Clearly, Athens’ crown jewel is the Acropolis. Unfortunately, many people make a quit visit to see the Parthenon and the views of Athens. They leave without bothering to see the rest of what’s at the top and on the slopes of the Acropolis! On my first three visits to Athens, that’s how it was for me. This time, I was determined to see as much of this UNESCO World Heritage site as possible.
I started my visit to the site at the summit. From the ticket booth, you can buy a €20 ticket for just the Acropolis and its slopes. If you’re interested in visiting more archaeological sites around Athens, a €30 combo ticket gets you into the Acropolis and several other ancient attractions. Prices are current as of June 2016.
Climbing up the steps towards the main entrance, I passed through the Beule Gate. It was built in 267 AD after raids by Germanic tribes. Stone from the Monument of Nikias (on the slopes of the Acropolis) was used in its construction.
Perched on a pedestal up and to the right, I saw the Temple of Athena Nike (Ναός Αθηνάς Νίκης). It was built in 424 BC by Kallikratis to commemorate the Athenian victory over the Persians in 479 BC. It was completed dismantled by the Ottomans in 1686 and used for building material in a wall in the surrounding hills, and was rebuilt in 1836.
Opposite the Temple of Athena Nike is the Monument of Agrippa. Originally built in 178 BC as a base for a monument of a carriage with 4 horses, it was a gift from King Eumenes II of Pergamon for the Panathenaic Games. In 27 BC, Athenians erected a statue of Markos Agrippa in its place.
In front is a structure that serves as the official entrance to the summit of the Acropolis, the Propylaia (Προπύλαια). Built in 432 BC by the architect Mnesikles, it has been used as an official residence for an archbishop, a Frankish palace, and an Ottoman fortress.
An inner wing on the east side of the Propylaia was called the Pinakothiki. It apparently housed mythological paintings and paintings of important ancient Greek battles. The Propylaia had other wings planned but they were never finished.
Finally, after passing through the Propylaia, I reached the summit of the Acropolis and got an incredible look at the Parthenon (Παρθενών). It was completed in 415 BC by architects Kallikratis and Iktinos to house the 12m high statue of Athena by Pheidias. It was used as a Christian church in the 5th century, and a mosque in the 1460s.
The Parthenon was partially destroyed on September 26, 1687, when an Ottoman munitions dump inside was ignited by a Venetian bomb. In 1806, Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin, stole many sculptures and relocated them to London, where they currently sit on display in the British Museum.
Many people are tempted to stop, walk around the Parthenon, and leave, but there is so much more! First, I will briefly mention two structures that no longer exist. The old Temple of Athena was located just to the left of the Parthenon. Just to the right after passing through the Propylaia, was the Brauronion.
To the left of the Parthenon is my favorite temple on the Acropolis, the Erechtheion (Ἐρέχθειον). It’s a temple dedicated to Athena and Poseidon, completed in 406 BC. It’s the most sacred site of the Acropolis, where Poseidon left his trident marks on a rock and Athena’s olive tree sprouted in their battle for possession of the city.
You might notice six statues of maidens used as columns. Those are the Caryatids. One of the Caryatid statues was removed by Lord Elgin in 1801 to decorate his home in Scotland, and later sold to the British Museum. The other five were removed and relocated to the old Acropolis Museum in 1979 for protection from pollution. They’re now on display in the new Acropolis Museum.
On the far side of the Parthenon are the remains of the small Temple of Rome and Augustus, built in the late 1st century BC. And at the end where the flagpole stands, you can get some of the most incredible views of Athens.