In this article, I will recommend 10 most scenic places to photograph in Athens based on my three trips to the Greek capital. Everybody associates Athens with ancient temples – notably the Acropolis. I will give you a few tips not only on how to get the best shooting angles for Acropolis but also recommendations on many other subjects that you should not miss. This article is complementary to a great guide on photographing in Greece, where you can find further tips for attractive photographic locations in this country.
Let me point out that I will not focus on history and detailed description of the recommended location. Athens and Greece is full of exciting history, describing that would be well beyond the scope of this article.
Best Months to Photograph and Enjoy Athens
Before I give my ten tips, I would like to talk about timing. When is the best time to come to Athens?
I have been to Athens once in late November and twice in April. I was lucky in this respect as the local friends confirmed to me that April-May and September-November are the best months for visiting. In spring and autumn, the weather is pleasant (not too warm) and the crowds are bearable. July is the hottest month and August is the busiest month. Winter is great too – it is never too cold compared with the continental part of the Europe, but it can rain a bit more compared to summer. Both in April and in November, Athens has a pleasing smell all over as the orange trees blossom. At the same time, you can see many ripe oranges on those trees.
Do not wonder that nobody is picking them – those oranges are rather sour and bitter!
How Much Time Do I Need?
I will not use the cliché that no stay is long enough to capture the beauty of Athens. I can confidently say that a weekend stay is long enough to see and photograph the main attraction. Out of my ten spots below you can photograph all of them within three days (if you are ready for a challenging trip). This does not include visiting of the museums though, where fans of art and history could spend days.
10 Best Places to Photograph in Athens
Acropolis is the place everybody associates immediately with Athens. Located on a small hillock, Acropolis is an ancient citadel containing remains of several temples. The most famous is Parthenon.
Due to its location on a high hill, this temple is visible from many places in Athens. Yet, getting a postcard shot of this temple is anything but easy. You can either photograph the temple within the Acropolis, which will require a wide angle lens and a lot of luck (or perfect timing) so that you avoid huge crowds in the frame. The best angle for Parthenon close-up photos is from east to west. On the west side, there is a crane and lot of scaffolding at the time being (2017).
Good images can be achieved throughout the day, luckily the sun is never in a very unfavorable position. Theoretically, one could get perfect golden hour or blue hour shots, but neither is possible except in winter due to opening hours (08:00-18:30). Entrance is paid.
How to avoid crowds in Acropolis? Be there as the first one, right after the opening. There is no other way. The number of people visiting this place may get extreme at times. I have experienced huge flocks of people there which took away completely my enthusiasm for making photographs.
If you could not avoid crowds for some reason, I have one tip still. At the east side of Parthenon, you can place some ruins in the foreground, which are big enough to cover people walking around this temple and there are some other areas that you can approach from the side to photograph without anyone in your images.
If you want to get a compact view of the Acropolis, I recommend visiting the neighboring small hillock called Filopappou. From there you will get the best view at Acropolis. This is the place to photograph both at sunrise and sunset and during the blue hour. Furthermore, you can get some great shots of Acropolis from Mount Lycabettus – the highest place in Athens, see my point number 4. If you do not need to have Parthenon in the frame but you want to photograph the west part of Acropolis with the possibility to have rising sun in the frame, visit the Aeoropagus hill.
But there are many other objects to photograph both at the top of Acropolis, as well as at the slopes than just the Parthenon. Much smaller, but much more preserved is the Temple of Athena, with photogenic row of statues at the pediment of the temple. Most preserved, in my opinion, is the Temple of Athena Nike, located at the very entrance to Acropolis (to the right of the entrance staircase).
From the top of the Acropolis, enjoy the 360° views on the city. In the north you can observe and photograph the temples and ruins of the Ancient Agora. In the north east, you will see the Lycabettus Hill, in south-east, you can see the Temple of Olympian Zeus, on the south slope I recommend photographing the partly reconstructed stone theater Odeon of Herodes Atticus. To the west, you can see the Piraeus Port.
- Monastiraki Square and Surroundings
If you want to have the combination of the ancient remnants and the more modern side of the city, Monastiraki is the place to visit. Located to the north from Acropolis, you will meet many restaurants scattered around the fenced archaeological sites full of relics.
