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The Parthenon in Athens, Greece is the icon of the city. I can remember wanting to visit since elementary school when we had the “Greek Games” at school. And yes it was a long time ago, but that is where my fascination with Greek mythology and civilization began. It also is the most visited attraction in Athens so here’s Your Survival Guide to the Parthenon in Athens.
A Brief History of the Parthenon in Athens
The Parthenon in Athens is a temple built to the Greek goddess of wisdom, Athena, the patron goddess after which the city is named. It sits high on the Acropolis, the name of the hill overlooking Athens. It was built between 447-438 B.C.
It is a Doric style construction. (Corinthian and Ionic are the other styles the Greeks made famous.)
The building stood undamaged for hundreds of years. It was used as a church and then a mosque in later times. Much of the damage currently being restored (more on the restoration below) was caused in a 1687 battle with the Venetians. The Parthenon was attacked from below.
There is also a temple to the goddess Nike, an ancient theater on the site (at the bottom of the hill) that is still used for classical concerts and ballet.
Planning your Visit
For the foreseeable future, at least the next couple of years, the Parthenon in Athens is undergoing extensive restoration works. The restoration works started in 1975. Originally the plan of works was 10 years, but as work started, it quickly revealed the Parthenon is more complex than it looks. Each individual piece is unique; perfectly formed for the site and structure. While the columns look straight, that is because many of them are actually curved to appear straight.
Depending on the time of year, it can be quite hot. There is no shade and the site itself is quite hilly, including the fact the Parthenon is on the top of a hill so you will have to walk uphill to to see it. Take water, wear sunscreen and bring a hat.
PLANNING AN UPCOMING
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The site is open in the summer from 8am – 7 pm. If you can, go early or go late, the buses with tour groups begin arriving about 9:30- 10:00 a.m. This adds to the madness of the crowds! In the winter the site closes around sunset.
If you can stay near the Parthenon, you will be able to walk over in the morning or late afternoon and avoid the tour groups. Do you need to go on a tour? Okay, if you are a regular reader you know we tend to be independent travelers. Honestly, there is little reason to go on a guided tour of the Parthenon. It is well signed, or you can take a self-guided audio tour in a number of languages which will tell you all about the site. You can download an audio tour in advance of you visit. Rick Steves also has one and several other audio tours of Athens near the Parthenon.
Going on your own offers you the chance to go at your own pace and you can move around the site with more flexibility to avoid the large tour groups. If you are patient and time it right, you can still obtain some pictures without the large numbers of people in them. (The site is huge.)
You must buy a ticket to enter the site. When we arrived in the morning there was not a large line for tickets, but there was a large line to enter the site (this is a separate line) as all of the tour groups line up in the exact same line. (Unfortunately we arrived just as the first of the tour groups arrived!)
The site is quite large and depending on the size of the crowds and your pace, allow several hours.
The closest subway stop to the Parthenon is the Metro Line 2, stop “Akropoli”.
Other Things to Do Near the Parthenon in Athens
Other sites within walking distance to the Parthenon include:
- The Plaka & Monastiraki areas- an old part of Athens. The area is car-less. It has a number of shops, restaurants and churches. You can obtain a walking map of the area from your hotel or visitor information center.
- The New Acropolis Museum is located at the bottom of the hill. It is open 8am- 8 pm. Closed on Mondays.
Combine this with your morning visit to the Parthenon and you will have a great day exploring the sites of Athens. For more things to do Athens check our guide to the best things to see and do in Athens.
If you are coming in from a cruise and need transport to the Parthenon or want a driver in Athens or the day try George’s Taxi. His service is professional, reliable, affordable and very well rated.
Can’t make it to Greece? If you are traveling in the USA, there is a full-scale reproduction of the Parthenon in Nashville, Tennessee. It was built as part of the 1897, Tennessee Centennial Exposition.
Trisha Velarmino - P.S. I'm On My Way
I heard a lot of people go here but your pictures look nice without a big crowd! Timing is right, I guess!
Yep timing is key – early or late and try and avoid the middle of summer.
Great survival guide! Seems like the scaffolding will be there for a long time to come haha! Regardless, the history of the area and the site itself is amazing!
Joe, It was quicker to build than to restore! Fascinating piece of architecture and history!
oh my, what a crowd! Better know the best time to go there and all thanks to your guide, I have now a quick overview. I am fascinated with Greece’s architecture and will deifnitely not want to miss this one.
