16 Must-See Historical Sites in Athens, Greece

The Odeon of Herodes Atticus (also known as the Herodeon) is among the many delights of Athens
The Odeon of Herodes Atticus (also known as the Herodeon) is among the many delights of Athens | © jozef sedmak / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of India Doyle
11 May 2020

No visit to Athens is complete without checking out the plethora of historical sites for which the city is known. While the hill of the Acropolis is home to many of these, there are hidden gems throughout the Greek capital. Here’s our pick of must-see historical sites in Athens ranging from the iconic Parthenon to pristine examples of Ottoman-era architecture.

Temple of Hephaestus

Archaeological site, Ruins
Map View
Temple of Hephaestus, Athens, Greece
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One of the most overlooked temples in Athens, the Temple of Hephaestus was designed by Ictinus (or Iktinos) and built in the 5th century BCE using marble from Mount Penteli. Standing near the Agora of Athens, it is one of the best-preserved Ancient Greek temples in the world. Originally dedicated to Hephaestus, god of metalworking and fire, the temple served as an Orthodox church from the 7th century until 1834.


Accessible (Wheelchair), Family Friendly


Building, Church, Mosque, Ruins
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The Parthenon is majestic and imposing
© Thomas Gravanis / Culture Trip
It goes almost without saying that a visit to the Parthenon in Athens is essential. The temple was built from 447-432BCE in homage to the goddess Athena. The Parthenon has served many purposes since its initial construction, including as a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary and a mosque under the Ottoman occupation. A visit to Acropolis Hill, where the Parthenon is located, requires a certain amount of commitment (as well as sensible shoes and plenty of water), but once you reach the top you’ll be delighted that you made the journey. You can’t help but feel inspired and moved by the weight of so much beauty and history, while enjoying striking views down to the sea.

Temple of Athena Nike

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The Temple of Athena Nike was designed by Callicrates and built in 420 BC
© Thomas Gravanis / Culture Trip

Dedicated to the goddess of victory, the Temple of Athena Nike is a smaller temple on the Acropolis and was built in 420BCE. Built in the Ionic order, the elegant columns feature fluted grooves in homage to the feminine elements of the goddess, while a continuous frieze around the temple depicts victorious narratives. It was designed by the architect Callicrates and is a beautiful example of designs from the High Classical Period.

The Erechtheion

Building, Ruins, Shrine
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The Erechtheion is dedicated to the goddess Athena and the god Poseidon
© Thomas Gravanis / Culture Trip
The Erechtheion (or Erechtheum) was built between 421-407BCE and is nestled on the northern side of the Acropolis in Athens. The temple was named after a shrine dedicated to Athenian hero Erichthonius and was built by architect Mnesicles. Upon its creation it was dedicated to both the god Poseidon Erechtheus and goddess Athena Polias, defender of the city. The temple is one of the city’s most famous thanks to its southern porch, featuring six caryatids – sculpted female figures that serve as columns.

Kerameikos Cemetery

Cemetery, Ruins
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Greece, Athens, the Kerameikos Cemetery
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Located in downtown Athens, a short walk away from larger attractions such as the Acropolis, Kerameikos cemetery is a must-visit historical site. The area was named after the potters who originally lived in the area before it was turned into a cemetery, yet the ancient site was only discovered in 1861 when archeologists were excavating around the area. As well an ancient graves, the site includes the remains of a city wall built in 479BCE and the ruins of a road which once was used in the Panathenaic Procession.

Agios Georgios Church, Lycabettus Hill

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Greece, Athens, Lycabettus Hill, Chapel of Agios Georgios
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Perched on top of the Lycabettus Hill, the whitewashed chapel of Agios Georgios can be seen from much of central Athens and from it visitors can survey the whole city. While the Greek Orthodox chapel that stands today was built in the 18th century, traces of a temple dedicated to Zeus have been found on the site, while a Byzantine church dedicated to the prophet Elias also preceded today’s chapel. The chapel is accessible either by foot or funicular.


Family Friendly, Kid Friendly, Accessible (Blind), Accessible (Deaf)

First Cemetery of Athens

Cemetery, Church, Stadium
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The First Cemetery of Athens - Proto Nekrotafio
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Built in 1837, the First Cemetery of Athens is the final resting place of revolutionary heroes, actors, poets, politicians, and important figures of society and the church. Located behind the Panathenaic Stadium, the cemetery is open to the public and a spectacular place for visitors to admire impressive tombs. Look out for the famous sculpture of a young girl called I Koimomeni (‘The Sleeping Girl’), sculpted by Yannoulis Chalepas from the island of Tinos. Beware of visiting after dark: many visitors report encounters with the resident ghost of Nikolas Batsaris (a wreath bearer who worked in the cemetery until his death).

Temple of Olympian Zeus

Archaeological site, Ruins
Map View
Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens, Greece, Europe
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The largest temple in Greece, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, or the Olympieion, was built in the 6th century BCE, though it was completed roughly 640 years after in the 2nd century CE during the reign of Emperor Hadrian. During the Roman era, the temple included 104 grand columns, of which 16 still stand today. The temple is located approximately 500m (1,640ft) southeast of the Acropolis and is part of an important archaeological site, enclosed by Hadrian’s Gate.

