Athens Introduction Walking Tour, Athens

Athens Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Athens

Athens is one of the oldest European cities, widely regarded as the birthplace of Western Civilization. Its history begins in the Neolithic period between 4th and 3rd millennium BC. The first settlement on the site of Athens was situated on the rock of Acropolis which means “high city” in Greek.

According to the Greek mythology, the name “Athens” emerged from a competition between the goddess of wisdom, Athena, and the god of sea, Poseidon. Both wanted to become patron of the city. To please the locals, Poseidon used his power to create a massive, foamy stream of water. Initially, the people were excited with the generous gift, but then realized that it was actually seawater, unfit for human consumption. Athena, in turn, gifted the city with an olive tree. A highly practical choice, it gave the people food, fuel, and wood to build homes. So, ultimately, they decided in favor of Athena to be their patron and named the city in her honor.

The period of 5th and 4th century BC marked the zenith of Athens as a European center of literature, philosophy and arts. Some of the most significant cultural and intellectual figures in western civilization of that time lived in Athens. Among them dramatists Aeschylus, Aristophanes, Euripides and Sophocles, philosophers Aristotle, Plato and Socrates, historians Herodotus, Thucydides and Xenophon, poet Simonides, and sculptor Phidias.

The city passed through periods of decline after the fall of the Roman Empire. By the early 19th century, its population had fallen below 5,000. The period of rebirth started in 1832 under King Otto who re-established Athens as the capital of Greece. The city enjoyed significant comeback after the World War II seeing migrants from villages and islands coming in search of work. Greece's entry into the European Union boosted the growth further.

On this self-guided walk, we are going to explore Athens as the cradle of Western Civilization and discover some of its many archaeological gems, plus visit several popular shopping and recreation areas.
How it works: Download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from Apple App Store or Google Play Store to your mobile phone or tablet. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and its built-in GPS navigation functions guide you from one tour stop to next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

Download The GPSmyCity App

Athens Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Athens Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: Greece » Athens (See other walking tours in Athens)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 16
Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.2 Km or 2.6 Miles
Author: emily
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Parthenon
  • Erechtheion
  • Temple of Athena Nike
  • Odeon of Herodes Atticus
  • Theater of Dionysus
  • Acropolis Museum
  • Anafiotika and Plaka Stairs
  • Stoa of Attalos and Ancient Agora Museum
  • Ancient Agora of Athens
  • Temple of Hephaestus
  • Monastiraki Square
  • Pandrossou Street Market
  • Metropolitan Cathedral
  • Ermou Street
  • Syntagma Square (Constitution Square)
  • Hellenic Parliament House

1) Parthenon (must see)

Perched right at the top of the Acropolis, overlooking the city of Athens, the ancient Greek temple, Parthenon, is one of the most iconic and well-preserved examples of classical architecture, renowned for its historical and artistic significance. Built in the 5th century BCE during the leadership of the Athenian statesman Pericles, it replaced an even older temple dedicated to Athena, the city's patron deity and the goddess of wisdom and warfare. Covered in ivory and gold, her 12-meter-high statue—"Athena Parthenos"—took center stage.

At the time, Athens was at the height of its power and influence, particularly after its victory in the Persian Wars and the establishment of the Delian League, an alliance of Greek city-states. The temple's construction was not just a religious endeavor but also a political statement, symbolizing the city's wealth, cultural achievements, and its leadership in promoting democracy and the arts.

A prime example of Doric architecture, the structure was constructed using high-quality Pentelic marble, which contributed to its enduring beauty and structural integrity, even as it was turned into a church during the 5th century and later into a mosque under Turkish rule. In 1687, during the Venetian siege of the Acropolis, the temple endured substantial damage from bombardment. Further harm occurred in the early 19th century when Lord Elgin looted much of its sculptural decoration, which now resides in the British Museum.

Despite these adversities, the Parthenon endures as one of Greece's most significant surviving architectural monuments and, over the years, has served as a source of inspiration for many public buildings worldwide, including parliaments, universities, museums, and libraries. Recent renovations continue to reveal the timeless beauty of this masterpiece.

Why You Should Visit:
One of the world's most renowned structures, originally constructed as a testament to the glory of ancient Athens and still serving as the city's emblem today. The panoramic views of the city from this vantage point, one of the highest in Athens, are undeniably beautiful.

