When planning out your visit to the Acropolis of Athens there are 2 distinct locations you can visit, Acropolis Hill and the Acropolis Museum. For this article we are going to focus on Acropolis Hill and what you should and need to know about this spectacular location.
Visiting Acropolis Hill:
Visiting The Acropolis will take your breath away. On top of Acropolis Hill you will be able to view the present remains of the Parthenon, Erechtheion, Propylaia, and the Temple of Nike. This historical site is located on top of a rocky limestone hill and while easily accessible by a marked path, it is not an easy if you are trying to push a stroller. The paths up to the top is mainly stairs (about 230 feet up) so if you are visiting during the summer, I recommend you try to visit early in the morning or later in the day as it gets extremely hot and will make your visit with kids less enjoyable when they start whining. Save yourself even more time by not standing in the long lines to purchase tickets and secure them before you even arrive by buying these Skip-The-Line Tickets. When you arrive early, you’ll be able to be one of the first on the Hill and will be able to capture your family memories with great photos. Once you are at the top, make sure you take a minute to enjoy the view. On clear days you can see all the way to the ocean. It is definitely a view you don’t want to miss observing.
Parthenon at the Acropolis of Athens:
The Parthenon on the Acropolis of Athens is the most well-known building from ancient Greece. This is one of the true historical Greek wonders of the world. While very well known, it is by far not the largest temple in Greece. The Parthenon was built between 447 and 432 BC in the Age of Pericles. Over the years, the building has been looted, destroyed, rebuilt, and survived environmental damages. The columns on the temple are magnificently designed. The significance of the bottom of the columns to the top makes the viewer believe that they are swollen from supporting the roof. This is because the top of the columns are slightly narrower than the bottoms. The temple is dedicated to the city’s patron deity Athena and its main purpose was to shelter the monumental statue of Athena that was made out of gold and ivory by Pheidias.
Fun Fact: The columns on the long side of the temples in Greece all have 2 times the short side plus one ((2 x Y) +1 = Long side columns; when short side equals Y). Answer = The Parthenon has 8 on the short side and 17 on the long side.
Throughout the years the statue of Athena has been lost, stolen, or destroyed but smaller copies have survived which helps depict what it once might have looked like. The smaller copies and the picture coins show Athena holding a statue of Nike in her right hand and a shield in her left. The shield depicts scenes from the battles between the Amazons and the Giants. Beside the shield is a coiled snake. In the copies she is also fully dressed in her armor and on her helmet stands a sphinx in the middle and two griffins on each side. The entire statue was made of gold and ivory laid over a wooded structure. The gold was the dressings so they could easily be removed in times of financial need. It is believed that due to the massiveness of this statue that it could actually be seen down to Cape Sounion which is 45 miles southeast of the city. To have been able to see this statue would have been an extreme treat to tourist today.
Erechtheion on the Acropolis of Athens:
Dedicated to both Athena and Poseidon, the Erechtheion (or Erechtheum) is an ancient Greek temple on the north side of the Acropolis of Athens. The construction of this temple was between 421 and 426 BC. The plans for this complex building were designed to accommodate sacred shrines like the altars to Poseidon, the spot where Poseidon hit the Acropolis of Athens with his trident, and Athenians point out the mark of where Zues threw down his thunderbolt to kill the legendary King Erechteus. To add to complication was the radically uneven ground where the site was to be constructed. Like many of the temples on the Acropolis of Athens, it was looted, destroyed, rebuilt, and survived environmental damages. One significant event for this temple was that about 10 years after completion it had a massive fire and much was destroyed. It was finally repaired around 395 BC. There are two porches on this temple (unusual in itself) but the one at the south-west corner is the most unique. It is support by six female statue which is the most well-known type of Caryatids.
