No visit to Greece is complete without a trip to the Acropolis of Athens. Read our guide for insider tips and handy information to get the most out of your trip and see ancient history come alive.
For visitors looking to take a trip through time to see Greece’s rich ancient history, the Acropolis of Athens is undoubtedly the place to begin the journey.
The country’s most intriguing archaeological site will dazzle you with its ancient splendor and bring the past to life before your eyes. Perched like a jungle jim upon a rocky outcrop overlooking the capital, the Acropolis teems with stunningly preserved ancient architecture that’s stood for thousands of years.
Visitors to Athens simply have to pay it a visit, where every paving stone tells a story, and legend lay in wait around every corner. We’ve put together the perfect guide for anyone visiting the site, to help make your visit to the Acropolis of Athens simply unforgettable.
What is the Definition of “Acropolis”?
“Acropolis” is an ancient Greek word for any settlement or city built on top of a hill. It’s a compound of “acro” (meaning “edge”) and “polis” (meaning “city”).
Although the term was technically applied to every settlement built on high ground at the time, the fame of the Acropolis of Athens is such that when you say “acropolis” to a Greek person, it’s the only site they’ll think of.
During the time of Ancient Greece, it was more formally referred to as “Cecropia”, named after the first king of Athens, the legendary Cercops.
Short History of the Acropolis of Athens
The Acropolis of Athens is situated on a large hill that’s been a site of human habitation since 5000 BC.
However, the iconic Parthenon structure that’s world-famous today was constructed around 500 BC by the politician Pericles during Athen’s historical golden age.
Since then, the Acropolis has been the host of various religious sites to Greek gods, the Virgin Mary, and even a mosque.
Despite being badly damaged in a war between Venice and the Ottoman Empire in 1687, the site is remarkably well preserved, and decades of restoration efforts still continue today.
The Monuments of the Acropolis
The Acropolis hosts dozens of sites of historical interest, and we’d urge visitors to seek all of them out during their trip.
Built-in 432 BC, the Propylae is the iconic marble construction that you will pass through as you enter from up the hill, from where you can go on to see the temple to Apteros Nike and Erechthion.
Smaller buildings include the Vravronio of Artemis, the theater honoring Dionysus, and the Great Conservatory.
There’s also the famous Holy Rock, where kings and emperors would bring rich tributes worth more than a 300 % casino bonus in order to win the gods’ favor.
However, there is one structure that stands above all others, historically and physically, and is truly one of the greatest wonders of the ancient world.
Originally a temple to the goddess of wisdom Athena, the Parthenon was one of the largest construction projects in the history of Ancient Greece. Its construction marked a high point of the so-called “Golden Age of Athens” in the 5th Century BC, during which Athens became the seat of power and culture in the region.
The massive columned structure is one of the few ancient Greek temples constructed entirely from marble, notable for the decorations carved by the famous sculptor Pheidias.
These designs, known as metopes, depict epic scenes from legendary battles and great mythology. Sadly, many of the incredible sculptures that once filled the Parthenon have been destroyed or looted during the intermittent conflicts that befell the city. But the architectural magnificence of the building still has the power to awe visitors with its incredible grandeur.
The Temple of Athena Nike
At the southwestern edges of the site, you’ll find the temple of Athena Nike. Though modest compared to its neighbors, the temple has plenty of outstanding architectural features for visitors to enjoy. It was built for worshiping the ancient deity Nike, the god of victory and, according to mythology, a close companion of the goddess Athena. Interestingly, it’s the same Nike that the world-famous sports shoe company took its name from!
Directions to the Acropolis of Athens for Visitors
Fortunately for guests, the Acropolis is bang smack in Athens’ city center, just a couple of minutes on foot from Monastiraki Square. You can also jump on the metro and take the red line to Acropolis Station. During the summer, opening hours are between 8:00 AM to 20:00 PM, and entry costs €20 for the whole site. Be sure to visit the Acropolis Museum for an up-close look at many of the ancient artifacts dating back directly to the site.
Tips for Visiting the Acropolis
Visiting the Acropolis is a big deal, and it pays to make the right preparations to get the maximum value from the experience. Follow these handy tips to get the most out of your trip to the Acropolis of Athens:
- Dress for comfort: It’s a good idea to wear layers for your trip to the Acropolis, since the Athenian weather can go from chilly to scorching, depending on the time of your visit. Wear comfy shoes with good grip, since some parts of the site can have uncertain terrain.
- Plan for the heat: Athens can become unbelievably hot, particularly in the middle of the afternoon. Don’t go anywhere without sunglasses, a sun hat, and a bottle of sunscreen. Also be sure to take more water than you think you’ll need.
- Travel light: Since large pieces of luggage aren’t allowed in the Acropolis, you’ll need to travel light with small rucksacks and handbags. This is a good idea anyway, since you don’t want to trek up the hill to the Acropolis with big weights on your back.
- Time your trip correctly: Make an early start on your trip to the Acropolis of Athens. Not only will you beat the crowds, but you can also finish your visit before the intense afternoon heat makes sightseeing uncomfortable. Alternatively, you can visit the site an hour or two before closing time, to enjoy the surroundings under the beauty of an Athenian sunset.
- Take your time: Your visit to the Acropolis of Athens is something to savor, so don’t rush your way through the site when you arrive. There’s so much to take in when visiting this historical wonder, and you won’t want to miss any of it.
- Visit the Acropolis Museum: Admittedly, the big attraction of the Acropolis is the stunning architecture, but visiting the museum lets you get an up-close look at many fascinating artifacts that will help bring the site’s history to life.
Conclusion: Relive Ancient History at the Acropolis of Athens
When talking about essential sites to visit in Greece, much less Athens, the Acropolis has to be at the top of the list. Follow these tips to make sure you get the most out of your visit in style and comfort for a memory you can treasure forever. Have you visited the Acropolis before? Is there any advice you’d give for people wanting to visit? Let us know in the comments section below.
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