Plan your visit to the Acropolis early in the morning to avoid long queues. The site has two entrance gates; ensure you enter and exit through different gates to fully explore the site. Consider purchasing a combination ticket, which covers entry to other attractions, including the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, Theater of Dionysus, Temple of Olympian Zeus, and Ancient Agora of Athens, saving you money.

2) Erechtheion (must see)

Constructed between 421 and 406 BC, the Erechtheion was dedicated to both Athena and Poseidon, two powerful deities of the Greek pantheon. According to myth, they competed to provide the city with a valuable gift. Poseidon, the sea god, struck the ground with his trident, creating a saltwater spring, while the wise Athena planted an olive tree that sprouted. Her gift was deemed more beneficial, and she became the city's patron goddess, although it is said that the temple stands on the very spot where Poseidon left his trident marks.

A sacred sanctuary and a focal point for religious rituals in classical Athens, the unique monument is renowned for its graceful and highly adorned Ionic architecture. The spacious rectangular cella within comprised three chambers. One of these held the sacred olivewood statue of Athena, while the other two were dedicated to Poseidon, symbolizing their reconciliation after the legendary conflict.

The cella was encircled by porticoes on the north, east, and south sides, with the south one famously known as the Porch of the Caryatids, featuring six imposing female figures seemingly supporting the porch roof on their heads — a distinctive feature unmatched by any other temple. These maidens, however, are replicas, as the original sculptures are now housed in the Acropolis Museum to protect them from further deterioration in Athens' harsh climate.

Over the years, the Erechtheion complex has served various purposes, including functioning as a harem for the wives of the Ottoman commander in 1463. It suffered extensive damage when a Turkish shell struck it during the War of Independence in 1827. Today, it stands as a UNESCO World Heritage site, a testament to both the architectural and mythological richness of ancient Athens.

Consider taking a guided tour to gain a comprehensive understanding of the site's history and significance. If you opt to explore independently, plan to visit in the morning and be sure to carry water, as refreshments are not available inside.
Temple of Athena Nike

3) Temple of Athena Nike (must see)

Measuring a mere 11 feet (3.3 meters) in height, this small, jewelbox-like temple often escapes notice amid the grandeur of the Acropolis. Positioned atop the rock wall to the right of the Propylaea Gate, it comes into view as you enter the Acropolis site from the upper right.

Despite being destroyed twice in its history, it has been meticulously reconstructed since the turn of the millennium, using original masonry fragments. As a result, you can now appreciate its immaculate symmetrical design, featuring four Ionic columns at each end, much as it appeared in 420 BC when Athenians gathered here to commemorate their victories over the Persians (the temple's frieze showcases scenes from the Battle of Plataea in 479 BC).

Designed by Kallikrates, the temple served dual roles as an observation point and an ancient shrine dedicated to the goddess of Victory, Athena Nike. A remarkable sculpture of Athena Nike graces the balustrade of the temple. Unlike typical statues, which usually depict the goddess with wings, this one at the temple is wingless, symbolizing that victory would never desert the city.

Legend has it that the temple's location marks the spot where King Aegeus awaited his son, Theseus, upon his return from his mission to Crete to vanquish the Minotaur. Theseus had promised to swap his ships' black sails for white upon his return but forgot his pledge. When the king saw the black sails, he assumed his son was dead and plunged into the sea, which now bears his name—the Aegean Sea.
Odeon of Herodes Atticus

4) Odeon of Herodes Atticus (must see)

This stone amphitheater, nestled at the base of the Acropolis, ranks among Athens' most sizable and well-preserved classical Greek theaters. Originally constructed as a memorial to his wife by the wealthy Greek aristocrat and Roman consul Herodes Atticus in 161 AD, it has hosted both popular and serious plays during classical times. While the orchestra area was likely covered with cedar roofing, seating appears to have been open to the sky, as there are no remnants of supports for an extended roof.

Following extensive renovations in 1950, the Odeon has been restored to its former grandeur, including the marble seating in the gallery, with cushions provided for spectator comfort. Serving as the primary venue for the summer Athens Festival, it showcases music performances and opera, having witnessed unforgettable shows by acclaimed artists such as Maria Callas, Luciano Pavarotti, and Sting.

Why You Should Visit:
To marvel at the grandeur of ancient Greek architecture at its peak! Attending a concert here on a balmy summer evening, with the moon overhead, may be the greatest experience you could have. Otherwise, you can simply include it as part of your city tour.

