Athens – The Acropolis

Once in a lifetime

When we think about Athens we spontaneously think about the Acropolis and the Parthenon. The Acropolis is the dominant hill and the Parthenon among other historical buildings proudly stand on the top of a flat rock.

The Acropolis is more than the Parthenon, you can see the ruins of the Propylia, the temple of Athena Nike and the Erechtheion as well.

On your way to the top of the Acropolis you will also see the Theater of Dionysus, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus and the Statue of Menander.

If you visit Athens, it is a most to visit this place at least once in your lifetime. It is the best historical site in terms of actual visual structure.

From the top, walk around and look down at the city. Beautiful views.

The Acropolis is a popular site and therefore the line to access the site can be long.

Again you will see:

  • Statue of Menander
  • Theater of Dionysus
  • Odeon of Herodes Atticus
  • Propylia
  • Parthenon
  • Temple of Athena Nike
  • Erechtheion

Here are more details:

Statue of Menander

To us visitors, we might not know who Menander was but logically next to the Theater of Dionysus we could have concluded that he played a role in this field and we would have been correct. Menander was a Greek dramatist and a recognized symbol of the Athenian New Comedy.  While most of his work was lost during the Middle Age, only parts of very few of the 108 comedies he wrote was found and other authors and comedians referred to him and his work. The title and the importance of this public figure to Greek culture during his time and after are undeniable and thus, explaining the fact that he deserves a spot in the Acropolis site.

Theatre of Dionysus

While it sits at the foot of the hill, you are most than likely to see it on your way up when you are on the south side of the Acropolis. Don’t underestimate this place, it is said to be the first theater ever built and a great place for major artistic presentation event such as Greek comedy.  Artists performed in front of as many as 19,000 people. Unfortunately it does not look this impressive today.

You will see two important theater on your way to the Acropolis this one is the oldest and both are often mistaken.  I went back to my photo to ensure I was taking about the correct one.

During my visit to Greece, I’ve seen many times the name Dionysus and I only understood on my return that Dionysus was actually the god of plays, wine, fertility and more. Thus the reason why he was honored on many occasions.

Part of this open air auditorium (it was reaching out even higher on the hill) have not survived the turbulent years however, do not just pass by.  Sit on the stone bench, you can see a new perceptive and the hidden sculptures not visible when just passing by. Climb high and look at the floors. Nice.

Odeon of Herodes Atticus Theater

This is one of the two theater accessible on the slope of the Acropolis. This one is not the oldest but the one that has been renovated to welcome artists from around the world still today. The whole surrounding, the façade, the love story of Herodes Atticus, the city backstage and the Acropolis hill immediately behind makes this place way bigger than the 5,000 spectators capacity. No wonder why it is still active today and many musical performance have been held here. It provides a unique stage and show.

Propylaea 

In Greek architecture, the porch or the entrance to an important site is called a Propylaea. 

The Propylaea to the Acropolis is a great architectural example of this imposing Greek gate that leads you the monuments.

The structure is light in color and imposing in size.  We have to wonder how did built such a remarkable gate at the time that cars did not exist. The balanced fix very tall marble columns sitting just the edge of the hill, is amazing.  You will be impressed and realize its amplitude as you get closer.  It is not easy to just stop and look in this section you kind a need to move with the crowd.  

On your way up if you can look on your right to see the Temple of Athena Nike.

Parthenon

The Parthenon sits proudly on top of the Acropolis Hill and as soon as you cross the Propylaea, you fill attracted to go up close.  The Parthenon dedicated to the goddess Athena was completed in 438 BC.

Due to its size, it can be seen from many locations in the city.

Today, luckily the basic structure still remains tall compared to other ruins in Athens.  It gives a glimpse at the general overall size and imposing arrangement.

Erechtheion

Next to the Parthenon, is the Erechtheion.  What I liked about this building is the fact that it is different.  Typical ruins are supersize buildings with imposing columns with frieze. This one has a unique feature.  On one side, as you are coming in the Propylaea and see the Acropolis, you also see a porch with larger-than-life draped ladies columns.   

While we saw the original version of the ladies in the Acropolis Museum, seeing the actual location and the surrounding is something even better.  It is a great idea to have created replicas since it give the perceptive and stature when sitting right next to the Pantheon.

Temple of Athena Nike

There are a few buildings/structures while atop of the Acropolis and this one is a little shy.  Yes, because of its size and its location.  Situated on the edge of the hill you are likely to be looking at your steps on your way up or down to access the gate and you may easily miss it. 

On your way up once you cross the gate you will probably be naturally attracted to the Parthenon just in front of you. As you circle it, you may forget to turn around to see the Temple of Athena Nike.

When and if you take the time to look at it, it is clear that maintenance and conservation work has been done on the building.  While it is small it looks solid with its beautiful golden white marble and four (4) columns on opposite sides of the temple, which all used to be a single piece stone columns. It says that at one point a wingless statue of Athena Nike was inside, symbol of victory in the hope that it will never leave the city.

Acropolis – Suggestions

My suggestions:

  1. Don’t postpone

During the summer, it can get very hot. To the point that they may close the site due to heat.  So, when you can go.

  • Dress well

The path is not always level and you will be in full sun. Good shoes, no heels is better.

  • Water

It can get very hot on top of the rock and there is with limited trees.  We noticed one water fountain with a line up but just bring water. I would not count on it on the top.

  • Skip the line

Buy a multi-site ticket at another attraction and pass the ticket booth.

You can go to one of the following less crowded attractions: Ancient Agora, Roman Agora, Hadrian’s Library, Temple of Olympian Zeus, Kerameikos, Aristotle’s School

So when you get to the Acropolis ticket booth you do not need to do the line-up! The difference in price was totally worth it to us.

  • Time

Allow sufficient time. Give yourself time to enjoy your way up, stop at the different historical points, take time to look at the buildings and also have a view at the city around. The ones who go too quickly may be missing something.  Enjoy the site.

  • Climb

The climb is easy, so if you can, do it, try. On your way up, go at your rhythm and stop.  Sometimes, you can be surprise of things you can see when you sit down and look around.

  • Visit the Acropolis Museum first

Unfortunately you can’t skip the line at the museum but it is a good way to see the original version of the art with more details.

  • Pickpockets

Careful at the bottom of the Acropolis near the ticket booth yep! It happened to me – group of young girls.

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