The New Acropolis Museum, Athens (Top 9 Tips)

The New Acropolis Museum

Updated On: June 10, 2024 by   Aya RadwanAya Radwan

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 and the new, was explicitly designed to offer homage to the discoveries and excavated artefacts from Athens’ Acropolis. Hence, the new museum is on the ruins of Athens’ Roman and Byzantine eras.

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, which is close to monuments, hotels, and cafés.

A night view of Athens and the Acropolis
A night view of Athens and the Acropolis

History of the Acropolis Archeological Site and the Establishment of the Museum

Acropolis

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, when the city was called Attica, except for a limestone column base and pieces of sandstone steps.

The temple dedicated to Athena Polias, the city’s patron, was built between 570 and 550. At that time, it was known as Hekatompedon, and many relics still survive. 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 to build the Olympieion temple was used to create 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 and destroyed the Older Parthenon, which was still under construction, the Ancient Temple, and everything on the hill they stood upon.

After the Persian invasion, the people of Athens began to clean the debris from 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 buried after appropriate ceremonies. What was later called the “Persian Debris” became one of the most valuable archaeological discoveries of the Acropolis in the 1800s.

During the Golden Age of Athens, many of the main temples on the Acropolis, including the Parthenon, were reconstructed. The massive gate of Propylaea was built after that, followed by the Temple of Athena Nike, which was completed after the end of the Peloponnesian War. Between 421 BC and 406 BC, the temple of Erechtheion or “Athena Polias” was built during the same period.

The Erechtheion
The Erechtheion

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 theatre of the Odeon were built. The Greeks undertook reparations to the Acropolis walls, restoring the rock’s usage as a fort.

Since the Byzantine period, the Acropolis and the Parthenon have been used for different purposes. The Acropolis became the city’s administrative centre, the Parthenon a Church dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and the latter the garrison headquarters for the Turkish Army after the Ottoman invasion.

Later, 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 buildings added 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 the Acropolis, they were in dire need of restoration. The project began in 1975 with some modernist technologies to make all restoration works reversible. These technologies allow for future modifications if future experts see or find 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 and new marble from Mount Pentelicus. The colonnades of the Parthenon, destroyed by the Venetians in the 17th century, were restored, as were many wrongly assembled columns. Works were also done on the Propylaea, the Temple of Athena, and Nike.

The Old Museum and the New Museum

When excavations began on the site of the Acropolis, the need for a museum to house the excavated artefacts was imminent. The old Acropolis Museum was established between 1865 and 1874. It 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 on which the Acropolis stood. This made the museum almost invisible. The museum was prepared to house artefacts from the archaeological 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 artefacts were added to the museum in the Sanctuary of Artemis Brauronia, the Old Temple of Athena, 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 an expansion in the 1950s, it still lacked sufficient space to store and display the ongoing discoveries of artefacts. This, in addition to the museum’s lack of visibility due to its location beneath the hilltop and the old drainage pipes from the museum, caused severe damage to Acropolis Hill.

One primary reason for building an enormous museum was to refute the argument cited by several British officials in their objection to returning the Parthenon marble 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 marble could be put on display.

The Parthenon temple on the Acropolis
The Parthenon Temple on the Acropolis

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 artefacts to Greece.

After such a quarrel about the Parthenon marble, establishing a gallery to house the marble has been a cornerstone of every proposed design of the new museum. The idea to develop the latest and biggest museum was raised in 1974 by the prime minister at the time, Konstantinos Karamanlis. Hence, it was agreed that the competition would choose the design.

Competitions

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 neither competition produced any winners. The main reason was that the lands designated for the new building were unsuitable for construction.

A third international competition was announced in 1989, and three possible construction sites were chosen. Although Italian architects Manfredi Nicoletti and Lucio Passarelli won the contest, work only reached the digging and excavations for the foundations after years of delay during the 1990s.

Works stopped due to the archaeological sensitivity of the remains on site, eventually leading to the annulment of the competition results 1999. However, it was decided that the museum would be in the vast space in front of the Weiler Building.

7 The Weiler Building was built in 18836 by the then-director of the Athens Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities. Once a hospital and then a barracks, it was remodelled between 1985 and 1987 and has served as the Museum of the Center for the Acropolis Studies. Many collections, such as the casts of the Parthenon sculptures, are on display in this museum.

The fourth and last competition saw alterations to the construction plan. To preserve the site’s archaeological integrity, the new museum building was to be above the ground, raised on pillars. The cooperation of the New York-based architect Bernard Tschumi and the Greek architect Michael Photiadis won this competition.

The locations for the pillars were chosen after suitable preservation of two recent discoveries: two layers of private houses and workshops from the Byzantine and classical eras. The foundation pillars were designed to withstand a 10-magnitude earthquake.