International acts are frequent, so check the schedule in advance of your trip to Athens.
Of course, securing tickets in advance is contingent on favorable weather conditions for an open-air performance.
Theater of Dionysus

5) Theater of Dionysus (must see)

Carved into the cliff face of the Acropolis, the Theatre of Dionysos holds immense cultural and historical importance, as it was the birthplace of Greek drama and a central venue for performances in ancient Athens, besides being the first stone-constructed theater. Its location was deliberately chosen near the temple of Dionysus, the God of wine and patron of drama. During the annual Dionysia festival, renowned playwrights such as Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides had their works performed here as part of dramatic contests.

Initially a modest wooden and earthen structure, the theater was later rebuilt in stone by an Athenian statesman in the 4th century BC; however, the ruins visible today are partly remnants of a much larger edifice built by the Romans, which seated 17,000 spectators. The Romans repurposed it as a gladiatorial arena and added a marble balustrade with metal railings to enhance spectator safety.

Above the theater, a cave dedicated to the goddess Artemis holds significance. In the Byzantine era, this cave was transformed into a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of the Cave ("Panagía i Spiliótissa") and served as a place where mothers brought their ailing children. Nearby, two sizeable Corinthian columns mark the remnants of "choregic" monuments erected to celebrate a benefactor's team winning the drama festival. To the west lies the Sanctuary of Asclepius, son of Apollo, founded in 420 BC and dedicated to the god of healing.

Why You Should Visit:
Fantastic opportunity for theater enthusiasts, students, and children to gain insight into what one of the most significant and ancient theaters in the Western world must have been like. Although you can't explore every nook and cranny, you can walk around the stage's perimeter and sit in the seats, which is a great way to make history come alive.
Acropolis Museum

6) Acropolis Museum (must see)

A four-story, entirely glass structure, the modern Acropolis Museum is home to all artifacts discovered in and around the Acropolis since 2009 and offers stunning panoramic views of the Acropolis itself. Collections are displayed on the first three levels, while the fourth level houses a museum shop and a café serving authentic Greek cuisine.

Upon entering, visitors are welcomed by an ancient owl, the revered bird of Athena, dating back to 500 BC, followed by an impressive array of exhibits: freestanding sculptures of deities and humans, marble figures, fragmented artifacts, and friezes. The exterior entrance and walkways mostly feature glass floors, allowing visitors to glimpse the excavated remnants of ancient civilization beneath them.

The collection is thoughtfully arranged in chronological order, commencing with discoveries from the Acropolis slopes, such as statues and reliefs from the Sanctuary of Asclepius. The Archaic Collection is displayed in a magnificent double-height gallery, showcasing fragments of painted pedimental statues with mythological scenes, including Hercules grappling with monsters. On the level below, the post-Parthenon Collection comprises sculptures from the Temple of Athena Nike and architectural elements from the Propylaea and the Erechtheion. This includes five of the original six caryatids from the south porch, with the sixth held at the British Museum.

Why You Should Visit:
To enjoy an excellent introduction to the Acropolis and the birthplace of democracy. Well-organized and air-conditioned, this museum provides a fascinating glimpse into daily life in ancient Athens. Multimedia presentations enhance the experience, and personal guides are available for a deeper understanding of the significance of the displayed artifacts.

Start with the informative video on the third floor, which effectively connects the museum to the Acropolis itself (also stunning views of the Acropolis through the windows there), then work your way down, and take a break on the outdoor terrace on the second floor.
Anafiotika and Plaka Stairs

7) Anafiotika and Plaka Stairs (must see)

Nestled in the shadow of the Acropolis and frequently likened to the charming whitewashed villages of the rural Greek islands, Anafiotika, located in the Plaka district, stands out as one of Athens' most delightful and idiosyncratic neighborhoods. Poetically described as a "breeze of the Aegean" in the heart of the city, it exudes a unique character and ambiance.

Originally settled by the descendants of Anafi stonemasons who arrived in the 19th century to work in the expanding capital, Anafiotika has retained much of its original charm. The area features simple stone houses, some of which are built directly into the bedrock, with many remaining unchanged over the years and others having undergone stunning restoration.

Cascades of vibrant bougainvillea and pots filled with geraniums and marigolds adorn the balconies and rooftops, and the prevailing tranquility provides a serene contrast to the bustling and noisy modern Athens. In antiquity, this district was abandoned because the Delphic Oracle claimed it as sacred ground. The original residents ingeniously constructed their homes overnight, taking advantage of an Ottoman law that granted ownership if a structure could be erected between sunset and sunrise.

