Exploring Athens: The heart of ancient Athens

The heart of ancient Athens

On the way out from the metro station of Thisseio, the visitor faces the best preserved ancient temple in Greece: the temple of Hephaestus. Situated on the top of a small hill in the ancient Agora, it used to be the heart of the city at the time of Pericles and Socrates. Nearby is the building of the Stoa of Attalos that today hosts the Museum of the Ancient Agora, where one can see finds related to the sociopolitical life of that era. After a tour around the ancient Agora, there is the option of an interesting walk in the shops and cafes in Monastiraki and on Avissinias Square.

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3. Tzistarakis Mosque

Built in 1759 by the Ottoman civil governor Mustafa Aga Tzistarakis, this mosque overlooks the Monastiraki Square. After the war of Independence, its minaret was torn down and it was used as a prison. Since 1915, the mosque -restored to its original state- is used as a museum and today is annexed to the Museum of Greek Folk Art and houses the pottery collection.

5. Hadrians Library

Located at the north part of the Roman Agora and next to Tzistarakis Mosque are the remains of the library that Emperor Hadrian constructed in Athens in AD 132. The Library was the most luxurious edifice in Athens at that time. It had an interior peristyle courtyard with an artificial lake and a garden, reading rooms and lecture halls.

7. Avissinias Square - "Youssouroum"

Avissinias Square is situated at Monastiraki, between Hiphaistou and Ermou streets. A multitude of antique shops is located there, selling mostly old furniture. Around the Square, one can find many shops that sell second-hand items and books, record shops and clothes shops. On Sunday mornings, merchants -mostly second-hand dealers- set out their merchandise, creating the most popular flea market of Athens.

9. The Ancient Agora

The Ancient Agora of Athens was the centre of the political, religious and commercial life of the city. Originally it was a large, open space, which was surrounded gradually by public buildings and temples. One of the most outstanding buildings in the Agora is the Stoa of Attalos, an elite shopping arcade, built in about 150 BC thanks to the donation of Attalus II, king of Pergamon. In the 1950s, the Stoa was reconstructed by the American School of Classical Studies. Today it houses the Museum of the Ancient Agora, which displays items linked with the social and political life of the Agora.

19. The Hephaisteion (Theseion)

Hephaisteion, a Doric temple dedicated to Hephaistos and Athena Ergane, is located on Agoraios Kolonos hill, overlooking the Ancient Agora. Dating back in 449 BC, it is the best preserved ancient temple of Greece. A considerable part of its decorations survive, such as the friezes that depict the labours of Heracles and the feats of Theseus, metopes and pediments. In the past, it was believed to be dedicated to Theseus, thus the name "Theseion" both for the temple and the district.