Acropolis wow!

One of the highlights of a visit to Athens is seeing the Acropolis and Parthenon for yourself. It’s stunning from a distance and incredible up close.

Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle. He has been a journalist for more than 20 years and has travelled the world full time since 2011.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle and has been travelling full time for a decade.

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The Acropolis, Athens, Greece

It’s always a bit strange, I find, actually going to one of the world’s most famous landmarks. There’s so much expectation there.

You’ve seen so many photos – often making the place look better than it could ever be in real life – that you fear the actual thing couldn’t possibly live up to the hype. I was worried the Acropolis in Athens would be one of those.

How to visit the Acropolis, Athens, Greece

Climbing the steps, it is hot. A steep cliff rises above me, a scattering of ruins lies around. Nothing to write home about yet.

Tourists are paused along the path, taking photos of… I’m not really sure. One Japanese visitor is told off by the guards for using a tripod but I’m not really sure why. There’s no need for him to be using the assistance to photograph the unmoving objects in the hot sunlight – so there’s no real point in stopping him. But so be it.

I walk further on and leave him to his sweaty mutterings, imagining speech bubbles of angry kanji characters.

How to visit the Acropolis, Athens, Greece

Up the final set of stairs it’s starting the get slippery. Climbing on marble in flip flops makes you wonder if the stones are perspiring themselves.

Perhaps it’s the strain of supporting so many visitors over so many thousands of years. I imagine it’s always been tiring, even if the material of the sandals have changed over the generations.

How to visit the Acropolis, Athens, Greece
How to visit the Acropolis, Athens, Greece

Getting to the top, I pause for breath. Not because of the steep incline I’ve just climbed, but because the beauty of the Acropolis has finally revealed itself.

Everything that had been visible from a distance is in front of me but close up it takes on a new dimension.

I had wondered if it would live up to expectations. It does.

How to visit the Acropolis, Athens, Greece

The Parthenon at the Acropolis

The columns tower above, the scale something that could not be imagined. Unlike many ruins in Greece, it’s easy to picture the original form.

The temple for Athena is a tribute which merges the human and the divine. All of Athens, her city, lies flat below but up here, closer to the heavens, you feel displaced from the minutiae of everyday life.

There is a spirituality to standing atop the Acropolis that neither time nor cynicism can destroy.

How to visit the Acropolis, Athens, Greece
How to visit the Acropolis, Athens, Greece

It seems even hotter up here. Are we closer to the sun? Is there a reflected heat from all the stone? Is it just a lack of shade?

Under one of the few trees on top of the hill, bubblers of water allow visitors to quench the thirst and refill their bottles.

One family has commandeered them all, though, like foreign invaders conquering and hydrating. Their small children use it as a bath, splashing around in the shallow basin.

Really, it’s not that hot! And it’s my turn!

How to visit the Acropolis, Athens, Greece

It’s funny how the grandest of sites can be so impressive, despite the expectation. The most religious of places can be almost transcendental.

But the little things somehow always creep in. A ban on tripods; slippery stairs; a queue for the drinking water. We are but mere mortals.

THE BEST ACCOMMODATION IN ATHENS

There’s a good range of accommodation in Athens and I would recommend finding something near Syntagma Square for convenience.

BACKPACKER

For a backpacker option, I would recommend the modern and comfortable Bedbox Hostel.

BUDGET

If you’re looking for value, I would suggest the Athens Mirabello, which also has a great location.

BOUTIQUE

There are some cool design hotels in the city and one of the nicest is The Artist Athens.

LUXURY

And for 5-star luxury, I would suggest the modern Electra Metropolis with a great view of the Acropolis.

UNESCO logo

This site is on the UNESCO World Heritage List!
I'm on a mission to visit as many World Heritage Sites as I can. Only about 800 more to go... eek!

48 thoughts on “Acropolis wow!”

  1. An amazing part of history so perfectly displayed for the current generation. I often wonder with this ruins, what people will think about them in say 300 years time.

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  2. Only an Aussie would climb Acropolis in flip flops 😉

    I think the Acropolis very much lives up to the expectations. Even on hot summer days with heaps of tourists, it’s quite possible to imagine how it once was.

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  3. That second photo is gorgeous! And we know what you mean about fearing that reality will not live up to the hype. We felt that way about the Taj Mahal, then it turned out to be so much MORE than expected that we visited it on two different occasions!

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    • That’s great to hear that about the Taj Mahal. I haven’t been there yet but would have the same kind of concern. To be fair, there aren’t a lot of places that do disappoint… but there’s just always the fear that they will.

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  4. Love the night time shot of the acropolis. And also your description of your approach to it, and how it managed to meet you expectations, despite the minor niggles. You are right.. there is always something 😉

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  5. Ugh, this makes me really want to go to Greece now. Why can’t the world get smaller instead of larger the more we travel! 🙂 Great piece. I love the perspective about what your day is actually like the day you visit one of the world’s greatest attractions. Like when Dani and I went to Tikal and I had my first day of Dengue. Wasn’t really what I expected that day to be like 🙂 but we had a good time anyway! 🙂

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    • I’m sure I’ll always remember going to The Acropolis but I probably won’t always remember the family who were hogging the water. The small things aren’t important, as such, by they are part of the experience.
      Having said that, I reckon you’ll always remember Dengue!! Poor thing…

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  6. I’ve been there a few times but I still love it. I personally love the view of the acropolis and agora from the aeropagus. I can just imagine the cases being heard and Paul’s sermon as well.

    And your photos are gorgeous, but I recognize that bust of Antoninus Pius from the Stoa of Atalos in the agora.

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  7. Definitely go earlier in the morning to the Acropolis. I think I was up there before 10 and although sunny and warm, not insane like you talk about. Really is an impressive place though.

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    • Yeah, if you get up there early you’ll avoid the summer sun and the tourist buses. It’s one of those things that I knew, but still couldn’t be bothered to wake up. I decided a sleep-in was more important than a comfortable day at the Acropolis 🙂

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    • Gosh, when it was all intact and not the pile of ruins it is now, it would have been an incredible place. Especially considering that Athens would not have been nearly as big as it is now – it would have just added to the impact of the temples up on the hill.

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  8. You really captured the Acropolis experience beautifully in this post. It is certainly one of those places that everyone must see at least once in their life. Great photos!

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  9. You take really beautiful shots! 🙂 Despite the crowd, I think Acropolis is so quintessential you just have to do it. But the ticket also comes together with a visit to Ancient Agora (it’s like Acropolis without a crowd) and Kerameikos (very underrated, the archaeological site is themed around death). I love Greece and would like to return someday!

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