Overseeing the city of Athens, the once mighty citadel of Acropolis stands on a rocky hill in the Greek capital. The area is said to have been inhabited since the 6th millennium BC. The premises of the fallen citadel is home to many historical buildings with architectural importance. The still standing buildings date back to the 5th century BC.
The Acropolis Museum, both the old one and the new one, was specifically designed to offer homage to the discoveries and excavated artifacts from the site of the Acropolis of Athens. Hence, the new museum is located on the ruins of the Roman and Byzantine era of Athens.
Have you ever visited the Acropolis Museum in Athens? Please stick around, share your experience with us and let us know if we’ve missed anything. If not, here’s everything you will need to know about the museum, including a bit of history, close by monuments, hotels and cafés.
History of the Acropolis Archeological Site and the Establishment of the Museum
The fortified Acropolis was a city in itself, it is believed that a palace once stood on the same site, during the late Bronze Age. Not much remains from this era of when the city was called Attica, except for a limestone column base and pieces of some sandstone steps.
Between 570 and 550, the temple dedicated to Athena Polias, the patron of the city, was built. The temple was known back then as Hekatompedon, of which many relics survived to this day. Some studies suggest that the Hekatompedon stood where the Parthenon stands today.
The Hekatompedon was taken down by 500 BC to make room for the building of what’s known as the Older Parthenon; the one predating the current Parthenon. As a result, the construction of the Olympieion temple, dedicated to Zeus, stopped. Even the Piraeus stone destined to be used in building the Olympieion temple was used in building the Older Parthenon.
Despite the success of fending off the city against the First Persian Invasion in 490 BC, the invasion eventually succeeded in 480 BC. The Persians sacked almost the entire city, they destroyed the Older Parthenon, then still under construction, the Ancient Temple and everything on the hill they stood upon.
The time after the Persian invasion, the people of Athens began to clean the debris of everything destroyed. All the remains were put together to build a war memorial that can still be seen today and all religion related items were all buried after appropriate ceremonies. What was later called the “Persian Debris” became one of the most valuable archeological discoveries of the Acropolis in 1800s.
During the Golden Age of Athens, many of the main temples on the Acropolis were reconstructed including the Parthenon. After that the massive gate of Propylaea was built, followed by the Temple of Athena Nike, which was completed after the end of the Peloponnesian War. During the same period of time, between 421 BC and 406 BC, the temple of Erechtheion or “Athena Polias” was built.
Many of the buildings on the Acropolis were repaired during the Hellenistic and Roman eras, while construction of several others began. Buildings such as the Temple of Rome and Augustus, the sanctuary dedicated to Apollo and the great amphitheater of Odeon were built. The Greek undertook reparations to the Acropolis walls, hence restoring the rock’s usage as a fort.
Since the Byzantine period, both the Acropolis and the Parthenon were used for different purposes. Some of these were the Acropolis becoming the city’s administrative center, the Parthenon becoming a Church dedicated to the Virgin Mary and became the garrison headquarters for the Turkish Army after the Ottoman invasion.
Later on after the two sieges by the Greek revolutionary forces during the Greek War of Independence and another siege by the Ottomans. The Greeks decided to clear all the new added buildings to the rock of the Acropolis, as if “cleansing” the place from all the foreign elements added through the years.
Restoration works of the Acropolis
Even though several buildings survived from the Acropolis, they were in dire need of restoration. The project began in 1975 with the use of some of the modernist technologies to make all restoration works reversible. The reason of using these technologies so as to allow for future modifications, if the future experts saw or found newer ways to restore the buildings.
The restoration works were done using as much as possible of the original material from the remains of the buildings, in addition to new marble from Mount Pentelicus. The colonnades of the Parthenon, destroyed by the Venetians in the 17th century were restored, as well as many columns that were wrongly assembled. Works were also carried out on both the Propylaea and the Temple of Athena and Nike.
The Old Museum and the New Museum
When excavation works began on the site of the Acropolis, the need for a museum to house the excavated artifacts was imminent. The old Acropolis museum was established between 1865 and 1874. The museum was built to house all the discoveries made in and around the Acropolis.
The museum was built on the southeast corner of the stone, beneath the hilltop unto which the Acropolis stood, this made the museum almost invisible. The museum was prepared to give home to the artifacts from the archeological site such as stone sculptures and bronze remains.
