After a delicious breakfast at the independent restaurant which we could access directly from the hotel. The staff, one of whom was named Aphrodite, were really friendly and helpful.

As soon thereafter as possible, we walked to the nearest Hop On/Off bus stop and began a very interesting and informative day. We alighted at as many stops as possible before doing so at the Acropolis in the late morning. Some stops were quick and we just caught the next bus while others we spent time discovering. We had purchased tickets online prior to leaving South Africa and, we were glad that we had done so as the queues to obtain tickets on site were very long.

The distinctive bus stop sign

The first stop for us was Hadrian’s Arch and the Temple of Zeus. The Arch is known as Hadrian’s Gate in Greek and was probably built to celebrate and acknowledge the Roman Emperor’s arrival in and benefactions to the city. It is a huge gate, some 18m high and 13.5m wide, and made of Pentellic marble. There are two inscriptions, one facing the Acropolis which reads, “This is Athens, the ancient city of Theseus” and on the other side, facing what was then the new city, is written “This is the city of Hadrian and not of Theseus”. It also has some paintings which indicate that it may have been part of a Christian Church at some time.

Vicky at Hadrian’s Arch.

It was built in 131 or 132AD when the Temple of Zeus complex was dedicated. The two structures are beside each other but one can only access the Temple ruins through a control gate and payment of €20 each to see the whole site or €8 each to stand at the top and take photos. Fortunately, Trevor was tall enough to take the photos over the fence!

Pillars of the Temple of Zeus

When we had finished looking around the area and taken all the photos that we wanted, we walked up the hill and came across an excavated Roman bath, right in the middle of the pavement. It was well protected with glass sides. The remains were discovered when this road was built. It is so amazing how these finds are made and then protected.

Pottery in the Roman Bath

We hopped on to the bus once more and went around to the Acropolis itself. There is a very large bus stop area here as this is a very popular place. We climbed up the hill on which it was situated making it visible from anywhere in the city. It was steep but well worth the climb. The remains of the Parthenon, amphitheatre and the Temple of Athena, were so interesting. Brought back many memories of what we had been taught at school and made the extra couple of days in Athens a real treat. To cap it, the views over the city were amazing. These buildings were built around 500BC.

Parthenon is at the centre right

Amphitheatre at the Acropolis

The Parthenon was a Temple dedicated to the goddess Athena and dominated the Acropolis. It was almost totally destroyed by fire during the 3rd century AD. It was partially repaired but a new Temple, called the Temple of Athena Nike, was built on the Acropolis to show the harmony in which the Dorian and Ionian people lived while the Parthenon was still to be the Chief shrine to Athena.

We were told that there is a funicular which goes down behind the Parthenon to the city below, but we didn’t make use of it as access was rather difficult. We did see it later when we stopped at the flea Market near our hotel.

Funicular at the rear of the Parthenon

We came down after about an hour and walked in the opposite direction from which we had climbed up. It was a long walk down to the main road through the narrow, cobbled streets but we saw such a variety of buildings and shops which sold all sorts of trinkets linked to the Acropolis. There was graffiti everywhere except on the ruins and relics.  We arrived back at the main road right at a bus stop for our next bus. Right across the road was an Alchemist which openly advertised selling mystic sweets and coffee secrets. We didn’t buy any, though.

A house in a side street.
The Alchemist

One of the stops where we alighted was the Hellenic Houses of Parliament. It is an imposing building situated in Syntagma Square in the city centre and borders on the National Garden. It was clear that this was a busy place with lots of cafes and restaurants. Inside the building is the main library and can be visited by anyone for free. We took a look inside, but no photos could be taken. To see any other parts of the inside of the building or to attend a plenary session, bookings must be made in advance for guided tours.

Houses of Parliament

In front of the building is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier which guarded day and night by the Evzones, formerly the royal Greek bodyguards. The Changing of the Guard takes place every hour and we missed this by a few minutes due to the bus being delayed. They wear traditional uniforms with short skirts. Each skirt has 400 pleats and the guards have to iron these themselves.

Changing of the Guard. (Photo from Wikipedia)

Another place where the remains of an ancient city have been found, is beneath the Acropolis Archaeological Museum. We, sadly, only arrived at this Museum at 16:45 to discover that it closed at 17:00. As it was summer and most other places of interest were open until at least 20:00 we didn’t even think to check the times of operation. Fortunately, quite a large area could be seen without us having to go into the Museum itself.


Well in the city below Acropolis Museum

More of the ruins we were able to see at the Museum

We took the bus to the last stop which was a very large flea market selling everything from vegetables to very big home-made tools. There were also a number of buskers and persons acting mimes. How they stay still for hours at a time is hard to fathom.

The crowded flea market

Beside the flea market was Hadrian’s Library. It was enormous and must have housed hundreds of books and other academic artefacts.

Part of Hadrian’s Library
Pillars of Hadrian’s Library

It was a very interesting day in beautiful weather. We did see so much more such as the National Gallery, the National Archives, an imposing statue of Alexander the Great and lots of stray cats. Just no room for them all.

Once we had bought some food for supper, we walked straight up the road ahead to our hotel to pack up and get ready to meet our taxi the next morning at 06:00.

View of the city from the Acropolis