We developed our visit to Athens by seeing the Acropolis from different angles, from the tops of the nearby hills, and from the base of the hill on different sides. The Parthenon is the big central temple, and the day came when it was time to climb to the top and see it up close for ourselves.
Clockwise from upper left: Acropolis from Acropolis Museum (S); from Filopappou Hill (SW), from Lycabettus Hill (NE); from Monastiraki flea market (N); from Roman agora (N).
We’ve had lovely weather almost the entire length of our visit, and I recommend March as a good time to be in Athens–unless you are planning to swim.
The day we chose to climb up the Acropolis was sunny and warm. By the time we reached the top, I’d shed my gloves, scarf, sweater and tied my jacket around my waist. The Propylaia was the grand entrance to the Acropolis and is still the principal entry point.
Even in March, the Acropolis is popular, and there were hundreds of our fellow visitors. (There is an average of 16,000 visitors every day, all year long.)
We picked our way from structure to structure, appreciating the monumental undertaking of piecing ancient temples back together from scraps. The Temple of Athena Nike (below) is a good example. First build around 425 BC, it has been completely dismantled and rebuilt, twice! Remaining carvings are in the National Museum, with replicas displayed on the reconstructed building.
The Erechtheion is not well known to visitors, but has my favorite features of the Acropolis, the Caryatid pillars, six columns in the form of women that hold up the roof of a small side porch. The opposite side of the building has another porch that appears overly tall, as the ground slopes away and the columns fill in the space.
There are two amphitheaters built into the side of the Acropolis. The one below, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, is used for some performances during the summer. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see an opera or concert here?
The Dionysian Theater is larger, and seated 17,000 people when it was complete. This is where the famous authors of ancient Greece declaimed their work, and the front rows were marble thrones.
The Parthenon is very different from the Temple of Athena Nike. It is huge, and though never moved, it was reused as a Byzantine church, a Roman Catholic cathedral, and a mosque, as well as for gunpowder storage. Contemporary restoration began in 1900-1917, though that restoration was all replaced starting in 1975. Today, restoration continues, and though there is no public information, it appears that full reconstruction of the Parthenon to its original dimensions with all of its original columns is the project’s goal.
Restoration is ongoing, as we could tell from the huge crane, layers of scaffolding, and construction trailers that compete with temples for space on the Acropolis. There are a lot of pieces of columns and blocks still waiting for something to happen.
Our selfie as gods of the Athenian sphere.
The crowds didn’t bother us too much, though we had to wait our turn to take some photos while others posed for their Instagram shots. We had to pay attention to the ground, too, as it’s worn smooth from all the visitors shoes and is not only very uneven, but slippery. The climb to the top isn’t difficult, though it is uphill. There’s a lift, but it is tiny and mostly used by people in wheelchairs.
There are also lovely views out over the city and the hills we’ve climbed during our stay.
L: Looking over the ancient agora and Athens R: Lycabettus Hill from the Acropolis
We left with more questions than when we arrived. It was an excellent field trip.