Acropolis Hill, Athens, Greece

Greek soldier

Greek soldier’s pom-pom clogs. Difficult to believe but they’re ceremonial, not actually battle-field attire.

Syntagma Square is a natural starting point for a walk around some of Athens best sights.

After admiring both the footwork and footwear of soldiers on duty outside the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (which is attached to the dull Greek Parliament building), head down the hill a few minutes to the. . .

Temple of Olympian Zeus, athens, greece

. . . Temple of Olympian Zeus, which is impressively tall, lacking in tourist numbers and gives a great view of the main attraction, Acropolis Hill and the Parthenon temple.

Remnants of the largest temple in Athens as well as Greece, the Temple of Olympian Zeus stands lonely as only a dozen massive Corinthian columns can. Started in 6thC BC and finished 700 years later by Rome’s Hadrian, it’s always been big and clever but could not compete with it’s smarter, prettier little sister, the Parthenon visible on Acropolis hill in the background.

To get to the Parthenon from here you walk on a pleasant flat path beside the hill to the other side (in the photo), at which point the climbing starts, up to. . .

acropolis ticket office and crowds, athens, greece

. . . the ticket office level, where the crowds become substantial, so try to make it early, about 8am, or late, about 5pm.

The Acropolis (high city), one of Europe’s most important ancient sites, consists of all the monuments built on the elevated area of Athens’ Acropolis Hill, while the Parthenon is the crown, a temple (on the right) dedicated to Athena and also used to store monetary gifts.

The temple was finished in 438 BC. Inside, the statue of Athena was covered in gold plate and 12 metres high, holding – among other things – a small staue of Nike, the goddess of victory. (So now you can win some bets down at the pub).

The spectacular New Acropolis Museum, is fully open to the public. This magnificent new building, in sight of the actual Acropolis is a work of art itself and deserves a half-day visit at little cost.

Avoiding queues:
– for the Acropolis temple in peak seasons avoid the shuffling and mooing herds by arriving at 8am or after 5pm.
– for the spectacular top floor gallery (featuring the Parthenon frieze) try for advance tickets to the Museum.

the Odeon of Herodes Atticus theatre, athens, greece

On Acropolis Hill before reaching the Parthenon there’s an ancient amphitheatre, the Odeon (Odeum) of Herodes Atticus on the right side (the show still goes on there), and. . .

Built by a rich Roman, Herodes Atticus, nearly 2, 000 years ago, and second only to the city’s huge and now decrepit Theatre of Dionysos, you too, world traveller supreme, can sit on these ancient Acropolis stones (hopefully padded with 21stC foam), backs to the floodlit Parthenon, and watch ancient, unintelligible Greek drama during the Athens Festival (mid June – end of August).

Erechtheion temple, acropolis hill, athens, greece

. . . the small Erechtheion temple on the left side featuring the ‘Porch of Maidens’ supporting the roof. These six maidens are exact replicas of the originals five of which are now in the New Acropolis Museum, while one is in the British Museum.

parthenon drama, acropolis hill, athens, greece

The Parthenon on Acropolis Hill, interminably under seige by scaffolding.

A few facts about the Parthenon

The most astonishing feature of the Parthenon is how the lines of the foundations and columns were curved inwards or outwards to achieve the optical illusion of perfectly parallel, vertical lines. The building was originally painted with many bright colours, including gold.

The Parthenon was a temple originally dedicated to the goddess Athena Parthenos, patron of the city of Athens. It was finished in 438 BC and also saw duty as a treasury for the Athenian Empire, a Christian church about 400 AD and a Muslim mosque including minaret over the next 400 years of Ottoman Turk occupation.

In 1687 under seige by the Venetians an Ottoman ammunition dump in the temple blew up, badly damaging the structure and many sculptures.

In 1806 the Earl of Elgin asked the Ottoman Turks permission to remove sculptures for their safety and protection. He received it, transported the marbles to England and ten years later sold them to the British Museum in London, where they are known as the Elgin Marbles.

In 1975 the Greek government began a massive, EU-funded Parthenon restoration project; since 1983 the Greeks have also been trying to recover the Elgin Marbles from the British Museum.

Visit Acropolis

Note that out of season is a good time to avoid the tourist masses but on top of Acropolis Hill can get VERY windy and cold in winter.

A guide is useful as there is a lot of fascinating information about the structure and it’s engineering.

In the summer season going as early as possible has two benefits – the heat is bearable and the tourist numbers less overwhelming. Early means 8am. Failing that try at 5pm; Acropolis Hill should be open until 8pm.

Entry to the Acropolis Hill complex is free for people under 19, students in EU universities. There are also many free days for everyone, such as Sundays from 1 November to 31 March. For more check the official site information.

Don’t forget to visit the new Acropolis Museum.

parthenon reconstruction painting, acropolis hill, athens, greece

‘Reconstruction of the Acropolis and Areus Pagus in Athens’. A painting by Leo von Klenze in 1846.