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Walking in Athens



Walk 3
The heart of the city’s history



Time: 2 hours.

Itinerary: Follow the pedestrian routes along Dionysiou Areopagitou, Apostolou Pavlou and Ermou Streets walking past the most important archaeological sites: the Olympeion, Acropolis, Ancient Agora and Kerameikos Cemetery.

Character: The organization for the unification of the archaeological sites of Athens has created a superb pedestrian itinerary, the finest in the centre of Athens. At the end of the basic route, Athens Info Guide suggests three detours which will allow you to see even more of the area.

Highlights: The view of the Acropolis from the outdoor terraces on Dionysiou Areopagitou Street, the Odeion of Herodus Attikus, the mosaic at the beginning of Apostolou Pavlou Street.

Walk 3 Athens Info GuideDionysiou Areopagitou Street

For decades, archaeologists and planners have dreamed of linking the archaeological sites of the historic city centre together and the first phase has now been completed. A large open-air museum is taking shape before your eyes with visitors now being able to see the Temple of Olympic Zeus, the Acropolis, Philopappou Hill, the Ancient Agora and Kerameikos Cemetery without having to travel along noisy congested streets.

At the same time, the ephorates (or state archaeological services in charge of the city’s antiques) gave the various sites a radical facelift giving the monuments new prominence and helping visitors understand their significance. The pedestrianisation of Ermou Street, between Asomoton Square and Pireos Street, is well advanced and should be completed soon at which time the Grand Promenade will be ready along a length of about 2,5 km (1,5 mile).

Dionysiou Areopagitou StreetThe walk begins opposite of the Temple of Zeus Location map at the beginning of Dionysiou Areopagitou Street. The first hundred meters are not particularly attractive, both sides of the road being occupied by post-war apartment blocks but from Vyronos Street onwards the scenery changes. At the intersection of Dionysiou Areopagitou and Vyronos Streets you see the statue of General Makrygiannis whom the district around the southern side of the Acropolis owes its name to.

Ioannis Makrigiannis

General Ioannis MakrigiannisIoannis Makrigiannis (1797-1864), known as General Makrigiannis, was one of the most important fighters in the Greek War of Independence in 1821. He took part in many military operations against the Ottomans and played an important role defending the Acropolis against them.

He was one of the key characters of the political movement of 3rd September 1843, which forced King Otto to grand a Constitution. Apart from his revolutionary activity, Makrigiannis is particularly known for his memoirs which were written in the popular idiom of the time and are considered as a landmark in modern Greek literature as well as a valuable historical source.

Opposite you see the stone-built Weiler building Location map (named after the German architect), one of the first public buildings erected in the capital of the young Greek state (1834). It now houses the Centre for Acropolis Studies and in the adjacent plot, the New Acropolis Museum is under construction.

Next door, on Makrygiannis Street, is the entrance to the Acropolis metro station. The metro probably is the best way of transport to get you to the start of the walk since parking in this area almost is impossible. Even if you’re not keen on traveling by metro, it’s worth having a look at the interior of the station. All the different levels are decorated with casts of sculptures from the Parthenon while there also is a small exhibition of finds uncovered during the construction of the Acropolis metro station.

On the right and towering above you is the Acropolis itself in all its grandeur. The steep rocks of the south-eastern slope are crowned with imposing walls while directly behind them you can see the columns of the Parthenon.

The walk continues to the edge of the south slope archaeological site. Ancient remains can be seen among the trees. You should pause to admire the fine town houses of the 19the and 20th century on the left. Of particular interest are numbers 17 and 37, beautiful listed buildings from the period between the wars.

The Odeion of Herodes AtticusTake a detour to see the renowned Odeion of Herodes Atticus Locatoin map, the Herodeion, where the main evens of the Athens Festival (part of the Hellenic Festival) are staged each summer. The Herodeion is semi-circular in design with an imposing façade (28 m high – 91,8 feet). It can hold up to 6.000 spectators. The stage wall was lavishly decorated but unfortunately it was destroyed, probably in 267 AD, by the Herulae, a tribe of German barbarians who destroyed most of the city’s great buildings. It is worth sitting on one of the benches in the square in front of the building to admire the acoustics, especially when a classical music concert is under way.

