I hope you like history as much as I do, since this blog will highlight one of Greece most famous and interesting sites: The Acropolis! I guess everyone who is planning a trip to Athens wants to see the Acropolis with its impressive Parthenon. However, a visit to the Acropolis is not only interesting for those who are willing to learn more and actually see parts of history, the place offers some impressive views and a nice walk through nature beside it’s incredible monuments and sites.
Although I didn’t study history and I am not an expert at all, I would love to share what I have learned so far about the fascinating history of this place. I think whether you are interested in history or not, this blog will be very helpful if you are planning a visit to the Acropolis. Furthermore I would like to point out that a visit to the Acropolis is a “don’t miss” for sure during a stay in Athens. I am sure you will be just as speechless as I was when you are on top of this incredible ancient citadel of Athens.
For a visual impression, click on the picture below:
Highlights of the Acropolis
The first thing you see when you enter the Acropolis is the Propylaia. This amazing entrance with huge columns make me feel small every time I walk through them. I can imagine this entrance must have been impressive for all visitor of the Acropolis during all periods. Although it might not be recommendable to visit the Acropolis on the middle of the day, since it’s a bit of a climb, I love to see the sun rays shining through the multiple columns. Not only the Propylaia is what is making the entrance impressive, once you are standing in front of it and look behind you, you will have the first incredible view on Athens.
After walking through the entrance the first thing you see is the enormous Parthenon. Also the next stunning view on the City always surprises me, but anyway, there is no way I can do anything else than admire the mighty Parthenon. It’s not that I like the style of this building so much. It is built in Dorian style, which is not my favourite style at all, furthermore there is not much left of the incredible work of art once placed on top of it. However, the huge size of the building in front of this incredible big city is one of the things that makes this building so impressive for me. Also knowing that the temple of the Acropolis was built in between 447 and 432 BC makes me wonder how much hard work was done to put together all these marble stones in a perfect precision.
You can walk around the Parthenon and in between enjoy the view on Athens. I always immediately go right, where you have a view on the sea and my current home town Piraeus. When you have reached the other part of the Parthenon you can still see the old Acropolis museum. This is where I like the view on the Parthenon the most, since at this part it is not surrounded by risers at this moment.
After a while you will pass by the Sanctuary of Zeus Polieus. It was built on the highest point of the Acropolis, however, nothing of this temple has remained.
Much more interesting is the Erechtheion and the Pandroseion, which comes next. I especially like the south porch, where six statues supported the roof of this old sacred place of worship. The statues you see on the sites are replacements. You can see five remaining statues in the Acropolis Museum. The Erectheion was meant to be a place to worship and tell about the gods, the myths and the sacred shrines.
When I have finished my round on top of the Acropolis I feel always a bit restrained, another walk through the amazing entrance is attractive, but am I sure I am done? I never get tired of the view on the incredible city of Athens but also the ancient buildings surprises me with new impressions every time. However, there are still some amazing slopes to discover on the site.
The view from the top of the Acropolis on the Odeion of Herodes Atticus and the Theatre of Dionysos is pretty incredible. When you are looking at the historical buildings from above you will have a good view on the complete complexes. However, after visiting the top of the Acropolis you can pass by both slopes when you walk downwards. During Odeion of Herodes Atticus is still used for opera’s, music concerts and antique Greek Tragedies.
After a visit to the Acropolis, a visit to the Acropolis Museum is indispensable. This is where you can observe a collection of findings of the archaeological site, the Acropolis which includes the enormous groups of architectural sculptures. I have learned a lot during my visits to the Acropolis Museum, partly due to the logical and clear set-up, but also because of the understandable clarifications and the friendly employees who love to share their knowledge with you.
Beside the very interesting history the Acropolis Museum can teach you, a walk through this building is just wonderful. Especially on the third flour from where you have an amazing view on the Acropolis and the historical city of Athens. The museum has a lovely atmosphere and my favourite time to walk around the third floor is when the sun is going down and the Acropolis is lighted up.