Caryatids on Erechtheion:
Don’t miss the most famous Caryatids while visiting the Acropolis of Athens. Caryatid is an architectural column or pillar designed to resemble a standing female figure. The Caryatids (or Korai as called in Greece) on the south side of the Erechtheion temple are 6 sculpted female figures that are in place of columns to support the south porch of the temple. These maidens, or support Goddesses, are the most famous of this ancient Greek architecture. While the most famous they were not the first. Sadly, one of them (the 2nd) was removed by Lord Elgin in 1801 and today stands alone in the British Museum. The other five maidens were moved in 1978 to the Acropolis Museum and then moved in 2009 to the New Acropolis Museum, replicas now stand in their place at the top of Acropolis Hill in Athens. This was done to save the sculptors from the elements and pollution of Athens.
Propylaia entrance to the Acropolis of Athens:
Propylaia is the structure that represents the gateway to the Acropolis of Athens. This massive building was designed as a great entrance hall with 2 wings (north and south). The architecture of the structure was originally designed by Mnesikles and then was rebuilt after the Persian Wars and was developed by the leader Pericles. This impressive entrance to the plateau of the Acropolis is of Doric design and is the first thing that visitors see as they make the climb up Acropolis Hill. While the structure is of significant beauty, it also served a greater purpose during its construction. That purpose was to be able to have significant fortification when invaders came to Athens. Today the visitors are about to view 6 of the remaining columns, part of the ceiling, the walls of the 2 wings.
Temple of Nike at Acropolis of Athens:
The Temple of Nike or better known as the Temple of Athena Nike is dedicated to the goddess Athena Nike. It is a small temple that sits on the southwest edge of the Acropolis of Athens and was constructed between 427BC and 424BC, 2 years after the death of Pericles who was the master of reconstruction of the other artifacts on Acropolis Hill. As with many structures on Acropolis Hill, this structure has been ransacked and damaged by pollution. The only original portions left remaining are on the east side and all others are replicas of the original structure. The new white marble extremely contrast the existing marble so being able to discern what is original and what is replaced is easily noticeable. Much of the structure is now viewable in the British Museum in London. This temple is most notable due to the Cult Statue (inside) and the Frieze (outside).
On all 4 sides of the Temple of Nike is a famous sculpted frieze. This was added many years after the construction of the temple itself. The east side of the structure still has the original panels while the rest are part of the replications taken from castings that currently reside in the British Museum. On the east side visitors can still make out the Goddess Athena with her shield, the God Zeus who is beside her, and Poseidon, as well as several indiscernible Gods and Goddesses partaking in activities or perhaps even an assembly of the Gods. Along the other walls are the friezes of several significant battles throughout Greek history. Due to the placement of this temple so close to the edge, there was a parapet added to keep individuals safe. Along the parapet are additional carvings of the Goddess Nike in a variety of settings to include activities and her processions.
Wrap up of Acropolis of Athens!
I want to reemphasize that this is an amazing outing to take with your kids. With a little planning and some knowledge gained here, I think you will be well on your way to a great family adventure. Start building those memories early in the day as the heat of the summer can quickly turn your day from an adventure fun family field trip to one of a contingent outing due to extreme heat. Still looking for more fun to be had in Athens, search for your own family adventures with some amazing local tour guides here at GetYourGuide in Athens.
Have you visited the Acropolis of Athens? Did you use us for inspiration? Have other fun ideas and facts to share? We love hearing about your experiences, please share them in the comments below.
Looking for other family fun day trips from Athens? Check out our day spent at the Temple of Poseidon and how to get there using public transportation.
Mommy And Me Travels spent a week on a guided tour with Gate1 Travel around Greece. This tour was not a sponsored trip and has no influence on this posting. More about our Gate1 Travel experience can be found on our online review (coming soon). (Quick note: We had a great tour guide, Vivian, who showed us a wonderful time and was able to explain everything that was on our itinerary.) Visiting the Acropolis of Athens was an add-on to our itinerary and not included in our overall trip price. It was well worth the extra money to see this ancient citadel.
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