Athens Walking Tour: Ancient Sites

Travel Guide at a Glance
Destination best for: sightseeing, historical site/museum, family vacation
Total time distance: 5-7 km (4.5 miles) with a 2.7 km (1.7 mi) extension
Difficulty: easy
Visitors rating:

Walking tour of the most important archaeological sites of Athens


View this walking tour of ancient Greece in a larger window.
This walking tour is depicted with the ORANGE line on this map.

Tip: Save this page and the associated map on your ipad, iphone,
or any smart phone and consult it as you walk the tour. It is
designed in a way that you don't need to have it open all the
time, but to consult it whenever you reach one of it's destinations.
This tour would take a good part of a day with stops at museums for lunch, and rest. The total distance of this walk is about 5-7 kilometers (4.5 UK/US miles).

It is the ORANGE line on the map and with the exception of the actual Acropolis visit, it takes place over relatively flat land. If you have extra time at the end, or if you want to continue the tour a second day, follow the GREEN line on the map. More about the extension later.

Main tour of the major ancient sites of Athens

Start a the Acropolis Metro station (see Athens Metro map) and walk half a block with the Acropolis museum on your left. It might be a good idea to buy two small bottles of water from the food shops across from the Metro station and to have breakfast there (if you haven' had it at the hotel), or buy a cheese pie to eat as you walk.

Turn left on Dionysiou Areopagitou street. We'll reserve the Acropolis Museum visit for later in the day when its air conditioned rooms would be a welcome relief for the mid-day sun, so head for the Acropolis itself now that the sun is still low on the horizon.

Acropolis

On your right hand side you will see the entrance to the Acropolis Archaeological site. Pay for your ticket and walk up the foot path that takes you through the Theatre of Dionysus (the place where Theatre reached it's zenith in Ancient Athens) and the back of the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. The Odeon is a later, Roman era addition (10min walk).

Tickets to the ancient sites

The ticket you buy at the Acropolis costs 12 Euro and will allow you entry to all the archaeological sites we'll visit in this tour: Acropolis, Agora and it's museum, Kerameikos and its museum, Hadrian's Library, Roman Agora, and the Olympeion.

From there walk up the precarious footpath and the Propylaea to enter the top of the Acropolis. The orange tour line on our map suggests a walking path around the Parthenon, but feel free to walk around and enjoy the ancient ruins as you please. On the Acropolis, you can find a water fountain and toilets at the southeast end of the rock but shade and other amenities are not available until you exit the Archaeological site. Refill you water bottles there.

Exit the Acropolis and head west towards the Areios Pagos (feel free to ascent the rock through the stairs for good views of the Acropolis and the Agora below). You will see that this is the main entrance and ticket booth to the Acropolis, and there is a gift shop, and benches to rest under the trees shade. If your water bottles are empty, you should be able to buy water in this area. We recommend not to spend too much time here because our tour just started. Walk northwest on Theonas road to find the entrance to the Agora of Athens.

The Ancient Agora of Athens

Agora
Ancient Agora

The Agora (meaning "marketplace") was the heart of Ancient Athens, and the place of exchanging goods and ideas. You will be walking a dirt path that in Classical antiquity was the sacred Panathenaic Way. On a low hill, diagonally to your left you will see the Hephaisteion temple, so follow the footpaths to it and return to the Agora Museum. You can probably be finished with the museum visit in about fifteen or twenty minutes, and when you are done follow the orange line on our map to exit on Adrianou street (this portion of tour: about 45min).

Kerameikos

Here you'll have the option to skip the Kerameikos portion of this tour. If you decide to skip Kerameikos you will be shaving about one hour off this tour. Kerameikos is a major Archaeological site since it encloses the defensive walls and the cemetery of Classical Athens, but given the other sites and museums included here, it's not a "must-see" venue.

Kerameikos archaeological site
Kerameikos

Having said that, if you enjoy ancient ruins and museums, and especially if the main thrust of your visit to Greece is to study the ancient culture, follow the orange line to the west. When you reach the Thesion Metro (HSAP) station turn to the right toward the archaeological site. Once again, leave the museum next to the entrance for last. There is a restroom and a water fountain at the Museum.

Once finished with your Kerameikos walking tour, head back toward Thesion Metro station again. Here you will have the option of hopping on the train to reach the next stop: Monastiraki station which is closer to our next Archaeological site. Another option would be to use the Metro from Thesion to get back to the Acropolis museum by skipping Hadrian's Library and the Roman Agora.

