1. The Acropolis and the Divine Contest
Acropolis is the most famous sight in Athens and the first one to check off your list if it is your first time in the capital of Greece. Join an Acropolis mythology tour and experience the ancient vibes, traveling back in time to the era of gods and heroes! Become part of the ancient Athenian society and bear witness to the great contest between Athena and Poseidon over the naming of the city. Watch the gods present their gifts to the people and cast your vote to the one you prefer. Will it be Athena or Poseidon this time? Embrace the mythological tales and listen to the strike of spears and tridents on the holy Rock of Acropolis! Turn your gaze away and watch the rock of Athena that fell off her hands, creating Lycabettus hill. All you need is a good storyteller and a little bit of imagination!
2. The Philoppapos Hill and the Spider
Arachne (meaning “spider” in Greek) was a beautiful woman, renowned for her skill in weaving. She used to boast that she could even weave better than goddess Athena, the patroness of the weaving art, until one day the goddess challenged her into a weaving contest that changed her life forever. Climb the beautiful hill of Philopappos (also known as Hill of the Nymphs and the Muses), enter the weaving contest and change the outcome! Learn about the Nine Muses, the inspirational goddess of arts and knowledge, and the beautiful Nymphs, the divine spirits of nature. Connect with nature on the hill where democracy was born, facing the Acropolis and the temple of Athena, the Parthenon!
3. The Tower of Winds and the Wind Gods
The world’s first meteorological station is located inside the Roman Agora in Athens. The Horologion of Andronikos Kyrrhestes (also known as ‘Tower of Winds’) functioned as a sundial, weathervane, water clock, and a compass! The water clock was driven by water coming down from a spring on the Acropolis Hill. Each side of the octagon structure depicts a wind deity. Walk around the tower, look how each wind deity is represented, meet Zephyrus, the young Wind from the west who was trying to seduce the Nymphs, and Boreas the old, wise, fearless Wind from the north! A Greek mythology tour of the Roman Agora with a local guide will help you travel to Ancient Greece and the era of the great Wind Gods.
4. The Sanctuary of Pan and the Naughty Gods
Pan the mischievous, Zeus the great lover, Poseidon the impetuous, Aphrodite the one and only, and so many other gods of Greek mythology had a secret, more humane side in their godly nature. That humane side of them would lead them into many affairs and tragic love stories. Pan, the goat-like god of the wild, is the one the word ‘panic’ derives from. The merry god was well-known for chasing after beautiful Nymphs and his love book have many interesting stories to tell. His sanctuary in Athens is located just under the Hill of the Nymphs, very close to his beloved companions. You can sneak into Pan’s and the other gods’ private lives with a mythology tour that will guide you to the most important sights of Athens while exploring the love life of ancient gods and mortals!
5. The National Gardens and the Nature Spirits
Away from the hustle and bustle of the city, but still right into the center of it, you will find yourselves among hundreds of spirits of nature. The National Gardens, the former Royal Gardens of Queen Amalia, are located just next to Syntagma Square, offering thousands of trees, plants and many ancient ruins. Every indigenous tree has a story to tell from Greek mythology, and every path leads to a new adventure. Walk along the Nymphs, the mortals and their tragic mistakes, the giants and the gods in the forest of transformations!
Tip: If you are a family with children visiting Athens, a Greek mythology interactive workshop for kids inside the National Gardens is a great and imaginative way to spend a wonderful family time while discovering the best mythological tales!
6. The Areopagus Hill and the God of War
The criminal court of ancient Athens and the stage of a mythical trial! Everything started when the gods decided to put Ares, the god of War, on trial for his war crimes. The rock was named after Ares and became the criminal court of Athens. Enjoy the excellent panoramic view of Athens that Areopagus Hill offers, while listening to stories of criminals (or not) whose fate was decided right there and then! Socrates, the great philosopher of Greek antiquity, was trialed on that same rock and found guilty of impiety and corrupting the minds of the youth of Athens. Join a walking tour with a local storyteller that will guide you to the concepts of life and death for Ancient Greeks, mythological or not.
