Important Historic Sites in Athens You Have to Visit!

9 Important Historic Sites in Athens You Have to Visit!

The place where Western civilization all began, Athens is brimming with ancient, fascinating places just waiting to be explored. From huge ruins that were once bustling marketplaces to incredibly well-maintained statues that are millennia old, all of the incredible historic sites in Athens will leave you speechless and desperate to find out more. 

Although these Athens landmarks are definitely must-visit places during your trip, many lack accompanying information that would help you make sense of the place and understand its importance. 

Because of that, I suggest you follow up your visit with some time at the Acropolis Museum and the National Archaeological Museum. These iconic buildings are treasure troves of knowledge and will help you gain a much deeper understanding of the city’s history and culture.

I haven’t included the Acropolis in this list because the Acropolis is the name of the ancient complex on top of the hill that contains the Parthenon and many other historic buildings. It’s not a singular historic site itself, but rather a collection of them. 

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, it’s time to explore the most important historic sites in Athens! 

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9 Must-Visit Historic Sites in Athens 

1. Parthenon

Historical Sites to Visit in Athens: Parthenon

One of the most famous landmarks in Athens, the Parthenon is a spectacular temple that forms part of the Acropolis. It’s perched high up on a huge plateau and is visible from almost every part of the city. 

Dedicated to the goddess Athena, this iconic structure was built between 447 BC and 438 BC and originally housed a giant ivory and gold statue in her honor. Although the statue is no longer there today, you can still admire the towering marble columns and take in the amazing panoramic vistas that span the entire city.

For a phenomenal view of the Parthenon, I suggest grabbing drinks from a rooftop bar – my favorite is Mappemonde Restaurant Bar & Lounge on top of the Hotel Athens Capital. There’s a chic pool to cool off in during the day and a sophisticated restaurant to dine at in the evening. Do what I do – order yourself the signature Capital Lady cocktail and lose yourself in the surrounding views!  

2. Temple of Athena Nike

Must Visit Historical Sites in Athens: Temple of Athena Nike

The Temple of Athena Nike is one of those Athens attractions that a lot of people miss out on – even though they probably walk right past it! This beautiful structure is the smallest temple in the Acropolis and was originally a place where people came to pray for victory over the Spartans during the Peloponnesian War.

I love the friezes on the parapets here. My favorite is the one in which you can see Nike adjusting her sandal. It doesn’t sound that impressive, but it’s staggeringly beautiful, especially considering that it was made more than 2,000 years ago when tools were incredibly basic.

The Nike sandal frieze at the Temple of Athena Nike is actually a replica. If you want to see the original (as well as plenty of other spectacular pieces of history from the Acropolis), visit the Acropolis Museum. 

3. Erechtheion

Ancient Ruins in Athens: Erechtheion

One of the most impressive ancient ruins in Athens, the Erechtheion is found on the northern side of the Acropolis and was built in honor of both Athena and Poseidon. From one side, the temple looks like many others scattered throughout the city. But walk around to the Porch of the Maidens side and you’ll be left speechless by the work of art you see before you.

This incredibly delicate yet solid feature is made up of six statue-like columns depicting women known as caryatids. They’re the only thing holding up the roof of the temple! 

Their dramatic hairstyles piled high up on their heads was cleverly incorporated to offer better support for the temple’s structure. The carving is so realistic that you’d swear the women were wearing actual robes made out of material and not marble. 

4. Church of St. Eleftherios

Also known as Panagia Gorgoepikoos, the Church of St. Eleftherios is one of the lesser-known historic sites in Athens, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth visiting. Hidden away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Athens, this charming Byzantine church stands in the peaceful Psiri neighborhood and is likely to be one of the smallest places of worship you’ll ever see!

Built in the 12th century, this pint-sized gem is made up of mostly marble with a small domed roof. Walk around the outside and you’ll spot an unusual mismatch of ancient gods and medieval beasts. 

I suggest you admire the church from the outside for a few minutes and skip going inside. While there are some original frescoes, they’re in such terrible condition that you can’t really enjoy them.

5. Panathenaic Stadium

Historical Sites to Visit in Athens: Panathenaic Stadium

It doesn’t matter whether or not you’re into ancient history – the Panathenaic Stadium is one of those famous landmarks in Athens that is almost certain to get you excited. Built on the site of the first modern Olympic games, this colossal stadium is the only one in the world that’s made entirely out of marble.

