Things to Do in Greece - page 2
With nearly 40 acres of well-kept gardens, sky-high forests and ancient ruins the National Gardens of Athens offers travelers a natural escape unlike any other. Commissioned by Queen Amalia in 1838, this unique destination is home to more than 500 species of plants and animals and a vast landscape dotted with the busts of Greek poets, gods and political figures.
Travelers can wander the grounds, which offer a scenic escape from the chaos of Athens, and sip hot coffees at the small outdoor café after combing through the Botanical Museum or the garden’s small zoo. Close proximity to the Olympic stadium makes it a perfect stop for those on a tour of Athen’s most famous historical sites.
Psiri sits underneath the Acropolis and along with its neighbors Plaka and Monastiraki, is one of the buzziest districts in Athens. It’s not so long ago that it was a down-at-heel artisan area best known for its abandoned buildings and leather shops, but Psiri is undergoing a facelift and is currently one of the hottest addresses in the city. Yes, its narrow, meandering streets are still covered with graffiti and there are local grocery shops unchanged for decades but today Psiri is a magnet to locals and – increasingly – visitors alike. For starters, it’s slowly becoming home to small independent boutiques selling organic soaps, unusual handmade jewelry, old posters and glittering icons; and often market stalls selling homemade produce line the streets. And by night Psiri undergoes a radical transformation as cool cafés, bars, restaurants and local ouzeries open on to the alleyways and the laidback crowds come strolling in.
The best place to capture the mystery and magic of Crete’s ancient Minoan civilization is the ruins of Knossos, just outside Heraklion. The secrets of this enigmatic civilization were only unraveled in the 20th century, by the man who would go on to restore the palace ruins, Sir Arthur Evans.
The Palace of Knossos was built at the height of the Minoans’ glory, in around 3400 to 2100 BC, reflecting their wealth and sophistication. Best known for their incredibly naturalistic frescos and exquisite ceramics, the Minoans traded with other contemporary great powers in Egypt and Asia Minor.
The original palace was destroyed by an earthquake in around 1700 BC, and a more sophisticated complex was built over the ruins. Knossos was eventually destroyed by fire in 1400 BC.
Minoan pottery, jewelry, frescos and sarcophagi from Knossos are displayed in Heraklion at its fabulous archaeological museum.
Erected in honor of the Roman Emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century A.D, the monumental gateway of Hadrian’s Arch remains one of the most striking remnants of ancient Athens. Located on the ancient road between the Athenian Agora and the Olympieion, the elaborate structure was supposedly built to honor the arrival of Hadrian in 131 AD.
The Arch, standing in front of the once magnificent Temple of Olympian Zeus (the Olympieion), formed a symbolic gateway between the old city district and the new Roman-built city, erected by Hadrian. Notably, two inscriptions feature on the sides of the arch: the western side, looking onto the old city reads ‘ This is Athens, the ancient city of Theseus’ and the eastern side, facing the Olympieion, reads ‘This is the city of Hadrian and not of Theseus’.
Sprawling up the northern slopes of the Acropolis and peeking above the rooftops of Plaka, Anafiotika is a tiny enclave of steep, cobbled alleyways lined with squat, whitewashed stone houses reminiscent of villages in the Greek Islands. The area was developed by skilled craftsmen from the Cycladean island of Anafi, who arrived in Athens in 1843 to work in the building boom that followed independence from the Hellenic Republic. Taking advantage of an ancient decree that allowed people to keep their property if they could build it between sunset and sunrise, the islanders worked on grand neo-classical palaces by day and their own cramped quarters by night. Part of Anafiotika was torn down in the 1950s and now only around 50 of the artisan dwellings remain, tucked between the miniscule churches of Agios Georgios tou Vrachou and Agios Simeon, both also the work of the Anafi islanders. Their descendants still live in their mini-homes, amid splashes of color from scented gardens.
The Acropolis is Athens’ most famous hill, but one that can’t escape notice (especially as you climb up to the Parthenon) is the nearby Philopappou Hill. This forested hill was once called Mouseion Hill, or “Hill of the Muses,” but has been known as Philopappou Hill since a monument of the same name was built atop the hill in the year 116 C.E. The monument and tomb, the most noticeable part of the hill when viewed from anywhere else in Athens, was for the Roman consul and senator Gaius Julius Antiochus Epiphanes Philopappos. He was a powerful and respected man in Athens, having lived there for many years, and was a prominent theater sponsor. The monument is a partial ruin today, but you can still see aspects of Philopappos’ life carved into the stone.
Kotzia Square is located in central Athens, Greece and is lined with neo-classical buildings from the 19th century. One of the buildings here is the City Hall of Athens, which is decorated with busts of famous Athenians such as Pericles and Solon. Another impressive building on the square is the National Bank of Greece. The square was built in 1874 and was originally called Loudovikou Square. The current name is for a former Athens mayor, Konstantinos Kotzias. This square was the starting and finishing point of the men's and women's road race events during the 2004 Summer Olympics.
