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5 things you need to know before you visit the Acropolis of Athens

5 things you need to know before you visit the Acropolis of Athens

Hey everyone! First of all, we hope you're all doing well! We're currently confined to our home in France, probably just like a lot of you, and we actually contemplated taking a break from posting travel blogs for a while. Those are uncertain times and travelling isn't a priority right now as there are more pressing issues to deal with. After we mulled things over though, we figured it might be a good idea to keep sharing some travel memories with all of you. Indeed we thought it was as good a way as any to escape to beautiful and inspiring places, even if just virtually, so we'll keep posting every Wednesday as we have for the past couple years. :)

Take care! Stay safe! And hopefully the post down below and the other ones from the travel community will entertain you. ;)

There are several acropoleis across Greece. Yet, only one such building is commonly referred to as the Acropolis. The word acropolis itself is a combination of two Greek words, akron that means highest point and polis that means city. That description perfectly fits the Acropolis of Athens, a citadel that has been looking over the city for thousands of year.

Standing on a rocky outcrop above the city, the fortress of the Acropolis can be seen from virtually everywhere in Athens, to the point that it has come to symbolize the city and beyond that, the history and architecture of ancient Greece. It served as an example to be followed by Western artists and architects striving to revive the glories of Classical Greece. The acropolis isn’t just one building however but the sum of all its parts, from the iconic Parthenon to the Propylae or the Erechtheum.

This precious world heritage site, a testimony to the Greek genius, almost disappeared over the course of its history though. It was burnt down, sacked by the Persian army of King Xerxes, damaged by the Venetians and besieged during the Greek War of Independence. Every time it stood on the brink of destruction, the citadel was reconstructed or altered, either to expand it or to return it to its former glory.

Nowadays, the Acropolis is mostly in ruins. The Parthenon frieze no longer adorns the Parthenon, the majority being displayed at the British Museum. The monumental gateway of the Propylae has lost its ceiling. Yet, the magic still works. As damaged as it is, the Acropolis still ignites the imagination and remains one of the world’s most fascinating ancient monuments.

Visiting the Acropolis of Athens belongs on everyone’s bucket list so here come a few things you need to know before walking in the footsteps of Pericles, Themistocles and other Greek heroes.

1. Buy a combined ticket before your visit

The Acropolis of Athens is Greece’s most visited archaeological site. It receives more than two million visitors per year, meaning you won’t be the only one there no matter when you visit. Of course, coming in as early as possible is always a good idea, although it won’t make much of a difference if you have to stand in line for hours to get a ticket. A quick and efficient way to bypass the lines is to buy a combined ticket before your visit.

This ticket costs 30 euros and it includes access to seven different sites throughout the city, from the Roman Agora to the Olympeion and of course the Acropolis. You can buy your ticket at any of the sites and it can last for up to 5 days, meaning you can easily visit every site in a day and get to the Acropolis before dawn or right when the site opens the next day.

2. Do not rush to the Parthenon

Once you’ve entered the premises of the Acropolis, it might be tempting to rush straight to the Parthenon. Of course, this is the most iconic building in all of Greece we’re talking about. Yet, the Acropolis is divided into many different parts, all equally as interesting. Before you climb to the upper part, make sure not to miss the Odeon of Pericles and the Theater of Dionysus, located on the right-hand side.

Then, as you climb towards the main part of the citadel, take some time to admire the remains of the Odeon of Herodus Atticus. The latter is not accessible unfortunately, except during concerts and live performances. Only then will you make your way to the upper level, through the Erechtheum gate. Past the gate, you’ll have the Parthenon on your right, the Old Temple of Athena on your left and a captivating playground to jump back in time. Do not forget a hat and sunglasses during your visit though or you’ll soon find out why there are so many cats hiding inside the temples, taking shelter from the burning sun.

3. Get a million-dollar view on the citadel from the Filopappou Hill

Many places in Athens fiercely compete when it comes to offering the best view on the Acropolis. To us though, the Filopappou Hill wins the competition hands down. Located right across the parking lot leading to the entrance to the citadel and also known as the Hill of the Muses, it is the perfect vantage point to admire a variety of points of view on the Acropolis but also on the city of Athens and the Piraeus port.

It is an easy walk to the top, one which is particularly gorgeous in summer when the fragrant smell of pine is in the air. Besides, a few monuments and ruins can be visited along the walk, such as the so-called Prison of Socrates, the Orthodox church of Agios Dimitrios Loumbardiaris and its delicate frescoes and the Monument of Filopappos, an ancient mausoleum built at the summit.

4. Visit the Acropolis Museum

Visiting the actual site of the Acropolis is one thing but no such visit is complete without seeing the Acropolis Museum too. This archaeological museum was founded in 2003, designed as the logical extension to the site. The museum exhibits more than 4250 items retrieved on-site, including well-preserved statues and jars. The most striking exhibition awaits on the last floor where parts of the ancient Parthenon Marbles are showcased, the rest of them being displayed in London.

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The museum stirred quite some controversy when construction began as it was erected on top of an ancient site. The architect also chose a clearly modern approach to the building, which wasn’t to everybody’s liking in Athens. Yet, this remains a very informative museum to understand the history of the Acropolis. The top floor also delivers amazing views on the monument.

5. Walk down the Anafiotika neighborhood

Athens is famous for its world-class landmarks, the Acropolis being one of many, but it isn’t considered a beautiful city, especially when compared to the historic towns of the Peloponnese or the stunning villages of the Cyclades. If you don’t have time to sail to the islands though, you can enjoy a taste of the Cyclades in the tiny neighborhood of Anafiotika.

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Located on the slopes of the Acropolis hill, its white and blue houses are reminiscent of the typical architecture seen in islands such as Santorini. This is no mistake as the first inhabitants came from the Cyclades and replicated a type of architecture that was familiar to them. Nowadays, Anafiotika is a charming neighborhood to discover after visiting the Acropolis. It is also the perfect spot to take a break from the city’s hectic atmosphere.

As majestic from afar as it is moving from within, the Acropolis of Athens is a monument that can leave no-one indifferent. If you get to visit Greece and even if you're not a history buff, you definitely should pay it a visit.

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