A lot of people head straight to the Acropolis, look around the Parthenon, then head to, The Acropolis Museum and miss so many other interesting sights. If you take your time as you walk to the Acropolis museum you will find there is a lot more around the Acropolis rock than just Plaka and Monastiraki.
Opposite the entrance to the Acropolis is a huge white rock/hill called Areopagus Hill, in Greek it literally means the hill of Ares. There are some stairs carved into the side of the rock but I would advise taking the modern steel stairs to climb the rock. From the Areopagus you get some great views of the Acropolis especially the Propylaia and even better views of the ancient Athens Agora.
Despite Areopagus appearance it has a lot of history and mythology associated with it, being so close to the Acropolis. According to the myths the god of war Ares was tried and acquitted on the hill for the murder of the son of Poseidon, hence the name "hill of Ares". The trial of Orestes for the murder of his mother Clyemnestra took place here. As you can see the hill has always been associated with trials.
The hill was first used to hold meetings of the council of elders but by classical times it was usually used as a high court for criminal and civil cases, and many murder trials. Areopagus was also used to attack the the Acropolis by both the Turks and Persians.
Areopagus is most famously associated with Saint Paul, who gave his sermon "on an unknown God" on top of the hill. He gained his first Greek convert here, Dionysos the Areopagitei now the patron Saint of Athens. At the side of the rock near the stairs facing towards the Acropolis entrance is a bronze engraving of the sermon in Greek.
On the southern slope of the Acropolis rock is the theatre of Herodes Atticus (or Odeon of Herodes Atticus), it was added to the Acropolis between AD161 - 174 during the Rome period of Athens. The theatre or odeon was built in the memory of Aspasia Annia Regilla, the deseased wife of Herodes Atticus. The same Herodes Atticus re-built the Kalimarmaro/Panathanaic Stadium. You can see inside the theatre from above in the Acropolis just before you reach the Propylaia. Unlike many other occupiers of Athens the Romans actually added to the Acropolis instead of destroying it.
The theatre could hold up to 5000 spectators, and in its day was enclosed with a cedarwood roof which improved the acoustics.
The Odeon is still used to day for outside performances of plays and even music concerts, the backdrop of the Acropolis and the Parthenon looming above is quite spectacular. Over the years it has had everything from Miss world to Elton John concerts!
Further down on the southern cliff face of the Acropolis rock is the Theatre of Dionysos and the birthplace of Greek Tragedy, and the first to be built of stone. The theatre was originally built out of wood and earth, until Lykourgous rebuilt it out of stone between 342 - 326 BC. Although the theatre of Dionysos is less know that the theatre of Herodes Atticus, it was the first to be built on the Acropolis and was used throughout the ancient Greek period.
The ruins that can be seen today are actually of a much larger theatre built by the Romans. It could hold up to 17,000 people and was used as a Gladiatorial arena. There was even metal railings around to protect the spectators from the bloodsports. You can still clearly see the mosaic floor depicting the the life of Dionysos that was added by the Emperor Nero. Although you can actually visit the theatre, from above in the Acropolis you can get very good photographs of the mosiac floor.
Two other sights on the southern slopes of the Acropolis are Panagia i Spiliotissa and the Sanctuary of Asklepios. Panagia i Spliotissa means our lady of the cave and is where mothers used to bring their sick children to be healed. The Sanctuary of Asklepios was founded on the slopes of the Acropolis in 420BC and is dedicated to the God of healing Asklepios, it is basically a cave with a natural spring inside.
Theseo is the area around the ancient Agora going up to the Areopagus and Acropolis along Apostolou Pavlou street. The area takes its name from the temple of Hephaisteion in the Agora which is sometimes known as the Theseion after the Athenian hero "Theseus".
The area has some great views of the Agora and of the Acropolis and Parthenon, the walk up Apostolou Pavlou street is very relaxing. The wide street is practically pedestrianized and has lots of cafes, bars and ice-cream shops along the road, looking from here at the Acropolis over the ancient Agora you could easily imagine you were in ancient Athens, none of the modern Athens interupting the view of the Acropolis.
Opposite the Acropolis, across Apostolou Pavlou street is Pnyx Hill. Although now it's an outdoor theatre it was once the "Ekklesia" citizens assembly, which met to discuss and vote on the running of Ancient Athens.
As many as 6000 Athenians met up to 40 times a year on the hill to listen to politicians and speakers. Themistocoles, Perikles, Demosthenes and Alciabides all once spoke on these rocks. The "Hema" speakers platform can still be seen today carved into the rocks.
Opposite the Acropolis' southern slopes, on the small road to Philopappos Hill is a very old Byzantine church called Agios Dimitrios Loumpardiaris. The story goes that in 1656 the Turkish commander, Yusuf Aga planned to fire a huge cannon called 'Loumpardiaris' from the Propylaia in the Acropolis at worshipers in the church celebrating the day of Agios Dimitrios. The evening before the attack was due to take place the huge cannon was struck by lightning and exploded, at the time the Acropolis and Propylaia was being used as an amoury. The resulting explosion killed the commander and his family.
This tree clad hill, opposite the Acropolis, is known for the observatory 'Asteroskopeion' built in 1842 by German architect Theophil Von Hansen. The hill takes its name from dedications to nymphs carved onto the rocks found in the garden of the observatory.
The site was originally was a sanctuary of nymphs, which are associated with child birth. The church next to the observatory - Agia Marina - is also associated with childbirth, women used to slide down the nearby smooth rocks to give them an easy labour!
There are many sights and monuments around the acropolis which get over looked my visitors to Athens such as the Theatre of Herodes Atticus, Areopagus Hill, Pnyx Hill, Theatre of Dionysos, Hill of the Nymphs and Philopappos Hill (this actually has a page by itself).
Location: From Adrianou street in Thiseo up along Areopagitou street to the New Acropolis museum.
Nearest Metro Station: Acropolis, Thiseo or Monastiraki.
Tips: Take plenty of water as there will be quite a lot of walking. For more information on the Acropolis please click the link to go to our page about the Acropolis of Athens