You can’t come to Athens without visiting the Parthenon – a world-famous landmark that won’t fail to amaze even the most jaded traveller. Even when it’s crawling with tourists, the 2,500-year-old temple is dazzling in its simplicity and perfect symmetry. A marble jigsaw made of 70,000 pieces, the monument looks even more spectacular than ever after a 30-year restoration. A symbol not just of a nation, but of an entire ancient civilisation.
Built entirely of marble, the Parthenon is remarkable for the refinement of its architecture. Among other details, the Greek architects worked very subtle curves into the columns, floors and architraves as a means of counteracting the optical illusions caused by parallel lines. The result is a building that appears to display perfect symmetry.
The main entrance and ticket booth is situated above the junction of pedestrian Dionysiou Areopagitou Street and Apostolou Pavlou Street. It’s a fairly stiff climb through the pine-clad foothills of the Acropolis. You can also access the temple on foot via Plaka. To appreciate the temple’s extraordinary construction and colourful history, hire a guide to take you on a personal tour. Take a bottle of water, especially during the summer. Eating on the site is forbidden.
Open all year round, seven days a week, April-October 8am–7.30pm, November-March 8.30am-5pm. Opens late on Mondays at 11am. Go early in the morning to avoid the crowds and the midday heat. It’s glorious at dusk too. The whole site is exposed to the elements, so avoid rainy and very windy days.
Disabled access to the Parthenon is provided by a wheelchair stair climber lift and elevator. However, note that once up there, the floor is very uneven.
Beef up before you go
Mary Beard’s brilliant book, The Parthenon (Harvard University Press, 2010), is a fascinating primer on the trials and fortunes of this timeless monument.
Best vantage point
For the best vantage point of the Parthenon without the crowds, follow the marble footpaths to the tranquil summit of Philopappou Hill. Close by, hidden among pine trees, is the Pnyx, the world’s first democratic assembly.
If you decide to view the Parthenon from Philopappou Hill, stop by the Takis bakery (Misaraliotou 14), which sells phenomenal feta and spinach pies, along with dozens of different breads and pastries.
Where to eat or drink
Buried in the backstreets of Plaka, overlooking the ancient Agora, is Dioskouri (Dioskouron 13), a local institution and a heavenly spot for an iced coffee or an ouzo-mezze.
- Type Heritage site
- Place Athens
- Notoriety Well known
- Price guide $$$$$
- Adults price from £11
- Recommended duration 2+ hours
- Available Jan-Dec
- Best time Jan-Dec
- Booking requirement Booking not required
- Wheelchair friendly Yes
- Physical difficulty
- Fear factor
- Authentic & unspoilt
- Cultural insight
- Address The Acropolis, Athens, Attica, Greece
- Enquiries +30 21032141723