Any visit to Athens, capital of Greece, cannot miss out on a trip to the Acropolis. Its location, towering above the heart of the old city, surrounded by large pedestrian streets with cafes, restaurants and the famous Acropolis Museum, makes it the perfect day out.
Considered one of the most significant ancient monuments in Europe and a leading UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Acropolis stands proudly on a rocky hill, constantly reminding us of our ancient past, and the roots of European civilisation.
There is so much to see on and around this site, encompassing so many centuries of history that it would take volumes to do justice. So here is merely a brief snapshot to whet the appetite.
The Parthenon (temple on Acropolis) is dedicated to Athena, the goddess of wisdom and war. Daughter of Zeus, while apparently motherless, she is reputed to have emerged fully grown and dressed from her father’s forehead. Athena was a fierce, but principled warrior, who only took part in wars that endangered her state and home.
She became the matron goddess of Athens after having won a contest against Poseidon (god of the sea and of earthquakes) by offering the locals an olive tree. The locals accepted her gift and named the city after her. Being Zeus’ favourite child gave Athena special privileges, such as using his weapons, including his thunderbolt. She exemplified wisdom, reason and purity and was frequently symbolised as an owl.
History and Archaeology
As with many ancient sites around Greece, the earliest inhabitants in Attica can be dated back to the early Neolithic times, and archaeological finds show that a Mycenaean megaron stood on the hill during the Bronze Age. Soon after this era, a circular wall, which served as a defence for the Acropolis, was erected.
During the Archaic period, a temple to Athena Polias was built around 570-550 BC. This temple was also known as the Hekatompedon or the Original Parthenon, which may have been built where the Parthenon is located now. Between 529-520 BC, the old temple of Athena was constructed between the Erechtheion and the current Parthenon but was later destroyed by the Persians in 480 BC.
After the war, the devastated site was cleared and whatever could not be salvaged, such as cult objects and religious offerings, were ceremoniously buried. These objects, known as ‘Persian Debris’ are the rich archaeological artefacts excavated on the Acropolis.
From 460-431 BC, under the leadership of Pericles, (known as the Golden Age of Athens),most of the major temples, including the current Parthenon were rebuilt under the supervision of the architects Ictinus and Callicrates and the sculptor Phidias.
In 432 BC, the small Temple of Athena Nike was built as well as the preservation of essentials on Greek temples while from 421 to 406 BC, saw the construction of the Temple of Erectheion. The eastern part of this temple was dedicated to Athena Polias while the western part served the cult of Poseidon-Erechtheus and housed the altars of Hephaestus and Voutos.
During the Hellenistic and Roman periods, many of the existing buildings were repaired as a result of age and war, while at the same time monuments to foreign kings were constructed. In 161 AD, the Roman Herodes Atticus built his grand amphitheatre, which was destroyed by invading barbarians but later restored in the 1950’s.
In the Byzantine period, the Parthenon was converted into a church, dedicated to the Virgin Mary. After the Ottoman conquest, the Parthenon was used as the headquarters of the Turkish army and the Erechtheion as the Governor’s private harem. The Parthenon, which was also used to store gunpowder, was severely damaged by artillery fire exchanged between Turks and Venetians in 1687. The dominant feature during the Ottoman period was a mosque inside the Parthenon, however, after the Greek War of Independence, most of the features from the Byzantine and Ottoman periods were cleared out.
The Site Today
We should begin our tour by ascending the Acropolis hill to the Parthenon, symbol of Ancient Greek civilisation and considered the most important monument to date. The Parthenon, which means the home of the virgin, was dedicated to Athena, the goddess of wisdom, war and virginity. It is an excellent example of Doric architectural style, with 8 columns on the narrow side and 17 on the long side. The central part housed a 40-foot-high statue of Athena made of gold and ivory.
To the north of the Parthenon, you will find the most sacred part of the hill which houses the Erechtheion, where all the cults and ceremonies of Athena and Poseidon took place. It is named after Erechthorios, a mythical king with a body of a snake who was killed by Poseidon. The northern porch of the Erechtheion is the most famous as had the Caryatids, 6 sculptures of women that supported the marble roof.
