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The industrial installations of a former gas factory have been transformed by the Municipality of Athens into one of the city's major cultural venues. The construction of this complex started in 1862 in order to provide street lights to the city and to supply households and factories with energy. The gradual replacement of gas by electricity finally led to the closure of Gazi, as the Athenians call the factory, and its transformation into an arts venue. Numerous exhibitions are held here, including some large-scale art installations. The Gazi complex also hosts concerts, readings and other cultural activities.
Socrates strolled through the Agora 2500 years ago engaging people in long, philosophical discussions. This unique archaeological park served as the ancient city's central marketplace from the 6th Century BCE. Scattered throughout the Agora are statues and ruins of numerous buildings, the most interesting of which is the well-preserved Temple of Hephaestus (also called Temple of Thission), built in the 5th Century BCE. Many archaeological finds are on display inside the reconstructed Stoa Attalou, a majestic building from the 2nd Century BCE, which is now the site of an exceedingly interesting museum.
A splendid religious complex, the Acropolis consists of several temples which were built by the world's first democracy during the 5th Century BCE. The most majestic building of all is the Parthenon, a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena. The Parthenon became the paragon of classical Greek architecture and, even though it has suffered serious damage over the centuries, it still remains an important monument, a symbol of all things classical. The Acropolis Museum is also a part of the Acropolis Complex. No trip to Athens is complete without a visit to Acropolis. Check the website for more information.
Three hills located west of the Acropolis have played a major role in the history of Athens. Next to the entrance of the Acropolis stands Arios Pagos, the seat of the court of ancient Athens. This is where the apostle Paul preached to the Athenians. Further to the west is Pnyx, the birthplace of democracy. It served as the world's first assembly point during the 5th century BCE. It is now the site of a sound and light show running each night from April to October. Philopappou is the tallest of these three hills. On the hilltop stands the Philopappos Monument—a marble tower built in the 2nd century CE.
South of the Acropolis stands the world's oldest theater. Theatre of Dionysus was constructed in the 6th Century BCE and rebuilt in the 4th Century BCE. All the works of the great ancient dramatists Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophanes were first performed at this location during the 5th Century BCE. Walking uphill towards the Acropolis, you will come across the Eumenes Arcade (constructed in the 2nd Century BCE) and the Asklepios Temple. Further to the west is the Odeon of Herod Atticus, a Roman theater still used for concerts and performances.
Dating back to 1889, this majestic building houses one of the world's greatest museums. The Cycladic idols, the tall Kouros statues and the splendid classical sculptures stand out for their beauty. Among the most popular exhibits is the 3,600 year old gold mask of Agamemnon. There is even an ancient device from the first century BCE, which is considered to be the world's oldest computer. A section of the museum also contains exhibits from Ancient Egypt.
Among the most unusual forms of art around are the prehistoric idols found on the Cycladic Islands. These strange-looking statues dating back to the 4th and 3rd millennium BCE are of an almost extra-terrestrial beauty. Splendid samples of this art form can be found at the Nicholas P. Goulandris Foundation, Museum of Cycladic Art. The museum also includes a collection of ancient art dating from the 2nd millennium BCE to the 4th Century CE with sculptures, pottery, jewelery, coins and other items. Reproductions of Cycladic idols can be bought at the museum shop.
Eight thousand years of Greek history come alive. Enjoy prehistoric works of art, rare manuscripts, Byzantine icons, historic weapons and paintings. The greatest attraction is the reconstructions of 18th- and 19th-century living. The museum also features a Childhood and Toy Department (with 15,000 historic games and children's items from around the world), a Chinese Art Department (with ceramics as old as 4000 years) and a Coptic Art Department where displays include rare textiles from Egypt. A museum shop and a roof garden with a restaurant are available to visitors.
The best vantage point in Athens is Lykavittos Hill, which stands right in the middle of the city and reaches an altitude of 295 meters. Visitors will enjoy panoramic views of Athens as they look down on the Acropolis and other major sights. The hilltop—on which the picturesque St. George Chapel and the café are located—can be reached by foot, by car or by cable-car. The latter runs every 30 minutes and departs from the corner of Aristippou and Ploutarchou Streets in Kolonaki. The hill is also the site of the Lykavittos Theatre which overlooks the city.
A former ducal residence (dating back to 1848) houses the Byzantine Museum of Athens. Its collection shows how Greek art evolved from the 4th to the 19th Century. Standing out for their beauty and craftsmanship are the works of religious art. These include a great number of icons, wall paintings, reliefs and statues. In addition to these, clothes, coins, mosaics, jewelery, manuscripts, wood carvings and many other items are on display. Copies of these exhibits can be bought at the museum shop.
Virtual reality technology is employed at Hellenic Cosmos Cultural Center in order to recreate scenes from antiquity. Visitors can walk through several virtual reality presentations which will take them back to cities of the Ancient World. They could choose to visit the majestic Zeus Temple in Ancient Olympia or else a Byzantine palace. Visitors can also look around exhibitions or stop by the museum shop or relax at the Internet café. Call or visit the website for show schedules.
Koutouki Cave is located on the eastern slope of Mount Ymittos, outside the town of Peania. It was discovered by accident several years ago, when a goat fell into the cave through a hole in its roof. The shepherd climbed in to rescue the animal and discovered one of Europe's most beautiful caves. Nowadays, visitors can enter the cave through a tunnel to admire the impressive stalagmites and stalactites. A guided tour of the cave starts every 30 minutes. It can be reached from the city center by car in an hour.