Acropolis in Athens, Greece

The Acropolis in Athens is one of the most important temple complexes of ancient Greece and should not be missed on any visit to Athens.

The Acropolis ("Upper City") is an impressive temple complex from antiquity that sits majestically on a hill in the middle of the Greek capital Athens. The Acropolis and its Acropolis Museum are among our top 10 sights of Greece. In 1986, the Acropolis was added to UNESCO's World Heritage List.


PICTURES: Acropolis in Athens

Photo gallery: Acropolis in Athens

In fact, there were several similar city fortresses, "acropolises", in ancient Greece. However, when the word "acropolis" is used, it usually refers to the fantastic ensemble of buildings of the Athenian Acropolis on the 150m high hill. Originally, the Acropolis was the seat of the Mycenaean kings, later it was the defensive fortress of the city, and under the Greeks it was expanded into a temple district as the seat of the gods.

Temple of the Acropolis and Visitor Info

There are two stairways to the entrance of the Acropolis on the west side of the hill, buses and taxis only come to the foot of the hill, as does the metro. The north side is much more beautiful, but also more strenuous. Visitors who are not so good on foot should rather opt for the less spectacular ascent on the south side (South Slope), which does not offer such fantastic views over Athens, but does reveal the first ruins.

Tip: The Acropolis is included in the Athens Combi Ticket, which is valid at a reduced price for four days for the Acropolis Museum, the Acropolis, the Ancient Agora and its Museum, Kerameikos, the Dionysus Theatre, the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the Roman Agora and is available at each of these sights.

Entrance through the Propylaea

Every visitor enters the temple district through the Propylaea, which impresses with its massive gatehouse and two wings. Just beyond the gate, visitors are greeted by the magnificent sight of the Parthenon.

Parthenon on the Acropolis

The Parthenon at the center of the temple complex is the monumental and columned main temple of the Acropolis, Athens, Greece - © James Camel / franks-travelbox
© James Camel / franks-travelbox

The Parthenon has been at the centre of the magnificent temple complex for almost 2,500 years. The columned temple is one of the most famous buildings in the world.

PICTURES: Parthenon on the Acropolis in Athens

Photo gallery: Parthenon on the Acropolis in Athens

History of the Parthenon

The Parthenon is dedicated to Pallas Athena Parthenos, the Greek goddess of wisdom and city goddess of Athens. The present temple was completed after 15 years of construction in 432 BC after the last Persian war. Before that, there had also been a temple to Athena, the so-called Pre-Parthenon, which, however, was reduced to rubble in 480 BC under the Persian king Xerxes I, along with countless other buildings on the Acropolis and throughout Athens.


The rubble, the so-called "Persian rubble", was used to fill up the central square in front of the Parthenon and to stabilise the northern wall of the castle hill. Today's Parthenon was built slightly offset so that it immediately catches the eye with all its splendour as soon as one enters the temple hill of the Acropolis through the Propylaea.

Main temple of the Acropolis

The Parthenon is the main temple of the Acropolis in the Greek capital Athens and is located in the centre of the magnificent temple complex, Greece - © Aerial-motion / Shutterstock
© Aerial-motion / Shutterstock

The Parthenon was built in the Doric style and is considered the epitome of the Acropolis. Its size of 70 by 30 metres is supposed to underline Athens' power over the defeated Persians. The ratio of 9:4 appears again and again in its architecture and testifies to the masterful building skills of the ancient Greeks.

The temple is made of precious white marble from the Penteli Mountains and is surrounded all around by 50 columns that protected a 12m high statue of Athena. The masterpiece was created from gold and ivory by the brilliant sculptor Phidias and disappeared without a trace in the 5th century.

Facade and interiors of the Parthenon

The Parthenon is dedicated to Pallas Athena Parthenos, the Greek goddess of wisdom and city goddess of Athens, Greece - © Neirfy / Shutterstock
© Neirfy / Shutterstock

The façade and interior of the Parthenon were decorated all over with magnificent ornaments and around the temple ran a pediment frieze 160m long and 1m high, in which numerous mythological scenes were depicted.

The so-called metopes showed on a dark blue background the pageant held annually in honour of Athena, the battles of the Lythians against the Centaurs and the struggle of the gods and heroes against the giants. The original marble slabs can be admired today in the Acropolis Museum.