More Things to Do in Greece
Adrianou Street is one of the main roads in the Plaka neighborhood of Athens, Greece. It is the oldest commercial street in Athens still in continuous use and with the same layout, direction and use since antiquity. It runs from Thesseion in the Monastiraki flea market towards Hadrian's Arch in the Roman Agora, and it is the largest street in Plaka. The street is located below the Acropolis and is lined with restaurants and cafes.
There are also lots of shops along this road where you can find factory-made items as well as handcrafted pieces sold in shops owned by the artists. It's a popular place to shop for jewelry, postcards, crafts, antiques, and more. Since it is a pedestrian street, it is a good place for a leisurely stroll while exploring the neighborhood. It's also a great place to have dinner with a view of the Acropolis and soak up the atmosphere of ancient Athens.
The Benaki Museum competes with the Acropolis Museum and National Museum of Archaeology as one of the top three museums in Athens. It was established in 1930 by wealthy philanthropist Antonis Benakis in his neo-classical family mansion opposite the National Gardens, and he kick-started the collection by donating nearly 40,000 pieces of Byzantine and Islamic art to the museum. Further donations from private collectors over the decades swelled the exhibitions and resulted in the museum being extended several times.
Following a revamp in the early 21st century, the oriental and Islamic art was moved to thesatellite Museum of Islamic Art in Kerameikos and there is also an annexe on Pireos Street in the newly trendy district of Rouf, showcasing all that’s best on the Athens contemporary art scene. The Benaki Museum itself now concentrates solely on Greek history from the fall of Constantinople in 1453 through the formation of the Greek state in 1821 and on to the 1922.
The epicenter of modern-day Athens, Kolonaki Square is the most fashionable spot for a coffee break in the city, located right at the heart of the upmarket Kolonaki district. Nestled in the shadows of Mount Lykavettos, the leafy square offers an idyllic setting and its many terrace cafés are brimming with locals during the summer months. This is the place to sip a cappuccino at a glitzy café, spot Greek celebrities and socialites, and browse the designer boutiques of adjoining streets like Anagnostopoulou and Patriarchou Ioakim. The square is also buzzing with activity in the evening hours, when the neighborhood’s many restaurants, bars and nightclubs fill up with Athens’ most glamorous.
One of the world's great museums, Athens’ National Archaeological Museum houses the most important finds from antiquity unearthed from the many archaeological sites scattered throughout Greece. A visit to the National Archaeological Museum provides the ultimate overview of Greek history and art, underscoring their influence on Western civilization. The scores of exhibits range from prehistory through to late antiquity.
Highlights include glittering artifacts from Mycenae, spectacular Minoan frescos from Santorini, and intricate Cycladic figurines. There are objects excavated from Troy, Neolithic ceramics, marble sculptures from the Aegean islands, jewelry and weapons, and mummies and statues from ancient Egypt.
The hub of civic activity in Thessaloniki is Aristotelous Square, which was designed by French architect Ernest Hébrard in 1918 after the devastating fire of 1917 that destroyed much of the city center. Sitting on the waterfront just off Nikis Avenue, the square was designed to mimic the vast and grandiose open plazas found in many European maritime cities – such as the Praca do Comercio in Lisbon – and to move away from the chaotic layout of Ottoman Thessaloniki towards an ordered town development plan. Today most of the monumental mansions that line the piazza were rebuilt in the 1950s and renovated again in the early 21st century. It is one of the biggest and most impressive squares in Greece, offering a view of Thermaikos Gulf to the southwest and up the grand boulevard of Aristotelous to the gardens of Platia Dikastirion.
Covering the period from 1453 to the 1940s, Athens’ National History Museum takes visitors from the Ottoman years right up until the Greek-Italian War. The museum is housed in an ornate Neoclassical palace dating back to 1813 and has seen several incarnations; it was once the home of King Otto, the first Greek monarch after independence in 1832, before being taken over by Greek Parliament, who in turned moved out to the current Parliament Building in Syntagma Square in 1932. Lastly, the Old Parliament building housed the justice ministry before opening as a museum in 1962, showcasing turning points in Greek history from the Byzantine rule to the build up to the Wars of Independence in the 1820s and the disastrous Asia Minor Campaign in 1919.
Things to do near Greece
- Things to do in Athens
- Things to do in Rhodes
- Things to do in Corfu
- Things to do in Santorini
- Things to do in Heraklion
- Things to do in Kalamata
- Things to do in Katakolo
- Things to do in Thessaloniki
- Things to do in Corinth
- Things to do in Kos
- Things to do in Albania
- Things to do in Macedonia
- Things to do in Ionian Islands
- Things to do in Peloponnese
- Things to do in Macedonia