These were mainly from the Parthenon, the Propylaea, the Temple of Athena and Nike, the Erechtheum and the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. More artifacts were added to the museum found in the Sanctuary of Artemis Brauronia, the Old Temple of Athena and the Temple and Theatre of Dionysus Eleutheureus and the Odeon of Pericles.
Why did the old Acropolis Museum close its doors?
Even after the old museum underwent expansion in the 1950s, it still lacked the sufficient space to store and display the ongoing discovered artifacts. This, in addition to the lack of visibility of the museum, with its location beneath the hilltop and the old drainage pipes from the museum caused severe damage to the Acropolis hill.
One major reason to build a bigger museum was to refute the argument cited by several British officials in objection to returning the Parthenon marbles to Greece. Since the Greek state asked for the return of the marble pieces, these officials said that Greece didn’t have a suitable location where the marbles could be put on display.
In 2021, UNESCO issued its first ever decree regarding the Parthenon marbles. In its decision, the organization asked the United Kingdom to return the historical artifacts to Greece.
After such a quarrel about the Parthenon marbles, the establishment of a gallery to house the marbles has been a cornerstone of every proposed design of the new museum. The idea to establish the newer and bigger museum was raised in 1974 by the prime minister at the time, Konstantinos Karamanlis. Hence it was agreed that the design to be chosen by competition.
The first two competitions to design the structure of the new Acropolis Museum, held in 1976 and 1979, respectively, were restricted to Greek participants and both competitions failed to produce any winners. The main reason for this was that the lands designated for the new building were unsuitable for construction.
A third competition, international this time, was announced in 1989 and three possible sites were chosen for the construction. Even though the competition was won by Italian architects Manfredi Nicoletti and Lucio Passarelli, work only reached the digging and excavations for the foundations after years of delay during the 1990s.
Works came to a halt due to the archeological sensitivity of the remains found on site, which eventually led to the annulment of the competition results in 1999. One thing was decided, however, was that the location of the museum would be in the huge empty space in front of the Weiler Building.
7The Weiler Building was built in 18836 under the direction of the then director of the Athens Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities. Once it served as a hospital then as barracks, the building was remodeled between 1985 and 1987 and has served as the Museum of the Center for the Acropolis Studies. There are many collections on display in this museum such as the casts of the Parthenon sculptures.
The fourth, and the last competition, saw alterations made to the construction plan. In order to preserve the archeological integrity of the site, the new museum building was to be above the ground, raised on pillars. This competition was won by the cooperation of the New York based architect Bernard Tschumi and the Greek architect Michael Photiadis.
The locations for the pillars were chosen after suitable preservation of two recent discoveries was done. These being two layers of private houses and workshops, from the Byzantine era and the classical era. The foundation pillars were designed in such a manner to withstand a 10-magnitude earthquake.
Close to the completion of the construction works, the process of moving all the artifacts from the old museum to the new museum began in October 2007 and lasted for four months. The process required the use of three tower cranes to make sure the move was done smoothly and without accidents.
The Structure of the Acropolis Museum
The design set for the building by Bernard Tschumi focused on three concepts: light, movement and the most important one, the tectonic and pragmatic one. The museum consists of four levels, three for the display of the museum collections and the fourth middle one houses the café, museum shop and the offices.
The museum also has an amphitheater, a virtual theater and a hall for temporary exhibitions. Some of the floors of the museum are made of glass to allow visitors to see the archeological site below and the still ongoing excavations.
The archeological findings from the slopes of the Acropolis are put on display in the first level, which explains the interesting design of a sloping floor, so as to resemble the ascension of a rock. Sculptures and artifacts from the other buildings of the Acropolis are on display on the same floor, such as findings from the Erechtheum, the Propylaea, the Temple of Athena and Nike as well as artifacts from the Roman and early Christian eras.
One feature that is visible from outside the museum is how the top floor sits askew from the other floors, this is to mirror how the ancient temple was built on the Acropolis. Another feature resembling the temple is the spacing of the 48 columns of the Parthenon hall, which mark the outline of the temple.
The windows are made of glass so as to allow natural light to enter and illuminate the Parthenon marbles, as it once did in the ancient temple. The pediment marbles, the metopes on the columns and the frieze behind the metopes are all displayed at a suitable height, not as high as they were in the ancient temple, for ease of viewing for the visitors.
Controversy about the Acropolis Museum
Controversy was raised several times regarding the construction of the museum above an archeological site. Despite the fact that parts of the museum’s floor are made of glass to allow visitors to marvel at the site below, it was argued whether such a massive building would fit well among the buildings of the neighborhood.
