This has to be one of the coolest places that I visited in Athens (aside from the Acropolis) because it was completely unexpected and right up my alley in terms of visiting sports related sites.
This is where the marathon ended during the 2004 Athens Olympics and the entire arena has been refurbished. It’s stunning to walk around the arena and learn about the history as you take the self guided audio guide. It cost 5 Euros to enter and I thought it was really worth it. It also won’t take a lot of time since the entire arena can be toured in about 90 mins.
The arena is located just down the road from the Temple of Olympian Zeus/Hadrian’s Arch. If you enjoy doing one of those “hop on hop off” bus tours, they all seemed to stop at the arena. I was actually walking to a different site when I stumbled across the arena so I just got lucky.
To be honest, it’s kind of surprising to think that you can miss it since it’s so huge. It certainly looks huge from the street but it’s even larger when you get a chance to walk around it. I was surprised by how few people were there considering how close it is from Hadrian’s Arch. However, I believe the fact that it is a separate ticket to enter may have something to do with its lack of popularity. Either that or maybe people just aren’t that into sports.
The stadium itself it massive and incredible to think that it was originally built centuries ago. It’s built entirely of marble and the site is will just leave you in awe. Also, look closely at the rows along the track. You’ll notice that they’re curved instead of being straight. That was to allow all the spectators a good view without being blocked by the person in front. How brilliant is that?
There’s also a tunnel where the athletes used to come out onto the track but is now the entrance to the Olympic offices. I’m going to call it that since they had some memorabilia from the Olympics there (not a lot) but enough to certainly look around for a few minutes and check out the torches used in the Olympic torch relay.
As you exit the tunnel, take some time to walk around the track and if you’re will some friends, have an impromptu race. This is the site of the end of the marathon for the 2004 Olympics after all.
If you enjoy watching the Olympics or sports in general, I think you have to go visit. It was so interesting to see the overall design and just how brilliantly designed the arena is for the spectators. I think anyone who goes will be interested to learn about the arena, the history, and the design that makes it stunning.