While the islands of Greece are more orientated towards sun, sea and sand type holidays, the city of Athens is a treasure trove of archaeological riches that will satisfy both those with a serious fascination and those with a more casual interest.
Any archaeological tour of Athens must start with the Acropolis. As if its status was not exalted enough already, in 2007 the Acropolis was declared to be the ‘preeminent monument on the European Cultural Heritage list’. The Acropolis is a great place to visit whether you are interested in archaeology or not, but those who are will be overjoyed by the profusion of evidence from times gone by.
The National Archaeological Museum of Athens
If the Acropolis whet your appetite then head over to the National Archaeological Museum of Athens. This covers the period extending from pre-history through to late-antiquity and has collections from Asia Minor and Egypt as well as an extensive collection of Greek artefacts. Since the museum is so large visitors will be best advised to examine the information available and selecting specific areas of interest rather than try to see everything. If you have no specific tastes then the museum does reward those who simply stroll around and the helpful staff are always on hand to offer advice. The museum is a five minute signposted walk from Viktoria metro station.
The Kerameikos area of the city, roughly northwest of the Acropolis, is also very interesting from a historical perspective. It is where the ceramic pots of the ancient city were made, indeed, the name is the etymological root of the word ‘ceramic’. The area also contains the Dipylon Gate and is archaeologically very rich. Visitors should be aware, though, that much of what you can see in the area has been reconstructed. This is a very good way of getting a feel of what the ancient city would have looked like but do not mistake it for original material.
Finally, Plaka is an area where archaeology almost seems to come to life. The area hugs the slopes of the Acropolis where houses of various styles have stood since the most ancient times. To maintain the areas charm while balancing this with the needs of local residents, the city authorities have taken the step of banning cars from the area. Many people, while agreeing with this step, were quite amused since cars would be incapable of travelling through most of the streets in the area. Unfortunately the ‘picturesque’ area has become a real tourist hotspot and so visitors may want to think about visiting outside peak times at evenings and not in summer.
This is just a brief sample of the archaeological delights Athens has to offer. If you are interested in seeing more then the staff at the National Archaeological museum or guides around the Acropolis will be more than glad to help.
Photo of Acropolis of Athens, Greece, by jon crel