Viewpoints in Athens: Likavit, Areopagus, and the Hill of the Muses

Viewpoints in Athens: Likavit, Areopagus, and the Hill of the Muses

Athens is an amazing city where ancient Greek ruins coexist with graffiti-painted high-rises and bustling thoroughfares. Fashionable neighborhoods are surrounded by slums, and the winding streets are lined with the remnants of ancient columns, Turkish buildings, and a Byzantine temple with a restaurant attached to its wall. The high hills offer spectacular views of the city, the sea and the mountains, the family restaurants serve generous portions at low prices, and hotel prices remain affordable even in high season. We’ll tell you how to vacation in Athens and save, because there are plenty of ways to have fun for free.

1. See the changing of the guard in front of Parliament

Photo: Athens

In front of the Parliament, in Plateia Syntagmatos, there is a daily changing of the guard (5 minutes before and 5 minutes after the new hour). Every Sunday from 10:45 to 11:15 a.m. there is a ceremonial changing of the guards which includes a street blocking, a band, a march and a procession of 150 people. It is an interesting spectacle that involves very unusually dressed Presidential Guard guardsmen – evzones (evzones). They wear white stockings with garters, a white skirt, a vest, and a red hat with a long tassel, and their boots are padded with nails and decorated with large pompoms.

2. Visit ancient ruins and visit ancient churches

Photo: Athens

Visits to the Acropolis and the Agora are not free, but in addition to these world-famous sites, Athens has many ancient Greek ruins that you can see for free: the Panathinaikos Stadium, built of white marble in 329 BC, There are many ancient Greek ruins that you can visit for free, such as the Panathinakos Stadium built in white marble in 329 B.C. and where, after restoration, the first Olympic Games in modern history were held, the Arch of Hadrian built in 131, the interesting mausoleum of Prince Philopappos, built near the Acropolis in the 2nd century, and the Lyceum of Aristotle, founded by the great philosopher in 334 B.C. Valuable historical artifacts can be seen in the showcases at the Monastiraki and Syntagma metro stations. We recommend to visit the two oldest Christian churches of the city- Church of Kapnikaréa built in 1050 and the Church of the Holy Apostles of Solaki built in the 10th century and the very beautiful Agios Eleftherios Church whose marble walls are covered with exquisite carvings.

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3. Stroll in the historic center of the city

Photo: Athens

The Athenians believe that walking through the old streets of the historic center will allow you to get to know the city better than visiting museums or taking a guided tour. In addition, many Greek streets are the same age as the Acropolis and boast a rich history.

In the Turkish district of Plaka there are ancient baths and Byzantine churches, with amazing frescoes and mosaics. Winding streets descend the hill next to the Acropolis, just as in the days of ancient Greece. One of the most beautiful streets is Dionysiou Areopagitou, which winds around the Acropolis down to Philopappos Hill and through Thissio, where you’ll find the best family restaurants in town. Tisio flows into the Monastiraki neighborhood, famous for its enormous flea market where, on Sundays, street musicians, acrobats and jugglers gather in addition to junk and antique dealers.

4. Climb the observation decks on the Athenian hills

Photo: Athens

Athens stands on high hills with spectacular views of the city and the sea from the tops. The most complete and colorful panorama of the city and the best view of the Acropolis opens from the top of Mount Lykavittos, the highest point in Athens. At the top, there is an open-air theater and the chapel of St. George. The second most popular hill with the locals is the Areopagus Hill, where in ancient times Athens’ court used to sit and today you can see Athens from above and the mountains surrounding the city. Philopappos Hill is wonderful, as it is so close to the Acropolis that all the details of the temple and the statues can be seen from there. Strefi Hill is the quietest and least crowded hill with a panoramic platform on whose slopes there is a garden.

5. Learn more about Greek culture and art in museums

Photo: Athens

The most popular museum complex in Athens, including the Acropolis, the Ancient Agora, the Hadrian Library, the Archaeological Museum of Ceramics, the Roman Agora, and the Temple of Zeus, can be visited for free every Sunday of the month from November to March as well as on all Greek public holidays (January 1, 6, March 25, May 1, August 15, 28 October, December 25 and 26*), and is also free to visitors on Christian holidays: Clean Monday, Good Friday, Holy Easter and on other significant dates (March 6, April 18, May 18, June 5, September 27, the last weekend in September). From March through November, museums are free every first Sunday of the month except July, August, and September.

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* On these days, museums may not be open full-time.

There are also several museums in the city, the entrance to which is always free:

  • The Museum of Greek Folk Instruments, which houses 1,200 instruments of different times: ancient mandolins, lutes, cymbals, drums and tambourines.
  • Epigraphic Museum of Athens, with a collection of Greek inscriptions from different eras – clay and stone tablets from ancient Greece, papyrus, manuscripts.
  • The DESTE Foundation for Contemporary Art is a non-profit organization that constantly hosts exhibitions of contemporary Greek artists.
  • Museum of the History of Greek Costume, with a collection of 25,000 pieces of clothing and accessories from all over Greece. The museum also has copies of costumes from the Minoan, ancient Greek and Byzantine eras.
  • The Municipal Art Gallery, which has 2,500 works by Greek masters from the 19th and 20th centuries. Many of the creations were purchased from collectors, others were received as gifts.

6. Take a free tour of the city

Photo: Athens

Photo: @ypsilon_67 / @teodorally / Instagram.com

Athens has a rich selection of free walking tours: Tours2Greece offers tours led by locals where they will not only tell the history of the city, but also share the addresses of good restaurants, stores and bars. Athens Free Walking Tour will tell the myths and legends of gods and heroes inextricably linked to the history of Ancient Athens. GuruWalk offers a fascinating tour of the best examples of street art in Exarcheia, where artists and anarchists live.