Another heated controversy came from the enlisting of two historical buildings, located in front of the museum, for demolition. The reason they were listed was that the Greek government had de-listed the two buildings from the architectural history of Greece. Despite the fact one of the buildings is an example of Neo-classical style and the other of Art Deco style.
How to get to the New Acropolis Museum?
The entrance to the museum is located on the Dionysiou Areopagitou Street and you will reach the place through several transport routes:
- By metro: the red line of the Athens Metro and getting off at Akropoli metro station. The station is adjacent to the museum’s entrance.
- By tram: the nearest tram station is Leoforos Vouliagmenis.
- By city bus: the nearest bus stop is Makrigianni and many bus lines stop at this station such as lines 24, 57, 106 and 126.
- By trolley: the nearest stop is Makrigianni with lines 1, 5 and 15 stopping there.
- By bicycle: there are metal bike racks at the museum’s main entrance and the entrance to the Akropoli Metro station.
Tips about the Acropolis Museum (Ticket price and free entry days)
Here are some tips about the opening times of the museum, the ticket price and measures in place:
- The opening times of the museum differ from the Winter season to the Summer Season.
- The winter season starts from 1st of November until 31st of March, during which the opening times are as follows:
- From Monday to Thursday: from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm and last entry is at 4:30 pm.
- On Fridays: from 9:00 am to 10:00 pm and last entry is at 9:30 pm.
- Weekends: from 9:00 am to 8 pm and last entry is at 7:30 pm.
- The summer season starts from 1st of April until 31st of October, the opening times then are as follows:
- On Mondays: from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm and last entry is at 3:30 pm.
- From Tuesday to Sunday: from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm and last entry is at 7:30 pm.
- On Fridays: from 8:00 am to 10:00 pm and last entry is at 9:30 pm.
- All galleries are cleared of visitors 15 minutes before closing times.
- You can visit the archeological site below the museum during these times:
- Winter season: from Monday to Sunday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm and last entry is at 4:30 pm.
- Summer season: On Mondays from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm with last entry at 3:30 pm. From Tuesday to Sunday from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm and last entry is at 7:30 pm.
- The museum closes its doors on several national and international holidays such as January 1st, Orthodox Easter Sunday, May 1st and 25th and 26th of December.
- The museum stays open until midnight on the evenings of the August full moon and the European Night of Museums. Musical concerts take place on these nights at the courtyard.
- The museum’s opening hours are reduced during the Easter and Christmas seasons:
- Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve: open from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm.
- Orthodox Good Friday: open from 12:00 pm to 6:00 pm.
- Orthodox Holy Saturday: open from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm.
9. What is the ticket price for the Acropolis Museum and can you visit for free?
The ticket price differs between the winter season and the summer season:
- Winter season: ticket price is 5 Euros with the reduced price at 3 Euros.
- Summer season: ticket price is 10 Euros and the reduced price is 5 Euros.
To answer the most important question; whether you can visit the museum for free or not?
You actually CAN!
There are certain days throughout the year when you can enter the museum free of charge. These being as follows:
- March 6th: Melina Mercouri Day.
- March 25th: National Holiday.
- May 18th: International Day of Museums.
- October 28th: National Holiday.
Things to do near the Acropolis Museum
There are many landmarks and places to visit near the museum, these are just a few of them:
Herod Atticus Odeon
This Roman theater built in 161 AD, is located at the southwest slope of the Acropolis. Built by Herodes Atticus in the memory of his beloved wife, Aspasia Annia Regilla, the theater consisted of three stories and had a wooden roof made of cedar of Lebanon timber. The roof was destroyed and the theater was left in ruins by Heruli in 267 AD.
The once venue for music concerts was extensively restored in the 1950s. Since the restoration, the theater has been the venue for the annual Athens Festival, from May to October, where both acclaimed Greek and international artists perform. The theater has a seating capacity of 5,000 people.
Both the exterior and the interior of the theater are visible from different vantage points. Up close you can see the exterior of the venue without ticket and when you’re on your way to the top of the Acropolis hill. The Odeon is a magnificent example of the architecture of the time it was built in.
Theater of Dionysus
This theater is originally a cult theater, built in honor of the Greek god Dionysus. The first orchestra terrace of the theater was built back in the mid to late 6th century BC as part of the sanctuary of Dionysus Eleuthereus. This orchestra was the host of the festival celebrating Dionysus, known as City Dionysia.
