7 Archaeological Sites & Museums in Athens That You Can’t Leave Greece Without Seeing

Athens is the capital of Greece and one of the oldest cities in the world, and is sometimes referred to as the cradle of Western civilization. The arts and philosophy thrived here, it is steeped in culture and ancient history, and its landscape is dominated by the stunning Acropolis. Like most things in Greece, there is a tale behind how the city got its name and the myth goes something like this: the city was prosperous and beautiful, but did not have a patron god that it paid tribute to. Athena, goddess of wisdom, and Poseidon, god of the sea, both contended for the title by offering a gift to the citizens; Athena gifted an olive tree and Poseidon offered a salt water spring. The citizens chose to accept the olive tree and so the city was named after Athena.

We knew that a trip to Greece wouldn’t be complete without exploring the city of Athens, so it was our first stop in Greece before heading onward to Olympia, Meteora and Delphi.

Because of my obsession with Greek mythology, I had always dreamed of standing in front of the Parthenon, wandering through the National Archaeology Museum and admiring the Olympieio. During our short 48 hours in Athens, I went HAM reciting Greek mythology tidbits to my extremely patient boyfriend who had to listen to me ramble on and on about the 12 labors of Herakles, Aphrodite’s saucy affair with Ares behind Hephaestus’ back, crazy Dionysus-worshipping maenads and other tantalizing tales. I don’t regret it for a minute!

The best time to visit Athens

The best time to visit is in late spring or autumn when the crowds are less hectic. The crowds are at its worst during July and August – however, we were there in mid-July and while it was sweltering hot, it was still manageable (although it did feel like the entire population of Europe was at the Acropolis with us).

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