It took me a long time to think about visiting Greece, but one thing that I always understood about this historic nation was the sheer amount of classic ancient ruins in its capital, Athens. Everybody talks about the Acropolis being a true masterpiece and a MUST-SEE on the tourist itinerary – but how does it compare to other ancient sites from across the continent?
Acropolis means “high city” in Greek. Most city-states in ancient Greece had at their centre a rocky mound or hill where they built their important temples and where the people could retreat to if under attack. The most famous acropolis is in Athens, which is the country’s most popular tourist attraction. There are pedestrian streets on both sides of the Acropolis leading up the ruins, and this makes getting there very easy. This is certainly something the Acropolis has going for it – it is located dead in the centre of the city, making it extremely popular with all visitors to Athens. There is no need for long journeys outside of the city centre to see these ancient ruins (unlike, for example, Stonehenge in the UK, Cappadocia in Turkey, or Pompeii in Italy).
The Athenian Acropolis is home to one of the most famous buildings in the world: the Parthenon. This temple was built for the goddess Athena. It was decorated with beautiful sculptures which represent the greatest achievement of Greek artists. When I hear about the Acropolis in Athens, it was this building that always sprung into my mind, even if in reality it is just a very small part of the whole complex. The fame of the Acropolis is very high – it is basically the most famous building in all of Greece, and with good reason. Much like the Coliseum in Rome, it is the centrepiece of a whole host of tourist sites.
The Acropolis complex is also home to a number of other temples and sanctuaries, including the Propylaia, Erechtheion, and the Temple of Athena Nike. These buildings of the Acropolis provide examples of both the Ionic and Doric styles of architecture. A good half day is required to fully appreciate the scale of these ancient ruins, and reading up on your Greek history wouldn’t go amiss either if you want to maximise your understanding of this monumental complex. While many historic sites in Europe do not need much research before visiting – or at least have their histories written out for tourists to read while they are walking around – the Acropolis does not have too many plaques of tourist information, so make sure you have a map handy, preferably with some historic information readily available, too.
The Theatre of Dionysus Eleuthereus is a major open-air theatre and one of the earliest preserved in Athens. It is considered the first theatre in the world. It was used for festivals in honor of the god Dionysus. It is sometimes confused with the later and better-preserved Odeon of Herodes Atticus, located nearby on the southwest slope of the Acropolis. Some believed that Dionysus himself was responsible for its construction. This kind of open-air theatre is very unique to Greece, and really gives a great impression of what Greek culture was like back in the day.
Aside from mavelling at its architectural splendour, you can also get the best views of Athens from up at the Acropolis. The views down below are amazing and what a great place to view the Greek sunset! Tickets to the Acropolis cost 12 Euros per person, although this does increase in the summer, and you get free entry to other sites in Athens, too, such as the Agora and Hadrian’s Library. Ticketing prices for the Acropolis can be considered very good value when compared to other sites in Europe (mosques and museums in Istanbul, Roman sites in Italy, or chateaux in central France) so as long as you have your history books with you, it is a great way to spend a day when in Athens!