16 Things to Know Before you Visit the Acropolis of Athens

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Acropolis-Athens-Greece

A trip to Athens in Greece is not complete unless you have visited the Sacred Acropolis Hill of Athens. The Acropolis of Athens, a UNESCO-listed World Heritage, is the most striking and complete ancient Greek monumental complex still existing in our times.

Acropolis Athens Propylae with people climbing
Propylaea and Athena Nike Temple in Acropolis Hill

If you have questions about Acropolis Hill of Athens but have little time to go through each and every historical detail, you will love this post. I have all the basic information about Acropolis in Athens set in short questions and answers!

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Let’s find out all about the Acropolis of Athens!

1. Are Acropolis of Athens and Parthenon the Same?

Acropolis Hill, in Athens center

Not exactly.

Acropolis is a rocky hill, in Athens center, 156 meters above the Saronic sea. Acropolis Hill used to be the largest and most stunning complex in Ancient Greece, reaching its peak in the 5th century BC.

Today, on Acropolis Hill, the visitor can see up close the remains of a variety of constructions:

Model of Acropolis of Athens in the 5th century BC by University of Texas
  • Classical Greece Temples devoted to ancient Greek gods (Parthenon, Erechtheion, Athena Nike)
  • Monumental Entryways (Propylaea) and the Acropolis Walls
  • The Greek Classical Theater of Dionysus Eleuthereus
  • Small Brauronia (or Vravronia) Sanctuary devoted to Artemis (The main Sanctuary of Artemis was in Vravrona)
  • Chalkotheke
  • Roman Constructions (Rome and Augustus Temple, Agrippa’s Base, Beule Gate, Odeon of Herodes Attikos)
Evgenia in Acropolis Parthenon
Me (in red) in front of the Parthenon Temple

Parthenon Temple was the main, the largest, and the most elaborate mixed Doric and Ionic Temple of Acropolis Hill, dedicated to Athena Parthenos (Virgin).  Parthenon was built between 447 and 438 BC, designed by the great architects Iktinos and Callicrates.

Acropolis in Athens the Parthenon with scafoolding
Parthenon Temple western side

The Parthenon Temple became the center of religious life in Athens and a symbol of Athenian democracy and power. The combination of Parthenon Doric metopes and the Ionic frieze on the walls are considered unique masterpieces. 

2. Why is the Acropolis called ‘Sacred Hill’?

Map of ancient greek sanctuaries
Ancient Greek Sancturaries

Ancient Greece had many Sanctuaries, five of which were sacred areas in Greece: Delphi, Athens, Eleusina, Olympia in Peloponnese, and Delos island near Mykonos.

3. Why did the Ancient Greeks build Acropolis?

Pericles with his companion Aspasia discuss with Pheidias about the Parthenon Sculptures – credit AFP

Pericles (c. 495-429 BC), Athens ruler and orator, at the peak of Athenian Democracy, launched a monumental construction in Acropolis to celebrate the Greek victory against the Persians in the Marathon Battle in 490 BC and in Salamina in 480 BC.

Propylea Acropolis of Athens
Propylaea in Acropolis

After the joined Greek victory against the Persians, the Athenians were becoming more and more powerful. Athens, from a member of the victorious Greek city-state alliance (the Delian Alliance), became a leader, and the other cities started paying taxes to Athens.

Acropolis Propylea roof
Roof of Propylaea

The whole of Athens, Acropolis Hill included, was totally destroyed in 480 BC by the Persians. Pericles persuaded the Athenian council that they should not only replace the destroyed Temples but also build a monumental Temple for their protector goddess, Athena, as a symbol of their leadership and victory.

Reproduction of the internal part of Parthenon with Athena Statue – Hulton Archive

Besides the Temples, a gigantic 12-meter-high statue of Athena was created by Pheidias inside the Parthenon, using ivory and gold. The statue was removed by the Romans in the 5th century AD, some 1000 years later than when it was erected. A rumor says that it was transferred to the Constantinopole in the 10th century.

Varvakios Athena in the National Archaeological Museum

There is no trace left of this statue today but there are several small-scale Roman copies like the ones in Lenormant and Pergamon. One Roman replica, the Varvakios Athena – not the most accurate though as it misses the figures carved on the base – can be seen in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.