Recently renovated, the Plaka Stairs area abounds in small cafes, bars, and restaurants scattered on the slopes of the Acropolis, particularly along Mnisikleous pedestrian street and its vicinity. Due to the hilly landscape, this street is designed in the form of steps, lined with cafes on both sides. Creative and often compact seating arrangements along the steps create a lively atmosphere filled with music and the cheerful voices of passersby. This unique dining experience can be enjoyed from early lunchtime until the evening.

For those seeking a lovely spot for dinner and drinks, the Anafiotika Cafe-Restaurant, located on the narrow Plaka Steps, offers a spacious patio area and a rooftop terrace that's perfect for catching the sunset.
Stoa of Attalos and Ancient Agora Museum

8) Stoa of Attalos and Ancient Agora Museum

Widely present in many ancient Greek cities, "stoa" is a type of architectural structure that played an important role in social, commercial, and administrative urban life, acting as central hubs of daily activities. These structures, open at the front with a impressive columned façades, offered a sheltered yet open area for the functions of civil officials, merchants, and various individuals. Moreover, they doubled as exhibition spaces for art and public monuments, were used for religious observances, and contributed to the delineation of public areas.

Originally commissioned by and named after King Attalos II of Pergamon (in present-day Turkey), who offered it as a gift to Athens during his reign, this Stoa is an impressive covered walkway constructed during the 2nd century BC and fully rebuilt in the 1950s. In terms of complexity and size, it surpassed earlier buildings in ancient Athens, measuring 115 meters (377 feet) in length and 20 meters (65 feet) in width.

While it may lack its original bright red and blue paint, the reconstruction remains undeniably spectacular in every other aspect. Made of Pentelic marble and limestone, it incorporates different architectural orders, employing the Doric order for the exterior colonnade on the ground floor and the Ionic order for the interior colonnade.

Within this monumental structure, the small Ancient Agora Museum occupies ten of the 21 shops that comprised the Stoa's lower level, showcasing artifacts discovered at the Agora site, spanning from the earliest Neolithic occupation to the Roman and Byzantine periods.

While many of the early artifacts are sourced from burials, the museum's highlights predominantly belong to the Classical era, including notable red-figure pottery and a bronze Spartan shield. Keep an eye out for the 'ostraka', fragments of pottery inscribed with names. During annual assemblies of citizens, these shards would be submitted, and the individual with the most votes would face banishment or "ostracism" from the city for ten years.

On the upper level, the balcony area hosts an intriguing exhibition on the Agora site's excavations and the Stoa's reconstruction, presenting various models, plans, and photos of buildings, with the models particularly aiding in comprehending the broader Agora site.

Why You Should Visit:
Provides essential background information about the Agora and offers a genuine sense of the scale and grandeur of ancient public buildings. Somewhat reminiscent of a modern shopping mall, but far more aesthetically pleasing!

Entry to the museum is included in the Agora ticket, with no separate fee required. While there, don't miss the sweeping view of the grounds from the upper level!
Ancient Agora of Athens

9) Ancient Agora of Athens (must see)

The ancient Agora, or marketplace, sits beneath the revered hill of the Acropolis. This sprawling site now contains the remnants of what was once a vast and intricate complex. In ancient times, the Agora served as the beating heart of public life in the city-state of Athens. Numerous administrative buildings, temples, altars, stoas (roofed arcades filled with shops), and fountain houses were constructed around the open square, which took its final shape in the 2nd century AD. Common citizens would gather to engage in political discussions and participate in the voting process for proposed laws. It was within the council buildings, law courts, and streets of the Agora that democracy took root and thrived.

In 507 BC, Athenian leader Cleisthenes introduced a system of political reforms he termed "demokratia", or "rule by the people", which consisted of three distinct institutions: the "ekklesia", a sovereign governing body responsible for drafting laws and shaping foreign policy; the "boule", a council comprising representatives from the ten Athenian tribes; and the "dikasteria", popular courts where citizens presented cases to a panel of randomly selected jurors. Although Athenian democracy endured for only two centuries, it stands as one of ancient Greece's most enduring legacies to the modern world.

Beyond its role as the city's political center, the Agora also served as a venue for religious ceremonies, commercial transactions, theatrical and musical performances, and even athletic competitions. Here too was the state prison where Socrates was charged and put to death in 399 BC, as well as the city mint responsible for minting Athens' silver currency.

