The acropolis is arguably the #1 reason people go to Athens…hell probably all of Greece to be honest. Although nearly every major museum in the world has at least ONE Ancient Greek sculpture or piece of pottery but none of them can have the whole Parthenon and Acropolis in general. Because this site is so popular, crowds are inevitable. I live in Central Florida, we know about the never-ending tourist season. I got to visit the Acropolis as part of a school trip chaperone and we were there at the very beginning of the “traditional” tourist season (mid-March) but boy the crowds up there were still buzzing!
I can’t make the crowds disappear (if you have the money to do that, please feel free to invite me along on your next as your free art historian) but this blog post puts together a few tips to make the experience the best it can be (without time travel of course!).
#1. Go With a Tour
I know *shocker* I would ever voluntarily suggest a tour group but here’s why: The tour will deal with getting the tickets in this perpetually crowded site & usually you can bypass major lines with a group. And, secondly, most of you don’t know nearly enough about history or art (no offense!) to bring this site to life, it will just look like a bunch of rocks unless a guide artfully explains things.
Now, we went with a tour and I’m not going to lie I asked when and where we needed to meet at the end, took off my headphones and did my own thing. Because, well that art history degree was doing me good & I didn’t need nor want someone buzzing in my ear. I occasionally popped my earpiece back in to check on the group and that’s it.
Read more: 2019 Spring Break Greece Itinerary
#2. Wear really good walking shoes
The walk up is a steep ramp & once you are on the acropolis the elevation gets no easier! It’s not flat up there and if you really want to get the most out of it you need to walk a lot and on very uneven ground. This is not the kind of thing you do in a wheelchair or in a walker, sorry! My go to shoes (above) are great for walking and their cute, but they get super dirty easily! I was surprising good on this trip but just be aware. Oh and there are virtually no benches or places to sit! So get your exercise in.
#3. Couple the Acropolis with the Museum
It doesn’t really matter what order you want to do them in but I would set aside one whole day to do the acropolis and then wander down to the museum because they complement each other. The museum contains the artwork found on the acropolis are really provides the best view of what it would have looked like in the ancient days. You could probably find a half day tour that includes both sites. Personally it is always better to spend a little extra on a tour to get a smaller group! 50 people < 25 people in a group is always better.
#4. Wear sunblock & protective clothing
It is hot up there! No trees, no protection from the sun. Even in March when the weather was gorgeous it was sunny. I wore a tank top with a button up on top so I could adjust my look based on the weather but I am so glad I had a way to cover up my shoulders from the glaring sun. I honestly usually forget (or don’t have the space) to pack sunblock on a vacation so packing smart clothes is important.
Read more: UNESCO: Acropolis, Athens
#5. Do not think of taking a rock as a souvenir
I really shouldn’t even have to type this out but I know someone will forget that those are not just rocks – they are part of an ongoing excavation site and international treasure. Take photos as your souvenirs instead or better yet donate to help fund protections of these gorgeous buildings.
Read more: Travel Tips for Teachers
#6. Read up before you go
Although I am suggesting you go with a guide, don’t rely on them for everything. Read a little bit on the background of life in Ancient Athens, what the acropolis meant, who it was dedicated to (Athena Parthenos), and heck if you like controversy: the fight Greece is in with the British Museum about getting artwork that was “stolen” back. Here are some links below to help you along:
- Parthenon (Acropolis) – video
- Student Series! How the Parthenon Embodies Math & Science – a very STEM-minded student of mine wrote this!
- UNESCO: Acropolis, Athens
- The Parthenon
- The Temple of Athena Nike on the Athenian Acropolis
- Phidias, Parthenon sculptures (pediments, metopes and frieze)
You don’t have to write a Ph.D. thesis on it but you will always get more out of the trip (any trip!) with background knowledge.