4. What are the Temples on Acropolis made of?

Erechtheion Temple

The Acropolis Temples were made from white crystalline marble quarried from Mount Pentelicus, located 10 miles to the northeast of Athens.

Karyatides Maidens in Erechtheion Temple

From Mount Pentelicus, the workers using a downhill road had to transport the marble all the way to Athens. Upon arriving they had to carry the rocks up the steep slopes of the Acropolis. It must have been a very difficult project for the workers.

5. Where is Acropolis Entrance?

Main Entrance of Acropolis Athens

There are two entrances to the Acropolis of Athens, the northwest main Acropolis entrance and the southeast of the site, on Dionysiou Areopagitou right across the Acropolis Museum.

Evgenia at Acropolis entrance
Me at Southeast Entrance to Acropolis hill (across Acropolis Museum)

As the main entrance is close to Dionysus Restaurant and the Acropolis main parking, it is preferred by coaches and large groups. The queues at the main entrance are sometimes really crazy.

You better use the southeast entrance which is the one I prefer as you can easily see all the monuments in a more natural way and usually it is less busy. A lot of visitors just exit from the main entrance and never make it to the south part of Acropolis (slopes).

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6. When is Acropolis open? When is Best to Go?

Temple of Athena Nike Acropolis
Temple of Athena Nike from the side

Acropolis of Athens time of operations are:

  • Summer: April 1 to October 31 – 8am to 8pm (last entrance 7.30pm)
  • Winter: November 1 to March 31 – 8am to 5am
  • Closed on: January 1, March 25, May 1, Greek Easter Sunday, the second day of Easter, December 25 & 26
Temple of Athena Nike front side

If you are visiting Acropolis between May and September, you may encounter a lot of people. And if a cruise ship has arrived in Pireaus, then the crowds will be totally insane.

Try to go as earlier as possible in the morning or late in the afternoon.

7. How much is the ticket to Acropolis? Can I buy it online?

Athens Acropolis Odeon Of Herodes Attikus with Blue sky
Odeon of Herodes Attikos exterior

Between April 1st – October 31st the general admission ticket is 20 euro.

Certain groups are eligible for half-price or free entrance – usually for EU citizens. Check here to see if you are eligible for reduced entrance.

A combo ticket (30 euro) permits entry within five days to the: Acropolis Hill and Slopes, Ancient Agora of Athens and its Museum, Archaeological Museum of Kerameikos, Hadrian’s Library, Lykeion Archaeological Site,  Olympieio (Temple of Zeus), Roman Agora of Athens.

Half Price Entrance (not valid for the combo ticket): All archaeological sites in Greece have a half-price ticket from November 1 to March 31

Odeon of Herodes Attikos from inside Acropolis

Free Entrance: From November to March, admission is totally free on the first Sunday of the month and on the dates March 6th, April 18th, May 18th, the last weekend of September, and October 28th.

Online Ticket to Acropolis

Buy your entry ticket to Acropolis (normal or 30 euro) in advance from the Greek Official e-ticketing service here. The only downside with the online ticket is that you can’t change the date or get a refund. On the website, choose the region ‘Attika’ and then ‘Acropolis and slopes’. Choose any time slot, it really doesn’t matter which you will choose, it is there for statistical reasons.

Highlights of Athens Private Tours

8. What became of Parthenon throughout the centuries? A destruction in many parts…

Parthenon as a mosque

Theodosius I, Byzantine Emperor, forbade the practice of ancient Greek religion in 392 AD. Emperor Theodosius II, in 435 AD ordered the destruction of ancient temples and sanctuaries, but he converted into Christian churches the most important ancient temples, Parthenon included.

The Parthenon Temple was turned into Panagia the Athiniotissa (Virgin Mary of Athens) Christian church, probably around the 5th century AD. The Christians, knocked out the eastern wall of the cella to make an apse, knocked off heads, and did other damage to the sculptures, especially the metopes, because of the pagan subjects.

During the Latin Occupation, in 1204 AD, and for 250 years, the Parthenon had been turned into a Roman Catholic church.