Why You Should Visit:
The concept of democracy, one of ancient Greece's most significant contributions to the modern world, originated right here in this place. The site also features a beautiful temple, and it is well-marked, including the remains of the ancient drainage system.

Admission to the on-site museum is included in the Agora ticket, and you can view some remarkable artifacts there. Water fountains and restrooms are conveniently located nearby.
Temple of Hephaestus

10) Temple of Hephaestus (must see)

The temple dedicated to Hephaestus, the best-preserved ancient Greek temple, has maintained its integrity in part due to its transformation into a Greek Orthodox church from the 7th to the 19th centuries. Standing on a hill on the north-west side of the Agora, it may not match the grandeur of the Parthenon's remains or the colossal temple of the Olympian Zeus, but it offers a genuine sense of the true proportions of an authentic Greek temple, thanks to its mostly intact structure.

In Greek mythology, Hephaestus was the deity associated with fire, metalworking, blacksmiths, and artisans. Only he possessed the skill to craft the magnificent and indestructible bronze residences where the other Olympian gods dwelled.

Construction of the temple began in 449 BC, and some scholars suggest that it may have taken around three decades to complete, as resources and labor were diverted towards the Parthenon. As documented in the "Description of Greece" by Greek traveler Pausanias in the 2nd century AD, the temple once housed bronze statues of Athena and Hephaestus. The surroundings have been adorned with trees and shrubs, creating a small garden where visitors can find shaded spots and enjoy excellent views of other historical sites.

You can explore this site with the Acropolis multi-site ticket, which is highly recommended. Consider obtaining an audio guide for a richer experience. While entry inside the structure is restricted, you can walk around it to admire the decorative friezes adorning its exterior.
Monastiraki Square

11) Monastiraki Square (must see)

A gathering spot for locals and tourists alike, Monastiraki Square is worth a visit, if only for a few minutes, to soak up the lively and often festive atmosphere, that is as Greek as it possibly gets, and perhaps also indulge in local street snacks like "koulouri", a bagel-like roll sprinkled with sesame seeds. The adjacent flea market offers a choice of goods that can rival even the Grand Bazaar of Constantinople (particularly on Sunday mornings), while the surrounding streets are dotted with shops, taverns, bistros, cafes, and tea houses, luring visitors with a chance for a pleasant break.

Along Mitropoleos Alley, lively restaurants packed with local Athenians serve excellent, inexpensive food. At the entrance to Mitropoleos Square, you'll find the famous kebab joint SAVVAS, specializing in gyros, kebabs, lahmacun, and pastrami appetizers. The portions are generous and offer great value for your money, along with a wonderful view of the Acropolis from the rooftop terrace.

In contrast, CAFE AVISSINIA, located in Avissinia Square, stands out as the only establishment in the Monastiraki area where antiques are not for sale but are an integral part of the interior decor. Beyond being a mere eatery or watering hole, this tavern embodies Greek philosophy and culture. Originating as a small tea house in 1986, it has evolved into a timeless haunt that offers a variety of Greek delicacies, including moussaka, grilled calamari, and baked sardines, and most notably, live music to delight the diverse clientele! There are three seating areas, one of which has, again, a fabulous view of the Acropolis.
Pandrossou Street Market

12) Pandrossou Street Market

The busy marketplace along the narrow Pandrossou Street is a cluster of nearly one hundred shops. Vendors offer almost anything, from postcards to various souvenirs and local mementos. The selection is vast, and the quality of merchandise on sale is generally high, including both traditional and locally crafted products.

In addition to the typical souvenir stalls, there is a reasonably diverse assortment of antiques, icons, and other valuable items. Plus, the Sunday flea market is a sight to behold, with a range of items strewn all across tables, over carss, and even along the street. So if you plan to bring home some locally made souvenirs or Greek specialty products, this is certainly a worthwhile destination. Just stay aware of the occasional pickpocket, and be sure to verify the authenticity of items, as shopkeepers require government permission to export genuine objects from ancient Greek, Roman, or Byzantine periods.