The Propylaea is the main gateway to the Acropolis which consisted of a central hall with two lateral wings and was the only possible entrance to the hill. Next to the Propylaea is the Temple of Athena, which unfortunately is closed to visitors. The temple had an amazing frieze depicting the conference of gods and other mythological scenes, now exhibited in the Acropolis Museum.
Further down the road, you can find the Theatre of Herodes Atticus, named after the wealthy Roman who funded its construction in memory of his wife Regilla. This huge theatre holds up to 5,000 people and it is where music concerts, dance performances and theatrical plays are held every year in the summer Athens Festival.
Follow the path along the Stoa of Eumenes to the Asclepion. The sanctuary was built around 420 BC to worship the physician Asclepios, son of Apollo. From there you can find the Theatre of Dionyssos whose ruins show the greatness of the site.
Our tour will also include a visit to the Acropolis Museum, which houses almost all the artefacts found on the Acropolis from the Greek Bronze Age to the Byzantine period. Some of the highlights of the museum, are the ruins of an ancient Athenian neighbourhood seen through a plexiglass floor at the entrance, the various Kore statues and the five Caryatids. The top floor offers an amazing view of the Parthenon and houses the temple’s sculptures, metopes and a 160m-long frieze depicting the Panathenaic Procession. There are also some surprising impressive reflections on the outside of the museum building. Look carefully and you will find the angle that captures the reflection of the Parthenon itself.
At present, the majority of the frieze is at the British Museum in London (forming the major part of the Elgin Marbles); the largest proportion of the rest is in Athens, and the remainder of fragments shared between six other institutions. Casts of the frieze may be found in the Beazley archive at the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford, at the Spurlock Museum in Urbana, in the Skulpturhalle at Basel and elsewhere.
Telephone: +30 210 3214172
Fax: +30 210 9239023
Tickets: Full: €20, Reduced: €10
Valid for the archaeological site of the Acropolis and its Slopes. Tickets are available only at the ticket office on site.
Special ticket package: Full: €30, Reduced: €15 (Valid for 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
Free admission days:
6 March (in memory of Melina Mercouri)
18 April (International Monuments Day)
18 May (International Museums Day)
The last weekend of September annually (European Heritage Days)
Every first Sunday from November 1st to March 31st
Reduced admission for:
Greek citizens and citizens of other Member- States of the European Union who are over 65 years old, upon presentation of their ID card or passport for verification of their age and country of origin.
Students of University – Higher Education Institutes, Technological Educational Institutes or equivalent Schools of countries from outside the European Union, upon presentation of their student ID cards.
Free admission in certain cases, such as:
Persons with disabilities (67 % or over) and one escort, upon presentation of the certification of disability issued by the Ministry of Health or a medical certification from a public hospital, where the disability and the percentage of disability are clearly stated.
Young people, up to the age of 18, upon presentation of their Identity Card or passport for age confirmation.
Opening times: Daily 08.00-17.00 (Last admission 16.30)
Closed: 1 January, 25 March, 1 May, Easter Sunday, 25 December, 26 December
Amenities for the physically challenged
Elevator available for wheelchairs, people with diminished abilities and any parent attending two or more infants on her/his own. The elevator is located about 350m from the main entrance of the archaeological site.
Users of the elevator should contact in advance for details and terms (+30 210 3214172). The facility is not available during extreme weather conditions and strong winds.
- Metro Station “ACROPOLIS”, then via Dionysiou Areopagitou str.
- Metro Station “ACROPOLIS” then through the archaeological site of South Slope, Dionysiou Areopagitou & Thrasyllou str.
- Metro Station “MONASTIRAKI”, then through the archaeological site of Ancient Agora, or Plaka district.
Note: For security reasons the “Baggage-stroller check-in” service will not accept large luggage. Visitors are allowed to enter the archaeological site with small backpacks and handbags.
Museum Shop at the entrance of the site. Tel. 210-3222816
General admission fee: €5
All images and clips copyright Eric CB Cauchi / Eternal Greece Ltd, unless otherwise stated.