“ Address: 15 Dionysiou Areopagitou Street / Athens 11742 / Greece „
On my recent trip to Athens before beginning the climb to the top of the Acropolis my group stopped by the Acropolis Museum which is pretty much brand new. Before arriving I did know a bit about the museum as having studied Classics the past year I found that many of the sculptures I studied were in fact housed within the museum. Visiting it provided an excellent opportunity to really bring my textbook to life and I must admit seeing something you have studied so in depth in person can be a somewhat emotional experience.
The museum is located on Dionysiou Areopagitou Street, Athens which is southeast of the Acropolis. It is a quick 5-10 minute walk (depending on your fitness and mobility) from the Acropolis and from the balcony on the second floor, you can see the entire Acropolis as you are literally at the foot of the mount. We travelled to it via the metro which is Athens' underground system, which is very easy to navigate with only 3 lines. The station we stopped at is also conveniently called Akropoli. From this the museum is roughly a 5 minute walk also. You can also get to the museum via bus at the stop Makryianni. There are no parking facilities for the public as the museum encourages the use of public transport.
When you arrive at the Museum it is stunningly beautiful and very modern. As excavation for the Museum began they found that underneath the foundation, a previous settlement was stood there. To my delight, the architect of the Museum decided to include the ruins underneath the Museum and so on the pathway up to the entrance there is a balcony where you can look down onto the ruins and throughout the first floor of the Museum certain sections of the floor are made of glass so that you can see all the way down.
Level 0 of the Museum has a shop, a cafe, a cloakroom where it is necessary any rucksacks or large bags are kept, and the check in where you pay, including where information may be accessed. As you enter the Museum itself you go through a scanner and must put your bag down through a kind of supermarket checkout, much like at the airport. This process is very fast and the staff all were polite and spoke English. There aren't displays on this level, however once you go through the turnstiles having bought your ticket you ascend a brief slope upwards which houses many different pots, vases and bowls. This slope is supposed to represent the slope of the Acropolis, because as I will explain, the Museum itself represents the Acropolis and the footprints of some of its temples.
Having gone up the slope you then climb a brief set of marble stairs of maybe 3-4. If you walk to the right hand side, you go through a section of the Museum which focuses on the Archaic period, basically a time of much experimentation where sculpture and building weren't yet perfected. Here you can find many famous sculptures such as Kritios Boy, which was made in roughly 480BC and standing at a smaller than life size 3"10. This sculpture is incredibly impressive for its time and well worth a look for its craftsmanship alone.
If you walk to the left of the staircase on Level 1 you walk through pieces of the 5th Century BC-AD. 3 temples of the Acropolis are also found on this level, the small Athene-Nike, the Erectheion and the Propylaia. From here there is another staircase which you ascend to Level 2.
Level 2 doesn't boast ancient pieces and instead is the hub of the museum, being house to a large restaurant, a second shop (for books), a multimedia centre which displays images and discussion of the temples. Having walked through the restaurant you can sit out on the terrace, which as I discussed before is a nice little spot to look out at the Acropolis. It is shaded and you can order drinks from out here as there was always a member of staff floating about.
Level 3, appropriately, houses perhaps the most important temple of the Acropolis, the Parthenon. As you walk around the outer walls of the floor, you can see parts of the frieze which once surrounded the temple, the rest of which are in the British Museum in London. A guide was addressing a large group as we visited the Museum and it was interesting to hear her take on the Elgin Marbles. In particular that the "British had stolen them unlawfully" and so on. Much of what is on the Acropolis' temples are copies, in fact 60%, as the majority is stored over here, however having compared the quality of the artefacts both in London and Athens, I must say we do tend to care for them a bit better.
Additionally there are small models of parts of the temples, such as two models of the Parthenon pediments (the triangle shape under the roof full of sculptures). This was very interesting to see as it gave you a comprehensive view of what it would have actually looked like, rather than stumps and bits of rubble which are left now. The best preserved part of the Parthenon pediment is arguably the horse of Selene, which looks quite comical, but also very impressive. I also saw this on the Parthenon pediment itself (as in on the temple) and in the British Museum, so two have got to be fakes! I'm assured, the British Museum version is real and the others are made of plaster casts, although you could hardly tell and it is still very beautiful.
General admission fee: 5 euros.
Reduced admission fee: 3 euros.
Tuesday to Sunday: 8.00 a.m. to 8.00 p.m.
Last admission: 7.30 p.m.
Galleries cleared at 7.45 p.m.
The Museum is open every Friday until 10 p.m.
Closed: 1 January, Easter Sunday, 1 May, 25 December and 26 December.
Overall, although perhaps biased due to a personal love of museums, this is a museum well worth visiting. The pieces within it are all stunningly impressive and a shining example of the skill and brilliance of Ancient Greek sculptors and architects. I would definitely recommend if you do not have an extensive knowledge of the Acropolis, especially if you plan to then visit it, as it provides you with comprehensive knowledge of this very significant part of Athens.
For those of us who visit Greece who aren't history buffs, the New Acropolis Museum is a great way to make sense of the Acropolis instead of just taking the mandatory photo in front of the Parthenon to show your friends on Facebook.
It has explanations of everything about the buildings on the top of the Acropolis and houses the original statues and reliefs discovered by archaeologists.
The museum, which was opened in June 2009 has hundreds of items including some which have never been exhibited before such as the 22 metre long pediment depicting two lions devouring a bull with Heracles depictions on either end.
The collection is the world's richest Archaic Period collection of works with some pieces dating back as far as the 6th century BC, still with legible writing.
The construction of this striking building, which was designed by Swiss architect Bernard Tschumi and Michalis Fotiadis, was delayed when work began because of a new discovery of a 4th century BC settlement on the land chosen. Instead, the building was built on pylons with a glass floor installed.
The view through the glass is simply inspiring, reminding you of the amazing amount of history and life that has occurred on that one spot.
Emeritus Professor of Archaeology Dimitrios Pandermalis, who oversaw the building of the museum, said the design of the museum is symbolic of the climb up to the actual Acropolis. Large ramps heading upwards begin immediately as you enter the turnstiles.
Because of the overwhelming amount of archaelogical artifacts in Athens, I recommend doing this museum separate to the other sights, lest you get museum fatigue.
If you do get tired however, there is an outdoor eatery with a view of the Parthenon and there is also a video explaining the meaning of the artifacts and the history of the ruins. Videos run in Greek and English.
Until the end of 2009, the museum costs 1 euro entrance. Tickets can be bought in advance at the museum and online.
Opening times: 08:00 - 20:00 except Mondays
Near Metro stop Acropolis, across the road from the Dionysus theatre.