Little Metropolis Church

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Athens / Greece - February 29 2020: The Little Metropolis (formally the Church of St Eleutherios), a Byzantine-era church located at the Mitropoleos s
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Situated in the heart of Athens, this historical treasure is easy to miss. The Byzantine-era Little Metropolis Church sits next to its more imposing neighbour, the Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens. The Little Metropolis (also known as Agios Eleftherios Church) measures only 25ft by 40ft (7.6m by 12.2m) and its walls are built entirely of marble, an unusual feature for Byzantine architecture of the period. Only one of the original interior frescoes has survived: an image of the Panagia over the entrance space.

Odeon of Herodes Atticus

Building, Theatre
Map View
The Odeon of Herodes Atticus, a stone theatre structure in the Acropolis of Athens in Athens, Greece.
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The Odeon of Herodes Atticus (also known as the Herodeon) was constructed during the Roman period, between 160-174CE and fully restored in the 1950s. The design was once said by Roman emperor Marcus Arelius to be the finest of its kind, reflecting the traditional style of open air theatres of the time. The staggeringly steep and majestic space continues to host captivating performances to this day and has a capacity of 5,000 spectators.

Panathenaic Stadium

Stadium, Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark
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Panathenaic stadium with clouds in the sky, Athens, Greece
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The only stadium in the world built entirely of marble, the site of the Panathenaic Stadium hosted athletic competitions as early as 566/565BCE, when the area hosted a racecourse. Located behind the National Gardens, the stadium was rebuilt in marble by Herodes Atticus, an Athenian Roman senator, around 144CE for the Panathenaic Games, but largely abandoned from the 4th century. The marble stadium that visitors can admire at Vasileos Konstantinou Avenue today was built in 1896 to host the first modern Olympic Games.

Roman Agora

Historical Landmark
Map View
Night Roman Agora in Athens, Greece
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Built in the 1st century BCE during the reigns of Julius Caesar and Caesar Augustus, the Roman Agora sits east of Athens’s Ancient Agora. While the Ancient Agora served primarily as a place for political gatherings, the Roman Agora was an open marketplace. During Byzantine and Ottoman rule, the site was populated with houses, churches, workshops and mosques, among which is the surviving Fethiye Mosque. This 17th-century Ottoman mosque is currently used for cultural exhibitions. When visiting the Roman Agora, look out for the Tower of the Winds – this octagonal marble clocktower, considered to be the world’s first meteorological station, was built with a sundial and a weathervane.

Philopappos Hill

Historical Landmark
Map View
View to the Acropolis of Athens from Philopappos Hill in Greece. Mount Lycabettus is in the background.
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Combine history with an urban hike on a visit to Philopappos Hill, set southwest of the Acropolis. In addition to the park – which offers excellent views of the Acropolis and the rest of Athens – here you will find a number of significant historical monuments. These include the Philopappos Monument, a mausoleum completed in 119CE in honour of Roman consul and senator Gaius Julius Antiochus Epiphanes Philopappos, who lived a considerable part of his life in Athens. In addition, a cave-like structure carved into the side of the hill is said (in local legend at least) to have been the place where Socrates was imprisoned before his trial in 399BCE.


Historical Landmark
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Athens. Greece. Cycladic style architecture of Anafiotika on the edge of the Plaka district nestles against the Acropolis.
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When it comes to history in Athens, it’s not all ancient ruins. The tiny neighbourhood of Anafiotika, set on the northeastern side of Acropolis Hill and part of the larger Plaka neighbourhood, was built in the 1860s on the orders of King Otto I. Anafiotika, meaning ‘little Anafi’ is a fine homage to the workers from the Cycladic island of Anafi who heeded King Otto I’s call to come and turn Athens into a modern metropolis. While archaeological digs in the 1950s saw many of the houses destroyed, 45 of the original Cycladic-style houses remain, offering a taste of island life in the centre of Athens.

Syntagma Square and the Hellenic Parliament

Historical Landmark, Architectural Landmark
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Hellenic Parliament, Athens, Attica, Greece
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The central square of Athens, Syntagma Square is home to the Hellenic Parliament. This Neoclassical building previously served as the Royal Palace, where Otto, the first King of Greece, and his wife Amalia, lived from 1843 to 1862. The parliament is perhaps best known for the ‘Evzones’ guards who stand guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Presidential Palace, recognisable for their traditional uniforms. Also on the edge of the square are the historic Grande Bretagne and George II hotels.

Benizelos Mansion

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark
Map View
(180302) -- ATHENS, March 2, 2018 (Xinhua) -- Visitors enjoy the sunny day in the main courtyard of the oldest surviving house of Athens, the Benizelos mansion, in central Athens, Greece, on Feb. 27, 2018. In the heart of the historic center of this capit
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Benizelos Mansion is a rare example of Ottoman-era architecture in Athens. While the building predominantly dates to the first half of the 18th century, the remains of a house from the 15th and 16th centuries also lie on the site. Now a museum, the mansion previously belonged to the prominent Benizelos family and is the last surviving example in Athens of a konaki – a walled compound typical of the 18th century.

These recommendations were updated on May 11, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.