A Day in Athens – Part II

In addition to the “hidden gems” mentioned in the Part I post, we were able to see the following sights visited in our day-long stay in Athens.

The Ancient Agora

The Ancient Agora was the ancient commercial hub of Athens and contains the best preserved temple, the Hephaistion, which is a wonderful example of Doric architecture, and a little older than the Parthenon. On my first trip to Athens in the 1980’s you could actually walk into the temple. It is now roped off, but at least still accessible from the outside and beautiful. The Agora is worth time to wander among the ruins and has good views of the Acropolis just to the south. It also contains the reconstructed Stoa of Attalos II, which is now a museum.

Temple of Hephaistion, Athens

Ancient Agora, Athens

Right outside the Agora is Adrianou Street, filled with restaurants along the quiet street, overlooking the Agora.

Little train on Adrianou Street, Monastiraki (just outside of Ancient Agora)

Plaka & Monastiraki Square

The Plaka area, right below the eastern side of the Acropolis, is full of restaurants, shops and quaint hotels. This is a great area to stay if you wish to be close to the heart of Athens. Monastiraki Square is near the Agora and is another lively older neighborhood dating from the Turkish occupation (18thcentury).

Tzistarakis Mosque, Monastiraki, Athens (18th century), (Acropolis in background)

Music in the streets of Plaka, Athens

Temple of Olympian Zeus

To the east of the Acropolis just outside the Plaka area, is the “new” part of ancient Athens, defined by Hadrian’s Gate, which dates to 132 AD. It has a number of Roman-era ruins, including the huge Temple of Olympian Zeus. Construction began on this colossal monument in 515 BC, and was originally made of limestone. Some of the building materials ended up being used in building Athens’ fortification walls.  The marble temple was begun in the 4thcentury BC, but progress was slow with long periods of inactivity, and it was not completed until much later–Caesar Augustus and finally Hadrian saw to its completion 124 – 132 AD. Hadrian loved the Greek culture and was well-respected in Athens. Statues of Zeus and Hadrian were worshipped here as co-equals. (reference:  plaques on site)

Detail of Corinthian Columns, Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens

The fallen column (caused by storm in 1800's) of Temple of Olympian Zeus

It was one of the largest temples of the ancient world. Of the original 104 columns 16 survived until 1852 when a storm took one column down, which has been laying in sections ever since.

There are also some minor ruins dating back to the golden era of Athens.

Syntagma Square

This square is within a short walk of the Acropolis and is currently “ground zero” for the anti-government demonstrations on the economic policies. In front of the parliament building (formerly a palace) is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the changing of the guard ceremonies.  It is worth stopping by here to see the uniformed guards do their very solemn and perfectly timed routine.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Syntagma Square, Athens (note sculpture of fallen soldier in background)