The immense arts and cultural heritage of Greece have bequeathed upon the modern generations a plethora of treasures exhibited at world-class sites and museums that are well worth visiting. In fact, Athens is one large outdoor museum in itself. However, Athens is not only limited to archaeology. You can also find other kinds of sites and attractions of world-wide significance that feature its unique identity depending on your interests. Here is a list of the 5 must-visit sites and museums in Athens that you shouldn’t miss on your sightseeing tour of the Greek capital.
The 5 Must-Visit Sites and Museums in Athens:
- The Acropolis of Athens
- The Acropolis Museum
- The National Archeological Museum
- The National Museum of Contemporary Art
- The Plaka District
1. The Acropolis of Athens
A trademark of the city, the Acropolis is the number one attraction of the Greek capital and top on our list of the 5 Must-Visit Sites and Museums in Athens. The Acropolis of Athens is a universal symbol of the classical spirit and civilization and one of the most significant monuments included in the World Cultural Heritage list of UNESCO. Located on a rocky outcrop above the city, this ancient citadel contains the remains of ancient buildings of great architectural and historic importance. Climb up the Sacred Rock to the Acropolis site and witness close up the masterpieces of Greek Classical art and architecture that crown the city.
- The Propylaia, the monumental gateway that serves as the entrance to the Acropolis
- The Temple of Athena Nike, the earliest Ionic temple dedicated to the goddess Athena Nike
- The Parthenon or the Temple of Athena Parthenos, the temple dedicated to the goddess Athena, whom the people of Athens considered their patron
- The Erechtheion, the temple dedicated to Athena and Poseidon
- The Theatre of Dionysus, the world's first theatre built at the foot of the Acropolis dedicated to the god of plays and wine
- The Odeon of Herodes Atticus, a theatre located on the southwest slope of the Acropolis
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2. The Acropolis Museum
Next on our list of the 5 Must-Visit Sites and Museums in Athens is the Acropolis Museum. Under the shadow of perhaps the most important monument to mankind, this crown jewel of the Greek capital’s cultural scene is often touted as the best museum in Greece and Europe’s leading tourist attraction. The multiple-award-winning museum concentrates on the findings of the archaeological site of the Acropolis of Athens. It houses artifacts found on the Sacred Rock and on the surrounding slopes, ranging from the Greek Bronze Age to Roman and Byzantine Greece. When you enter the imposing site, the glass floor brings you in direct contact with the entire archaeological site that was discovered during the excavation.
- Finds from sanctuaries on the slopes of the Acropolis, as well as everyday life artifacts from the settlements
- The Archaic Gallery, with sculptures of young women (the Korai), the horse riders (the Hippeis), among others
- The Parthenon Gallery, with sculptural decoration from the frieze, the metopes and the pediments. The frieze, depicting the Panathenaic Procession, is in the middle of the room and unfolds over the 160 meters of sculptural decoration
- A coffee, snack, or delicious dishes and desserts accompanied by the breathtaking view to the Acropolis
3. The National Archaeological Museum
Another must-see museum in Athens is The National Archaeological Museum. The National Archaeological Museum is Greece's largest museum and one of the most important museums in the world. Its rich collections number more than 11,000 exhibits, offering the visitor a panorama of ancient Greek culture from prehistoric times to late antiquity. The museum is housed in the imposing neoclassical building of the late 19th century. Sculptures, pottery, metalwork and classic masterpieces are exhibited in this beautiful building designed by L. Lange and Ernest Ziller.
- The archaeological findings from Neolithic settlements and everyday life artifacts
- The Cycladic Collection and the Minoan and Mycenaean Collections, with very interesting exhibits and impressive funerary finds, like jewelry, weaponry and golden funerary masks
- The golden Mask of Agamemnon now said to actually belong to a king who lived at least 300 years before the mythic Mycenean leader
- The Sculptural Collection, with stunning examples of Archaic Kouroi and Korai
- The Classical bronze spear thrower who represents either Poseidon or Zeus
- The Thera exhibition, findings from Thera’s cape (Santorini) depicting the life in the Aegean during the Bronze Period.
- The famous Antikythera Mechanism, “The World's First Computer”, once used for astronomical observations, which has created worldwide interest
4. The National Museum of Contemporary Art
The National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST), located in the Koukaki neighborhood, was established in 2000. This museum focuses on contemporary Greek and international art in Athens. Its permanent home, a fine example of post-war industrial architecture and one of the most prestigious cultural institutions in the Greek capital, is the former Fix Brewery. The museum’s collection is made up of an important core of works by Greek and international artists such as Vlassis Caniaris, Nikos Kessanlis, Sirin Nesat, Nan Goldin, Gillian Wearing, Ann Sofi Siden, Costas Tsoclis and others.
5. The Plaka District
The Plaka District, the oldest neighborhood of today's Athens is the most beautiful district of the historical center to visit on an Athens sightseeing tour and one of the most touristy because of its proximity to the Acropolis. The main street of Adrianou and the surrounding pedestrian streets are full of souvenir shops, sidewalk cafés, and traditional tavernas and restaurants. The Plaka District is the ideal place to indulge in some of the country’s culinary specialties, such as moussaka or tzatziki, sip some ouzo, the local aperitif, or try a cup of Greek coffee, a very strong and rich drink made from ground roasted beans. The area also has many old churches, such as the Transfiguration of the Savior dating back to the 11th century. Its narrow streets are home to several museums, such as the Museum of Greek Children’s Art, and places like the Hadrian's Library, the Roman Agora and the Tower of the Winds.
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