This theater is much smaller than the Atticus Odeon, and unfortunately not as preserved as it. It is located on your way up to the Akropolis, on the south slope. Making your way up the hill, you will first pass by the Odeon then further up ahead, you will come by the Dionysus theater. Despite its poorer state, the lower sets of seating of the theater are still intact.
Athens and Epidaurus Festival
This cultural and theatrical festival has taken place in Athens and Epidaurus since 1955. The festival has been the suggestion of Georgios Rallis, the Minister of the Prime Minister back then, as a means to promote artistic and theatrical creativity.
From May to October every year, different cultural events, musicals and theatrical events take place. The festivities take place in different sites around Athens, including open-air theater, Opera, dance and classical music performed at the Atticus Odeon. Epidaurus is about a two-hour ride away from Athens.
The festival is a great way to get acquainted with the traditions and folklore of the Greek people as well.
The events in 2022 will begin on June 1st, entry is allowed after presenting a valid vaccination pass. Tickets can be booked online through their official website. The prices for the performances will be announced, as well as the beginning of booking, on Friday, May 14th for performances taking place in June, July and August.
Ilias Lalaounis Jewelry Museum
If you’d like to experience history through jewelry making, then this museum founded by Ilias Lalaounis is the place to visit. It is located in close proximity to the Acropolis and has over 50 collections with more than 3,000 pieces designed between 1940 and 1992 in its permanent exhibition.
Before the founding of the museum, the buildings in which it takes home today, were the workshops of the Ilias Lalaounis Greek Gold, which were the first modern jewelry workshops in Greece. In addition to the permanent exhibition, the museum has a gift shop, a café, an auditorium and a rooftop terrace.
A great inspiration for the beautiful items on display was the history of Greece. There are showcased pieces derived from prehistoric arts, the art of Ancient Greece, the Byzantine art and architecture, 15 other world cultures, even nature and technology. There’s also special commission work such as the Olympic torch and some ceremonial swords.
Where to stay near the Acropolis?
1. Herodion Hotel (4 Rovertou Galli Street, Athens, 11742, Greece):
Located at the foot of the Acropolis hill, Herodion Hotel is just a few steps away from the prestigious Acropolis Museum. With a beautiful roof garden and a rooftop restaurant, it also offers great views of the hill, most spectacular even at night.
For a two-night stay in this welcoming hotel, with the inclusion of a delicious breakfast, you can choose a Budget Double Room with one full bed at 339 Euros with taxes and fees. However, if you’d like to enjoy free cancelation and payment at the property, the total will be 376 Euros.
2. Coco-Mat Athens BC (5 Falirou, Αθήνα, Athens, 11742, Greece):
Highly rated not only for its location, but also for comfort, cleanliness and the hospitality of its staff. Coco-Mat is just steps away from the Acropolis Museum, the Atticus Odeon and the Temple of Olympion Zeus. The hotel has a restaurant, an outdoor seasonal pool as well as a sauna.
A Budget Double Room with one large double bed, with a city view, with the inclusion of breakfast, will be 348 Euros with taxes and charges, for a two-night stay. The feature of free cancelation and payment at the property will raise the room price to 388 Euros plus taxes and charges.
3. Philippos Hotel (3 Mitseon Street, Athens, 11742, Greece):
Close to both the Acropolis Museum and the Akropolis Metro station, the rooms in Philippos Hotel are warmly decorated in earthly tones. The old quarters of the city center are right beside the hotel, giving you a true feel of the Greek culture and atmosphere. The café at the hotel is where the everyday breakfast is served, while lunch and dinner are served at the Herodion Hotel nearby.
A Twin Room with a city view with two single beds, for a two-night stay, with breakfast, will be 261 Euros plus taxes and charges. The price goes up to 275 Euros plus taxes and charges, with the bonus of free cancelation and payment at the property.
4. AD Athens Luxury Rooms and Suites (Athanasiou Diakou 4 Makrygianni, Athens, 11742, Greece):
This is another great hotel located close to the Acropolis Museum, the Temple of Olympion Zeus and the Atticus Odeon. The elegantly decorated rooms of the hotel are equipped with hydromassage jets in the bathrooms. Breakfast is served on the hotel terrace with beautiful view of the city and the Akropolis.