Panathenic Festival

The Parthenon in Athens during dusk, Greece - © Lambros Kazan / Shutterstock
© Lambros Kazan / Shutterstock

The Parthenon was the site of numerous events and tributes in ancient times. On the annual Panathenic Festival Days, held every four years as the Great Panathenic Festival, the Parthenon was the destination of a procession that led across the whole of Athens.

Sacrificial acts took place in its forecourt, attended by half of Athens, and the goddess Athena was ceremoniously presented with her new robe. Incidentally, this famous procession is depicted on the pediment frieze of the Parthenon, parts of which can be seen in the Acropolis Museum at the foot of the Acropolis and in the British Museum in London.

The Parthenon in the course of time

The Parthenon is made of precious white marble from the Penteli Mountains and is surrounded by 50 columns, Athens. Greece - © Anastasios71 / Shutterstock
© Anastasios71 / Shutterstock

Over the centuries, the Parthenon has been misused several times. In the 6th century it functioned as the Christian Church of the Virgin Mary, the Episcopal Church of Athens, and in 1456 under the Ottomans it became a mosque with an attached minaret.


In 1687, during the Venetian siege, the Parthenon served as an ammunition depot. The magnificent temple already suffered enough from the ruthless shelling of the besiegers. Finally, the ammunition depot also blew up, causing large parts of the Parthenon to collapse. The traces of the huge explosion can still be seen today.

What building decoration could be saved was taken to London in 1801 by the British ambassador Lord Elgin. Many sculptures and large pieces of the pediment frieze fell victim to this robbery. They can still be seen today in the British Museum in London.

Erechtheion on the Acropolis

The Erechtheion is part of the historic ensemble of the Acropolis in the Greek capital of Athens, Greece - © James Camel / franks-travelbox
© James Camel / franks-travelbox

After the Parthenon, the Erechtheion is the second largest temple on the Acropolis. The Ionic temple stands on the former site of a palace of the mythical king Erechtheus I and was completed in 406 BC after about 15 years of construction. The entire temple was built of light-coloured marble from the Penteli Mountains, which was decorated with black limestone.

The Erechtheion consists of four rooms and was built on an architecturally challenging slope, so that the northwest side is about 3m below the southeast side of the temple. Its door and window frames, as well as the columns of the Erechtheion, had magnificent decorations of gold and pearls, traces of which are still visible today.

Koren Hall of the Erechtheion

The Erechtheion on the Acropolis in Athens is best known for its porch, whose roof is supported by six graceful figures of girls, Greece - © James Camel / franks-travelbox
© James Camel / franks-travelbox

The highlight of the Erechtheion is its vestibule, one of the most beautiful works of Attic architecture. Instead of columns, six magnificently crafted female figures, the so-called "Korai" or "Koren" support the frieze of blue Eleusis marble and the richly decorated coffered ceiling. No two figures are alike and each is constructed so that the slender necks of the caryatids, as they are also called, support the roof of the hall.

It is not known who these figures represent, but in any case they gave this part of the palace the name "Koren Hall". Incidentally, the six koren were replaced by replicas in 1979 to protect the real statues from the weather. Five originals can be seen in the Acropolis Museum and one in the British Museum in London.

Erechtheion: place of homage to gods and kings

The magnificent temple of Erechtheion was originally dedicated to Pallas Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, Acropolis, Greece - © James Camel / franks-travelbox
© James Camel / franks-travelbox

The Erechtheion has been used for a variety of purposes over its millennia of existence. In the 7th century, the Erechtheion was converted into a Christian church, then into the home of a Turkish officer's harem.


Originally, the magnificent temple was dedicated to Pallas Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom. It was named by the Romans after their king Erechtheus I and functioned as a place of homage for 13 deities and heroes.

The cult image of Athena made of olive wood, which is said to have fallen from heaven, houses the Erechtheion as well as the goddess' sacred olive tree. In a dispute with Poseidon over the favour of the Athenians, she is said to have given this olive tree to the city, which was named after her in gratitude.