I particularly enjoyed siting in Monastiraki square for a while and observing busy life around. Thisidiraki Mosque and the Acropolis high on the horizon are nice backdrop for street photography. Hadrian’s Library is a few steps from here and you can get interesting compositions even without entering it (entrance to Hadrian’s Library is paid).
- Ancient Agora
Do you love ancient sites but Acropolis is too busy for you? Then the Ancient Agora, roughly located between Acropolis and Monastiraki, might be the right place to enjoy.
Like Acropolis – this is a large area full of different structures, such as temples, statutes, churches etc. The most photogenic two structures are South Stoa and the Hephaistos Temple. In between those structures, there is lot of green bush.
This place is hence much more pleasant for a midday stay with overshadowed places to be found easily, unlike in a very sun-exposed Acropolis. Entrance fee applies.
- Mount Lycabettus
Mount Lycabettus is a lime stone hill close to the historic center of Athens. Peaking at 300 meters above sea level, this is the perfect observing and panoramic point for photographers.
Apart from the possibility to shoot Acropolis with the sea and port in the background, you can also capture the beauty of the Chapel of Saint George at the top of this mountain.
At the slopes, there are many agave plants which can be composed as foreground motif to your images. No entrance fee, open constantly.
Plaka is the old part of the town right below the east side of Acropolis. It is known for its small streets full of colorful houses and nice flowers.
There is a lot of contrast between luxurious villas and old abandoned decaying houses. You can also find many properties sprayed with graffiti. If you feel like photographing some modern architecture, take a closer look at the building of the Acropolis Museum.
- Temple of Olympian Zeus and Arch of Hadrian
Today, we can see only a small fraction of what used to be a colossal temple. Yet, the remaining 16 surviving columns offer plenty of occasion for different compositions. The classic postcard composition is from south-east side, with Acropolis hill visible between the columns. Entrance to this archaeological site is paid.
On the west side of this place you can photograph Arch of Hadrian. Since it is located directly next to a busy street, I would recommend taking photographs during blue hour with blurred traces of car lights. No entrance fee for Hadrian’s Arch.
- Syntagma Square
The centre of modern Athens is arguably the Syntagma Square. The square is dominated by the view towards the Parliament building. On the other side of the square, the main shopping Ermou street begins.
If you photograph the parliament building, do not forget to wait for the guard changing ceremony. It is very funny, since the soldiers march in a slow and very weird way.
- Panepistimiou Street
Panepistimiou, or Elftherios Venizelos avenue, is a major boulevard in Athens, leading from Syntagma Square to Omonia Square.
Along the way, several neoclassical buildings with statues of ancient philosophers are great motifs for photographing. Among them are Bank of Greece, University of Athens and National Library.
- Modern Olympic Stadium
Since there is not that much of modern architecture to admire in Athens, you can be attracted by the modern Olympic stadium complex, which is located roughly 40-minute metro drive out of the centre. Between the main stadium (Spiros Luis) and the Velodrome stadium, I enjoyed taking photographs of people walking below the white iron arches. No entrance fee.
- Panathenaic Stadium
This is the famous U-shaped stadium, built completely of marble. Panathenaic stadium was the main venue for the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. The steep tribunes allow for a great view over the whole stadium. On the eastern turbine, you can see the old part of the city and Acropolis. The entrance is paid.
This is by far not a complete list of what you can admire in Athens. There are places with bigger historical value which did not make it to my list, as I focused on places that are primarily attractive for photographers. Other places you might consider of visiting are Omonia Square, Zappeion exhibition centre, and Port of Piraeus. Piraeus is the biggest Greek harbor which was recently leased to China for 50 years. Besides the view at many cruising ships, you can enjoy strolling along the coast and observing some old houses. The most remarkable is the St. Dionysios Church directly at the seaside.
Athens is a great city not only for lovers of ancient archaeology and history, but also for photographers. Parthenon temple on Acropolis is the magnet for all photographers. Acropolis is photogenic both from inside and from other vista points – Filopappou and Lycabettus Hills are arguably the best spots. But there is so much more than just Acropolis. Other recommended places, such as Plaka, Monastiraki Place, Syntagma Square, Temple of Olympian Zeus and Panathenaic Stadium are not far away from Acropolis and not too distant form each other. Spending at least two full days, or ideally at least three days is recommended.
Have you been to Athens? Let us know if this list of 10 Place to Photograph in Athens misses anything.
For further images of Athens in infrared spectrum, visit my blog post here.