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Temple of Olympian Zeus

The colossal remains of this temple lie in the centre of the city, telling a long and fascinating history.

TravelCurious Tip

Entry is included in your Acropolis ticket – and the temple of Olympian Zeus is considerably quieter.

Standing proud in central Athens, the temple of Olympian Zeus is one of the most remarkable ancient temples anywhere in the world. Certainly it was the largest temple in ancient Greece, and its 17m columns cannot fail to impress the first-time visitor.


640 Years in the Making

Construction began in 520 BC on the orders of a pair of Athenian tyrants, who were looking to create the mightiest temple ever built. To that end, they commissioned three great architects of the day to draw up the plans. These designers did not disappoint. The temple was to be constructed on a vast platform measuring 108m by 41m, with enormous double colonnades at the front and back - a scale that had never been seen before. Unfortunately, the tyrants were overthrown before it could be completed, and the temple lay half-finished for over six hundred years before the Roman emperor Hadrian decided to complete the job. He was then so taken with his own generosity that he had a colossal statue of himself built immediately next door.


Pillars of Hercules

Sadly, the centuries have taken their toll on this ancient monolith. The statue of Hadrian has long gone, and of the 104 Corinthian columns which once supported the roof, just 15 are left standing. It is surprising, though, how little this diminishes their visual impact as they tower above you against the sky. At nearly ten times the height of an average man, it seems impossible that they could have been built so long ago, and so solidly. The effect is awe-inspiring.


Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in Athens
Parthenon
Crowning the Acropolis hill, the sublime marble columns of the Parthenon form the most recognisable monument in Athens.
Erechtheion
This temple across from the Parthenon is famous for its Caryatids, the six larger-than-life female columns which support its roof.
Theatre of Dionysus
One of the earliest preserved theatres in Athens, this space was used during festivals to honour the wine god Dionysus.
Acropolis Museum
Completed in 2009, this archaeological museum has one of the best displays of Greek antiquities in the world.
Plaka Neighbourhood
Like a village in the city, Athens' charming old town is known as the Neighbourhood of the Gods.
National Gardens
The site of an infamous pet monkey bite which changed European history, this central public park was commissioned by Queen Amalia in 1838.

Related Tours

The Greek Essentials – Full Day Highlights of Athens
If you only have a short amount of time in Athens and want to see as much as possible in one day, then this highlight tour is the one for you. On your private full day tour, you will: 

  • Discover Athen's cultural sites, including the remains of the Temple of Zeus and the iconic Acropolis
  • Learn about myths and legends of Ancient Greece 
  • Wander through the New Acropolis Museum, discovering the beautiful art and architecture 
  • Walk along the Agora, the heart of classical Athens, and learn about the origins of democracy 
  • Enjoy a classical Greek lunch, at a place recommended by your guide (price not included in tour)
  • Explore the oldest district in the city, Plaka 
  • Immerse yourself in local life at the Monastiraki flea market
  • Visit the marbled Panathenaic Stadium, constructed for the first modern Olympic Games 
Classical Ruins

With your expert guide you will discover the city’s most important cultural sites, including the colossal remains of the Temple of Zeus and the Acropolis, a UNESCO world heritage site. On the plateau of the Acropolis you will find the awe-inspiring heights of the Parthenon pillars, gaze on the beautiful female forms of the Cartyid columns, discover on some of the earliest theatres known to man and enjoy panoramic views over the city. Your guide will explain the central role these monuments, and more, played in classical society and immerse you in the myths and legends of Ancient Greece.

Archaeological Wonders

After wandering the Parthenon you will visit in the spectacular New Acropolis Museum. Here you will learn firsthand the artistic wonders that once adorned the monuments of the Acropolis. You will also wander through the Agora, the heart of classical Athens. Once a bustling marketplace, in these now peaceful ruins you’ll walk in Socrates’ footsteps amongst classic temples and Byzantine churches, learning how Athens became the birthplace of democracy.

Thriving Capital 

Following a lunch of local cuisine, you will explore bustling Plaka, the oldest district in the city. Sometimes called “the neighbourhood of the gods”, Plaka is known for its winding alleyways and scenic shopping. Immerse yourself in local life at the Monastiraki flea market, before venturing to the grand Syntagma square, home to the Greek Parliament. Watch the presidential guards, in their famous skirted costumes, and be led by your guide through the natural beauty of the National Gardens. 

Finally, you will also visit the stunningly marbled Panathenaic Stadium. Constructed for the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, this immense structure is a strong reminder of the continual legacy of ancient Athens in the modern day. 
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