Ok, so, really, the biggest regret of my trip to Greece would probably be that I only had 10 days.
I mean, do you know how big Greece is??? People block out a month for just the island of Crete. There is no way we could have seen more than the absolute highlights in 10 days. And even then, we had to choose between the highlights, cutting out Meteora and any mainland areas of Greece and any islands not right on an easy path (next time, Rhodes, next time).
But besides that (mini-rant over), the biggest regret of my trip to Greece…
…was not ponying-up the cash to get a great tour guide for the sites of Athens.
IF YOU GO TO ATHENS, HIRE A TOUR GUIDE*
Because even with Triposo and photos on my phone of relevant guidebook pages and the handed-out maps at the entrance of each of the different Athenian ruins, I’m still left with...erm I think this was this amphitheater? No. It was the Odeion of Herodes Atticus. Did we come in at this entrance? …maybe? Oh!! I know that’s the Parthenon. Go me!
It’s kinda sad.
BUT, I can still show you all the pretty photos and give you the basics, and then I’ll leave it up to you to be more responsible and hire someone who really knows what they’re talking about.
So enjoy! The Acropolis, on a very very windy (and stunningly clear) day:
We walked through empty early morning streets from the center of Athens (Syntagma), through the tourist neighborhood of Plaka, and up to the entrance of the Acropolis by the Theater of Dionysos.
We then climbed up past it and started to the left, along the Stoa. And already, at that point, the city of Athens starts to stretch out before you, as far as the eye can see.
When we reached the edge on the left we hit the Odeion of Herodes, which they use for concerts and plays still today! If you have the time, getting tickets to a performance there would be an amazing experience.
We then turned right to join the (already full) crowds entering the upper city walls through the Pinakotheke (the impressive entrance that would awe visitors as they were dwarfed by its sheer size).
And bam! You’re at the top and there’s the Parthenon!
And my goodness, photos just don’t prepare you for how big the Parthenon is. The reconstructive efforts are amazing. Each piece is labeled and categorized into massive, heavy piles then painstakingly placed where it belongs, the missing pieces filled in with new stone.**
And as you can see, the reconstruction is still going on today (and will for quite a few years).
Once you hit the top you have a gorgeous 360 view of Athens. Just ignore the huge crowds and it’s almost like you’re alone, overlooking the windy, clear city.
And of course you have the other buildings to see, the temple of Athena Nike, the temple Erecthion where Poseidon and Athena contested for Patronage of Athens (Athena won with an olive tree…somehow),
And the ever-famous Caryatids (these are the copies – the real ones are in the Acropolis museum).
Even if you don’t hire the (hopefully) vast knowledge of a guide, the Acropolis is still beautiful and grandiose and well-worth the visit. It really is a once in a lifetime experience. It’s all those things you learned in school (over and over again, if your schooling was anything like mine….we loved the Greeks) right in front of you, grander than you imagined.
A cool site and article that is informative and goes over some fun facts about the Acropolis is here.
The Acropolis is open from 8 am to 8 pm, roughly, with some different hours in the winter (and on Monday?). Definitely go in the early morning or late afternoon/evening. Not only is it not as hot at those times (the sun beats down on the Acropolis mercilessly and you do a bit of hiking to get to the top. Even on the very very windy day that we were there you could still feel the sun), but there are also fewer people.
Definitely bring lots of water! And maybe a snack.
It’s 12 Euros for entrance to the Acropolis, which is automatically the combo ticket. The combo ticket allows you to see not only the Acropolis but 5 other sites around Athens as well! And if you’re a student or senior (or have your student ID card still….shh) it’s 6 Euros.
Do note that the Acropolis Museum is another 5 Euros – it’s one of the few things in Athens that isn’t covered in that combo ticket.
And in case this hasn’t come through enough in this article, HIRE A GUIDE. It will be a much more enjoyable and memorable experience, I promise :)
*Unless you happen to be a real expert in Ancient Greek civilizations…
**It would still be here today if some jerks hadn’t bombed it…