Parthenon, Acropolis, Athens, GreeceThe modern-day Athens took us by surprise. It was not the Athens we pictured in our mind. It was not a charming or romantic city we assumed it would be. It definitely lacked the polish and sexiness of other European capitals. Walking in its street felt like walking in a big city of a developing Asian country. It was grungy, it was smoggy, its traffic was crazy, and it was scorching hot in mid-September.  In other words, we didn’t fall in love with modern Athens.

However, we did enjoy Athens! Instead of focusing on its disappointing side, we decided to focus on what it offers best, mainly the glorious antiquities from its splendid ancient past and the warmth and hospitality of its people. For us, those are what give Athens its soul, the one we fell in love with.


Street in Psiri, Athens, GreeceThis was the street where our modern boutique hotel was located. It may look rough and shabby but this area of Psiri is considered the new fashionable and trendy area of Athens.



Acropolis, Athens, GreeeThere it is, the glory of the ancient citadel of Acropolis, the “Sacred Rock,” the most important ancient monument in Europe. This is what you go to Athens for! Most of the buildings that stand here today were built in the 5th century BC. We’re talking about 2,500 years old! Just having one of its ancient columns standing upright today is beyond amazing.

History Bits:
  • The Acropolis (“High City”) was a military fortress during the neolithic age. Its location was considered an ideal defense from invaders.
  • People inhabited Acropolis starting in the Mycenean era (1900-1100 c BC) but was vacated in late 6th century BC when the powerful Oracle of Delphi proclaimed that Acropolis should only be a province for the Gods.
  • In 5th century BC, Pericles, a great statement of Athens, embarked into massive program of rebuilding Acropolis into a City of Great Temples, which we came to know today as the symbol of classical Greek achievement.

Asclepion, Acropolis, Athens

We climbed Acropolis slowly but surely (heat and smog didn’t make it easy) from the south slope where were stumbled into Asclepion,  a shrine dating back from 420 BC for the worship of Asclepius, who was the physician son of Apollo.


Odeon of Herodes Atticus, Acropolis, Athens, GreeceFurther west from Asclepion is a structure from the Roman era, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, a musical theater built in 161 AD by Herodes Atticus in memory of his wife Regallia. It has been restored and is being used today for various musical events.


Pathenon, Acropolis, Athens, GreeceFinally, we were face to face with the ruins of all great Greek ruins — the Parthenon!  This colossal temple was completed in 432 BC to house the great statue of Athena, the patron goddess of Athens.

Did you know that Parthenon was converted into a mosque in the 1460’s during the Ottoman Turks’ occupation?  It eventually became a storage facility for the Ottoman’s ammunition and in 1687, the Venetian bombarded the building causing the stored ammunition to explode, which severely damaged Parthenon and its sculptures.


Pathenon, Acropolis, Athens, Greece

We were thrilled to be standing in front of the great monument that epitomizes Greek’s ancient glory.


Parthenon, Athens, Greece We were imagining how magnificent it must have looked when the friezes were adorning the area above the Doric columns. Those friezes and other sculptures were removed in the 19th century by Lord Elgin, a British Ambassador to Greece during the Ottoman rule, and are now part of the controversial Elgin Marbles collection on display in the British Museum.


Pathenon, Acropolis, Athens, GreeceThe Parthenon in its scaffolded glory. A lot of people expressed disappointment in seeing one of the world’s most celebrated ancient structure in this unsightly state. We must  remember that this structure is more than 2,500 years old and it deserves all the loving care it can get.

Erechtheion, Acropolis, Athens GreeceOn the north side of Acropolis is the Erechtheion,  a temple built in 5th century BC for the worship of Athena, Poseidon and Ericthonius, the mythical king of Athen.


Erechtheion, Acropolis, Athens Greece Erechtheion’s Porch of the Caryatids is gracefully supported by columns of six maidens.


Erechtheion, Acropolis, Athens Greece

The elegant  Ionic columns that support the northern porch of  Erechtheion.


Erechtheion, Acropolis, Athens, GreeceThe ground where Erechtheion stands is consider the most sacred part of Acropolis. It was where the god Poseidon and goddess Athena competed over who would be named patron of the city. Poseidon thrust his trident into a rock and it turned into salt water well. Athena touched the ground with her spear and an olive tree sprung. Athena was declared a victor and the city was named for her.


Lykavittos HIlls, Athens, GreeceThe view of Lykavittos Hill from Acropolis.


Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens, GreeceThe view of the Temple of Olympian Seuz from Acropolis.  The temple dates back from 6th century BC.



Plaka, Athens, Greece

The Plaka is the oldest neighborhood in Athens located in the northeastern slope of the Acropolis and in close to proximity to most city’s ancient sites. It is lined with tavernas and cafes and provides pleasant break in between ruin hopping.

 Plaka, Athens, Greece

Plaka maybe touristy but we enjoyed its pleasant and lively atmosphere.  We actually found it the most charming neighborhood in Athens. Besides, its narrow streets are for pedestrians only, thus, providing nice respite from traffic noises and fumes.


Dining at Plaka, Athens, GreeceWe enjoyed an alfresco dinner at one of Plaka’s taverna.  The food may not be the greatest but we expected that from  a tourist-oriented places.


Bar at Plaka, Athens, GreeceA colorful bar in the Plaka.



The Agora was a marketplace as well as the center for  the political, commercial and social activities of Ancient Athens. It was first developed in the 6th century BC and where the ancient Greek democracy was born.

Stoa of Attalos (Agora Museum), Athens, GreeceThis is the reconstructed Stoa of Attalos, the original of which was built in 159 BC by King Attalos and was considered the most impressive stoa in Ancient Agora. A stoa is a Greek structure of covered colonnades where merchants trade their goods. The Stoa of Attalos housed high-end shops that catered to wealthy Athenians. The reconstructed stoa is used as Agora Museum. It is a good place to start exploration of the site.


Statue at Ancient Agora, Athens, Greece

One of the statues on display in Agora Museum. This was how a face from the 2nd century BC looked like.


Temple of Hephaestus, Ancient Agora, Greece The Temple of Hephaestus,  also called Hephaisteion, was dedicated to Hephaestus who was the patron god of metalworkers and craftsmen. The temple was surrounded by metalwork shops and pottery workshops.


Ancient Agora, Anthens, Greece Built in 339 BC, the Temple of Hephaestus is said to be the most preserved Doric temple in Greece. It was designed by Ictinus, one of the architects of Parthenon.


Rubles at Ancient Agora, Athens, GreeceSome of the ancient rubles that were scattered in the Agora ground.


Ancient Agora, Athens, GreeceKeith in deep contemplation in the garden of Ancient Agora where Socrates used to philosophized.



The Romans ruled Athens from 86 BC to 267 AD during which a significant reconstruction was undertaken.  Remains of some of their structures can still be seen today.

Roman Baths, Athens, Greece

Located in the National Gardens are the remains of the Roman Baths dating back from 3rd century AD. The well-preserved complex of baths were discovered during an excavation work for the construction of ventilation shafts for Athens Metro. It was made accessible to the public in 2004.


Potteries in Roman Baths, Athens, Greece The water jugs in the Roman Baths of Athens.


The Library of Hadrian, Athens, GreeceLocated north of Acropolis is the The Library of Hadrian, built  by Emperor Hadrian in around 132 AD. Although called a library, it is actually a multi-purpose complex that also housed a cultural center, garden, public square, art works, etc.


The Roman Agora, Athens, GreeceEast of Hadrian Library lies the Roman Agora, which became the main market place of Athens replacing the Greek Agora as the center of commerce. The entrance to the agora is through this well-preserved Gate of Athena built in 1st century AD and was funded by Julius Ceasar and Augustus.



We believe that the National Archeological Museum is something not to be missed when visiting Athens. It contains the richest collection of Greek artifacts and is said to one of the greatest museum in the world. Below are some of the exhibits we found remarkable.

National Archeological Museum, Athens, GreeceThe statue on the left is The Artemesin Bronze also called God of the Sea. It was discovered in the  sea off Cape Artemision. There’s a debate on whether it is a sculpture of Zeus or Poseidon.


Mark of Agamemnon, National Archeological Museum, Athens, GreeceThe Mask of Agamemnon dating back from 1550-1500 BC is a funeral mask made of gold.


National Archeological Museum, Athens, GreeceA pottery from the 1500 BC.


Statue of Aphrodite, National Archeological Museum, Athens, Greece

 A statue of  Aphrodite from 2nd century AD.


Spring Wall, Minoan Frescoes, National Archeological Museum, Athens, GreeceThe fresco above called Spring Wall and The Boxing Children below were uncovered from the prehistoric settlement of Akrotiri in Santorini. It was buried in the 16th century BC by a volcanic eruption.

Boxing Children, Minoan Frescoes, National Archeological Museum, Athens, Greece



On our last evening in Athens, we had a great pleasure of experiencing Greek hospitality at its best.

