The Acropolis (the hill)/Parthenon (the main structure) is an obvious must-see on most folks’ trips to Athens, but what’s not immediately obvious is how to experience it. Sure, you could hop off your city tour bus, give it a walk-through, and move on to the next site on your list. If that brings you travel joy, go for it! We loved getting a sense of Athens and the Parthenon from a few different vantage points, so I present to you: Athens’ Acropolis, 4-ways! Zany, up-close, romantic, and historical!
The Zany Way: Get there by scooter
This is why Kyla and I work well as travel partners: I research places incessantly, trying to figure out what foods to try and unique things to do; she loves spur of the moment adventure. (Yes, I’m aware that I’m way less cool!) So when we spotted some electric scooters on our way up to the Acropolis, she said “let’s do it!” So we did it! Although maybe not the best way to get around the city, hive scooters were ridiculous fun! We went pretty much as far as we could on the cobblestones and steep uphill, with lots of zooming around back and forth! There was a promo for signing up which meant that it didn’t cost much, and it definitely felt better than walking all the way to the Acropolis entrance in the Greek summer heat.
We used the scooters a few times during our 2 day stay in Athens. I wouldn’t really recommend it outside of the tourist-heavy areas (and in those areas, you’re obviously moving around lots of people, so just be aware). The rules are kind of grey – you’re not supposed to be on the street (it’s dangerous – there have been lots of accidents), but the sidewalk doesn’t feel great when you’re manoeuvring around Athenians trying to go about their day. You’re supposed to wear a helmet, but they’re not supplied. Some areas are either too narrow or cobblestoned for fun or safe scootering. Just be cautious, stick to wide sidewalks when possible, and don’t be a jerk!
The ‘Up Close & Personal’ Way: DIY Walking Tour
Just like in Edinburgh, we had downloaded a Rick Steeves audio walking tour of the Parthenon. This gave us a lot of insight into the history of what we were seeing, and allowed us to pause or just sit and listen in the shade when we needed a break. Here’s the link to his Acropolis tour, and other Athens tours. Of course, it’s always great to support local guides; if you have any recommendations for Athens, let me know in the comments!
At the Acropolis: bring your student card; tickets are half price! Here’s an in-depth guide to ticket prices. You can also use your ticket for the North and South slopes – Odeon of Herodes Atticus, Theatre of Dionysus, etc. Bring lots of water, sunscreen, snacks, and a hat. It’s going to be HOT if you’re there in the summer, and there aren’t many shady spots. Once you enter, there are a couple of vending machines for water, and bathrooms where you can refill your bottle or splash a little on your face, but that’s it.
The Romantic Way: Check out the view from an Open Air Cinema
Athens, it turns out, is a hub for open-air cinemas! Some of them have a view of the Acropolis, and we thought this would be a lovely way to see it all lit up at night. We were right! We chose Cine Paris, for its location in Plaka and perfect view of the Acropolis. We caught a French movie which had English subtitles; it was very tourist-friendly. There’s a concession stand, with plenty of food and drink options (including alcohol). It’s choose-your-own seat; we found the upstairs balcony to be slightly better, but you really can’t go wrong with the view. You can find the movie schedule on the the Cine Paris website (open May – October), and a list of other outdoor cinemas in Athens here.
The Historical Way: Learn more at the museum
Opened in 2009, the Acropolis Museum is relatively new. Like at the Acropolis, entry is half price with a valid student card. (My card is “valid” only because there’s no date on it, but I try to save money where I can, ok?!) We spent a couple hours in the museum – the AC offers a nice break from the heat. The stories about the artifacts added context to a lot of what we had seen around the Parthenon, with lots of mythology thrown in. Kyla had been brushing up on her mythology too, so she was a good guide. There’s lots to see, including five of the six original Caryatid statues from the Erechtheion. Keep your ticket on you to visit the archaeological excavation site beneath the museum. (I lost mine, oops! We peeked into it from outside, and you can see bits and pieces through the glass floors in the museum.)
Whatever way(s) you choose to experience this archaeological wonder, there’s no doubt you’re going to… … dig it!!!