Colder weather always has me thinking back to past summer travel. Last summer, I started off a wonderful trip to Greece with a short stay in Athens. I ended up liking it so much, I can't wait to return for a longer visit. With only a brief bit of time there before boarding a cruise, we made sure to prioritize visits to the Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum.
Everyone will tell you to go to the Acropolis early or late, not right in the middle of the day. Midday is not only hot, but very crowded. We set off a little later than planned (due to a delicious, leisurely breakfast) and arrived at the ticket line around 10 am. We did wait to buy a ticket, but the line moved fairly quickly. After you pass the gate, only water is allowed-no sticky drinks to spill on the ruins! There are quite a few things to see on your way up the hill. We used a Rick Steves guide that noted what you are seeing as you make your way up the hill. (I've linked an audio tour and map you can use if you don't want to buy a book for just a quick trip.) At the top, you will find the Parthenon. They are undertaking some renovation work, as you can see in the photo above. The scaffolding makes it no less amazing.
As you wind your way up the hill, via walkways and stairs, be sure to stop and look out over Athens and take in the ruins along the way. The Theater of Dionysus, the Temple of Athena Nike, and the Caryatids were ones I found to be really interesting. Also, be sure to note the olive trees growing throughout the site. The olive tree, according to Greek mythology, was Athena's gift to the people of Athens. As depicted in one of the Parthenon's pediment sculptures, Athena and Poseidon had a contest to see who would be Athen's patron. Her gift of an olive tree beat his gift of a spring that turned out to be salty like his seas.
I was also really struck by the large Greek flag flying at the top of the Acropolis. It is visible from all around and has an incredible story attached to it. When the Nazis came into Athens during World War II, they replaced the Greek flag in that location with a Nazi flag. Some brave, young Greek men snuck in during the night and re-flew the Greek flag as a symbol of defiance against the Nazis. It is worth reading more here greece.greekreporter.com/2019/05/30/the-day-two-teenage-greeks-took-down-the-nazi-flag-from-the-acropolis/ .
The Acropolis Museum was amazing. Plan to spend a few hours here, preferably midday to take a break from the sun. You are greeted by Athena's owl, reminding you again of the intersection of myth and history found all over Greece. Original sculptures from the Acropolis haven been moved into the museum to protect them, but it is hard to ignore that other works have been taken to museums all around the world, most famously, the Elgin Marbles that are currently in the British Museum. There is also an ongoing excavation you can view from the entrance walkway and side garden of the museum. You can eat on the rooftop terrace looking up at the Acropolis.
A few tips and links for Athens-
There is also a PDF map you can print to take along.
We stayed at the AthensWas Hotel, a boutique hotel on the pedestrian road that goes to the Acropolis. Taxis were allowed to pull in to pick up and drop off right at the door despite the no cars rule. This hotel was SO great. The staff were very helpful, the breakfast was delicious, and the location was perfect. I highly recommend a stay there!
Read up on the museum before visiting!
For the Acropolis
Wear a sunhat and take water. Do not wear flip flops or sandals. Sneakers or other sturdy shoes are essential. Don't worry about how you look, not one person was looking chic up there. If you are uncomfortable, you will miss out on too many of the sights! There are restrooms at the top near the Parthenon in the old museum building.
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