George was a Greek acquaintance from our neighborhood.  He was in Athens visiting his family at the same time we were in the city. He invited us to his family’s Greek version of a BBQ party.  Having only wonderful encounters with local people we met, we could not pass it up.


George’s  whole family was so warm and welcoming. They embraced us as one of their own.


Greek BBQ wtih George's familyI had fun hanging out with George’s adorable nieces.


Opa! It was a great evening. There was a lot of eating, a lot of drinking, and a lot of Greek dancing. It was also a wonderful display of Greek’s zest for life. It was a great ending and  one of the highlights of our travel in Greece.

Feel free to leave your comments below.

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About Marisol

Taking you on our journey one photo - and footstep - at a time.

21 responses to “The Soul of Athens

  1. Bassanio Broke

    enjoyed your letter. the words “Greek zest for life” made me ponder the all travelogues should include material from local people about “zest for life” this phrase carry special meaning to me. thanks for sharing.

    • Traveling Solemates

      HI Bassanio, meeting the locals and experiencing their zest for life made the trip truly memorable. Thanks for dropping by.

  2. Carrie Sieber

    Beautiful travelogue about Athens. Surprised about your commentaries about the modern day Athens. Your description of it was not what I had expected of it either. But I’m glad you explored and shared the sides of the city that are lovable. I did enjoy the beautiful photographs of the ruins and reading about the interesting history bits. The BBQ party with you friend’s family looked like a lot of fun.

    • Traveling Solemates

      Hi Carrie, I know a lot of people have a grand expectation of Athens as a modern city. I guess what we mostly read about on the travel magazines is about the greatness of its ancient past, which is truly remarkable but they don’t inform on what to expect about its modern surroundings. -Marisol

  3. Kira

    Hey guys, nice post! I appreciate your honest take about the modern day Athens. And I admire that instead putting much attention on the grittier side you chose to focus on the brighter side of the city. The antiquities of Athens are indeed beyond remarkable. I enjoyed learning more about their history. I know about Parthenon and about the Elgin Marbles but I admit I didn’t know the rest of its history. I was fascinated to know that it was a mosque at one point. Love the photography as usual. The Greek BBQ sounds awesome!

    • Traveling Solemates

      Hello Kira, thanks! Despite the grittiness and the grimness of its current economic situation, Athens with all tis ancient glory, is worth visiting. We’re glad we were able to fill you in with the history.

    • Traveling Solemates

      Hi Johanna, thanks! Glad you enjoyed the photos.The antiquities are indeed Athen’s shining glory. Glad you appreciate the shot of the trendy street……:)

  4. Lovely pics! I haven’t written about Athens yet, but I do loved it there. Mostly I met Filipinos when I walked around, and yeah Greek people too, who correctly guessed I was Filipino! I love Greece, it’s easily one of my favorite countries in Europe. Would definitely go back when I can.
    Aleah | recently posted..Snapshot Sunday—Foot Reflexology at Kek Look Tong CaveMy Profile

    • Traveling Solemates

      Hey Aleah, thanks.! I look forward to see your post on Athens! Glad to know you enjoyed your visit there. I also hope you can return sometime soon.

  5. craig simone

    What a wonderful attitude you guys have. Instead of focusing on the dark side you chose to focus on the brighter side of the city and ended up having a great trip. That’s what make you guys great travelers. You dig to find the soul of the place. Lovely photos as usual.

    • Traveling Solemates

      Hello Craig, what a nice comment, thanks!

    • Traveling Solemates

      Hi Scarlett,
      Thanks, glad you enjoyed the photos. You know we always find something disappointing in something, but then there’s always something good that prevails.Thanks for dropping by:)

    • Traveling Solemates

      Hi Scott, yes we made the most out of the trip. It was worth battling the heat and the smog to experience the amazing historic sites and ruins.

  6. Mitch T

    I thoroughly enjoyed all of the pictures the informative captions. great job!

    • Traveling Solemates

      Hey Mitch,
      Awww….flattered to get thumbs up from one of the best photographer I know:) Thanks for dropping by! -Marisol

      • Mitch T

        Haha, you’re too kind Marisol, way too kind.:)

  7. These shots is truly amazing, I loved them. I’ve always wanted to visit Athens, still hoping that one day I may have the chance to go there and feel and see the wonderful things in Athens and not just in photos or videos anymore.
    SimplyAthens recently posted..Exciting Tourism Activities In AthensMy Profile

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