No despite the crowds you don’t want to miss it. Once arrive you will forget about the crowds.
Cai Dominguez - Travelosyo
This is the image that is running in my mind whenever I hear the word Greece. The parthenon is really impressive, standing proud until this date. Would love to touch it someday 🙂
You will love it when you see it in person. It is just magnificent. Thanks for your comment.
This place is so awe-inspiring! I have dreamt of it since I was a kid. I actually have an invite from a tour operator in Athens to come review some of their trips, but I really don’t know if I can take that offer up this year. If I do, I know Parthenon is going to have a visitor for sure 😉
It’s an iconic place that won’t disappoint you. It will bring a tear to your eye when you see it. There is definitely an aura associated with it. Thanks for your comment.
Karla | karlaroundtheworld
I liked visiting this although when we did it was really crowded then and it was a very hot day. We enjoyed the food in the Plaka area too. I think I would have appreciated it more had it been less crowded but it was definitely something you should visit.
Yes the crowds are unfortunate. The bottom line is to go early or late, but not always possible, I concede. The plaka area was great wasn’t it? It’s a great place to just stroll around.
I used to be obsessed with Greek mythology and history as well when I was little! I’ve never been to Greece but certainly hope to go someday. The Parthenon looks super super crowded but I suppose that’s the price you pay for seeing such an incredible sight in real life 😉 Did you find the restoration works were very distracting during your visit? Sometimes the scaffolding can be such an eyesore!
It is what it is on the crowds and the scaffolding. Go early or late to beat the crowds. That work has being going on for a long time and we were disappointed when we saw the scaffolding but only because of the impact on our photos! It did not detract from the visit. The Parthenon is awesome and you have to visit when you are there or you would never see these iconic sites. Many iconic buildings in Europe are in the process of restored, a good thing.
Thx for the great tour of the Parthenon, Elizabeth. It certainly looks a lot more crowded when you were there vs when I was there … but that was 20 years ago!
Yes I think the impact of those super-large ships has been very negative on sites like the Parthenon. The bottom line is to arrive early or late.
I must go here! I must go here! It’s gonna be a dream come true for a Greek Mythology reader like me!
It is awesome. The statues and the columns are magnificent and such an aura around the place.
Structures made in this style never fail to amaze me, they’re always so beautifully majestic. Wouldn’t miss this one when I head over, thanks for the tips!
Yes it is just one of those iconic, classical structures you must visit if you have the opportunity. Thanks for the comment.
We seem to have the same luck with restorations and scaffolding (although it sounds like anybody in the last 40 years might have encountered it here)!
A very historic part of the world I’m still yet to visit!
Chris, Yes sometimes it seems the whole world is undergoing restoration :). And while it’s great these sites are maintained, it’s not so good for pictures!
Greece has always been a source of great fascination for me, I love Greek history and would love to visit Greece one day. Your lovely post inspires me to do it sooner than later.
Greece and Rome both fascinate me. It amazes me as we travel how far their influence and the ruins from their civilization are spread.
This looks amazing! I had no idea how large the Parthenon was, and your tips on when to visit are really useful.
Thanks Kevin. We are not big on the crowds! There was quite a bottleneck when leaving the Parthenon as you can see in the photo. So go early or late.
I can’t tell from your post if you recommend visiting or not. It’s always been something we have wanted to see, but it’s tough to get a direct recommendation as to if it’s worth the time and crowds. I like the idea of touring the old town nearby, and that’s definitely something we’d do!
You have to go Rob, just go early or late. It’s a mandatory place to visit and we would have kicked ourselves if we had not visited. Thanks for your comment.
When I saw your picture with all the people, I was thinking YIkes, it’s so busy. Good tip on heading there early morning or late afternoon. I think I would prefer the self guided tour as well.
That picture was on the way out. That area is a bottleneck for entering and exiting patrons. Once you go past it, there is a little more breathing room. Bottom line: Go early!
Gosh! That is a lot of crowd there. Still, I don’t think I would get deterred by it as I really want to see this. Your pictures of the same are amazing.
You must go early or late to beat the crowds. I would have kicked myself if I hadn’t visited it.
I went there a few years ago. It was so amazing to see in person and I loved reading what you wrote about it. But, now that I’m back in the states I really love the tip about the life-sized replica in Tennessee! We’re planning to go to Nashville soon anyway, so really cool.
Yes like visiting the real thing without the long distance travel. However, nothing beats going to the real thing, it was a great experience.