It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Athens, Greece is an alluring destination for study abroad students to explore. As one of the most significant cities for world history, art and architecture, culture and so much more, we’ve all likely learned something about Athens at one point or another. But there are tons of lesser-known facts about the historic city that may surprise you!
Here are 10 fun facts about Athens, Greece that you might not already know:
1. It’s Europe’s oldest capital city.
Athens’ origins date back to 3,000 B.C. To put its age into perspective: the first permanent settlement in the United States (St. Augustine, Florida) wasn’t founded until 1565!
2. The ancient Olympic games were never actually held there.
Athens was the birthplace of the modern Olympic games in 1896. However, the ancient Olympics were never actually held in the Greek capital.
3. It was the birthplace of democracy.
In 500 B.C., a system was enacted in Athens where eligible citizens could directly vote on laws – giving rise to democracy.
4. The marathon was named after a long run to Athens in 490 B.C.
If you’ve ever run (or would like to run) a marathon, you can thank Pheidippides – a Greek soldier who ran from Marathon, Greece to Athens in 490 B.C. His long run inspired today’s 26.2 mile “marathon” event.
5. It was the first European Capital of Culture.
Designated by the European Union each year, the European Capital of Culture celebrates richness and diversity of culture in Europe. Athens was the first city to earn this title.
6. It’s home to one of Greece’s 18 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The Acropolis of Athens, built in 448 B.C. for the Greek goddess Athena, is one of the world’s most famous archaeological sites. It unsurprisingly earned a spot on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list along with 17 other incredible sights in Greece.
7. The first ever plays were performed in Athens.
Athens set the precedent for performing arts, with a history of theater that dates back thousands of years. Today, there are nearly 150 theaters in the city.
8. It’s one of the only cities to have experienced all types of government.
Monarchy, democracy, socialism, capitalism, communism… you name it, Athens has experienced it.
9. The highest temperature ever recorded in Europe was recorded in Athens.
On July 10, 1977, the temperature in Athens reached a record breaking high of 118.4 °F – the hottest temperature ever recorded in Europe.
10. About 18 million tourists visit Athens each year.
That’s about six times Athens’ total population! The Acropolis, the Parthenon, and the Temple of Olympian Zeus are three of the many must-see attractions that draw millions of visitors to Athens each year.