An unorthodox walk of ancient Athens fortifications (and other minor sites)

Besides the major ancient monuments that most Athens visitors come here to see, a number of smaller, minor sites and marks are scattered around, dotting the urban landscape as visual reminders of the rich and varied history of the city. You may find yourselves unexpectedly facing them as you walk around Athens or you can create yourselves an admittedly awkward tour of Athens based on these minor sites, near and around the major ones. 

Most of these “mini-sites” are remnants of the ancient Athens fortifications. Walls that Athenians, urged by Themistocles, built at various phases in the 5th century BC, to protect the city from invaders and mainly the ancient Spartans. These are called Themistoclean Walls. Athenians were so hasty to build these fortifications that they used whatever type of material was available at the moment. Even parts of buildings, statues and funerary monuments were used as building blocks in the wall. An additional segment of fortification, called the Diateichisma and connected to the Themistoclean Walls was built near the area of Philopappos Hill. Another major fortification, 7kms long, are the so-called Long Walls, that were built to secure the contact of ancient Athens with its port of Piraeus, again in the 5th century BC. Parts of these fortifications have also been unearthed during excavations or construction of newer buildings and have been fenced and preserved. 

I put together a list of such minor archaeological sites, in the form of a long walk around Athens (see map at the bottom). If you follow this route you will also come across most major sites, but here the order is inverse. The focus is on the minor sites  while the major ones form the background!

Your unorthodox walk starts from the center of Athens, diagonally across Syntagma Square:

1) At the corner of Vasilissis Sofias Ave. & Panepistimiou (a.k.a. Eleftheriou Venizelou) St., in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, you’ll see a planted dug-out, with a sign alerting to the presence of “Ancient Athenian fortifications”. 
Ancient Athens fortifications at the corner of Vassilissis Sofias & Panepistimiou, city-center, Athens, Greece

Walk along past the Parliament building, with the National Garden and the Zappeion to your left,  to reach…

2) The roofed excavations of some ancient Roman baths, at Leoforos Amalias.
Roman baths - Excavation at Leoforos Amalias, Athens (city-center), Greece

Roman baths - Excavation at Leoforos Amalias, Athens (city-center), Greece

Roman baths - Excavation at Leoforos Amalias, Athens (city-center), Greece

Walking further down, past Amalias, on Sygrou Ave. you turn right at No.46, on Petmeza St.

3) At the corner of Petmeza St. and Falirou St. you’ll see excavations discovered during the building of the Athens Metro in 1996-98. A number of graves, both ancient (5th century BC) and Early Christian (5th century AD) were discovered in this area, slightly outside the city walls and near the ancient road that led from Athens to the port of Falero.
Mini-archeological site at the corner of Petmeza St. & Falirou St. [Makrygianni neighborhood], Athens, Greece

Mini-archeological site at the corner of Petmeza St. & Falirou St. [Makrygianni neighborhood], Athens, Greece

Moving back towards the direction of the Acropolis, along various back-streets,  you reach the big pedestrian walk (Dionysiou Areopagitou) below the Acropolis. At the point where the pedestrian walk makes a sharp turn to the right and  starts heading down to Thission as Apostolou Pavlou) you’ll see a smaller pedestrian road heading off to the left, up a hill. Follow this to reach the church of Aghios Dimitrios Loumpardiaris constructed by architect Dimitris Pikionis.

4) Across the church you’ll see remnants of the Diateichisma fortifications. Follow the path up the Hill of the Muses (Philopappos) and you’ll see more remains of the Diateichisma to your right (and a great view of the Acropolis and the Parthenon as a bonus).
Diateichisma fortifications, Aghios Dimitrios Loumpardiaris / Philopappos Hill, Athens, Greece

Diateichisma fortifications, Aghios Dimitrios Loumpardiaris / Philopappos Hill, Athens, Greece

View of the Athens Acropolis from Philopappos Hill, Athens, Greece

Return back to the pedestrian walk and continue left (along Apostolou Pavlou) to reach the neighborhood of Thission. Turn left at Herakleidon St. (also mostly pedestrianized) with its cafeterias. 

5) As you walk along Herakleidon St., at the corner with Erysichthonos St., you’ll see another fenced dug-out with ancient ruins from the city’s fortifications. This part was called the Proteichisma (outer wall).
Proteichisma (outer wall) of ancient Athens fortifications, at Herakleidon St., Athens, Greece

Move on toward the end of Herakleidon St. and then to the right, inside the small park, at the end of Ermou St., to reach the entrance of… 

6) Kerameikos Archeological site and museum: this is the best preserved part of the Themistoclean Walls and you can even see them from the fence without going inside (I’ve presented Kerameikos separately in the past as it’s a site of major significance). The walls continue outside the archaeological site and part of them can be seen at the…
Kerameikos cemetery / archeological site: the ancient Themistoclean Walls can be seen at the middle-right.

7) …Museum of Islamic Art (22 Aghion Asomaton St.), at the basement level (Level -1), that has been constructed in such a way as to allow visitors to see the ancient walls that are right under the building (more on the museum of Islamic art here).

Walk back up the busy Ermou St., towards city center, past Monastiraki Sq. and turn left on Aiolou St. (also pedestrianized) for the final part of this walk of ancient Athens fortifications. 

8) At 86 Aiolou St., you’ll see the Headquarters of the National Bank of Greece. Part of the ancient fortifications was also discovered and preserved here, at the foundation of the building, making for a most interesting combination of ancient and modern architecture.
Ancient Athens fortifications at the ground floor of the National Bank of Greece headquarters, Athens, Greece

Ancient Athens ruins outside the National Bank of Greece headquarters, 86 Aiolou St., Athens, Greece

9) A few meters down the road, right on City Hall Square (a.k.a. Plateia Kotzia) you’ll find the final stop of this strange walk. It’s an unearthed segment of the ancient “Acharnean Street” (leading to the northern town of Acharnae) with ruins from ancient tombs and pottery shops on both sides of the ancient road.
Ruins of the ancient Acharnean Street, right outside the Athens fortifications, on modern-day Aiolou St. / City Hall Square in Athens city center, Greece

If you are even more adventurous, and in tip-top shape, for some additional “minor sights” you may head out from city center to Akademia Platonos and Colonus Hill to the west. I’ve presented them separately here (and here).

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  1. Thank you for putting this together. I'll be in Athens in just a couple of weeks and very much appreciate this resource you've put together. I've followed your blog since I began planning my trip and I'm grateful for all the information you have so kindly invested time in providing on your blog.

    1. Thank you for your kind comment. If you could share the blog's address with your friends I'd be grateful too! Feel free to email me with questions if there's something particular I could provide my view on.


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