At No. 36, the Centre for Hellenic Traditions offers a selection of high-quality traditional handicrafts, ceramics, and sculptures crafted by artisans from various regions of Greece. Meanwhile, Martinos Antiques (No. 50) serves as a treasure trove for antique enthusiasts, housing items such as exquisite dowry chests, vintage swords, precious fabrics, and Venetian glass. Within the four floors of this renovated shop, which has stood as an Athens landmark for the past century, you are sure to discover something that piques your interest.
Metropolitan Cathedral

13) Metropolitan Cathedral

This cathedral church, more popularly known as the "Metropolis", has recently been cleaned, restored, and reopened to visitors. Serving as the official seat of the Bishop of Athens, it remains a prominent city landmark that has hosted significant ceremonial events, from royal coronations to the weddings and funerals of notable individuals. Its interior is adorned with intricate icons, decorations, and detailed murals, showcasing the beauty of Greek Orthodox faith.

Construction on the Metropolis began on Christmas Day in 1842, with King Otto and Queen Amalia of Greece laying the cornerstone. The builders used marble from 72 dismantled churches to construct the colossal walls of the edifice. After 20 years and the contributions of three architects, the church was completed and consecrated in honor of the Annunciation of the Virgin. Measuring 40 meters (130 feet) in length, 20 meters (65 feet) in width, and 24 meters (80 feet) in height, it stands as the largest church in Athens.

Within its confines lie the tombs of two saints martyred by the Ottoman Turks during the Ottoman era: Saint Philothéi and Patriarch Gregory V. Saint Philothéi, who passed away in 1589, is interred in a silver reliquary, with her bones still visible. Her benevolent deeds included the ransom of Greek women held captive in Turkish harems. Patriarch Gregory V, who served as the Patriarch of Constantinople, was executed and thrown into the Bosphorus in 1821. Greek sailors rescued his body and transported it to Odessa, eventually returning it to Athens half a century later with the assistance of Black Sea (Pontic) Greeks.

In the square out front, two statues stand in commemoration of the last Byzantine Emperor, who perished while defending Constantinople against the Turks, and the World War II Archbishop who played a crucial role in safeguarding Athens' Jewish community from Nazi persecution. The square itself provides a tranquil alternative to the bustling Syntagma Square, making it an excellent place to enjoy a drink at one of the local cafes while escaping the city's bustle.
Ermou Street

14) Ermou Street

Stretching for one-and-a-half kilometers in central Athens and conveniently located near Syntagma Square, Ermou Street is known as the city's most exclusive shopping avenue and ranks among the priciest in Europe. What makes it especially pleasant for a stroll is that it was declared as a car-free zone. The street derives its name from Hermes, god of trade, and many Greek towns have their own Ermou Street.

A wide range of shops can be found here, offering everything from high-end fashion to souvenirs, leather goods, embroidery, and fine jewelry. Amidst the bustle, you'll also find a few excellent local grocery stores and many cafes where you can pause for a coffee or tea.

Right in the midst of the shopping strip stands the small 11th-century church of Kapnikarea. Preserved from potential demolition and restored by Athens University, it features a dome supported by four imposing Roman columns. At the corner of Christopoulou Street, consider making a stop at the eatery of the same name, which serves delicious meze dishes while providing a live backdrop of Greek blues, known as "rembetika", particularly from 6 to 11 PM. The ambiance is genuine and relaxed, reflecting the owner's heritage from the "longevity island" of Ikaria.

Keep in mind that many of the shops in the area are typically closed on Sundays.
Syntagma Square (Constitution Square)

15) Syntagma Square (Constitution Square)

Syntagma is a spacious public square in front of the 19th-century Royal Palace, which has housed the Greek Parliament since 1935. A common meeting place and a likely destination for many visitors, it was named after the Constitution that King Otto, Greece's first monarch, was compelled to grant to the Greek people following a popular and military uprising in 1843.

Now a bustling hub located near many significant tourist attractions and well connected by major roads, Syntagma serves as a vital transportation interchange where trams, buses, and the subway provide access to various essential destinations in and around Athens. At the same time, it remains an important venue for public gatherings and political demonstrations.

The square is laid on two levels, with the eastern part elevated above the western section. At its center, there is a fountain, along with several benches where visitors can relax or access free public WiFi. Two green areas feature pine and orange trees, and there are cafes offering refreshments. The city recently renovated the whole space with white marble and new lampposts.

One notable element here is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where the National Guard maintain patrols. They also perform a synchronized, high-stepping routine and change guard every hour on the hour, dressed in distinctive uniforms featuring kilts and pom-pom clogs. The tomb itself displays a poignant relief depicting a dying Greek hoplite warrior and was unveiled on March 25, 1932, Independence Day.