In 1458, when the Ottoman Sultan came to Athens, he turned Parthenon into a mosque. The Ottomans used some of the metopes for target practice.

In 1687 Parthenon was bombarded by the Venetians (more in question 9).

In 1801 Elgin removed half of its friezes and metopes (more in question 10).

In 1833, Acropolis was finally liberated by the Greeks.

In April 1941 Acropolis was desecrated by the Nazis when they raised their swastika flag on the east edge of Acropolis. On May 30th, 1941 two brave university students, both 18 years old, Manolis Glezos and Lakis Santas climbed to the Hill and took the flag down, and this was one of the most inspiring resistance acts in Athens that inspired many others to create resistance groups against the Nazis. Lakis Santas died in April 2011, Manolis Glezos in March 2020, and were both buried like Greek heroes.

9. Why is the Southern Wall of the Parthenon Missing?

The Parthenon may have been almost 2.000 years old in 1687 AD, (see the previous question) however, it was still in very good condition, all walls standing and all its decoration marbles more or less in place.

In 1687 the Venetians under the rule of Morosini seized Acropolis. Morosini knew that the Ottomans used one of the Parthenon rooms to store the powder gun and he bombarded Parthenon destroying all but one of its four walls. The Parthenon roof also collapsed and the Temple never recovered from this destruction.

10. Why are the Parthenon Marbles in the British Museum?

parthenon marbles in british museum
Parthenon Sculptures in the British Museum

Parthenon was further damaged by Elgin between 1801 to 1803 when he violently removed – cutting them with a saw – about half of the surviving sculptures of the Parthenon, as well as sculptures from the Propylaea and one Karyatida from Erechtheion.

He, later on, sold the Parthenon Marbles to the British Museum where are still kept.

The Greek government has been trying for over 40 years to persuade the British Museum to return the Parthenon Marbles where they belong, in Greece.

There are also two pieces from Parthenon marbles, a frieze and a metope in the Louvre Museum.

11. Why are the Parthenon Marbles Important?

Detail of sculptures on the Parthenon of Athens

Pheidias was the master sculptor of the Parthenon Marbles, along with an army of assistant sculptors. The sculptures were set around the top part of the gigantic Parthenon, a 160-meter-long frieze consisting of 378 figures and 245 animals, and are considered masterpieces of utmost beauty and artistic perfection.

The frieze was – probably – a sculpting story of the annual religious procession that was taking place in Athens, called the Panathenaic Procession (Zoophorus).

12. Are there any Marbles Left on the Parthenon?

Parthenon Marbles in the Acropolis Museum

No, there are no marble sculptures left on the Parthenon. Everything you see on the site is plaster casts and the original sculptures have been moved in the Acropolis Museum to protect them from air pollution.

13. I am a Mobility-Challenged Person, can I Visit Acropolis?

Acropolis Map with the dotted routes for people with disabilities.

Yes, there is a brand new Acropolis elevator, and improved wheelchair-friendly paths were installed in 2020, but you need to go to the main entrance of Acropolis right above Dionysos Parking to access it.

The Acropolis Lift on the slope of Acropolis
The Acropolis Lift on the top of Acropolis

There are signs guiding you towards the entrance and the elevator as well but in case you can’t find it, when you get to the entrance gates, get your entrance ticket and afterward ask the guides for directions on how to get there. The entrance to the lift is a minute far from the tickets booth.

There is always someone at the exit gates who help with taking you and the operation of the lift which will take you straight to the top of Acropolis, where the Temples are.

The Acropolis exit and signs
Acropolis exit and entrance towards the lift.

The facility is not available during extreme weather conditions and strong winds.

14. Should I wear Special Clothes for Acropolis?

Parthenon and Erechteion on the right

There is no dress code for Acropolis like it is in the Greek Monasteries. If it is summer, you definitely need a hat, comfortable clothes, good walking shoes, sunscreen and plenty of water with you.

If it is winter, as this is a hill, it can be windy and cold and if it has rained, it can be slippery at times. Again good walking shoes and warm clothes are needed.

