As the cradle of Western civilization and the birthplace of democracy, Athens is the perfect place to travel for the history buff who wants to soak in knowledge. Here are all the things to do in this ancient city for your cerebral fix.
Hadrian’s Library is a relic of the reign of Emperor Hadrian, who commissioned the impressive library to house important literary, legal, and administrative texts. Located at a northern corner of the Roman Agora, the library was built from 132-134 CE, and since its original inception as a library and oratory hall, it has been used as part of the city’s fortification wall, part of an early Christian Church, and a bazaar during Turkish reign. Check out the impressive columns that line the outside of the library. Be aware that though there is a small admission fee, there isn’t much of a museum or guides here—we suggest reading up on it before you visit, especially if you are interested in the Roman influence on Greek architecture.
Ancient Agora Of Athens
Agora was once the heart of public life in Athens; a bustling commercial, political, and social center utilized by Socrates and Plato. Today, the site’s excavations are equally lively, including the beautiful monuments and temples plus a former concert hall and a fascinating museum. Be sure to check out the massive columned stoa, the remaining ruins of Aphrodite’s Shrine, the Temple of Hercules, the Christian Basilica, and the Corinthian colonnades from the former Roman bazaars.
Located in a former mansion near Syntagma Square, the Benaki Museum is a massive historical building containing Greek art, Islamic art, and rotating temporary exhibitions. The Greek section, which is its most impressive, contains Greek art and historical treasures from the prehistoric to modern day. After browsing, grab a snack and drink at the lovely museum cafe. Full admission is €9, and the museum is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
The Numismatic Museum provides a glimpse of Greek history from a unique perspective: a massive collection of coins that spans from ancient to present day Greece (there are 400,000 coins and counting). Located in a historic Neoclassical mansion formerly owned by archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann, the beautiful structure features marble staircases, mosaic floors, hand-painted ceilings, and ornate woodwork. There’s also a lovely courtyard cafe that should not be missed; it has great coffee and feels totally serene.
Goulandris Museum Of Cycladic Art
The Museum of Cycladic Art is one of the best living cultural spaces in Athens, boasting the largest independent collection of Cycladic art in the world. The first floor is dedicated to simple marble figurines dating from 3000-2000BC, the second and third floors feature Greek and Cypriot art dating from 2000BC to the fourth century AD, while the fourth floor includes artifacts and films depicting life in ancient Greece. Admission price of €7 and the museum is closed on Tuesdays.