But if you still have the time, the next part of this tour would take you through a good city walking territory, and coincides with parts of our sightseeing tour of Monastiraki, so we recommend following our tour on foot.

Monastiraki and lunch

If you started the tour early in the morning, you are probably ready for lunch just about now, and you should be in the right place. As you walk through Adrianou street pick one of the outdoor restaurants right next to the ancient ruins to have your lunch and a drink, then keep walking east until you reach our next archaeological site. It might be a good idea to use the restaurant restroom facilities before you head to our next two sites. Buy bottled water at the kiosks right across from the Hadrian's Library site as soon as you get there.

Hadrian's Library and Roman Agora (or Forum)

For perspective, both Hadrian's Library and the Roman Agora are later addition to the city, built by the Romans about 400 years after the Parthenon and the Hephaisteion were built. Both ancient sites can be visited in about half hour.

Hadrian's Library, Athens
Hadrian's Library

Hadrian's Library is right next to the busy Monastiraki Metro station and it's visible through the imposing reconstructed facade and columns. It was built by the philhellene Roman emperor Hadrian in 132 CE to house papyrus books and to revitalize the already declining intellectual centrality of post-Classical Athens. In it's grounds, you will see the foundation outlines of their churches that were built on the library's ruins between 500 and 1200 CE. Again for perspective, that's over a millennium after the Parthenon was built.

Roman Agora, Tower of Winds
Tower of Winds

The Roman Agora was built after the Roman empire established rule over Greece to differentiate their market from the ancient Athenian one. It was built on the site of an earlier Hellenistic center, and the most notable attraction is the Tower of Winds or Horologion (time-teller). The Tower of Winds is an octagonal marble building that stands intact since the 2nd century BCE. It was originally built to house a water clock and to act as a weather vane. The relief statues that surround the top of the tower depict the eight wind directions.

The walk toward the Acropolis Museum

If you follow our orange map line, the next twenty minutes will take you through a pleasant, flat, and "touristy" part of town. If you don't want to walk through other wandering tourists, you can walk back to Monastiraki station to ride the Metro to the Acropolis Museum, or you can walk up the district of Plaka for less crowded sightseeing through the residential area. If you choose this latter option, keep in mind that the walk will be uphill and if you keep the Acropolis to your right you'll eventually end up at the Acropolis museum.

Lysicrates Monument
Lysicrates Monument

Continuing with our tour, you will be walking through Adrianou street - the oldest continuously used road of Athens that dates to the Classical era and beyond. It would take you about 15 or 20 minutes to reach the Acropolis Museum from the Roman Agora.

When you reach Lysikratous street turn to your right toward the Monument of Lysicrates, and then left (it's easier walking down through the park where the monument is rather than walking on the busy street traffic). The Monument of Lysicrates was financed by a wealthy citizen of Ancient Athens who also sponsored musical performances at the Theatre of Dionysus you saw earlier at the Acropolis. Lysicrates built it to commemorate his sponsored performance's winning first price in 335/334 BCE.

The Acropolis Museum

Acropolis Museum
Acropolis Museum

The new Acropolis Museum is a fitting exclamation mark for this walking tour. You will have to buy a ticket at the entrance since it is not included in the sites you paid for at the Acropolis, but don't throw away the other ticket because you would need it if you plan to visit the Olympeion.

It is a beautiful building that houses the artifacts unearthed during excavations at the Acropolis. It is packed with amazing art from all eras of Ancient Greece, but the highlight is the Parthenon pediment and frieze sculptures on the third floor. Don't neglect to watch the ten minute "History of the Acropolis" movie on the third floor projection area. Read more about the Acropolis Museum and see pictures...

If you still have time, or if you would like to see more of Ancient Athens another day, go to the

 


Conclusion

There are plenty of businesses that would be happy to sell you a walking tour of Athens, and if you don't mind walking with a group and the restricted timeliness they would be a good option. You'll get the added benefit of having a tour guide explain every major and minor site along the way, but their tour might not include everything described here. Our walking tour of Athens is designed for those who enjoy independent traveling and who don't mind doing a little bit of their own research. While there are other interesting sites and museums around Athens, the ones included here are widely considered the highlights of ancient Greece.

You might also want to combine this tour with the sightseeing tour of Monastiraki.

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