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  • Writer's pictureDaniel Bates

Athens Ancient Greek ruins in one day

Updated: Jun 20

Whilst traveling around Greece we only had one day to check out the capital, Athens and top of the list was to explore all the famous Ancient Greek ruins and capture the history. As well as this we wanted to see the city briefly away from the historic sites as to be honest, we don’t know much about the city. Well, we start with the bad but this shouldn’t put anyone off visiting Athens. We found the streets to be dirty, the buildings looking shabby and some (not all) of the people were rude (which we were shocked by when traveling around Greece we found the locals were very friendly). Walking outside the parliament we found there was a minor protest (apparently there has been lots of these for the last fifteen years) and we have to admit, apart from the ancient ruins, was there anything worth visiting and seeing in the city? They may well have been but we  didn’t do enough research to find out but after spending all day at the ancient sites, there is no time to do anything else (gives us another reason to head back to Athens and hopefully our opinion would be changed). By the end of the day we were glad to visit the city and see the ancient sites but we were a bit disheartened by my brief experience of Athens. 

A view of Acropolis, Athens
A view of the Acropolis from below in the city

Sounded a bit strange to write about our feelings of the city at the start of the post. Now the negative experience is out, we grant you the rest of this post will be more uplifting. If you are reading this and haven’t been to Athens, then hopefully this will make you book those flights to come. Here are all the ancient sites we visited in one day and this is how we did it.

A lot of visitors head to the Acropolis which is an ancient citadel located on top of a hill above the city and is an UNESCO World Heritage site. The site has several buildings which have a lot of historic and architectural significance, the heart of it being the Parthenon. Well, this building is truly impressive despite being damaged in a war many centuries ago with the Venetians, to whom fired a cannonball towards it and with pot luck, hit a lot of gunpowder which was stored here and kaa-boom! The Parthenon we see today is from this explosion. Since then it has became a church, a mosque, some dodgy dealings took place with some Ancient Greek statues and marbles taken to the British Museum in London, UK (Danik: sorry guys but I am one of many thousands of Brits who want to see these returned to Athens) and a major restoration project commenced. Walking around the place we did have to keep an eye on where we were  walking due to all the marble stones. Even in the dry heat of the sun they still can be slippery. 

Walking around the Acropolis we managed to check out the other historic buildings located here like the Old Temple of Athena, Theater of Dionysus Eleuthereus and Erechtheum. Despite the place being in ruins here, we could still see how the place is set out, what the buildings were used for (with the help of a guide book of course) and tried to picture how life was in the city. We spent a lot of time walking around, taking it all in and we also took in the wonderful views of Athens

After walking down the hillside from the Acropolis, there are still a lot of ruins to see dotted about nearby. One of my favorites is the Temple of Olympian Zeus which has stood since 2AD (but construction began eight centuries before that, so not sure what the hold up was but if we were an owner of a building which we wanted opening very soon and paid a lot of money to do the project, we be pretty dam cheesed off if we had to wait 638 years for its completion!). We really do love the history behind this place. It was completed when the Romans were in charge and once done, it had one hundred and four colossal columns and was known to be the largest temple in Greece. However, only after a century, the Barbarian’s invaded the city, they pillaged everything from the temple and the place fell into disuse and never got repaired, eventually falling into ruins. Over time, the temple was quarried for building materials to supply material for other projects across the city but somehow most of the outer shell of the temple still stands today, including sixteen of the original columns.

Nearby is the Ancient Agora of Athens which is located northwest of the Acropolis is a place definitely worth hitting up. The Agora is made up of a large area full of ancient ruins located with a lot of trees and bushes dotted about to give the place a more feel good factor. In the golden age of Ancient Greece, a lot of the juries and political gatherings would take place here. The area started out as houses before becoming land for the government. During this time, fountains, a drainage system and a temple dedicated to the Olympia gods were builts. After they were built, they expanded the Agora by building more public buildings, more temples and went crazy planting trees (which is a good thing).

