9 fantastic things to do in Athens after visiting the Acropolis
Athens is well known for the famous Acropolis and Parthenon, as well as other ancient sites. But dig deeper and you’ll find there’s a lot more to the city than meets the eye. During my time here, I am honored to have been able to explore this city in greater detail, so here I am taking you on an introduction to some of the more hidden and less traveled parts of the city, to inspire you to explore Athens . more after visiting the Acropolis.
1. Areopagus Rock
It’s a good place to come after visiting the Acropolis and the Parthenon; coming down from these places.
The Rock of the Areopagus – also known as the Hill of Ares – is located below the entrance to the Parthenon and is distinguished by the stairs carved into the marble rocks to reach it. They become slippery, therefore, next to them, metal steps with a handrail were installed.
It is reputed to be the site where Ares – God of War – was tried for the murder of one of Poseidon’s sons. The appeal is that you can sit here with a fantastic 360 degree view of the city: the Acropolis behind you and all the way to the port of Piraeus and the neighboring islands in front.
Many young Athenians come here and spread a blanket to sit and watch the sunset. Come join them in this romantic and atmospheric part of town.
Pro tip: Wear non-slip sneakers/shoes with sturdy soles.
2. The Agora of Athens
In the gardens at the foot of the Acropolis is a little-visited monument, but one not to be missed: the Agora.
This is where in ancient times people went to have their two pennies and speak their mind – influencing modern Speaker’s Corner in cities like London or the north side of the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C.
The Agora is said to be where Socrates was tried for corrupting the minds of young people. He was found guilty and sentenced to drink hemlock as a death sentence.
It is an interesting place to rest after climbing the rock of the Acropolis, knowing that you are in the heart of the origin of modern democracy.
3. Anafiotika Hidden Island Village
Have you ever heard of an island in a city? In Athens, it is a reality. Beneath the Acropolis monument, hidden in the cobbled lanes of Plaka, you will find the unique district of Anafiotika, made up of pretty island-like houses covered in bougainvillea.
This happened in 1832 when the first king of Greece – King Otto of Bavaria – recruited workers from the Greek island of Anafi to build his presidential palace. Homesick as they were, the workers built themselves houses at the foot of the Acropolis monument that resembled those found on their island, creating their own neighborhood with an island atmosphere.
Today, 45 homes remain each with its own unique sense of peace, seclusion and fantastic city views.
From the stairs in Plaka keep climbing towards the Acropolis and ask the locals along the way, you will be pointed in the right direction.
4. Hourly shift of the guard
Nearest metro: Syntagma
You’ve seen the Acropolis and its surroundings, now let’s move on to Syntagma’s Parliament Square, where you’ll find the Evzones – Greek presidential guards – changing the guard every hour.
The Evzones are traditional guards and wear the uniform of the Klephts – mountain fighters who fought the Turks from the 15th to the 19th century. They wear white tights, the Foustanella skirt with 400 pleats to represent each year of Ottoman occupation. They also wear a Ypodetes white blouse with long sleeves that flare out when walking, the Fermeli hand-embroidered woolen waistcoat, the red cap, the Tsarouchi (rigid hand-sewn leather shoes with rolled up toe), a large wool pompom and 60 studs on the base. of each shoe that simulates the sound of battle as they walk.
The Evzones stand guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in front of the Parliament building and raise and lower the Greek flag at the Acropolis every Sunday.
Also on a Sunday, at 11 a.m., tourists and Athenians line the streets near Parliament to witness the Great Change, a ceremonial march from their barracks to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with a marching band.
They are undertaking several months of training and it is an extreme honor to be chosen to be an Evzone, to represent their country in this way.
Witnessing the Evzones in action and their intense concentration as they stand perfectly still for an hour before performing a ceremonial dance is a once-in-a-lifetime experience to have while visiting Athens.
5. National Gardens
Nearest metro: Syntagma
A few meters from the main building of the Parliament of Syntagma, in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the city, you will find a haven of peace and greenery of 38 acres of parkland.
The National Gardens were commissioned by Queen Amalia in 1840 and opened to the public in 1920. It is said that the Queen personally spent more than 3 hours a day tending it, and it is still enjoyed today by Athenians and The travellers. You will find over 7,000 trees, 40,000 bushes and a total of 519 different plant species to explore.
In addition to such variety, stroll among the lakes – six of them – a small petting zoo and a children’s library with over 6,000 books, two reading rooms and a fairy tale theme.
Here you will also find the famous Zappeion Megaron – an architectural marvel of a building – with eight columns at its entrance and an oval-shaped open internal space flanked by a two-story colonnade. It is now used as a showroom.
With two cafes to choose from to rest with an ever-present Greek hit after your stroll, the National Gardens are the perfect “country getaway” in the city.
6. Japanese gardens
A new addition to the Athens landscape, close to the equally new national gallery and Byzantine and Christian Museum in central Athens, you will find a 3,500 square mile garden donated by the Japanese Embassy to the City of Athens in support of the municipality’s Adopt Your City program.
Walk along paths and among vegetation and water and embrace the principles of Japanese culture for a balance between earth, fire and water. You will find Mediterranean and Japanese plants and shrubs such as maples, cherry blossoms, bamboo and myrtle as well as granite seats for you to rest.
Symbiosis of two cultures, the Japanese Garden in the middle of a chaotic city offers a generous respite.
7. Keramikos Cemetery
Nearest metro: Evangelismos
A pleasant walk of about half an hour from the Acropolis brings you to the ancient cemetery of Kerameikos. Built in the 4th century BC, it depicts how the ancient Greeks viewed death. For example, tombs with statues of jugs symbolizing unmarried men were buried there, while large tombs were reserved for the wealthiest Athenians.
Look for statues of a scary bull, horse rider, mermaids, and various human figures; as well as ancient jugs, perfume bottles, plates and urns that have been excavated.
8. Walk in Mount Ymittos
Nearest metro: Acropolis
Now we come to one of my favorite activities. Athens is surrounded by three mountains: Penteli, Parnitha and the closest to the city, Ymittos.
A 10 minute drive from the city center brings you to this stunning location with a plethora of nature walks and hikes. Hidden in the depths of this small pine-clad mountain range are beautiful remains of ancient monasteries such as Kaisariani Monastery – built in Byzantine times and dating from the late 11th century. It is an incredibly peaceful place to visit, and therefore near the city center.
If you prefer to have a guided experience to learn a little more about the history of the mountain, Nefeli Nine Retreats is more than happy to help and very knowledgeable.
It is a 10 minute drive or taxi ride from the city center to the first fire lookout post, which is the starting point for the walk.
9. Mount Parnitha and the Abandoned Royal Estate
On to another favorite of mine – the abandoned Tatoi royal estate found on Mount Parnitha.
This mountain range lies 30 km north of Athens and is easily accessible by car or taxi.
Nestled in a designated national park of over 10,000 acres of countryside and woodland, you will find the abandoned royal estate of the original Greek royal family and the birthplace of King George of the Hellenes.
It is open to the public where you can walk around the countryside and many outbuildings and farm buildings such as the cellar, stables and dairy. See from afar that it’s cordoned off for security – the palace itself and the outdoor pool, as well as the cemetery of the ancient kings and queens of Greece.
A visit to Parnitha and the abandoned royal estate offers another look at the country’s history in a beautiful setting.
Athens is full of unique and fantastic things to do after visiting the most touristic monuments: