Walking Tour Around the Legendary Acropolis, Athens

Walking Tour Around the Legendary Acropolis (Self Guided), Athens

Also called "the sacred rock", the Acropolis was home to temples and sanctuaries throughout recorded history, and is a symbol of the city of Athens. Its religious importance was paramount to the ancient Greeks, and the buildings on the summit still capture the essence of their classical architecture. You can see the temples from most parts of the city, which adds to the feeling that this area is still the heart of Athens. The name ‘Acropolis’ derives from the Greek words “ákro”, meaning ‘highest point’, and “polis”, meaning town. The first habitation remaining on the site dates back to the Neolithic period!

Thankfully, much of Athens’ ancient culture can still be seen at the Acropolis Museum, complete with statues, weapons of a bygone era, stories of philosophers, mathematicians, astronomers, astrologers and healers … This wonderful documenting of the apogee of treasures from antiquity may take a few hours of your time, culminating with the top floor and its particularly impressive Parthenon Gallery.

Set into the hillside opposite the museum are the extensive remains of the Theater of Dionysus – the birthplace of dramatic/comic art as well as the social/political heart of Athens during its ‘golden age’. Another place to get a sense of ancient artistic interests is the Roman-style Odeon of Herodes, which still provides the venue for spectacular outdoor performances during summer festivals.

The Parthenon – perhaps the epitome of Greek civilization – is the main attraction on the other end, and a walk around it will yield many fabulous views. Other main extant buildings worthy of a visit are the Temple of Athena Nike and the Erechtheion, which afford equally fantastic views right across the city in all directions from their walls.

Acropolis is the one historic place in Athens you cannot miss – so follow our self-guided walking tour to best explore its many different sites without need of a guide.
How it works: Download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from iTunes App Store or Google Play Store to your mobile phone or tablet. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and its built-in GPS navigation functions guide you from one tour stop to next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

Download The GPSmyCity App

Walking Tour Around the Legendary Acropolis Map

Guide Name: Walking Tour Around the Legendary Acropolis
Guide Location: Greece » Athens (See other walking tours in Athens)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.0 Km or 0.6 Miles
Author: emily
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Acropolis Museum
  • Museum of the Center for the Acropolis Studies
  • Theater of Dionysus
  • Odeon of Herodes Atticus
  • Temple of Athena Nike
  • Propylaea
  • Erechtheion
  • Parthenon
Acropolis Museum

1) Acropolis Museum (must see)

The Acropolis Museum houses all artifacts found in and around the Acropolis in Athens since 2009. It is a four-story modern building located on the southeastern slope of the hill and offers spectacular views of the Acropolis. Collections are displayed on the first three levels while the fourth level holds the museum shop as well as a café serving authentic Greek food.

At the entrance, visitors are greeted by an ancient owl, the sacred bird of Athena, dating back to 500 BC. There is an impressive display of corks, free-standing sculptures of Gods and humans, marble figures, fragmented artifacts and friezes. The outside entryway and walkways are mostly glass floors, so as you walk, you can see the dug-out remains of civilization beneath you. There are also models of the Acropolis and replicas of the Parthenon marbles that are now in the British Museum.

The multimedia presentation of the exhibits is interesting and visitors can hire personal guides for a better understanding of the significance of the displayed items. This is an excellent place to get a great introduction to the Acropolis and the birthplace of democracy, with the added advantages of being well organized and air-conditioned.

Why You Should Visit:
To get a great introduction to (or great overview of) the Acropolis and the birthplace of democracy, with the advantages of being well organized and air-conditioned.

Start with the excellent video on the 3rd floor, which ties the museum nicely to the Acropolis (also stunning views of the Acropolis from the windows there), then work your way down (there is an outside terrace on the 2nd floor). There are places on the ground level where you can see through the floor to the active excavation underneath.

Opening Hours:
Mon: 8am-4pm; Tue-Thu, Sat, Sun: 8am-8pm; Fri: 8am-10pm (Apr-Oct);
Mon-Thu: 9am-5pm; Fri: 9am-10pm; Sat, Sun: 9am-8pm (Nov-Mar)
Museum of the Center for the Acropolis Studies

2) Museum of the Center for the Acropolis Studies

Part of the Acropolis Museum’s research workshops, this museum is an incredible exhibition, with artifacts and films that give quality insight into what the Acropolis was like in its original state, plus a good synopsis of its history.