Close to the completion of the construction works, moving all the artefacts from the old museum to the new one began in October 2007 and lasted for four months. The move required three tower cranes to ensure smoothness and safety.

The Structure of the Acropolis Museum

Bernard Tschumi’s design for the building focused on three concepts: light, movement, and, most importantly, tectonic and pragmatic. 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 offices.

The museum also has a theater, a virtual theatre, and a hall for temporary exhibitions. Some of the museum’s floors are made of glass, allowing visitors to see the archaeological site below and the still ongoing excavations.

Frieze on the 3rd level of the New Acropolis Museum
Frieze on the 3rd level of the New Acropolis Museum

The first level displays archaeological findings from the Acropolis’s slopes, which explains the exciting design of a sloping floor that resembles the ascension of a rock. Sculptures and artefacts from the other buildings of the Acropolis are on display on the same floor, including findings from the Erechtheum, the Propylaea, the Temple of Athena, and Nike, as well as artefacts from the Roman and early Christian eras.

One feature 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 natural light can enter and illuminate the Parthenon marble, 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 the ancient temple, for visitors’ ease of viewing.

Controversy about the Acropolis Museum

Several times, controversy was raised regarding the museum’s construction above an archaeological site. Even though 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 neighbourhood’s buildings.

The archeological site beneath the New Acropolis Museum
The archaeological site beneath the New Acropolis Museum

Another heated controversy came from enlisting two historical buildings in front of the museum for demolition. They were listed because the Greek government had de-listed the two buildings from the architectural history of Greece. Although one of the buildings is an example of Neo-classical style and the other is of Art Deco style,

How to get to the New Acropolis Museum?

The entrance to the museum is located on 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, such as lines 24, 57, 106, and 126, stop at this station.
  • By trolley: the nearest stop is Makrigianni, with lines 1, 5 and 15 stopping there.
  • By bicycle: metal bike racks are 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:

  1. The museum’s opening times differ from the Winter to the Summer Season.
  2. The winter season starts from 1 November until 31 March, during which the opening times are as follows:
    • Monday through Thursday: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., with the last entry at 4:30 p.m.
    • 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 the last entry is at 7:30 pm.
  3. The summer season starts from 1 April until 31 October; the opening times then are as follows:
    • On Mondays: from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm, and the last entry is at 3:30 pm.
    • From Tuesday to Sunday: from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm, and the last entry is at 7:30 pm.
    • On Fridays, from 8:00 am to 10:00 pm, the last entry is at 9:30 pm.
  4. All galleries are cleared of visitors 15 minutes before closing times.
  5. You can visit the archaeological site below the museum during these times:
    • Winter season: Monday through Sunday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., with the last entry at 4:30 p.m.
    • Summer season: Mondays from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., with the last entry at 3:30 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., with the previous entry at 7:30 p.m.
  6. The museum closes on national and international holidays, such as 1 January, Orthodox Easter Sunday, 1 May, and December 25th and 26th.
  7. The museum stays open until midnight on the evenings of the August full moon and the European Night of Museums. Musical concerts take place in the courtyard on these nights.
  8. 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 it 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: The ticket price is 10 Euros, and the reduced price is 5 Euros.

To answer the most critical question, can you visit the museum for free?

You actually CAN!

There are certain days throughout the year when you can enter the museum free of charge. These are as follows:

  • 6 March: Melina Mercouri Day.
  • 25 March: National Holiday.
  • 18 May: International Day of Museums.
  • 28 October: 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 theatre, built in 161 AD, is located on the southwest slope of the Acropolis. Built by Herodes Atticus in memory of his beloved wife, Aspasia Annia Regilla, the theatre consisted of three stories and had a wooden roof made of cedar of Lebanon timber. The roof was destroyed, and Heruli left the theatre in ruins in 267 AD.

The theatre, once a venue for music concerts, was extensively restored in the 1950s. Since then, it has been the venue for the annual Athens Festival, which takes place from May to October. The Athens Festival features acclaimed Greek and international artists. The theatre has a seating capacity of 5,000 people.

The theatre’s exterior and interior are visible from different vantage points. Up close, you can see the venue’s exterior without a 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.

Theatre of Dionysus

This cult theatre was initially built in honour of the Greek god Dionysus. The first orchestra terrace was built in the mid-to-late 6th century BC as part of the sanctuary of Dionysus Eleuthereus. This orchestra hosted the festival celebrating Dionysus, known as City Dionysia.

The Theater of Dionysus
The Theater of Dionysus

This theatre is much smaller than the Atticus Odeon and, unfortunately, not as preserved as it is. It is 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 theatre. Despite its poorer state, the lower sets of seating of the theatre are still intact.