Why You Should Visit:
Undoubtedly the most significant square in contemporary Athens, holding immense historical and social importance. Positioned at the very heart of the city, it serves as a focal point for both commercial activity and Greek political life.

Adjacent to the lower end of the square lies the starting point of Ermou Street, Athens' primary shopping thoroughfare, replete with various shops and a bustling flea market to explore.
Hellenic Parliament House

16) Hellenic Parliament House

The Hellenic Parliament is housed in a historic building that once served as the palace of the Greek Royal Family. Constructed in 1840 by Bavarian architect Friedrich von Gärtner, the neoclassical structure was initially the official residence of King Otto, Greece's first monarch following the end of Turkish occupation, with funding for its construction coming from Otto's father, King Ludwig of Bavaria. After being damaged by a fire in the early 20th century, the Royal Family relocated to a new palace, which now serves as the Presidential Mansion.

With its imposing façade, this stately edifice underwent subsequent renovations to transform it into a suitable parliament house. In 1935, it became the home of the Greek National Assembly and presently accommodates the offices of the Assembly's President, as well as archives and other services. Its western face, towards Syntagma Square, has a Doric portico constructed from Pentelic marble. In front of the building stands the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a memorial honoring all Greeks who have lost their lives in wars.

Please be aware that visitors are not permitted to walk on the marble stairs. Access is available only from one side of the palace, providing a view of the beautiful marble walls and floors, as well as the artistic ceiling of the palace. No tour guide is required for this visit.

Walking Tours in Athens, Greece

Create Your Own Walk in Athens

Create Your Own Walk in Athens

Creating your own self-guided walk in Athens is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Athens Food Walking Tour

Athens Food Walking Tour

Traditional Greek cuisine is one of the healthiest in the world, and prices in all but the flashiest establishments afford excellent value. The prevalence of vegetable and dairy dishes makes eating out a delight for non-meat eaters. Carefully selected appetizers (tzatzíki, dolmádes, kalamarákia) can constitute a full meal. Greece’s most famous slow-cooked oven dish, however, is probably...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.2 Km or 1.4 Miles
Plaka Attractions Walking Tour

Plaka Attractions Walking Tour

In the shadow of the Acropolis stands Plaka, the most picturesque and oldest district of Athens, with continuous habitation from antiquity until today. The “neighborhood of the Gods”, as it is called, is like a romantic, atmospheric trip to old Athens adorned with antiquities, historic 19th-century buildings, museums and Byzantine churches.

From the vibrant Syntagma Square walking down...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.6 Km or 2.2 Miles
Walking Tour Around the Legendary Acropolis

Walking Tour Around the Legendary Acropolis

Also called "the sacred rock", the Acropolis was home to temples and sanctuaries throughout recorded history, and is a symbol of the city of Athens. Its religious importance was paramount to the ancient Greeks, and the buildings on the summit still capture the essence of their classical architecture. You can see the temples from most parts of the city, which adds to the feeling that this...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.0 Km or 0.6 Miles
Walking Around the National Garden

Walking Around the National Garden

The National Garden is an impressive, historic park in the center of Athens, complete with artificial streams and duck ponds. Formerly known as the Royal Garden, it was commissioned by King Otto’s queen, Amalia, in 1838, reason why it is located directly behind the Old Palace (currently the Greek Parliament building). Not only is it a welcome refuge from the swirl of traffic just outside the...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.4 Km or 2.1 Miles

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip

15 Best Cafes in Athens

15 Best Cafes in Athens

While in Athens it is immediately noticeable that the local cafe culture thriving. Through this directory you will get a chance to visit very different establishments, ranging from "kafenia", to hip, modern coffee shops and get first hand experience of the diversity of contemporary Greek...
A Self-Guided Food Walk in Athens

A Self-Guided Food Walk in Athens

Just as many things in Greece, dining in Athens is very much laid-back with the majority of local eateries seeing patrons begin to congregate for dinner only after 8 pm. Eating-wise, the Athenians favor simplicity, leaning to the more casual and not so pricey tavernas where food is plentiful. To...
Souvenirs Shopping: 19 Uniquely Greek Products to Bring from Athens

Souvenirs Shopping: 19 Uniquely Greek Products to Bring from Athens

A cradle of European civilization, Greece, in general, and Athens, in particular, have long been - from the days of the Roman Empire up until present - the lure for travelers and history buffs seeking to find and bring home something memorable. Today's Athens (much as its ancient self) offers a...