Hadrian's Library and its grand colonnade. It was built (as you might have guessed) by the Roman Emperor Hadrian in 132 BC, although it was much more than a library. In the centre of the complex was a public square surrounded by the library, reading rooms and lecture halls, all built by Hadrian as a public space of enrichment for the Athenians. The cafes surrounding the site allow you to take it all in – don’t miss the huge walls that abut Aiolou Street.

Address: Areos 3 & Adrianou street, Plaka.
Nearest metro station: Monastiraki
Opening hours | tickets: 8am-3pm (latest update 13 Apr 2016) | Site ticket: EUR 4 - unified ticket (for 10 major ancient sites, such as the Acropolis and the Roman Agora): EUR 30

These tours will guide you deeper in the stories of the Ancient Agora and beyond...

#6 Temple of Hephaestus

Temple of Hephaestus (Ναός Ηφαίστου) in Athens, built 450 BC

This beautifully preserved ancient temple is found inside the Ancient Agora, and gives its name to the surrounding area, Thissio. It was actually dedicated to Hephaestus, the god of craftsmanship and artisans, due to the workshops that used to fill the area. For much of its history, however, it was thought to be the resting place of mythical king of Athens and legendary hero Theseus (the one who killed the Minotaur). Around the year 700 it was converted into a Christian church to St George, and in the 19th century it was used as a burial place for European Philhellenes who had come to help fight the Greek Revolution

Address: 24 Adrianou street, Plaka.
Nearest metro station: Monastiraki
Opening hours | tickets: 8am-3pm | Site ticket: EUR 8 (for Ancient Agora of Athens including the Ancient Agora museum) - unified ticket (for 10 major ancient sites, such as the Acropolis and the Roman Agora): EUR 30

#7 Areopagus

Areopagus Hill (λόφος Άρειος Πάγος) in Athens

You might have noticed this giant rock next to the Acropolis, which is covered with tourists by day, taking in the view and the history: this was the place where the elders of Ancient Athens met for law making. At night, the rock is overtaken by the teenagers of Athens - grab a cold Mythos from a periptero (kiosk) on your way up and join in the crowd for a spectacular nighttime view of Athens. 

Address: north-west of Acropolis hill, opposite Acropolis entrance.
Nearest metro station: Acropolis

#8 Philopappou Monument

Philopappou Monument (Μνημείο Φιλοπάππου) in Athens, dated 114-116 AD

This central landmark is hard to miss, as many a visitor sees it from the Acropolis and wonders 'what's that thing on top of that hill?' However, few people climb up to investigate up close. That marble fragment you were wondering about that is visible from a number of vantage points around Athens is the remainder of a monument built for a Roman general, Antiochus Philopappos, one of Athens' benefactors, in around 115. Although the hill is now known as Philopappou, after this monument, it is also called 'Hill of the Muses' and is covered with trees and footpaths, which offer some of the best views in the city.

Address: Filopappos Hill, Thisseio, Athens, Athina 104 38
Nearest metro station: Acropolis or Thissio

Here is the Athens Map we promised

Learn more about Athens the easy way:

 Feeling active? If you're ready for an adventure, we have some great suggestions!

Feeling active? If you're ready for an adventure, we have some great suggestions!

 Join a guided city walk and make the most of your stay!

Join a guided city walk and make the most of your stay!

 

Let's keep in touch!