Obviously we couldn’t go to Athens and not see some of the most popular tourist destinations: The Acropolis and Ancient Agora. If we had more than a day to spend exploring, we would have seen The Acropolis Museum and The National Archaeological Museum. Our limited time forced us to prioritize what we visited, but I think we chose wisely.
Off-season/winter admission tickets to these sites are half price. We spent €20 for admission The Acropolis and its surrounding hills (€10/person) and €8 for The Ancient Agora area (€4/person). All-inclusive tickets are available for €30 each and it buys you entrance into all the archeological sites of Ancient Greece.
We went to The Acropolis on a warm, sunny Saturday afternoon during Marathon weekend, so the site was packed with tourists trying to cram in their sightseeing before the race (us included). It made it a little more annoying to get some ideal photos, but ultimately didn’t take away from the experience.
The surrounding hills of the Acropolis contains the Odeon of Herodes Atticus and The Theatre of Dionysus, as well as the remains of multiple other structures and beautiful panoramic views. These sites are built right in the shadow of the Acropolis wall, and it was cool to look up at it from below. The Acropolis site is much more elevated than I imagined.
On top of the hill are the more prominent structures. We entered through Propylaea and passed the Temple of Athena Nike, and then saw the Erechtheion and the Parthenon. It was remarkably windy up there, and very exposed and open. Nothing obstructs the 360° view of Athens. Mars Hill (Areopagus Hill) and all the people standing on it are easily visible from the west end of the Acropolis.
It was a generally sunny day, but while we were up there, a storm was starting to blow in over the mountains. These were quite possibly the most magnificent storm clouds I had ever seen, and provided an eerie sci-fi backdrop for the sand-colored towering columns. It never rained on us, and the clouds eventually blew over, but it scared a lot of the tourists away. I was all set with my rain cover for my camera bag and didn’t care too much about my already-messed-up hair, so I was super excited for some (almost) tourist-free photos ops.
There were a couple details to our trip of The Acropolis that were charmingly surprising. First, the marble comprising the top of the hill around the Parthenon is pink! It’s hard to notice at first glance, especially when you’re constantly craning your neck to look up at all the amazing structures, but it’s definitely pink.
Second, there were cats sunning themselves and prowling around the hill. There are cats (and dogs) running all over Athens, so I guess it makes sense that they would find their way over here too.
We saved The Ancient Agora for the day after the race, when we had a couple free hours in the morning before our flight. At 9 a.m., you practically have the whole site to yourself! Definitely a breath of fresh air after spending Saturday in a constant swarm of other tourists and Sunday in a pack of thousands of other runners. The Agora is home to the Temple of Hephaestus, which is a beautifully intact temple nestled in trees just a stone’s throw from the Acropolis.
It’s a mostly flat site, which was great because my feet and legs were fatigued. We spent the better part of two hours moseying around and using our imaginations to picture what these sites looked like in their prime.
There are olive trees everywhere.
The Stoa of Attalos is a structure that was rebuilt using the original building design, and gives you a really good idea of how magnificent these buildings were.
I never thought I’d get the opportunity to visit these beautiful sites, and they definitely did not disappoint. If you’re going to Athens, make time to go to these. It’s a lot of uphill walking and takes a good chunk of time, especially if you want to read all the plaques and get into the history, but 100% worth it.