Hi Frugalistas! I’ve written a number of posts about my adventures in Athens, but am yet to write about the number one thing on everyone’s Athens wish list: visiting the Acropolis and Acropolis Museum. That iconic site that dominates the Athens skyline, and its accompanying museum make a wonderful half day tour. Even if ancient ruins and statues aren’t your thing (and I must admit I have limited interest), this is the one trip I do recommend.
Visiting the Acropolis and Acropolis Museum without the queues
You, like everyone else wants to visit the Acropolis and its nearby museum. That means it can get incredibly crowded with tour groups and cruise ship passengers. The best way to beat the queues is to arrive early – as I recommend for all iconic sites. Not only will you avoid the entrance queues, but you will be able to wander around and take photos without everybody else being in your way. In the Acropolis Museum you can enjoy the displays and get a table at the rather nice little café much more easily.
Depending on the time of year arriving early has other advantages:
- In high summer you can beat the heat. The Acropolis is very exposed, with little to no shade. Going early will make your visit far more pleasant.
- The opportunity to capture some amazing shots. One particular blogger friend of mine went very early (I’m sure they must have been the first ones there in fact). She was rewarded with some of the most stunning photos of the sun coming up between the columns of the Parthenon – with not another person in sight…….
- Most people visiting the Acropolis and Acropolis Museum do one after the other. They are next to each other, so it makes perfect sense. What that means is if you are late getting to one and get stuck in a queue, then you will get stuck in a queue at the other. A double waste of time. Going early enables you to miss the queues at both.
But there’s another trick to visiting the Acropolis………
You don’t need to buy your ticket at the main Acropolis entrance off Dionysiou Areopagitou. Beat every possible queue by walking up Areos Street from Monastiraki Square for the best way to get to the Acropolis without the queues. Turn left at the top, head round the Northern aspect of the Roman Forum, then follow the signs up the hill to the Acropolis. It’s a fairly quiet area, but don’t worry. Just at the bottom of the Acropolis itself is a tinyAcropolis ticket office. Buy your ticket and follow the path round to the right to the Beule Gate and the main entrance. Or, just buy a skip the line ticket here and miss the Acropolis queue all together:
Enjoying your Acropolis visit
The term Acropolis refers to the actual hilltop site. The Acropolis is made up of a number of structures, the best known of which being the Parthenon, the main temple. The other well known structure is the Erechtheion, home to the Porch of the Caryatids. When you are visiting the Parthenon it is likely that parts will be under scaffold – like much of the ancient world, repairs and maintenance are a constant presence. I have photos from my first trip to Athens in 1990 with the entire Northeast façade covered…….
Have a good look around. It all looks very plain doesn’t it? Not really anything by way of decoration. That’s because all the decorative treasures are in the Museum. The beautiful Caryatids at the Acropolis are replicas. Most of the friezes are missing from the Parthenon. But it’s OK, pay attention, and when you go the Museum it will all make sense.
Feel free to walk around the perimeter of the site. There are some beautiful views across the city – on a clear morning, I was fortunate to be able to see all the way to the sea looking out to the Southwest. Look down. The stunning ruins on the South border are the Odeon of Herodes Atticus and the Theatre of Dionysus. There are bathroom facilities at the top of the Acropolis in the old Museum, but no snacks (and more importantly in warm weather) no drinks. So make sure you take a drink with you in warm weather. Just outside the main entrance is a small stand selling drinks and snacks, more toilets, and most helpfully, a small post office and letterbox. There is also a small gift shop, but really it is the saddest thing and not at all befitting of an historic site of this significance. If you want to shop for Acropolis souvenirs, do it at the Museum.
How long to visit the Acropolis do I hear you ask? Well, it’s up to you how long to spend at the Acropolis, but you can easily spend a couple of hours just at the Acropolis and the same at the Acropolis Museum.
Enjoying the Acropolis Museum
The Acropolis Museum is located on Dionysiou Areopagitou. If you’ve been to the Acropolis first, come out of the Acropolis, down the steps and then turn left onto Dionysiou Areopagitou. The Museum is the large modern building on the right hand side a few minutes walk down the street.
Rather than heading straight down to the entrance, use the handicapped ramp and walk through a pretty Mediterranean-style garden, complete with lavender and citrus trees. A small Greek Orthodox Church completes are very pretty scene. As you approach the entrance, there is a glassed area of excavations. Yes, even the Acropolis Museum is built on an archeological site. So plenty to enjoy before you even enter. The big thing about the Acropolis Museum is that photography is strictly forbidden. The rule is strictly enforced (except for some reason at the Caryatids). But don’t let that stop you enjoying your visit. There is an excellent bookshop – I was able to pick up a small, light book with pictures of the key pieces for around €4.
My advice for enjoying the Acropolis Museum is to spend more time in the upper galleries. It’s where all the big, fancy statues and friezes are. The friezes in particular are beautifully displayed, and give you a great perspective on how they would have looked on the Parthenon. The marble statues are also very interesting, with displays of how they would have looked in their original colours – yes, in colour!
By now you are likely to be in need of some refreshments. There are two options: a simple coffee shop on the ground floor adjacent to the gift shop, or a larger cafeteria style restaurant with both indoor and outdoor seating options. Outside on the terrace there is another great view of the surrounding streets.
Even if you aren’t into archaeology and ancient history, visiting the Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum is a morning well spent that I thoroughly recommend.
Plan your trip to Athens
I stayed at, and thoroughly recommend the A for Athens Hotel in Monastiraki.
Find Athens hotels here