Athens Acropolis & more (Attica - Greece)

Honestly - my heart was pounding as I stood there. Its a decade old dream to see this place with my own eyes, to be present there and feel it, ever since my first ever Art History classes in University. Acropolis opens its doors to the visitors at 8:00AM and we were there by about 8:15AM. We had already purchased the tickets online, so we headed directly to the barcode scanner entrance and headed straight to the Parthenon. I wanted to get there before the place gets flocked with humans and it worked. We got the place to almost ourselves (and about 50 other people) for about half an hour by then, when the crowd started pouring in.




The Parthenon, built in 447 BCE is supposed to an enclosed temple with a huge sculpture of Athena. However this sculpture was lost in Byzantine Era. Close to the Parthenon is the Erecthion which is a temple whose pillars are sculpted like a maiden. The ones here are copies and the originals are in the Acropolis Museum. Other structures include the entrance Propylia, Hourglass with fountain, temple of Athena victory etc, all built about 500-400 BCE. 


The view from atop here was spectacular with a birdeye view of Ancient Theatre of Dionysos, Odeion of Herodes Atticus etc. The Stoa of Eumenes between them, serves as an open air sculpture museum today. We did not climb the Philopappus Hill as we were told it wouldn't be suitable to go with a baby. However we did catch a glimpse of Philopappus Monument built in 2nd C CE from atop Parthenon.
After seeing the Acropolis, our next stop was the Hadrian's Arch & Olympieion. The Olympieion feels more massive than Parthenon, because it stands solo in the midst of greenery in the plains unlike Parthenon which is surrounded by other huge structures. This was begun to be built in 515 BCE, only to be abandoned, twice by 2 different emperors and was completed only in 131 CE by Emperor Hadrian. Just like the sculpture of Athena in Parthenon, this one had a ivory and gold sculpture of Zeus which is missing, just like Athena! Unlike Acropolis, the colomns here are Corinthian making it a visual delight!
Just behind is the Ilissos valley, or what's left of it. Most people miss it. Take a moment to have a look at it, esp., if you're not visiting Delphi or Epidaurus. The entrance to the Olympieion is through the Hadrian's Arch also built it 131 CE. This served as a gateway to the city and says 'This is Athens, the City of Theseus' on one side and 'This is the city of Hadrian, not Theseus' on the other.


One of the must visit when in Athens is the Acropolis Museum and the Archaeological Museum. Unfortunately we had time only for Acropolis Museum. As I mentioned earlier, this has the originals of the Erechthion women, recreated & painted Kore, hundreds of vases and so much more. I was internally jumping with joy to see the examples that I studied in Art History classes!!!!!
Remember in my earlier post on Church of St.George on Lycabettus Hill, I had mentioned that, both Greeks & Indians have the devotional practice of offering small silver slates with embossed print of a body part to be healed or other wishes to be fulfilled! Guess what? The practice has been in existence since Ancient Greece and originally it was made of stone!!!


Our next stop was Ancient Agora. This was originally a very active commercial centre.  This by itself is a huge complex like Acropolis. The first stop in here was the Thission - Temple of Hephaistos, which is a smaller version of Parthenon, built in 460 BCE. This is located at a slight elevation than the rest of the Agora and requires a very slight hike atop. On the way is the square with huge sculptures of men working out, aptly named The monument of the Eponymous Heroes, and this originally served as a gymnasium. This too has its own circular Tholos (like Epidaurus), but in ruins. Within this site is also a Byzantine Church called Church of the Holy Apostles built in 1000 CE. However this was closed when I went. 


One of the most important monuments in this site is The Stoa of Attalus, a 2 storey building which once served a buzzing commercial site, now serves as the site museum. Don't miss the perfume bottle in the shape of a kneeling athlete, in this museum!
We proceeded to Hadrian's Library. As the name suggests it was once the library that held several books & papyruses, built in 132 CE. The Corinthian columns are here too, like Olympieion.




Our final stop was Roman Agora. This too is a complex with multiple monuments and the most important one of it all is the Kyrristus Clock. Don't miss the tiny spot of fresco that's still in there in the ceiling. I can't imagine how it would have looked with all colors!
On another day while returning from Peloponnese, we did stop by at Panathenaic Stadium, which is the ancient Olympic Stadium with a capacity of 60000 spectators, completely made of marble!
Finally after some rest, I decided to head towards the Byzantine and Ottomon monuments. Unfortunately almost all the Byzantine churches in the central region were all closed in the afternoon. After seeing the shut doors of almost 4-5 churches, I gave up and headed to the Ottomon monuments.


Ottomons ruled Athens from 1456-1833, so obviously quite a major influence of their art & architecture. The first spot I saw was Madrasah. It was built in 1721 and was destroyed during WWI. All that's left now for us to see is this Gate! The next site was Hamam (Turkish Baths). Today it is the Museum of Cleanliness and Body Embellishment which basically is the bath itself, preserved as a museum. Its a simple, small place that explains how Hamams originally functioned. From here, as I walked towards Acropolis, it was only by chance that I spotted that Church Agios Spyridon was open! I went in and it was a treat of 12th C frescoes staring at me!
I went by the official guide book (link below) and saw as much as possible of the Antiquities, Byzantine & Ottomon monuments. I shuffled things a bit, so as to put Parthenon as the 1st site. However I did end up missing Kerameikos and Aristotle's School
Btw, we stayed at an Airbnb in Athens near Acropolis, and all these sites were walkable from this place and the best part - it has a view of Parthenon from the terrace! How cool is that? You could get €28 off at your next stay in Airbnb House, if you sign up with my code - Airbnb Coupon Code!

Here's a tip: Most of these sites are NOT wheelchair or stroller friendly! 

