10 Must-See Ancient Ruins in Athens for History Enthusiasts
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 10 min read


  1. Visit the Acropolis
  2. Explore the Ancient Agora
  3. Walk through the Roman Agora
  4. Admire the Temple of Olympian Zeus
  5. Discover the Kerameikos Cemetery
  6. Step into the Temple of Hephaestus
  7. Visit the Theatre of Dionysus
  8. Explore the Odeon of Herodes Atticus
  9. Admire the Erechtheion
  10. Walk through the Stoa of Attalos

If you're a history buff with a passion for exploring the past, a trip to the ancient ruins in Athens is like stepping into a time machine. This vibrant Greek city is home to some of the world's most remarkable ancient structures. Immerse yourself in the city's rich history and culture as you explore these 10 must-see ancient ruins in Athens.

Visit the Acropolis

When you think of ancient ruins in Athens, the Acropolis is likely the first that comes to mind. And for good reason—it's the city's most iconic historical site. This hilltop citadel overlooks Athens and is a testament to the grandeur of ancient Greek civilization.

At the heart of the Acropolis, you'll find the Parthenon. It's the largest and most important surviving building of Classical Greece. The Parthenon was a temple dedicated to Athena, the goddess of wisdom and the city's patron. Its architectural brilliance and historical significance will leave you in awe.

But the Acropolis isn't just about the Parthenon. There's more to explore:

  • The Propylaea: This grand entranceway welcomes you to the Acropolis. Its marble columns and intricate designs set the tone for what's to come.
  • The Erechtheion: Another stunning temple, the Erechtheion is famous for its Porch of the Caryatids—six female figures that serve as architectural supports.

Remember to wear comfortable shoes as you'll be climbing up a steep slope to reach the Acropolis. But don't worry—the breathtaking views of Athens from the top are worth every step.

So, if you're ready to explore the ancient ruins in Athens, start with the Acropolis. It's a journey back in time that you won't forget.

Explore the Ancient Agora

Next on your tour of the ancient ruins in Athens should be the Ancient Agora. This place was the heart of ancient Athens—the bustling city center where all the action happened. From political debates and commercial transactions to theatrical performances and social gatherings, the Ancient Agora was where it all went down.

Today, you can stroll through the Agora's wide-open space and imagine what life was like in ancient Athens. It's like walking through the pages of a history book.

One of the most notable structures here is the Temple of Hephaestus. It's one of the best-preserved ancient Greek temples, and it's sure to impress with its towering columns and intricate carvings.

Other key points of interest in the Ancient Agora include:

  • The Stoa of Attalos: This two-story building is a great example of ancient Greek architecture. It's now home to the Museum of the Ancient Agora, where you can see a collection of artifacts unearthed from the site.
  • The Odeon of Agrippa: This was once a grand concert hall that could seat 1,000 people. While only fragments remain today, it gives you a glimpse into the cultural life of ancient Athens.

As you explore the Ancient Agora, take a moment to appreciate the history that unfolded here. It's a unique opportunity to connect with the past in a meaningful way. So, as you continue your journey through the ancient ruins in Athens, make sure the Ancient Agora is on your itinerary.

Walk through the Roman Agora

After exploring the Ancient Agora, let's take a walk through another significant historical site in Athens—the Roman Agora. This is not just another set of ruins. It's a place where you get to step back in time and see how the Romans made their mark on Athens.

Constructed during the reign of Julius Caesar and Augustus in the 1st century BC, the Roman Agora was built as the new commercial heart of the city. This marketplace was where people came to buy and sell goods, discuss the latest news, and conduct business.

One of the highlights of the Roman Agora is the Gate of Athena Archegetis. Standing tall with its four Doric columns, it was once the entrance to the marketplace. Today, it's one of the most well-preserved structures in the Roman Agora and a testament to the influence of Roman architecture in Athens.

Another must-see is the Tower of the Winds. This octagonal marble clocktower has stood the test of time and is often regarded as the world's first meteorological station. Each side of the tower depicts a different wind god, adding a mystical touch to this ancient landmark.

Walking through the Roman Agora is like taking a stroll through a Roman marketplace. It's a place where history and culture intertwine, making it a must-visit site in your exploration of the ancient ruins in Athens.

