Athens, Greece - Part 2 - New Athens - Is There Anything Else To See Besides The Acropolis?

The Greek capital - Athens - is known as the center of the ancient world. The temples attract millions of tourists every year. Although the importance of Acropolis cannot be denied, one can feel a little disappointed while looking at the few remaining monuments - there are other, off the beaten path ancient sites which are way better preserved. Go back to the first part of the article about Athens to learn about our impressions of the Acropolis - expectations versus reality.

But is it only Acropolis that is worth visiting in Athens? I've heard many saying that besides this ancient hill, there's nothing to see. Not all modern parts of Athens may be too appealing to the eye - they remind more of Middle Eastern cities (like Amman - have a look here) with houses crammed tightly between the surrounding hills. To be honest, for me, it wasn't one of the best European capitals, but it's still nice to visit and once you explore it a bit deeper, you'll find some exciting places beyond the famous Acropolis. It's possible to visit all the places described here in one day on foot.

 

<<< Back to Part 1 - The Ancient Athens

 

Athens beyond the Acropolis

 

The non-ancient Acropolis area

 

Apart from the classical architecture, you can notice many other influences in Athens: early Middle Ages/Byzantine - typical Greek Orthodox churches, the Ottoman Empire and the Middle East.

Before even leaving the Acropolis hill area, you'll see two interesting examples of the Middle Ages era - the church of the Holy Apostles (Agii Apostli) located right beside the Stoa of Attalos - Museum of Ancient Agora and the beautifully decorated Greek Orthodox Church.

The church of the Holy Apostles dates back to the 10th century and contrasts a bit with all the other ancient Greek Temples. It is also one of the two buildings in the Acropolis that survived invasions literally intact. The other is the Temple of Hephaestus - have a look in the first part.

 

Monastiraki and Plaka

 

Monastiraki and Plaka are the famous districts that can be compared to "old town" areas in other European or Middle Eastern cities. The Monastiraki square is located right below the Acropolis hill and for me, it feels more Turkish than European. The Tzistarakis Mosque

is the main building of the square - now it serves at the Museum of Greek Folk Art. Supposedly, one of the columns in the mosque was taken from the Temple of Zeus.

The square is always busy and lively, you can find many souvenir shops and restaurants. The streets of nearby Plaka are very pleasant for a stroll - they have the cozy, oriental atmosphere with the grapevines growing everywhere over them and creating some sort of a huge canopy.

 

Church of the Holy Apostles in Acropolis

Church of the Holy Apostles in Acropolis

Greek Orthodox Church - on the way to Monastiraki

Greek Orthodox Church - on the way to Monastiraki

Monastiraki Square - Tzistarakis Mosque

Monastiraki Square - Tzistarakis Mosque

Monastiraki Square

Monastiraki Square

Drinking water fountains at Monastiraki

Drinking water fountains at Monastiraki

Streets in Plaka

Streets in Plaka

 

Little Greek Orthodox Churches

 

Very close to Monastiraki, (along Mitropoleos street), you can see two little, lonely beautiful Greek Orthodox Churches squeezed among the modern, concrete buildings: Church of Panaghia Kapnikarea (11th century) and Church of Saint Eleftherios (13th century) which is located right next to the Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens.

I love this type of architecture - very symmetric, made of stone and covered with beautiful red roof tiles. However, the background in Athens simply doesn't match. The concrete, aesthetically chaotic new buildings surrounding the little churches overwhelm them with their size and are far from beautiful. If you want to see such churches in original, little villages and most spectacular natural surroundings, go to the countryside or visit GeorgiaArmenia or Macedonia (you'll be surprised how nice those counties are - I've described them all - just click on the names).

 

Syntagma Square and National Gardens

 

Following the Mitropoloes street, you'll reach the Syntagma Square. It is the important center of modern Athens, you can find here many fountains, posh hotels as well we the Greek Parliament building. To be honest, the square is nothing special - the old part of Athens is way better.

Besides the Syntagma square, there is a large park with various flora from all over the world (National Gardens) - a nice place to escape the hustle of the big city. You can also organize a wedding or any other important event in the Zappeion - a building erected in the typical classical Greek style.

 

Panathenaic Stadium

 

On the other side of the National Gardens, you can find Kallimarmaro - the Panathenaic Stadium - probably the oldest and the only marble stadium in the world! In the antiquity, this stadium held the Olympic games - later on, in the 19th century it was restored to its original status. It can seat up to 50 000 spectacles. Unfortunately, you must pay a separate fee to enter the stadium, although it's not too high: 3 EUR (3.50 USD).

 

Mt. Lycabettus, cactuses and tortoises

 

It takes around 40 minutes from the National Gardens to hike up the winding streets all the way to the top of the Mt. Lycabettus. Apart from the Acropolis itself and the Philopappos hill, it offers the best views of Athens. It was my favorite place in modern Athens - on top there is a cafe and little white church. It's a perfect spot for a sunset view - the Temple of Athena Nike looks spectacular after dark.

Literally all parts of the city are visible - from the port to the mountains. You can clearly see how tightly the buildings are squeezed together - Athens looks like an enormous lake of white concrete blocks and houses that flooded the entire valley.  If you didn't like Athens much - get to the Lycabettus hill, it you'll change your mind a little.

The hill is full of cactuses which make it look a bit exotic. You can also find a lot of tortoises everywhere around - they are incredibly cute! We wish we could have taken one home, but of course it's impossible.

 

Church of Panaghia Kapnikarea

Church of Panaghia Kapnikarea

Church of Saint Eleftherios

Church of Saint Eleftherios

Santygma Square and the Greek Parliament building

Santygma Square and the Greek Parliament building

Fountains at Santygma Square

Fountains at Santygma Square

Fountain at National Gardens

Fountain at National Gardens

National Gardens

National Gardens

Zappeion

Zappeion

Panathenaic Stadium

Panathenaic Stadium

Mt. Lycabettus seen from the stadium

Mt. Lycabettus seen from the stadium

Cactuses on the way to Mt. Lycabettus

Cactuses on the way to Mt. Lycabettus

Tortoises can be found everywhere

Tortoises can be found everywhere

A cute tortoise

A cute tortoise

With the tortoise

With the tortoise

Little church on Mt. Lycabettus

Little church on Mt. Lycabettus

View from Mt. Lycabettus

View from Mt. Lycabettus

View over the Acropolis Hill all the way to the port

View over the Acropolis Hill all the way to the port

Modern Athens

Modern Athens

Tightly squeezed buildings

Tightly squeezed buildings

The contrast between the city and the mountains

The contrast between the city and the mountains

The Acropolis at night

The Acropolis at night

 

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