Athens Guide Book (opens/downloads as PDF)

Entry Tickets & Timings:
Official site to buy tickets online - https://etickets.tap.gr/
Acropolis Combined Ticket: €30 (valid for 5 days from first use)
Individual prices: varies from €4 - €20 to different sites (half of this price in Nov-Mar)
Timings: 8:00AM to 8:00PM 

To Get There:
For local transport, can use Athena Card (plastic & non-personalized like London Oyster; can be bought at counters) / Athena Ticket (cardboard; can be bought at machines).
€9 for 5 day unlimited (excl. airport transport) 
€22 for 3 day unlimited (incl. airport transport)

My complete - 
Peloponnese TravelogueDay trip to PeloponneseMycenae & TirynsEpidaurus
Attica Travelogue: Athens, Daphni Monastery
Central Mainland Travelogue: Delphi, Hosios Loukas Monastery

Bhushavali

An ardent traveler by passion. I am a wanderlust.. Read more about me here.

18 comments:

  1. எவ்வளவு அழகாக எழுதி இருக்கிறீர்கள்!!
    என்ன ஒரு ஆசை உங்களுக்கு!! ஆச்சரியம்..
    சிறப்பான வேலை செய்து, அனுபவித்து அதையும் மற்றவரிடம் பகிர்ந்து கொள்கிறீர்கள் ...
    நேரில் வந்து எங்களுடன் பேசி உங்கள் அனுபவங்களை பகிர்ந்து கொள்ளுங்கள் ஆவலுடன் காத்திருக்கிறேன்.
    வாழ்த்துக்கள்

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  2. These treasures of Athens are still on my bucket list. I love how you really explored everything around you and I’m sorry the churches were closed in the afternoons- so frustrating! But the best part was hearing that you found a decent Airbnb nearby that permitted you to walk to all these sites. That’s a great workout for someone traveling with a baby!

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  3. I'm so glad you had the opportunity to visit these incredible ruins and knock them off your bucket list; Plus, to reinforce what you learned in class with real life experiences! You offered some very helpful tips, as well. For instance, pre-purchasing tickets and getting to the Acropolis by 8AM. I bet it's so much better to see these attractions without a crowd. :D

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  4. I always love your posts on UNESCO sites because they are my favorites. Greece was the first country I ever visited in Europe and I can understand your excitement to get to Acropolis. I can feel the excitement again. Loved the little bit about the silver plates. Never knew that. I hope I get to visit Athens again soon.

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  5. Wow! this is like a dream escape for me. A visit to such ancient places make me wonder what if the stones could speak! Thanks for this virtual tour of Acropolis through your writing. The ancient olympic stadium, the library, the garden - everything looks so robust. I hope they continue to preserve this piece of history and I get to visit it soon.

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  6. Your post revived my Athens trip and I too loved seeing these ancient sites. I was wondering how huge and magnificent it used to be during ancient times as the ruins of them are also great. I have heard till today ancient style of Greek concerts are held in amphitheatre of Acropolis and did you got chance to watch any of them. Though I took tickets with audio tour but could not know so much history as written in your post. Now I know something more after reading it.

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  7. Being a history buff, I have a keen interest in UNESCO sites as well as the ancient ruins. I loved reading about all these precious gems. The architecture of this place along with its statues is extremely fascinating. I like the kneeling athlete perfume bottle - what an imagination! I'm amused to know about the ancient practice of offering embossed silver slates, glad you shared a picture. Athens is still on my bucket list and I'm sure the day I'll stand among these ruins, I'll also have my heart pounding with excitement.

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  8. One of my first, if not my very first, travel memory is a visit to Acropolis when I was a very young child, and I vividly remember my awe at the sheer scale of it -- that a tiny segment of fallen pillar was actually an immense boulder on the ground! I'd like to revisit and see the other sites too such as the Olympieion and Hardian's Arch, the museums and Thission.

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  9. Athens is one of the must-visit cities of every world traveler's destination. Those ancient ruins are beautifully preserved. However, I do hope it stays that way. I have read of sad and alarming news that vandals have started desecrating these historical, irreplaceable treasures. Worse, effects of pollution such as smog and acid rain is eating away at these treasures.

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  10. I didn't have the best experience on my first time in Athens because i had taken really ill. I would love to return and experience the amazing ancient history and culture on better terms!

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  11. I have yet to go to Greece but it's so great to see that people still want to visit the historical sites. I think they're so interesting to learn about!

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  12. What an amazing trip! I'd love to tour some of these ruins myself! Do these tours get pretty crowded?

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  13. I love ancient treasures, so Acropolis is also on my list of the places to visit. As much as I enjoy historical places, I hate crowds, so thanks for your tips. I'll try to buy tickets before and get out of bed earlier than usually :)

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  14. I haven't been to Athens in far too long, I'd absolutely love to get back there soon!

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  15. So amazing. I love ruins and really enjoyed Rome and Pompeii. Haven't been to Greece yet, but this is definitely high on the list. Thanks for all the information!

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  16. I love your idea to go to the Acropolis early in the morning to avoid the crowds. When I visited, I went during midday and still enjoyed it, although there were a lot of people there. I didn't make it to the Acropolis Museum or the Archaeological Museum unfortunately; I'll have to do both next time! I also stayed at an Airbnb very near the Acropolis; isn't it such a cool area to walk around?

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  17. For me, traveling is a means to discover the past and see the place with our own eyes. It's nice for you to publish this kind of post. I'm looking forward to visit a lot of UNESCO World Heritage sites.

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  18. Great Post! And the Pictures are astounding. Visiting Acropolis Athens has been on the top of my bucket-list since last five years. And now, finally I am going to Greece next week. I am so excited to get there!

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