One small, graceful monument you might easily miss is the 4th-century-B.C. Choregic Monument of Lysikrates, on Lysikratous in the Plaka, located a few steps from the excellent Daphne's restaurant. This circular monument with Corinthian columns and a domed roof bears an inscription stating that Lysikrates erected it when he won the award in 334 B.C. for the best musical performance with a "chorus of boys." A frieze shows Dionysos busily trying to turn evil pirates into friendly dolphins.

Three hills near the Acropolis deserve a respectful glance: Areopagus, Pnyx, and Filopappos. Areopagus is the bald marble hill across from the entrance to the Acropolis; it is so slippery, despite its marble steps, that it is never an easy climb, and it is treacherous in the rain. This makes it hard to imagine the Athenians who served on the council and court making their way up here. Still harder to imagine is St. Paul on this slippery perch thundering out criticisms of the Athenians for their superstitions.

From the Areopagus and Acropolis, you can see two nearby wooded hills. The one with the monument visible on its summit is Filopappos (Hill of the Muses). The monument is the funeral stele of the Roman consul after whom the hill is named. You can take pleasant walks on the hill's wooded slopes; view a Byzantine church, Ayios Demetrios; and see the Dora Stratou Theater, where you can watch folk dances being performed. If you climb to the summit (at night, don't try this alone or wander here or on Pnyx hill) and face the Acropolis, you can imagine the moment in 1687 when the Venetian commander Morosini shouted "Fire!" -- and cannon shells struck the Parthenon.

Pnyx hill, crowned by the Athens Observatory, is where Athens's citizen assembly met. As much as any spot in Athens -- which is to say, anyplace in the world -- it is the "birthplace of democracy." Here, for the first time, every citizen could vote on every matter of common importance. True, citizens did not include women, and there were far more slaves than citizens in Athens -- as was the case in most of the world for a very long time after this democracy was born.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.