Paris has the Eiffel Tower; New York has the Statue of Liberty; Rome has the Colosseum. Athens most definitely has the Acropolis. The ancient temple complex, perched upon a plinth like an island in the sprawling sea of Athens, has presided over the city for over two millennia.
Type Athens into Google images and a plethora of Acropolis pics will flood into the screen. All of the postcards, the brochures, the magazines showcase the Acropolis as the icon of Athens. It is no wonder it is the ‘must see’ attraction in the Greek capital.
What exactly is the Acropolis?
The term ‘Acropolis’ is derived from Greek and translates as ‘highest point’. It is built upon a rocky plinth which sits above the city. The Acropolis is a complex of Greek ruins, the most famous of which is the Parthenon. The majority of the images which you’ll see if you google the Acropolis depict the Parthenon. The complex also includes the Theatre of Dionysus, the Temple of Athena Nike and the Propylaea. The Acropolis was built between 447 and 432 BC and was designed by the architect Pericles. The site was intended to honour the Goddess Athena.
Given that the Acropolis is an icon of Athens, most visitors choose to visit the inside of the complex and explore the ruins.
The Acropolis is easily accessed by the Athens metro system. You can exit the underground at the ‘Akropoli’ station on the red line, or you can exit at ‘Monastiraki’ which is the cross-point of the blue and green lines and then walk towards the Acropolis from there. I recommend exiting at Monastiraki and walking because this accommodates some fantastic views of the Acropolis as you walk around it towards the visitors’ entrance. The walk also takes you through the Platka district, a wonderful network of streets and alleys and home to many cafes, restaurants and souvenir shops. However, if you are tight on time or you have difficulties with lots of walking, consider exiting the underground at Akropoli as this is much closer.
There are two entrances to the complex. The main entrance is the one you will most probably come to first if you walk from Monastiraki. This is the much busier entrance and often has a very long queue. Here, there is a ticket office, toilets and a post office. There is a smaller and much more nondescript entrance a little further along. You will come to this entrance is you exit at the Akropoli metro station. I found that the queue here was much shorter than at the main entrance. Also, the route up towards the Parthenon from this entrance takes you through some other Greek ruins.
Tickets and costs:
Perhaps the biggest drawback of visiting the Acropolis is the cost to get in. At the time of my visit (May 2017), it was 20 Euros for an adult ticket. STUDENTS: please do remember your university cards as you can get in for FREE with these. It does not have to be a special student discount card; it can be just your ID card for your specific university. Taking this will allow you to enter for free.
Timing your visit:
If you have free reign of your visit with no time limitations, it is definitely best to visit early in the morning and get a place close to the front of the queue. This will save you time queuing. Also, it is far less crowded in the Acropolis at this time as the large tour groups and the majority of visitors have not yet arrived. Therefore, you will have a more comfortable experience and some better photos. Another benefit of an early visit, more applicable to the summer months, is that you will miss the hottest part of the day.
Making the most of your visit:
The key of making the most of your visit is to take your time and not rush, especially if you’ve paid 20 euros for the privilege. There is a wealth of ruins to visit in the Acropolis and there are lots of information boards to read to make the most of what you’re seeing. Walking around the complex also provides lots of views across the city, ideal for keen photographers. Walk around the complex and see the temples from different angles. Perhaps stop and take a seat and have a drink or a snack while admiring your views. During my visit, I spent three hours in the Acropolis complex. I left feeling satisfied, having seen all of the views and studied every rock with scrutiny!
If you are a keen history nerd like me, try to read up on some of the Acropolis history before you visit. You will then have more of an idea of what you’re seeing and you’ll most likely get more from your visit.
Things to remember to take:
- Camera – this is a must. With masses of Greek ruins and 360 degree views of Athens, there is plenty to photograph.
- Water – If you’re planning on making the most of your visit, you’ll need water because you’ll be in there a while.
- Hat and sun lotion – The Acropolis is exposed to the sun so these are essential.
- 20 euros or a student card for admission
Conclusion – is it worth the visit?
You’ll need to decide for yourself if you are content with seeing the Acropolis from the outside for free, or if the 20m euros to look around the inside is worth it for you. As someone who could get in for free, I would say it is definitely worth it. On the same token, I do feel that 20 euros is a little steep for an entry fee. This point arises frequently on reviews of the Acropolis. You’ll need to sum up if you’ll regret not visiting if you choose to opt out. It’s not every day that you can visit ancient Greek ruins.
Also, bear in mind that at the time of writing, there is restoration work upon the Parthenon. At the minute, it is just inside and at one end of the Parthenon. If you go to the other side, your photos and view should be unhindered. This is another thing to consider when contemplating paying.
On the whole, I would recommend visiting. If you do, take your time and see everything there is to see (especially if you’re paying).
Have you visited the Acropolis? Comment below with your experiences and thoughts.
Many thanks for reading and happy travels.
All photos featured here were taken by and are owned by myself.