The Ancient Agora in Athens is one of the most visited archaeological sites in Greece. Once a center for trade, commerce and politics, it's now a fantastic green area in the heart of Athens.
The Agora in Athens Greece
Athens is a city that has been continuously inhabited for at least 3000 years. Famed as the birthplace of democracy, its influence on Western culture can not be underestimated.
There are many historical sites in Athens, with perhaps the Acropolis being the most famous. In the past though, it was the Agora which played a big part in the daily lives of ancient Athenians.
If there was a very heart to Athens at the peak of its power, it would be the Agora. The word itself means “gathering place”, or “meeting place”.
Here, trades would be carried out, discussions about politics would take place, and people would meet and talk.
Perhaps it might be best to think of it as a combination of market square, parliament and stock market. The Agora was the very center of Athenian life.
Of course, it wasn't the only one in Greece. An Agora was a central area, commonly found in most ancient Greek city-states. The Ancient Agora in Athens though, is the best and most famous example.
Where is the Ancient Agora of Athens?
The Agora archaeological site is located within the historic center of the city. It's nestled just underneath the imposing Acropolis, and nearby to Monastiraki Square and Plaka.
I took this photo in January (which is why the grass is so green!). You can see the Acropolis up above, and the large area of the Agora below.
Originally, there were many temples and monuments, covered promenades, public wells, and much more in the Agora. Sadly, it was destroyed several times over the centuries as a way to break the power of Athens.
Eventually, it was all but abandoned and forgotten about until 1931, when serious excavation work began.
The Archaeological Site of the Agora of Athens
Today, the Ancient Agora is open for the public to stroll around. It contains many surviving examples of stone carvings, columns, and statues.
Tickets are available at the entrance, and you can also use your combined ticket for Athens to gain access.
The site is quite big, so I'd say that you need to allow for a couple of hours in order to fully appreciate the site.
Below, I'll describe the main areas of the Agora archaeological site, and leave some sightseeing tips at the end.
Temple of Hephaestus
This is a hugely significant building, being one of the few intact Greek temples to have survived in Athens.
Whilst I would suggest visiting the museum first (more about the museum of the Agora), you'll find it located over on the right hand side of the Agora after you come in through the main entrance.
Make sure to look underneath the roof, as you'll see examples of stone carvings and perhaps paint if your eyes are good!
Pro Tip: There are also some good vantage points around the Temple of Hephaistos from which to take photos of the Acropolis!
Stoa of Attalos
As with much of the Agora (apart it seems from the Temple of Hephaistos), the original Stoa was also destroyed more than once over the centuries.
It was then faithfully reconstructed from 1952–1956. Now, this reconstructed Stoa of Attalos houses the Museum of the Ancient Agora.
I've visited this museum several times over the years, and believe it's exhibitions and fact boards give one of the clearest descriptions of how the Agora and Athens developed over the years.
Byzantine Church of the Holy Apostles (Solakis)
This curious little church is located at the top left hand corner of the archaeological site assuming you have arrived through the main entrance.
What you see here is a photo of my Dad taking a photo of my Mum taking a photo of the church in 2016 when they came to visit!
The church is intriguing in its design, and is a physical example of how ancient Greek, Roman, and then Byzantine occupies the Agora in Athens.
Like the Temple of Hephaestus, this 10th century church somehow survived the ravages of time relatively intact.
I've yet to visit when the church has the doors open, but inside, there are several paintings.
Sightseeing Tips for the Ancient Agora in Athens
1. Make sure that you buy the ‘combined' ticket for ancient sites in Athens. This gives you access to the Acropolis, Ancient Agora, and a number of other sites for the current price of 30 Euros.
If you only want access to the Ancient Agora site and the museum though, the entry is smaller. Make sure to pick up a leaflet along with your ticket. This leaflet has a ground plan of the site.
2. Visit the Museum of the Ancient Agora first. This will explain in great detail the history of the Agora area, and the way that it developed over the ages. It will also help you to understand the buildings that you are about to see.
Free Guides To The Agora
3. It's time to switch on a free audio guide. A what you ask? A free audio guide! This Rick Steve's MP3 guide to the Agora is pretty good. You can check it out for free here – Audio Guide for the Agora.
4. Take your time, and find a shady place to soak up the atmosphere. There are a number of quiet places where you can sit in the shade, and enjoy the surroundings.
5. Make sure to see the Byzantine Church of the Holy Apostles. It marks a stark contrast to the ancient Greek ruins on the site, and is often overlooked.
6. Allow at least two hours to really enjoy both the museum and the Ancient Agora itself. If you are following my itinerary for 2 days in Athens you will have an idea what sort of time of day to visit.
Many people decide to break for lunch in one of the surrounding restaurants after leaving the Agora. Enjoy the meal, and get your energy levels back up. There is still a lot more to see and do in Athens!
More Athens Travel Guides
I have put together some other guides on Athens you might find useful.
- Ultimate Guide to Athens – Access to all my guides about Athens in one place.
- Hotels near the Acropolis – Stay at one of the hotels near the Acropolis and make the most of your time in Athens.
- Day Trips from Athens – A selection of the best day trips from Athens
Have you visited the Ancient Agora in Athens, or would you like to? Have you got any tips you would like to add? I would love to read your comments below!