For a great picture, I suggest you seek out the podium. Here you can stand on the winner’s spot and have your picture taken inside a real Olympic stadium! 

Head to the very back of the structure and climb to the highest point. From here, you’ve got a spectacular view of the complete stadium, as well as Mount Lycabettus. If you’re feeling energetic, you can even join in with a group jogging session every morning between 7:30 am and 9 am.

6. Temple of Olympian Zeus

Must Visit Historical Sites in Athens: Temple of Olympian Zeus

Located in the very heart of the city, the Temple of Olympian Zeus is one of the most central of the ancient ruins in Athens. During its heyday, this phenomenal temple would have been the largest in ancient Athens, if not the world! As you can guess from the name, the imposing structure was dedicated to Zeus, head of the Olympian gods. 

Sadly, only a small amount of what would have been a remarkably impressive building remains to this day. In this 21st century, the Temple of Olympian Zeus boasts 16 surviving columns that date back to the 6th century BC. Back then, this important temple took more than 600 years to complete and was overseen by several different rulers.

An enormous ivory and gold statue of Zeus sitting on his throne was the highlight of the temple when it was constructed. Google a picture of it before you go, and you’ll have a good idea of how huge and astounding it must have been when you’re there.

7. Ancient Agora of Athens

Historical Sites to Visit in Athens: Ancient Agora of Athens

One of my favorite Athens attractions, the Ancient Agora of Athens was once a sprawling marketplace where locals would buy and sell all sorts of things thousands of years ago. The place is just as large today as it was when it was constructed and almost all the foundations are still in place, making it easy to imagine exactly how it looked more than five centuries ago. 

There are many extraordinary things to see within the Ancient Agora of Athens if you know where to look. Here are some of my favorites that I definitely recommend you check out:

  • The Klepsydra – a water clock that was used to time speeches
  • The remains of the statue of the Roman Emperor Hadrian from 117 AD
  • The Hephaisteion – the friezes and engravings on and around the ceiling are amazing

8. Theater of Herodes Atticus

Historical Sites to Visit in Athens: Theater of Herodes Atticus

When you think you’re done visiting the Acropolis, walk down the southwestern slope and take a look at the Theater of Herodes Atticus. One of the best Athens landmarks that many people miss, this important structure may be more modern than many others in the area, but that doesn’t take away from its significance.

The open-air theater was opened to the public in 161 AD and hosted countless musical performances. This tradition is one the theater has held onto, with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Luciano Pavarotti, Elton John, and Sting having played here in the last century.

Music performances still take place here to this day. If you’re planning on visiting during the summer when the Athens and Epidaurus Festival is going on, I absolutely recommend you snap up tickets for a performance!

9. Temple of Hephaestus

Ancient Ruins in Athens: Temple of Hephaestus

If you’re looking for the best-preserved ancient ruins in Athens, the Temple of Hephaestus should definitely be on your list. This grand temple has been remarkably well taken care of and is in much better condition than almost any other ancient structure in the city. When you stand in front of it, you’ll struggle to believe that it’s almost 2,500 years old! 

The temple was originally dedicated to Hephaestus, the god of fire, and Athena, the goddess of wisdom, strategy, and crafts. But in the 7th century, it was transformed into a church, a decision that had a major impact on how well looked after the building has been since. 

Take a look at the eastern front of the temple, and you’ll see fantastic sculptures depicting the battle of Theseus and the labors of Hercules. The west side of the temple is dedicated to sculptures that show the fall of Troy. 

There you have it! My guide to visiting the most important historic sites in Athens. What are your favorite ancient ruins in Athens? 



  • Nicola Quinn

    Nicola is a freelance writer with an insatiable hunger for travel. She swapped her home in the UK for the sunny Canary Islands when she was just 11 and she has been based there ever since.

    From crawling on her hands and knees inside pyramids in Egypt to swimming with baby sharks in Bali and searching (fruitlessly!) for the Northern Lights in Iceland, Nicola takes every chance she gets to explore new places.

    The incredible experiences she has around the world fuels her writing and inspires her to plan even more adventures for the future.

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