When you ascend through the 2,500 year-old gate at the summit of the Acropolis plateau in the heart of Athens, you’re a little breathless with anticipation. Then you come face-to-face with the megawatt magnificence of the Parthenon, with its Doric columns and sculpted frieze bathed triumphantly in soft Aegean light.
You come here knowing this is going to be special, but nothing prepares you for just how special.
Historically speaking, the Acropolis represents the bridge between the time of antiquity and birth of modernity. Architecturally, it is the blueprint for Western design, incorporating classic mathematical ratios cooked up by Pythagoras et al.
So it was with no shortage of Greek drama that four architectural contests dating back to 1976 were required to decide on a final design of the Acropolis Museum. The $200 million facility opened in June 2009 with an outpouring of interest bordering on the second coming of Aristotle.
Culture Minister Antonis Samaras called the venue: “The ultimate showcase of classical civilization.”
Visitors can watch an ongoing excavation under the museum through glass floors and open viewing sections. And kudos to Swiss architect Bernard Tschumi who twisted the glass-enclosed top floor 23° off axis for the best view of the Acropolis, which would’ve messed with Pythagoras’ head something fierce.
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Athens Tips Part 2 - Visiting the Acropolis
The Acropolis is the site that most people consider the "can't miss" site. Because of its popularity it can be very busy, and the hours seem to change constantly. There's also the possibility that the tourist site workers might go on strike, which can mess with your plans as well. The two tips I can give you to visiting this site are simple, get there early, and try to do it on your first day.
Getting there early is important because the crowds during the high seasons of May to September can be huge. Many of the visitors to the Acropolis come in large waves of tourist groups, so get there early, and beat them to avoid long waits. By noon the sun is hot and the line-ups are unbearable.
Going on your first day prevents two major problems that might come up. First of all if the site is closed due to strike or holiday, then you know you have a few more days to give it a try. The trick to finding out if the Acropolis is closed, is to find the large flag on the East end of the Acropolis, you often see people leaning over taking pictures. If there's no one there, it might be closed. The other reason you should visit on your first day is because of the bonuses you get with your ticket. Your ticket for the Acropolis allows you entry into 5 other sites in the area, including the Agora, a site that should not be missed.
“One of my most wondrous experiences was a year or two ago at the Acropolis Museum, which is devoted to archaeology. I was invited for a 'state dinner' of sorts. Wandering the museum virtually alone was the closest I’ve been to exploring a ruin on my own. That night’s
dinner took place in the middle of a fierce thunderstorm. It was amazing to look out and watch lightning hit the Acropolis while sitting among ancient Greek works.” —Fred Dust
15 Dionysiou Areopagitou St., 30/210-900-0900. This appeared in the October 2013 issue.
I felt like I was in some sort of trance while I was walking around this museum; it was so amazing to see these statues and sculptures of Gods and Goddesses that I have been intrigued by since I was young.
I thought this museum was also very representative of Athens itself; thousands of years of history combined with modern architecture and technology.
Note: They have a very strict "no photo" policy inside the museum.
Athens was the absolute highlight of my entire trip; it was the destination I was most excited for, and it was a destination that I will cherish visiting for the rest of my life.
The only comparison I can make to how I felt about seeing the Acropolis in real life, is to explain how I felt when I saw Disneyland at the age of five: Complete awe.
For once, do like every tourist and beeline it to the Acropolis, which is terrifying in size and time warps you back to 5th Century BCE. Get a fresh-squeezed OJ at the bottom, as the oranges in Greece are unreal.
All the way across the landscape from the top of the Acropolis is a green-covered hillside topped with an ancient Greek mausoleum and monument dedicated to Gaius Julius Antiochus Epiphanes Philopappos. This site is not only historic but an adventure. Hiking up the small hill is energizing and, if you're into photography, lots of fun to shoot with a zoom lens.
Just amazing. Athens is such a unique city, in that it is so modern, and yet so antique simultaneously. It's really part of the beauty...a re-definition of "modern history." In that vein, DO everything there...EAT everything there...you can taste the richness in the history in every bite, and often for only 2.5 euros :)
The Caryatids, known as The Maidens, support the columns of the Erechtheion or one of the structures atop the Acropolis in Athens.
These girls have been around a long time, but they still have some lessons to learn about skin care.
Note that the one in the front has suffered way more damage from sun and wind than the one behind who was smart enough to hide from the sun. One of the four on the exposed front side looks really, really good, but that is not do to her own efforts. Actually that face was replaced with a plaster copy after the the original was stolen in 1801 by Lord Elgin and spirited off to London.
All kidding aside, these are beautiful, impressive, draped maidens with both an architectural aesthetic and function. With baskets on their heads and placement of their feet they function as support columns for the structure above their heads known as the entablature.
Now don't you feel smart? Smart enough to use your sunscreen?
The Acropolis museum is probably the nicest archaeological museum in all of Athens. That is to say that it is the cleanest, most modern, and easy to interpret. The content is very specific, items found on and around the Acropolis, but it does cover a fairly large timeframe. There isn't much to read about each piece, but there is plenty about each period, and it is very well organized.
Structurally the building is fantastic and modern. The only warning I can tell you is not to wear a skirt, since the floors are made of glass. The reason for this is so you can see all the way through the museum to the dig site found bellow. The top floor of the museum is the crown jewel of the design of this building, holding pieces (and replica pieces) from the Parthenon. The top floor is built in a way to allow the sunlight to hit each piece exactly the same way as it did when they were up on the Acropolis.
My only real complaint about this museum is the strict no photography rule. I've heard many different stories as to why this rule exists, but none of them seem reasonable. This however is no reason to miss the wonderful statues of the Caryatids and their mesmerizing hair.
Yes, the Acropolis, including the Parthenon, is busy and over-run with tourists. With a little patience, however, you will find yourself gazing at awe-inspiring architectural masterpieces from the 5th Century BC. It's well worth it!
Take the time to discover the new Acropolis Museum
The Acropolis Museum, opened in 2009, is a big achievement in the context of modern museums. Even if you are not a "museum person" (guilty) you don't want to miss this as an extension of your visit to the Acropolis.
The museum is built using the same footprint as the Parthenon. It's stylish, spacious, well organized, and above all interesting, right down to the floors. Much of the flooring is glass, allowing visitors to see the excavation sites that lie beneath.
Have a guide take you through so you can fully appreciate why this is one of the most important museums in the world.
The long-awaited opening of the Acropolis Museum did not disappoint. With nearly 4,000 items on display from around the Acropolis, you'll do well to schedule a few hours to visit. This covers everything from the Greek bronze Age to Roman and Byzantine Greece.
The museum is gorgeously laid out -- and you can top off your visit with coffee on the patio restaurant overlooking the Acropolis.
Europe's historical capital is full of artifacts, history and architecture. Cruising from the area and getting to the nearby town of Piraeus means that most travelrs will have to overnight in Athens before their cruise.
There’s nothing old-fashioned about this archaeological museum, where cutting-edge technology is used to clean and digitally reconstruct the statues, ceramics and everyday objects unearthed around the Acropolis. Traces of ancient Athens are visible beneath reinforced glass floors. The bittersweet pièce de résistance is the Parthenon frieze, partially hacked off by Lord Elgin and sold to the British Museum. The view from the restaurant, its terrace almost touching the Parthenon, is a knockout, as is the well-priced Greek food.
Visit the Acropolis Museum first for the extensive history on this architectural wonder and see so many of the ancient artifacts found at the site. The next morning visit as early as possible to avoid the crowds and enjoy the marvelous views.