Extra tip: it is said that the Rock of Ares is the place where Apostle Paul delivered his famous speech to the Athenian people.
7. The Temple of Hephaestus and the Birth of Erichthonius
The Temple of Hephaestus can be found inside the Ancient Agora, in the center of Athens. It is the best preserved ancient temple in Greece! The temple was designed by the architect Ictinus, who was also the co-architect of the Parthenon, alongside Callicrates. It was dedicated to Hephaestus, the god of fire and blacksmiths, who shared a very spicy story with goddess Athena. His sexual advances against the goddess of wisdom was responsible for the birth of Erichthonius, the legendary early ruler of Athens to whom the most sacred building on the Acropolis, the Erechtheion, is dedicated. But there are many more mythological stories to discover in the Temple of Hephaestus. The east metope of the temple depicts the 12 labors of the great mythological Greek hero, Hercules. The frieze of the pronaos depicts the battle of another great hero, Theseus, the mythological king and founder of Athens. A Greek mythology tour with a local guide will travel you back in time and help you discover more stories about the Temple of Hephaestus and Ancient Agora.
8. The Archaeological Site of Eleusis and the Gate to the Underworld
There are many gates to enter the Kingdom of Hades, but there is one very close to Athens. Eleusis is located just 30 minutes away from Athens by car and is home to the most sacred rites of Ancient Greece, the Eleusinian Mysteries. Enter the sacred space, walk where Goddess Demeter walked, according to Greek mythology, searching for her daughter Persephone and learn the mythological origin of the Mysteries, an ancient religion that kept its secrets for more than 1500 years! For those who are brave enough, try to take a peek inside the gate of Hades, a cave of mystical elements, a three-headed dog and a ferryman that allows you to pass to the realm of the Underworld. Having an expert local guide will prove very useful to comprehend the importance of the Eleusinian Mysteries to the ancient world.
9. The Temple of Olympian Zeus and the great Titanomachy
The Temple of Olympian Zeus is a former colossal temple in the heart of Athens, behind the Arch of Hadrian. Today, only 16 of the 104 gigantic columns survive, but are enough to create an imposing sight. The temple took about 638 years to be completed! The project stopped because Greeks believed that building such a colossal temple could be seen as ‘hubris’ to the gods. It was finally completed under the reign of the Roman Emperor Hadrian. What most people don’t know is that Zeus was actually the youngest child of Rhea and Cronus. Cronus, a powerful titan and ruler of the world, had swallowed his earlier children, after receiving a prophecy that he would be overthrown by one of them. Only the youngest one, Zeus, escaped with the help of his mother, Rhea, and after freeing his siblings let the gods to victory against the titans. There are many other stories to explore about Zeus, like the prophecy he received about his children and the birth of his favorite daughter, Athena.
10. Cape Sounion and the Naming of the Aegean Sea
Just a short ride from Athens, passing through the so-called ‘Athens Riviera’, you will enter the kingdom of Poseidon, ruler of the seas in Greek mythology. Walk to the edge of the cliff next to the grandiose Temple of Poseidon; there, you will see an old king waiting in patience, gazing at the endless blue below, waiting for his son to return from his quest. Learn of Theseus, the founding father of Athens, and of his adventure to Crete and the mythical palace of King Minos. Listen to the waves that bring him closer and closer back to his father as a hero. Watch the sunset go down gloriously as you wait along with the hero’s father to see whether his son’s sails will be white or black... whether there will be life or death.
Tip: A mythology tour of Cape Sounion can be extended to a day trip from Athens, visiting more mythological places in Attica region.
What is most interesting about Greek mythology is the interpretation of the myths and the actual meaning for the society that created them. Joining a mythology tour in Athens can offer you a lot of insights into the Ancient Greek culture, besides the rattling stories of course! Have a look at the most famous tales from Greek mythology if you wish to learn more exciting stories. If you are visiting Athens only for a couple of days, here is a detailed itinerary created by a local expert for 48 hours in Athens.