Athens and Epidaurus Festival

This cultural and theatrical festival has occurred in Athens and Epidaurus since 1955. Georgios Rallis, the then-Minister of the Prime Minister, suggested it to promote artistic and theatrical creativity.

Every year, from May to October, different cultural events, musicals, and theatrical performances occur. The festivities happen in various sites around Athens, including open-air theatre, Opera, dance, and classical music performed at the Atticus Odeon. Epidaurus is about a two-hour ride away from Athens.

The festival is also a great way to get acquainted with the traditions and folklore of the Greek people.

The 2022 events will begin on 1 June. 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, 14 May, for performances in June, July, and August.

Ilias Lalaounis Jewelry Museum

If you’d like to experience history through jewellery making, this museum, founded by Ilias Lalaounis, is the place to visit. It is located close 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 museum’s founding, the buildings in which it resides today were the Ilias Lalaounis Greek Gold workshops, the first modern jewellery workshop in Greece. In addition to the permanent exhibition, the museum has a gift shop, a café, an auditorium, and a rooftop terrace.

The history of Greece inspired the beautiful items on display. Pieces derived from prehistoric arts, Ancient Greece’s art, Byzantine art and architecture, 15 other world cultures, and even nature and technology are showcased. Exceptional commission work, such as the Olympic torch and some ceremonial swords, is also displayed.

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 from the prestigious Acropolis Museum. With a beautiful roof garden and a rooftop restaurant, it also offers excellent views of the hill, most spectacular even at night.

For a two-night stay in this welcoming hotel, including a delicious breakfast, you can choose a Budget Double Room with one full bed for 339 Euros with taxes and fees. However, if you’d like to enjoy free cancellation 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 from the Acropolis Museum, the Atticus Odeon and the Temple of Olympian Zeus. The hotel has a restaurant, an outdoor seasonal pool, and a sauna.

A Budget Double Room with one large double bed, a city view, and breakfast included will cost 348 Euros with taxes and charges for a two-night stay. The feature of free cancellation 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 the Philippos Hotel are warmly decorated in earthly tones. The old quarters of the city centre are right beside the hotel, giving you an authentic feel of the Greek culture and atmosphere. The café at the hotel serves breakfast daily, while lunch and dinner are served at the Herodion Hotel nearby.

A twin room with a city view and two single beds for a two-night stay with breakfast will cost 261 Euros plus taxes and charges. The price goes up to 275 Euros plus taxes and charges, with the bonus of free cancellation and payment at the property.

4. AD Athens Luxury Rooms and Suites (Athanasiou Diakou 4 Makrygianni, Athens, 11742, Greece):

This is another excellent hotel near the Acropolis Museum, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, and the Atticus Odeon. The elegantly decorated rooms have bathrooms equipped with hydromassage jets. Breakfast is served on the hotel terrace, with a beautiful view of the city and the Akropolis.

A Superior King Room with one large double bed for a two-night stay, including breakfast, will be 240 Euros plus taxes and charges. The price goes up to 280 Euros if you wish to enjoy free cancellation and pay at the property when you get there. You can also 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 excellent service, the place is 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 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 favourites and vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. One TripAdvisor reviewer, who’d just been there a few days ago, described it as 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 and vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. The place is highly praised for its staff’s hospitality and friendliness; 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 excellent choice that offers European and Mediterranean cuisine with vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. The restaurant and bar are highly praised on TripAdvisor for their delicious food. Due to its location might be a bit pricier, with a price range between 45 and 70 Euros.

5. Arcadia Restaurant (27 Makrygianni St, Athens 11742 Greece):

Our last recommendation is Mediterranean, European, seafood, and 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 of 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; they also make their own truffles and snack bars. The place was praised for its friendly and professional treatment of guests and for making the best cup of coffee in the Greek capital. It’s open from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.!

2. Little Tree Books & Coffee (Kavalloti 2, Athens 117 42 Greece):

With a warm atmosphere, indoor seating, and tens of books and outdoor seating in the great weather, it’s no wonder Little Tree was ranked 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, savoury, and sweet filo deliciousness awaits you at Crescendo. With indoor and outdoor seating, the place is mainly 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 start your day.

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 is the cheese and meat board, perfect for 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. One described it as the perfect place to learn about Greek history, art, and architecture. Another praised the use of glass floors on the first level since the views of the archaeological site below were breathtaking.

Another visitor gave the tip of booking tickets to the museum in advance, as there can be a long queue when you arrive. Another tip is to have something at the café, even a cup of coffee, but the bonus is that you’d get to enjoy the complete view of the downhill and the city of Athens on 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 let us know in the comments below and share any additional tips!

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