A Superior King Room, with one large double bed, for a two-night stay, with the inclusion of breakfast, will be 240 Euros plus taxes and charges, that goes up to 280 Euros if you wish to enjoy free cancelation and pay at the property when you get there. You can book a Superior Twin Room with two single beds at the same rates.
Top Restaurants close to the Acropolis
1. Ellevoro (Rovertou Galli 2, Athens 11742 Greece):
Mediterranean, European and Greek cuisine with vegetarian friendly, vegan and gluten free options, you’ll have a great experience at Ellevoro. Their prices range from 20 to 50 Euros, you’ll also love the atmosphere of the place. With its candle lighting, music and great service, the place is very highly recommended on TripAdvisor.
2. Indian Haveli (Leof. Andrea Siggrou 12, Athens 117 42 Greece):
A taste of India in the Greek capital, this restaurant is ranked at number 4 on the TripAdvisor list of restaurants in Athens. With a great price range between 6 and 15 Euros, they also offer healthy twists to traditional Indian favorites, as well as vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options. One TripAdvisor reviewer, who’d just been there a few days ago, described it as the place where you’ll “get the soul of Indian taste.”
3. Elaea Mezedadiko (Makrigianni 19-21, Athens 117 42 Greece):
If you’re craving some seafood deliciousness, this is the place you should head to. They serve Mediterranean and Greek cuisines as well as vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. The place is highly praised for the hospitality and friendliness of its staff, and to top it all, their prices range from just 8 to 19 Euros.
4. POINT a bar and Restaurant (4 Galli Rovertou Herodion Hotel, Athens 117 42 Greece):
With great views of the Acropolis, POINT is another great choice that offers European and Mediterranean cuisine with vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. The restaurant and bar is highly praised for its delicious food on TripAdvisor. Due to its location it might be a bit pricier with a price range between 45 to 70 Euros.
5. Arcadia Restaurant (27 Makrygianni St, Athens 11742 Greece):
Our last recommendation offers Mediterranean, European and Seafood in addition to Greek cuisine. With an affordable price range between 10 and 20 Euros, Arcadia Restaurant was awarded the Traveler’s Choice in 2021 on TripAdvisor. One of the most liked features about the place is the option to sit on the outdoor tables and bask in the sun.
Top Cafés close to the Acropolis
1. Terrakarpo (Chatzichristou 14, Athens 11742 Greece):
This place is not just where you can get your caffeine fix, but they also make their own truffles and snack bars. The place was praised for their friendly and professional treatment of guests as well as making the best cup of coffee in the Greek capital. They’re open from 8:00 am to 9:00 pm!
2. Little Tree Books & Coffee (Kavalloti 2, Athens 117 42 Greece):
With a warm atmosphere and indoor seating among tens of books and outdoor seating in the great weather, it’s no wonder Little Tree was ranked at number 2 on TripAdvisor’s list of Coffee and Tea in Athens. Open from 9:00 am to 12:00 am, they also offer vegetarian friendly, vegan and gluten free options.
3. Crescendo Café (Makrygianni 5-7, Athens 117 42 Greece):
Tasty savory and sweet filo deliciousness await you at Crescendo. With both indoor and outdoor seating, the place is mostly praised for being the perfect place to have breakfast on your way to Akropolis. Since it is close to the Akropolis Metro station, some see it as a great location to get your day started.
4. Drupes and Drips (Zitrou 20, Athens 11742 Greece):
This Italian style bar and café has a friendly and warm family feel, the people there are more than ready to help you decide what to order. One of their most recommended items to try is the cheese and meat board, which is the perfect thing to complete your weekend outing. One TripAdvisor reviewer said they felt as if they were in Barcelona as they enjoyed their orders.
What people are saying about the Acropolis Museum in 2022!
Many TripAdvisor reviewers loved their experience at the majestic museum, with one reviewer describing it as the perfect place to learn about Greek history, art and architecture. Another reviewer praised the usage of glass floors on the first level, since the views of the archeological site below were breathtaking.
A tip from another visitor said to book your tickets to visit the museum in advance, as when you get there, there can be a long queue waiting to buy tickets. Another tip is to have something at the café, even if a cup of coffee, but the bonus would be you’d get to enjoy the complete view of the downhill and the city of Athens in the horizon.
I hope you liked this brief and comprehensive guide about the Acropolis Museum. Have you ever been there? Did we miss anything? Please do let us know in the comments below and share any additional tips with us!