The city’s most famous feature is the Acropolis, a flat-topped hill capped with the ruins of ancient temples, monuments, and works of art. The ruins include temples such as the Parthenon, the Erechtheum, and the Temple of Athena Nike, as well as the Propylaea (a monumental marble gateway that provides the main entrance to the Acropolis).
All of these ruins date to the 5th century bc, and each is considered a masterpiece of classical Greek architecture. The southern slope of the Acropolis was once the cultural center of the ancient city. It includes the ruins of the Theater of Dionysus and other buildings. Also below the Acropolis are remains of the agora, the ancient market and public meeting place. Northwest of the Acropolis is the Areopagus (Ares Hill), the site of an ancient court. Other major archaeological sites in Athens include the Kerameikos, named for the Kerameis, or potters, who inhabited the neighborhood in antiquity. The Kerameikos is home to the remains of the official gateways to Athens as well as the city’s ancient cemetery. Located near the Kerameikos is the road that led to Plato’s Academy, a site in a suburb of the ancient city where the Greek philosopher Plato instructed his followers.
The Olympieion sanctuary in Athens holds the ruins of a number of ancient temples dedicated to the gods, including a temple of Zeus finished in Roman times. The Pnyx occupies a hill below the Acropolis where the Assembly of the Athenians held its meetings. The Panathenaic Stadium, used for athletic competitions during the ancient festival of Panathenaea, was restored for the first modern Olympic Games in 1896.
Among the city’s Roman-period sites are the Roman agora, Hadrian's Library, Hadrian's Arch, and the octagonal Tower of the Winds, which once served as a sundial and housed an ancient water clock. A few medieval churches survive from the period in which Athens was a provincial capital of the Byzantine Empire. The most notable of these include the Church of Panaghia, the Church of Aghioi Theodoroi, and the Church of Panaghia Gorgoepikoos. The Athens Greek Orthodox Cathedral was constructed in a neo-Byzantine style in the 19th century using material from demolished medieval churches.
Much of Athens was rebuilt in the 19th century after Greece won its independence from the Ottoman Empire. After World War II (1939-1945), another period of rebuilding began as the city’s population rapidly expanded. New suburbs emerged, the seacoast was developed, and hotels and villas sprang up everywhere to accommodate the growing tourism industry. By the late 20th century, the city’s traditional one- and two-story homes had largely given way to six-story apartment complexes, and busy thoroughfares had replaced the old tree-lined streets.
At the heart of the modern city is Syntagma (Constitution) Square, located east of the Acropolis. The square is bordered by the national Parliament Building, originally a royal palace completed in 1842 for King Otto I. Nearby is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which features a daily changing of the guard. Several of the city’s principal hotels as well the offices of major banks and airline companies also face the square. Behind the Parliament Building is the National Gardens, a public park that is a popular place to stroll. Within the gardens is the magnificent Zappeion Megaron (1888), an international exhibition center built in the neoclassical style.
Other notable modern buildings in Athens include the National University of Athens, the Academy of Athens, and the National Library. These buildings, located along Panepistimiou Street north of Syntagma Square, form a so-called Neoclassical Trilogy. The buildings were designed by the Danish brothers Hans and Theofil Hansen and completed in 1864, 1887, and 1902. Parallel to Panepistimiou Street is Akadimias Street, famous for a 19th-century building that houses the Cultural Center of the Municipality of Athens. The center includes the Theatrical Museum of Athens and the city’s public library.
Favorite sightseeing spots in Athens include Lycabettus (Lykavittos) Hill, the highest point in the city. A short railway carries passengers to the top of the hill. Other popular tourist spots include the Pláka, the oldest residential area in Athens. With its narrow winding streets, the Pláka retains the older character of the city, and it is home to many restaurants, shops, art galleries, and cafes. The Monastiraki district has a popular flea market. "Greece" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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