Admire the Temple of Olympian Zeus

Now, let's move on to a landmark that you simply cannot miss when exploring the ancient ruins in Athens — the Temple of Olympian Zeus. This colossal temple, dedicated to Zeus, the king of the Olympian gods, is a testament to the grandeur of ancient Greek architecture and religious devotion.

The construction of this temple began in the 6th century BC but was only completed nearly 700 years later by the Roman Emperor Hadrian. Once upon a time, it was the largest temple in Greece, boasting an impressive 104 Corinthian columns. Today, only 15 of these columns remain standing, but they are enough to give you a sense of the temple's original magnificence.

Imagine the awe the ancient Greeks must have felt standing at the foot of these columns! Now, it's your turn to experience that sense of wonder. Standing there, looking up at the towering Corinthian columns, you can't help but admire the architectural prowess of the ancient Greeks.

Located in the heart of Athens, the temple is easily accessible and offers a fantastic photo opportunity with the Acropolis in the background. So make sure you have your camera ready when you visit the Temple of Olympian Zeus, an essential stop on your journey through the ancient ruins in Athens.

Discover the Kerameikos Cemetery

Next on our list is the Kerameikos Cemetery, one of the most peaceful ancient ruins in Athens. It's a place that's steeped in history and offers a different perspective on ancient Greek culture.

Kerameikos was once the potter's quarter of Athens, where artisans created the beautiful amphoras and kraters that are now famous worldwide. But it's also the site of the city's most significant ancient cemetery. Here, Athenians of all statuses were laid to rest, from wealthy statesmen to humble craftsmen.

As you walk among the tombstones, you'll notice that many are adorned with intricate carvings. These aren't just decorative — they tell stories about the lives of the people buried here. Some show scenes of everyday life, while others depict myths and legends. It's like a history book carved in stone.

Visiting the Kerameikos Cemetery gives you a chance to reflect on the lives of the people who once inhabited this ancient city. It's not just about the famous figures and grand buildings, but also the ordinary citizens who contributed to Athens's rich history. So, take a moment to appreciate this often-overlooked side of the ancient ruins in Athens.

After all, history isn't just about big events and famous people. It's also about the everyday lives of ordinary people. And there's no better place to explore this aspect of history than at the Kerameikos Cemetery.

Step into the Temple of Hephaestus

Just picture this: You're standing on a hill in the heart of Athens, looking up at a towering ancient temple. This isn't just any temple, though. It's the Temple of Hephaestus, one of the best-preserved ancient ruins in Athens. Let's step in and learn more.

The Temple of Hephaestus was built in the 5th century BC, dedicated to the Greek god of metalworking and craftsmanship. It's an impressive sight, with its tall Doric columns and detailed friezes. But what makes it truly special is its remarkable state of preservation. While many ancient ruins have been reduced to mere foundations, the Temple of Hephaestus stands almost in its entirety.

As you walk around the temple, take a moment to admire the friezes on the outer walls. They depict scenes from the life of Theseus, the mythical founder of Athens, and Heracles, a hero renowned for his strength. How about that for a history lesson etched in stone?

Inside, you'll find a statue of Hephaestus, reminding you of the god’s importance in the daily lives of ancient Athenians. After all, Athens was a city of artisans and craftsmen, and Hephaestus was their patron.

So, step inside the Temple of Hephaestus and let the ancient ruins of Athens transport you back in time. You'll leave with a newfound appreciation for the city's rich history and the people who shaped it.

Visit the Theatre of Dionysus

Imagine sitting in the very same spot where the audiences of ancient Athens once gathered to watch the plays of Sophocles, Euripides, and Aristophanes. Where is this spot, you ask? None other than the Theatre of Dionysus, an absolute must-see for any history enthusiast.

As one of the most significant ancient ruins in Athens, the Theatre of Dionysus is known as the birthplace of drama. It was here that the great tragic poets of ancient Greece first presented their plays. Even if you're not a theatre buff, it's hard not to be impressed by such a historic site.

Built in the 5th century BC and named after Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and theatre, the theatre could accommodate up to 17,000 spectators. Picture that: 17,000 people gathered to watch the same play. It's like the ancient version of a blockbuster movie premiere!