15. Is There Anything that is not Allowed in Acropolis?

Calico cat sitting on a rock in Acropolis Athens Greece background Odeon Herodes Attikus
Stray Kitty over the Odeon of Herodes Attikos

The following are not allowed inside Acropolis Hill:

  • You are strictly not allowed to touch the marbles – if you touch it, it just feels like a usual marble but to the marble your hands’ skin is destructive
  • Pets
  • Eat any kind of food or drink sodas – only water is allowed inside the site
  • Smoke cigarettes or similar
  • Play music
  • Photograph the temples for commercial use

16. Is the Acropolis of Athens the only Greek Acropolis?

fortifications in Acrocorinth
Acrocorinth Walls

Acropolis means the edge of a city and is usually located at the highest point of a city.

Greece has other significant Acropolis, like the Acrocorinth in Ancient Corinth or the Acropolis in Lindos Rhodes island.

Spectacular Acropolis Hill at Sunset from Lycabettus Hill!

Where to Stay in Athens

room hotel athens plaka16

Looking for the Best Hotels near old Athens Plaka and Acropolis Parthenon?

Or you would like to stay at a beachfront hotel?

Perhaps you are more in-budget hotels interested?

Whichever your preferences I have collected the best options for your staying in Athens below:

 

How to Get to the Cyclades Islands from Athens

FERRIES: The most usual way is to take the ferry from Athens ports (Pireaus, Rafina or Lavrion). Book your ferry transfer with FerryScanner or FerryHopper, and get the best prices in the market with no hidden fees. If you travel in the summer you better book your seats in advance.

AIRPORT: There are some international flights going straight to certain islands, like Santorini or Crete, you better check Skyscanner, for charters or direct flights from your own country.

Otherwise, you can catch a flight from Athens International Airport. Find below the list of the Greek Islands that have an airport and you can fly there:

AstypalaiaChiosChaniaHerakleionRethymno
Crete-SitiaCorfuMilosNaxosParos
MykonosSantoriniSyrosSkyrosKalymnos
KarpathosKasosKosLerosRhodes
KastellorizoLemnosSamosLesvosIkaria
KefaloniaZakynthosKytheraSkiathos

Private Transfer to your Hotel

Book a private transfer with English speaking chauffeur from Athens International Airport or Piraeus Ferries to any hotel in Athens. You avoid the hassle of public transport and minimize the risk of having your luggage lost or stolen. Check this professional and reliable private transfer in a Luxury Mercedes Van here

How to Get to Greece

Greek Dog yawning in Santorini island
Dog in Santorini

Like most visitors to Greece, you will probably have to fly to Athens or Thessaloniki International Airports to get to your final destinations.

For the Cheapest, Fastest, Best Worldwide Flights, I highly recommend the Skyscanner search engine site.

If you prefer to avoid the hassle of public transport and wish for some luxury pampering, you should book a private transfer with English speaking chauffeur from Athens International Airport to Piraeus Ferries. Check availability and prices on Viator here

Message from Evgenia

I hope you have enjoyed my post on the Acropolis of Athens! If you need local help with organizing your visit, please send me an email at  info@travelthegreekway.com, and I will get back to you with ideas.  Until then stay safe and travel the world!
Evgenia 
Travel the Greek Way

Related Articles for Athens

Some of my Favorite Travel Resources for Greece

  • Airflights: Cheap/Fast/Best Worldwide Flights from KAYAK or SkyScanner search engine site
  • Map of Athens Metro
  • Booking.com: I use Booking.com because I can get the best deals, have info on hotels and Airbnb’s alike, with breakfast or not, free cancellations, and great prices!
  • Ferries to the Greek Islands: Book your ferry transfer with FerryScanner or FerryHopper, and get the best prices in the market with no hidden fees
  • World Nomads Insurance: I feel insecure traveling to another country without having even the most basic of insurances. Insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft and cancellations
  • Best car rental prices – Guaranteed. RentalCars.com
  • Get Your Guide: For all your day or multi-day tours and city guide needs, I use Get Your Guide
  • iVisa: For any questions, you may have about your documents, passport if you need a visa, a new photo, or any visa-related matter, iVisa is your man (or woman!)
  • Emergency Numbers Anywhere in Greece: AMBULANCE 166 – FIRE 199 – POLICE 100EMERGENCY NUMBER 112
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