Visiting the Acropolis of Athens on a VIP Tour

September 5, 2013 by

City Tours & Sightseeing, Europe, Places to Go, Things to Do, Viator Exclusives

After five months of traveling in Europe and filling up on relics from the Middle Ages, I was excited to finally make it to Athens, where the medieval churches and castles of Western Europe, typically considered ‘old’ by most, are nothing but fresh-faced preteens by Greek standards.

To see Athens’ famous Acropolis, I took the Viator Exclusive: Acropolis of Athens, New Acropolis Museum and Greek Dinner tour, the perfect choice for an evening of 5th century BC history in the place where democracy was born.

I met our tour guides, archeology experts Mariza and Thanasis, at the Acropolis metro station, and we made the brief walk to the Acropolis Museum. Before even entering the museum, I was immediately impressed by the way the modern building was built above the ruins of an ancient neighborhood.

The Acropolis Museum built on top of ancient ruins

The Acropolis Museum built on top of ancient ruins

Inside, Mariza took us through the first exhibit – glass cases of clay pots, vases, tools, boxes and other artifacts – and personalized it a bit by assigning us roles and telling us how we would have used the artifacts for certain events: I was a bride about to be married; my friend was a man with a baby on the way. We then entered the Archaic Gallery, a sunlit room of sculptures from the Acropolis. Walking among the pieces, we listened to Mariza’s and Thanasis’ descriptions of the statues, from the different pigments used to why the men are naked and women are clothed.

From here, we wandered through my favorite part of the museum – the Parthenon Gallery, an airy space with the same dimensions as part of the Parthenon. On one wall, the gallery houses original and reconstructed copies of the frieze from the Parthenon. The facing walls are nothing but glass and views of the Acropolis itself.

The Parthenon Gallery

The Parthenon Gallery

Mariza and Thanasis gave us the rundown on the Parthenon’s famous frieze, explaining that what’s in the museum is the complete procession, but some panels are copies (their originals hang in other museums).

Mariza tells us about the ancient frieze from the Parthenon, now hanging in the museum in both original and cast forms

Mariza tells us about the ancient frieze from the Parthenon, now hanging in the museum in both original and cast forms

After finishing up at the museum, we headed outside and walked just down the road to the Acropolis. The walk up the hill is a long one, but Mariza promised we would go slow, mainly to avoid slipping on the limestone and marble. It’s a nice climb, and you can almost pretend you’re back in 300 BC, making your way up to worship at one of the temples. The first temple we could see was the first one built at the Acropolis – the Temple of Athena Nike. It perches on the edge of the wall, and with the setting sun, it made quite a sight with Athens and the sea stretching out beneath it.

The Temple of Athena Nike

The Temple of Athena Nike

Then, after walking through the monumental entrance, there it was, the Parthenon, crumbling and being put back together with the help of a crane, but still impressive enough to make us say “wow.” And just across the way stands the Acropolis’ other important temple, the Erechtheion. One of the reasons this Viator Exclusive is so great is because of the timing – the evening light gives the temples a bit of a glow, adding to the sense that you’re in a pretty special place.

The Erechtheion at the top of the Acropolis

The Erechtheion at the top of the Acropolis

We did a lap with Mariza and Thanasis, walking first around the Parthenon and hearing about the current restoration efforts. They pointed out architectural details we heard about earlier in the museum and then lead us to the Erechtheion, where copies of the six female statues – the Caryatids – now stand in place of the originals, which we had just seen in the museum.

Thanasis tells us about the current state of the Parthenon

Thanasis tells us about the current state of the Parthenon

By this time, the Acropolis was closing, so we headed downhill to the nearby restaurant for dinner. The rooftop terrace of Attika Greek House has an uninterrupted view of the Acropolis, and I was very happy to find out that the food matched the quality of the setting. Greek salad, baked eggplant, feta, moussaka, lamb – the meal was excellent, and made even more so as it got dark and the Parthenon lit up with light.

Overall, I was fascinated by nearly everything the tour guides had to say during the experience, and while I could have certainly done both the museum and the Acropolis on my own, it wouldn’t have had the same effect. Mariza’s and Thanasis’ excellent insights provided so much depth to the artifacts and the temples, allowing me to get more out of the experience and really learn something about Ancient Athens.

Book the Viator Exclusive Athens Acropolis Tour

-Leah Still

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