Today, you can still see the semi-circular orchestra, where the chorus would dance and sing, and the stone seats where the audience sat. Although much of the theatre has weathered over time, a few rows of seats have been restored, giving you a sense of what it was like in its prime.

So, why not take a seat and let the echoes of ancient drama wash over you? Visiting the Theatre of Dionysus is like stepping into a time machine, taking you back to the golden age of Greek drama. It's a unique experience that you won't find anywhere else.

Explore the Odeon of Herodes Atticus

Next on your adventure to explore the ancient ruins in Athens, let's travel a short distance from the Theatre of Dionysus to the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, another gem that sits on the slopes of the Acropolis. This impressive theatre is a testament to the aesthetic sensibilities and architectural prowess of the ancient Greeks.

Built in 161 AD by Herodes Atticus, a wealthy Greek aristocrat, in memory of his wife, the Odeon once hosted music concerts with a seating capacity of about 5,000 people. Yes, you read it right—music concerts in the second century! Now, isn't that something?

The Odeon's design is truly remarkable with its semi-circular auditorium, made of marble, and a wooden roof made of expensive, imported cedar wood. The theatre was a spectacular sight to behold in its prime.

Although the roof has long since disappeared, the Odeon is still in use today for concerts and performances, thanks to restoration efforts. So, not only can you explore an ancient ruin, but you might also get a chance to catch a live performance. Imagine the thrill of watching a concert in the same venue where ancient Athenians once did!

There you have it—another stop to add to your must-see list of ancient ruins in Athens. So, are you ready to explore the Odeon of Herodes Atticus and step into the musical past of Greece?

Admire the Erechtheion

As you continue your journey discovering the ancient ruins in Athens, let's make a stop at the Erechtheion. This ancient Greek temple, perched elegantly on the north side of the Acropolis, is a sight that will capture your heart and imagination.

The Erechtheion, built between 421 and 406 BC, is a perfect example of a classical Greek temple. It's not just a building—it's a tribute to ancient Greek mythology. The temple is dedicated to both Athena and Poseidon, two of the most revered gods in ancient Greek culture.

One of the most captivating features of the Erechtheion is the Porch of the Caryatids. You'd notice six larger-than-life female figures, known as Caryatids, acting as supporting pillars of the porch. Each Caryatid is unique, with her own clothes, posture, and facial expression. Can you imagine the craftsmanship it took to create these intricate figures?

However, the Erechtheion isn't just about aesthetics. It's a place steeped in myth and legend. It's said that Poseidon struck the ground here with his trident, while Athena planted an olive tree during their contest to become the city's patron deity. Now, how's that for a history lesson?

So, are you ready to admire the Erechtheion? Remember, it's not just about viewing an ancient ruin—it's about experiencing a piece of ancient Greek mythology and culture that's still alive in the heart of Athens.

Walk through the Stoa of Attalos

Next on our journey through the ancient ruins in Athens is a visit to the Stoa of Attalos. Imagine strolling through a covered walkway that was once a bustling marketplace and social hub in ancient Athens. That's exactly what the Stoa of Attalos offers you.

Originally constructed by King Attalos II in the 2nd century BC, the Stoa of Attalos was the spot for Athenians to shop, chat, and even philosophize. These days, it's home to the Museum of the Ancient Agora, where you can see artifacts found in the Agora excavations. From pottery to sculptures—this place is a treasure trove of history.

The stoa, a long, rectangular building with two levels, is not just a relic—it's a testament to the architectural prowess of the ancient Greeks. It's thought to be the first shopping mall in history, with 42 shops lining the walkway. Fancy that!

As you walk through the colonnaded corridors of the Stoa of Attalos, it's easy to imagine the hustle and bustle of ancient Athens. Picture merchants hawking their goods, philosophers debating, and everyday Athenians going about their day. It's a unique chance to step back in time, right in the heart of modern Athens.

So, ready to walk through the Stoa of Attalos? As you explore this ancient ruin in Athens, remember to soak in the atmosphere and appreciate the blend of history and culture that makes Athens so special.

If you enjoyed exploring the ancient ruins of Athens through this blog post and are inspired by the classical art that once flourished in this city, you might be interested in the workshop 'Classical Painting in the Modern Day' by Eric Drummond. This workshop will help you understand the techniques and styles of classical painting and how you can incorporate them into your modern art practice.