Continue on Dionysiou Areopagitou. On your right you will come to a very small recent excavation site. This is the site of the Sanctuary of the Nymph where the newly-weds of the ancient Greek city used to make votive offerings. A few meters further on, you reach the end of Dionysiou Areopagitou Street and enter Apostolou Pavlou Street. If you want to take a rest and have a drink, you can do so at the terrace at the junctions of the two streets. It is one of the best places to sit and enjoy the view of the Acropolis. Top

From Apostolou Pavlou Street to Thisseio, Ermou Street and Gazi

You head downhill with a view of the Areios Pagos Locatoin map, the Ancient Agora Locatoin map and, of course, the Acropolis Locatoin map to your right and Pnyx Hill to your left. At the beginning of this walk and on your right, you will see a superb mosaic with a complex geometric design, probably the floor of a shrine in ancient times. To your left, at the edge of Pnyx Hill, are the caves of the spring of the Pnyx, one of the most renowned springs in antiquity. Next there is the Sanctuary of Pan, carved in the rocks.

After that you come to Thisseio Square. Since pedestrianisation was completed, the area has undergone a renaissance. New cafes have opened claiming part of the pedestrian route for their open-air terraces. From Thisseio, another walk commences along Irakleidon Street, also full of cafes and bars, with the occasional little shop selling gift items en souvenirs.

Towards the end of the street traffic re-appears. This is where you will find the Melina Mercouri Athens Cultural Centre, housed in an old hat factory know as Poulopoulos Locatoin map. The upper floor has a beautifully arranged permanent exhibition of old Athens, a faithful life-size reconstruction of a commercial street in the 19th century capital.

You return to Apostolou Pavlou Street via Eptachalkou Street, a narrow passage-way parallel to Irakleidon Street with picturesque low houses running alongside the train lines. Continue along Apostolou Pavlou Street which makes a broad curve to join Asomaton Square and Ermou Street. Asomaton Square owes its strange name to the tiny Byzantine church of Agio Asomaton which dates form the 11th century AD. Its interior walls are decorated with paintings, probably from the 17the century.

From here to Pireos Street, Ermou Street was turned into a traffic-free zone. As the archaeological site lies below the level of the street, there is a panoramic view. You’ll find a rest area where Melidoni Street begins, another street worth walking along since it contains the Museum of Modern Ceramics as well as one of the largest Jewish synagogues in Athens.

Return to Ermou Street and follow it to the city’s most imposing old industrial complex, Gazi Locatoin map on Pireos (Panagi Tsaldari) Street. The city council has transformed it into a cultural events centre known as Technopolis. Gazi is an area that is enjoying a dynamics revival where you will find little houses, small cafes, sophisticated restaurants and bars. There are plans to create a big urban park dedicated to the arts, the centerpiece being the new Athens Opera House. Top

Walking in AthensDetour 1 : Western hills

When local people talk of Philopappou Hill, they mean the whole group of hills which rise to the west of the Acropolis. There are three: Nymphon (the hill of the nymphs or Asteroskopeiou: meaning of the Observatory), Pnykas (meaning: of the Pnyx) and Mouseiou (meaning: of the museum)

One of the main access points to the hills is at the junction of Dionysiou Areopagitou and Apostolou Pavlou Streets. From here you can walk along beautiful paths trough the pines until you reach superb viewpoints looking out over the Acropolis and towards the sea as well as some very interesting archaeological remains. In ancient times, two of the most densely populated districts of Athens were situated here: the aristocratic quarter of Meliti, where Pericles had his home and Koili, a busy commercial quarter.

Walk along the central stone paved path which sets out from Dionysiou Areopagitou. On your right you will soon see the post-Byzantine chapel of Agios Dimitrios Lombardiaris. After about a hundred meters (328 ft), you will come to a fork where you go left. You come to two artificial caves carved into the rock. These are popularly known as Socrates’ prison. In reality these are the remains of a house dating from the 4the century BC. Notice the recesses cut into the face of the rock. These are sockets in which supports once rested, evidence that the house had a least two floors.

Philopappou MonumentReturn to the central paved path. Backtrack it and to your left, a path heads up to the Philopappou monument. This path, made of varied materials including marble and tiles, is one of the finest projects of architect D. Pikionis. It folows the line of the ancient city walls still visible at many points. After about 300 meters (984 ft) you will come to the top of the hill where you find the funerary monument of Julius Antiochus Philopappus which was erected in 114-116 AD. The hill is called after him. Philopappus was an exiled prince of Commagene, a Hellenic kingdom in Syria that was reduced to a province by the Romans, who settled in Athens and became a citizen and benefactor who even was holding public office. The northern side of the monument, visible from the Acropolis, is the original façade which still retains substantial traces of its once lavish decoration. The view over all sides of Athens is spectacular.

Again return to the central paved path. Just before you turn left to visit Pnyx Hill, you come to another carving in the rock. This is a double Byzantine tomb which is clamed as the tomb of the great Athenian general Cimon, hence the name Cimoneioan tombs.