7. Explore contemporary art and street art in the streets and galleries.

Photo: Athens

Photo: @alexandros4k / Instagram.com

Athens is covered in street art, graffiti can be found everywhere: on ancient ruins, high-rise buildings, mountains and cars. The state doesn’t fight street art, so street artists are free to paint whatever and wherever they want. The center of street art is considered to be the Exarcheia neighborhood, which due to its low prices, relaxed atmosphere and abundance of bars has long been fancied by creative types. In the streets of Exarcheia you can find works of internationally renowned artists of street art (Os Gemeos, Fikos, Sonke, iNO, STMTS).

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There are also many excellent contemporary art galleries in Athens where young and established artists are exhibited. A full list of events and galleries can be found on the website (http://athensartmap.net/). And we recommend visiting the most interesting exhibition spaces:

  • Medusa Art Gallery – the most talented young Greek artists are exhibited here.
  • Taf – an independent gallery and theater in a dilapidated building in the center of Athens that often hosts free concerts in the evenings.
  • Qbox Gallery – Greek artists of international fame such as Megan and Murray McMillan, Paolo Colombo, Stephanie Stein are exhibited here.

8. Relax in parks and gardens

Photo: Palm trees

Take a walk and have a picnic in one of the city’s parks. The best spot in Athens is the National Gardens Park that occupies 15.5 hectares in the center of Athens next to the Parliament. The park has several thousand species of plants and trees brought from all over the world. There are also ancient ruins with columns and a living area with peacocks, goats and geese. Other parks and gardens are situated further away from the center, but worth seeing: the Diomidous Botanical Garden has plants from all over the world, the Stavros Niarchos Park is situated on a hill overlooking the sea and the city, it has playgrounds and a huge park (Syngrou Estate) is open all day long, it’s clean and beautiful with many fountains.

9. Sunbathe and swim in the beaches in the warmer months

Photo: Beach

There are many private beaches near Athens (some for a fee), some for free with clear water and facilities, such as the pebbly beach of Votsalakia Castellas in Piraeus, next to the port of Castellas. The Elliniko beach can be accessed by streetcar or metro from the city center and is always crowded. The sandy beach Eden in Paleo Faliro is also accessible by public transport and is always crowded with children.

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Mount Likavit

Lycavit Mountain

Mount Likavit, also known as Likabetus or Likavittos, is a chalky lime hill located in Athens at 277 meters above sea level. This mountain is the highest point in the area of the city. Here you can see the Likavitos Theater, the Chapel of Saint George which was built in the XIX century, a restaurant. Below is a grove planted with pineapples.

Licabetus is one of the most popular places among tourists. To get there, you have to get to Kolonaki station and then take the cable car. Some legends are associated with this place. According to them, packs of wolves were hiding on the mountain, hence the name, which means “one (hill) among a pack of wolves”.

This is interesting According to mythology, from this hill the goddess Athena dropped a drop of water from the mountain, which was intended for the construction of the Acropolis.

There is a legend according to which Mount Lycabitus ended up in Athens. The goddess Athena wanted her sanctuary, which was located on the Acropolis, to be as close to heaven as possible. One day, during a violent nighttime thunderstorm, she made her way to Mount Pendelicon. Athena ripped off a large rock to place it higher than the Acropolis. But on her return home, two black birds informed her of bad news that demanded her intervention. The angry goddess left the rock. She forgot about it, and the rock (278 m./847 ft.) remained in that place.

The locals still thank the goddess when they are on it. And it happens often, since the mountain is located in the center of the modern city. You can see for yourself if you visit Mount Licavit.

This is interesting In the time of the gods, the hill was a dense forest, and on top of it was the sanctuary of Zeus. But when the city was liberated from the Turks, the mountain was empty and the old forest was gone. To bring it back, the flora of the mountain was restored from 1880 to 1915.

If you visit this place, you will see the entire majestic Acropolis and the beautiful panoramas that extend to the sea. If you are a romantic, Mount Likavittos is a great place to visit. This hill is dotted with pines, cypresses, benches, and small paths.

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How to get there?

You can get to Mount Likavitto by the only road. But if you are interested in the flora and fauna of the place, you can always walk along the numerous narrow paths. And if you get tired, you can take a cable car.

You can take the funicular to Mount Likavit, which is located at Aristippou, 1. Travel time is less than 5 minutes.

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The funicular runs up the mountain in closed cabins, during the ride you can see how the dark walls of the tunnel are projected advertising, apparently in order not to be bored tourists.

The timetable of the funicular can be found on the page Funicular Licavit

An easy option is to take the path, which is not as steep as the stairs and goes through pine and cypress forests that protect from the scorching sun. On the way you can take a breath on specially installed benches. The path starts from the Ambelokipi Metro Station. Journey time is 30 minutes and the length of the route is about 2 km. You can get to the serpentine stairs by walking a little from one of the metro stations Panepistimo, Evangelismos or Syntagma. Travel time is 30 minutes and the length of the route is about 2 km. The serpentine staircase is the choice of people who do not look for easy ways, because you have to walk on a slippery road near a steep cliff and you may stumble on cacti lushly growing along the road, all this under a merciless sun. The seemingly harmless, thin and soft prickles of the cacti can bring its share of extreme for the traveler, as the needle, inconspicuously embedded in the body, make itself felt only after half an hour.

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The coordinates of Mount Licavit are: 37.982740, 23.745912

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