Then over the centuries the Persians, Romans etc came and went, sieging the place then becoming a residential area before falling into ruins (but in a lot better condition than the other sites around the city). It wasn’t until the 19th century that archaeologists started to excavate the area. However a huge discovery was made in the late 19th century when construction workers of the Athens-Piraeus railway found a large part of the Agora, so the project didn’t come through here and a lot of excavation took place. Work is still taking place today and they believe (the archaeologists) that there is much more to find of the Agora.

Even though we only checked out three sites around Athens (and there are still plenty to do), these are the places which we saw on our day in the Greek capital and recommend them to all visitors. If anyone is coming here for a day before heading off to other parts of the country (or one of Greece's many thousand islands) then these can all be done in one day. In the summer months take a bottle of water as the heat of the sun can be very hot and also take a pair of sensible walking shoes especially for the uphill paths and walking on marbled stones. We remember seeing an American woman in high heels and taking her heel jammed in between the marble stones and started to scream ‘Why did the Greeks use these stones to walk on?!?’ - one funny moment we will always treasure forever up on the Acropolis.  We seriously can’t wait to get back to Athens to check out the other sites and give the non-Ancient side of the city another chance. 

A side trip away from Athens to see more Greek ruins when we made a second trip to the Greek capital (still haven’t actually checked out Athens away from the history), I did a road trip to the Temple of Poseidon with fellow travel blogger, Elena from Passion for Greece. We checked this out at sunset and even though our visit was brief, it was one of the most stunning sunsets we have ever seen. Located at Cape Sounio, the temple was built around 440 BC and stands sixty meters (200ft) above the sea. It takes about 30-45 minutes by car to drive from Athens (if the roads are clear) and is worth taking a drive.

How to get to & where it is located: Athens is pretty easy to get to, the main gateway being the airport which lies northeast of the city and is connected to the centre by a forty minute train journey. Athens airport serves the world and is the main airport in the Balkan region. There are train services to Thessaloniki in the north of Greece and into North Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary.

Accommodation: There are a lot of accommodation options and a lot of websites which can do some great deals. Our first point of call is always and can offer a range of hostels, hotels, campsites, apartments, guesthouses, bed and breakfasts. After that we always have a look through AirBnb for great deals on apartments and other lodgings especially when traveling as a family. 

Currency: Greece uses the Euro currency which is also widely used in most European countries. Currency can be exchanged at the airports and train stations (for a huge fee) so we would recommend either going to a currency exchange place downtown, to a bank (if they have good rates) or if you got a good bank account with fantastic exchange rates, then use an ATM machine (may incur a small fee but we always do this option as  we got good bank accounts). 

Language: It's Greek! And it's all Greek to us! (get it?) However English is widely spoken with the younger generations mainly because of business and tourism industries.

Watch out for: Didn't have a problem here. Use common sense, like watch out for pickpockets etc. Avoid big crowds in the centre especially around the parliament building, this means there is usually a protest. We haven't heard about them for a while but just in case, if there is one, get out of the area.

Flying into the area: Then we would recommend using Skyscanner to find flights as that is our first point of call. Then if necessary use the airlines directly to find a good deal. We sometimes use Momondo as well to compare prices before booking. 

Travel insurance: This is essential to anywhere you go in the world. We always carry travel insurance. Having travel insurance will cover you from theft, illness and those annoying cancellations which can happen on the road. 

Need a visa for Greece? Always check if you need a visa when coming to Greece, especially for those who come from outside Europe.

If you would like to share my blog post via Pinterest, please share the pin below.

Athens, Greence - VoyageravecDanik pin

Disclosure: Please note that while I was not working with any companies in Athens, my review and experiences written about in this post are 100% genuine. I value my readers too much to lie to you. My blog would be nothing without you and your continued support! There maybe some links above which are affiliate and are at no additional cost to you. If my readers use them, I earn a commission to buy their products and remember, I only mentioned products and companies I used. The income from this keeps this website going. Thank you. 

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