Since the history of this place in my opinion, is so interesting and I cannot hold myself from sharing the small knowledge I have, but also because I think knowing a small part of the history of this place will enriched a visit to the Acropolis, I wrote a brief history.
Although the first traces of human presence are found during the Neolithic Period (6000-3100 BC),
the decrease in settlement on the Acropolis slopes started during the Bronze Age (3100-100 BC). The Mycenaean’s started building a palace which was destroyed at the end of this period.
During the early Iron Age (1100-700 BC.) the first temple of Athene Polias was build and not much later, during the Archaic Period (700-480 BC), the citizens started with a renovation of the Mycenaean gate. At the end of the Archaic Period the constructions of the Theatre of Dionysos (south slope) where started.
The Classical Period (480-323) is where, in my personal opinion, it all got more interesting. After the Persians destroyed huge parts of the area, new walls where build and constructions of the Parthenon, the, Temple of Athena Nike, the Propylaea (the monumental gates) and the Odeion of Perikles where started. It was all a part of Perikles impressive rebuilding plans.
Sadly the gold plates from the garment of Athena Parthenos statue where stripped to use as a payment during the Hellenistic Period. After being under Macedonian rule for a while, Athens became under Roman rule during the Roman Period (86 BC – AD 267). In this period the Odeion of Herodes Atticus was build.
The real decline of the Acropolis started during the Byzantine Period (7 – 12 cents AD). After a fire that burned parts of the Parthenon, the statue of Athena Promachos was transferred to Constantinople (current Istanbul) and the Acropolis was transformed into a fort and Christian Sanctuary. Like many other building the Parthenon was turned into a church.
After the Pantheon functioned as a temple for Athena and a church, the place was also turned into a mosque during the Ottoman Period (AD 1456-1833). I think most of the damage on the Acropolis has been done during this period. However, a minaret was placed on the Acropolis and the remained buildings where used as headquarters of the Ottoman. Parts of the historical place where ruined after an explosion caused by a lightning in the powder store. Not much later the Parthenon got bombed by Venetians.
At the end of the Ottoman empire, many works of art from Acropolis where shipped to London. Some of them still are stile exhibited in the British Museum of London.
In 1834 the Acropolis was declared as an archaeological site.
Ticket Acropolis: €20,- (€10,- reduced)
Valid for the archaeological site of the Acropolis and its Slopes.
Special ticket package: €30,- (€15,- reduced)
5 days valid for: Acropolis of Athens, Ancient Agora of Athens, Archaeological Museum of Kerameikos, Archaeological Site of Lykeion, Hadrian’s Library, Kerameikos, Museum of the Ancient Agora, North slope of Acropolis, Olympieio, Roman Agora of Athens, South Slope of Acropolis
Ticket Acropolis museum: €5,-
How to get there: The closest metro stop is Acropolis on the red line of the Metro. However I prefer to start my walk on Thissio on the green line of the metro.
How much time do you need: Take a full day to visit the Acropolis, its slopes and the museum.
Wear good shoes, to be more specific, wear steady shoes. The Acropolis reaches a height of 156 meter and the stones can be pretty slippery.
During summer times, don’t plan your trip at the middle of the day. Athens can be pretty hot and as I mentioned in my previous point, it’s a bit of a climb getting there. Also the place will be crowded during these times.
Buy your ticket the day before to avoid the huge lines at the ticket desk during summer. At high season the site is open until 8 PM. If you buy your ticket a half hour before closing, no one will be in the line for a ticket anymore and it is possible to buy your ticket for the next day.
Watch a documentary about the Acropolis or the Parthenon. When you are not a history nerd or bookworm like me, this might be a good way to get some knowledge about this amazing place and will for sure enrich your visit. There are plenty of documentaries about the site and some of them are pretty good.
Watch the Acropolis from a different perspective, next to the Acropolis in the centre of Athens you may find a quiet and peaceful hill surrounded by green. I love to walk around here and an great benefit is the stunning view on the city which includes the Acropolis. If you have some time left, or you are not willing to pay for a ticket, walking Philipapos hill is an great opportunity to admire the Acropolis.