The salt spring and the rock mark that Poseidon struck with his trident after the contest with Athena, as well as the tomb of the legendary king Kekrops I, can also be found on the site. Kekrops' daughter, Pandrosos, was the first Athenian priestess. Besides sanctuaries of Zeus and Athena, there are also places of worship of Pandrosos.

The sacred serpent of Athena is said to have lived in a crevice in the Erechtheion. As long as the animal with the spirit of Kekrop was doing well, Athens was also doing well. Accordingly, the sacred serpent was fed honey cakes by the temple servants. Although the sacred snake is no longer to be found in the crevice of the earth, the Acropolis nevertheless shines with ancient honour over Athens.

Temple of Nike on the Acropolis

The Temple of Nike on a rocky outcrop is the most graceful and recent building on the Acropolis, Athens, Greece - © James Camel / franks-travelbox
© James Camel / franks-travelbox

The Temple of Nike on a rocky outcrop even before the Propylaea is the most delicate and youngest building on the Acropolis. It was allegedly built by Callicrates against the will of Pericles and is dedicated to the Greek goddess of victory.

Origin of the Acropolis

View of the Acropolis at dusk - in the background the port of Piraeus, Athens, Greece - © James Camel / franks-travelbox
© James Camel / franks-travelbox

The Acropolis, the remains of which can still be visited today, was built in the 5th century BC, according to the general opinion of researchers, after the Persian king Xerxes had Athens completely destroyed.

After the victory over the Persians, Greece rose to become a great power, which the Hellenes knew how to show off impressively with their magnificent buildings. Under the famous sculptor and statesman Pericles, the famous architects Phidias, Iktinos, Kallikrates and Mnesikles built the temples that are still world-famous today.


The Acropolis Castle Hill is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Athens, but you will probably never be able to stay there alone. In the middle of the 20th century, the sightseeing paths were laid out on the Acropolis. The accompanying information panels can be read by the legions of tourists like a single walk-in work of art.

The Acropolis as church and mosque

Aerial view of the Acropolis Hill, with the Parthenon and the famous Theatre of Dionysus, Athens, Greece - © Aerial-motion / Shutterstock
© Aerial-motion / Shutterstock

Over the course of time, the Acropolis served many masters. In addition to its function as a fortress and place of homage, it was also briefly a Christian church in the Middle Ages, as well as the seat of the Athenian dukes. Under the Ottomans, the Parthenon was converted into a mosque with a minaret in the mid-15th century and the Erechtheion served as a harem for the Turkish princes.

Until then, the ancient temples of the Acropolis were still almost undamaged, but then came the Venetian siege in 1687, in the course of which much was shot up.

From 1801, the British ambassador Lord Elgin poached on the Acropolis. He carried off large parts of the valuable sculptures and reliefs to London, including parts of the ornate pediment frieze of the Parthenon and one of the six girl figures of the Erechtheion. The dispute over the so-called "Elgin Marbles" is still ongoing; to this day, the parts of the Acropolis can be seen in the British Museum in London.

Maintenance of the Acropolis with state-of-the-art technology

In 1830, after Greek independence, the slate was wiped clean. All Ottoman, Frankish and Byzantine buildings were removed from the Acropolis because they did not date from antiquity. Thus, for the first time, it was possible to excavate the parts of the temples that had been lost before their destruction by the Persians and to reconstruct the buildings. In this way, the entire Nike temple emerged in new splendour.

Restoration work continues to this day and parts of the temple on the Acropolis are always scaffolded. The iron clamps used in earlier restorations eroded and damaged the fine Pentelic marble, and the Athenian dust also takes its toll on the precious light-coloured stone. With the latest laser technology, ambitious projects are being worked on to preserve the Acropolis' splendour for posterity for a long time to come.

The treasures of the Acropolis that need to be protected from the weather, such as the originals of the Erechtheion's girl figures, can be found at the foot of the Acropolis in the Acropolis Museum.


Tip: Apart from a small drinks kiosk on the north ascent, there are no food options and virtually no shade on the Acropolis. Enough water, sun protection and headgear are absolutely mandatory! Smoking or consuming food or alcohol is strictly prohibited on the Acropolis.

Related links:

Opening hours and entrance fees of the Acropolis in Athens

Recommended accommodation in Athens


Show accommodations