Acropolis, Athens 116 36, Greece

Obviously, you can’t visit Athens without climbing up “the rock” (as locals fondly call the Acropolis) to commune with its crowning glory: the Parthenon. Although visible from most places in the city, getting up close to one of the undisputed masterpieces of Western civilization is an experience that never disappoints. Even on a scorching day, with hundreds of visitors around and the concrete city clamouring for your attention, the impact is profound. The Parthenon has a timeless beauty, striking in its symmetrical simplicity. Other glorious monuments scattered around the slopes include the Erecthion, propped up by the graceful caryatids, and the Temple of Athena Nike. To fully appreciate the complex history of the Acropolis—which has been everything from a Christian church to a mosque to an arsenal and a shanty town over the ages—it’s well worth enlisting the services of a professional guide, or investing in Mary Beard’s wonderful book, The Parthenon. That way you won’t make the same mistake as Shaquille O’Neal; when a reporter asked whether he’d visited the Parthenon during a trip to Greece, O’Neal replied: “I can’t really remember the names of the clubs we went to.”

Top tip: Buy a multi-site ticket that gives you single access to the Acropolis and 10 other archaeological sites and is valid for five days. Go as early, or as late, in the day as you can to avoid the summer heat and crowds.

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Athens Tips Part 2 - Visiting the Acropolis

The Acropolis is, for most people, 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 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 queues are unbearable. Going on your first day means that if the site is closed, you still have a few more days to give it a try. To find out if it is closed before climbing up, look for the large flag on the east end of the Acropolis. If there’s no one there, leaning over and taking pictures, it might be closed. The other reason you should visit on your first day is because your ticket for the Acropolis provides entry to five other sites in the area, including the Agora, another highlight that should not be missed.

Like a Kid at Disneyland!

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.

The Tourist-y Athens Thing That You Still Must Do

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.

The Philopappos Monument

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.

A butterfly on the Acropolis

It’s rare when something so beautiful will stop and sit still long enough for you to grab a good photo of it. I am thankful for this butterfly for her pose.

The view of Athens from the Acropolis

So you might have grabbed plenty of photos of the ancient ruins, but don’t pass up the chance to capture the dense urban landscape of the city with Mount Lycabettus poking up in the distance.

Acropolis At Night

On the rooftop of Sissifous Restaurant in Plaka.

A Whole within a Hole

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 can taste the richness in the history in every bite, and often for only 2.5 euros :)

Hey! Use the Sunscreen!

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?

Athens Acropolis

Catching the Erechtheion of the Acropolis on a clear day.

Don't miss a visit with ancient history

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!

Antiquities Aplenty in Athens

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.

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