Make your way to Pnyx Hill which is fenced around but to which there is no admission fee. A board at the entrance informs you of the monuments that can be seen here. The most important are Pnyx itself and the meeting place of the Athenian Ecclesia tou Demou or general assembly of the citizens up to the 4th century BC. This is the cradle of western civilization where famous politicians of Ancient Athens like Themistocles, Pericles and Demosthenes, delivered their speeches. In more recent times, it was here that Kolokotornis, one of the leading fighters for Greek independence, gathered the young men of the area and spoke to them of the needs of their mother country. Apart from its historical value, the site also offers a magnificent view of the Acropolis.

From here you can continue to the National Observatory Locatoin map, if you so desire.

To return to the central paved path, you can take a second paved path outside the fence. Just before you reach the main road, look out on our right for traces of a very important ancient road which once linked Athens and Piraeus. It was known as the ‘Road through Koili’. The covering soil has recently been removed, revealing (over 500 meters – 1.640 ft) the old road cut into the hard limestone, the pavements, the old springs and the ruts left by the wheels of carriages.

There are endless opportunities for walks on the hills west of the Acropolis. You can walk through the pines for as long as you feel like. If you take the path leading up to the Dora Stratou Theatre Locatoin map, you will come across of yet another ancient ruin, a series of seats carved into the rock. The archaeologists believe that this row of seats formed part of a council meeting place associated with the cult of the Great Mother.

Second detourDetour 2: From the Ancient to the Roman Agora

At the point where Apostolou Pavlou Street turns to join Ermou Street, Adrianou Street starts, one of the most picturesque areas of Athens. It leads you first along the side of the Ancient Agora. The archaeologists working on the archaeological site unification project, have highlighted the beautiful two-storey neoclassical buildings along one side of the road while new pavement and banning traffic have put an end to the noise and congestion which used to make walking here less than enjoyable.

Next to the wire fence around the archaeological site, the cafes set out their terraces. On the other side of the road there are stores selling goods for tourists and some antique shops. At weekends and sometimes on weekdays, the street is full of traders selling collector’s item like telephone cards, old coins and various other second-hand goods. You are, of course, expected to haggle over the price.

Heading towards the Tower of the Winds Locatoin map and the Roman Agora Locatoin map, you make a little detour up Kladou Street, a narrow passageway parallel to Adrianou Street, to have a closer look at the shaggy junk shops with their endless piles of ‘50s magazines.

As you approach the entrance to the Roman Agora, you can admire the simplicity of the neoclassical architecture, the buildings that resemble the stage for a play. Note the big stone gateway just opposite the entrance to the archaeological site. This is all that remains of an Ottoman medrese or religious school. There is ample opportunity for a drink and a light meal close to the Roman Agora. Top

Third detourDetour 3: The rear side of the Acropolis

Walking down Apostolou Pavlou Street, on your right and close to the Thisseio summer cinema, you will find an unpaved road leading up between the Acropolis and the Ancient Agora. This path is referred to as the area of the philosophical schools because here were the schools of many of the great teachers who gave ancient Athens the reputation of the ‘University of the World’. This is a quiet stretch in the city, visited by very few tourists.

When you reach the end, go left on Theorias Street, home of the Kanellopoulos Museum Locatoin map , to continue your walk right along the bottom of the rocks of the Acropolis. On your left you will pass by the Areos Pagos and a little further on you will see a small Byzantine church on your left. This is the Metamorfossis Church or the Transfiguration of the Savior (11the century).

Next you will come to a fork. Take the path on your right leading upwards. It will bring you to the little alleys of Anafiotika Locatoin map, one of the most picturesque parts of the Plaka area. It was built in 1830s and 1840s without planning permission on land supposedly reserved for archeological exactions by migrants from the island of Anafi. With its white-washed Cycladic little houses and their tiny courtyards, the quarter is like a little island in the centre of the big city.

Monument of LysicratesAs you make your way down, you will come to Stratonos Street and then to Lysikratous Square which takes its name from the choragic Monument of Lysicrates Locatoin map also know as Diogenes’ lantern. A choregos was the ancient equivalent of our modern sponsor, another thing the ancient Greeks invented. All the expenses involved in preparing the chorus for the plays staged at the dramatic contests, were paid by wealthy Athenians. If his production won a prize, the state would reward the sponsor with a bronze tripod and cauldron to be placed on top of a choragic monument. The Monument of Lysicrates (commemorating a victory in the dramatic contests of 334 BC), is the only one which survived of the dozens which adorned the Street of the Tripods (Tripodon Street), the street witch led to the Theatre of Dionysus.

At this point, you will enter the narrow Thrasyllou Street which brings you to the beginning of Dionysiou Areopagitou Street. Your tour of the Acropolis is now complete. Top


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