Treasures at the museum include casts of pediment sculptures from the Parthenon, casts of the Metopes of the Parthenon depicting the Trojan War, casts of friezes from the Parthenon, models of the acropolis showing the hill as it stood in ancient Greece, paintings representing the facade of the Paroplaia as it was in classical Greece, and examples of the clay-tiled roofs that once covered the monuments near the Acropolis.
Theater of Dionysus

3) Theater of Dionysus (must see)

The theater of Dionysus is one of the earliest surviving theaters of classical Greece and is known as the birthplace of European theater. As such, it's a great opportunity for both theater lovers and kids to get a feel for what ancient theater must have been like. While you can't climb all over it, access is nicely provided to walk all around the perimeter of the stage and to sit in the seats, which is a great way to make history come alive.

Around 500 BC, the theater was erected near the Acropolis for the performance of plays, which were a popular form of entertainment in ancient Greece. The location chosen was near the temple of Dionysus, the God of wine and the patron of drama. Like all the major ancient Greek theaters, the shape of the stage was semicircular and the gallery could seat 25,000 spectators. The theater had fallen into and remained in disrepair until the Roman Emperor Nero ordered its restoration and renovation.

The first drama by classical playwright Thespis from whom the word Thespian was coined, was performed at the venue in 530 BC. Plays of classical Greek dramatists like Sophocles, Aristophanes, Aeschylus, Euripides and Menander were subsequently staged. These well known classical dramatists often competed for a prize awarded for the most popular among plays. Serious Greek tragedies that propounded philosophy in the form of a drama, as well as light popular plays, were also staged at the theater.

Why You Should Visit:
Great opportunity for theater lovers, students and kids to get a feel for what ancient theater must have been like.
While you cannot climb all over it, access is nicely provided to walk all around the perimeter of the stage and to sit in the seats, which is a great way to make history come alive.

Access to this site comes either separately or with your Acropolis/Ancient Agora/Temple of Zeus Combo Ticket (well worth the investment).

Opening Hours:
Mon: 11am-7:30pm; Tue-Sun: 8am-7:30pm (Apr-Oct); Daily: 8:30am-3pm (Nov-Mar)
Odeon of Herodes Atticus

4) Odeon of Herodes Atticus (must see)

This stone amphitheater is one of the largest surviving classical Greek theaters in Athens. From ancient times to the present days it has been the venue of musical and theater performances of well known Greek and international performers.

The Odeon, also called the Herodeon, was built by the rich Greek aristocrat and Roman senator, Herodes Atticus. It was dedicated as a memorial to his wife in 161 AD. The structure has a stone wall that supports two levels of seats. In classical times, both popular and serious plays were performed at the venue. Today, the marble seating in the gallery has been restored and cushions cover the marble seats for the comfort of spectators.

After extensive renovations in 1950, the Odeon has returned to its former glory and is the venue of the summer Athens Festival that features music performances and opera. Acclaimed performers like Maria Callas, Luciano Pavarotti, and Sting have given memorable shows at the venue. International acts continue to appear there, so it's worth checking the schedule in advance. Watching a concert here on a beautiful night with the moon above you may be the greatest experience you could have. Otherwise, you can just see it as part of a tour of the city.

Why You Should Visit:
To admire the majesty of ancient Greek architecture at its peak! Watching a concert here on a beautiful summer night with the moon above you may be the greatest experience you could have. Otherwise, you can just see it as part of a tour of the city.

International acts are frequent, so it's worth checking the schedule in advance of travel to Athens.
Of course, getting tickets ahead of time is reliant on good weather for a show in this open-air theater.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 8am-8pm
Temple of Athena Nike

5) Temple of Athena Nike (must see)

At only 11 feet – or 3.3 metres – in height, this small temple is easy to miss on the Acropolis. It sits atop the rock wall to the right of the Propylaea Gate, and you'll get a good view of it at the upper right as you enter the Acropolis. Destroyed twice in history, it was successfully rebuilt so you can admire its perfect symmetrical architecture with four Ionic columns at each end. A full-scale restoration was completed in 2010, so it looks very much like it would have looked in 420 BC when Athenians worshiped Athena Nike there.

In Greek mythology, Nike was the goddess of speed, strength and victory. Athenians left offerings and prayed that she would help them defeat Sparta in the Peloponnesian War. Unlike other Nike statues which usually had wings, the one at this temple was wingless so that victory could never abandon the city. Looking up, some of the pieces that make the temple's frieze are still there. Fragments of the frieze are exhibited in the Acropolis Museum and the British Museum.

Get your multi-ticket pass from somewhere else to skip the queue.
Whichever entrance you go in, exit at the other one (i.e. if you enter from the North Entrance, leave by the South) so you see everything.

Opening Hours:
Mon: 8am-4pm; Tue, Thu, Sat-Sun: 8am-8pm; Wed, Fri: 8am-1am

6) Propylaea

The Propylaea is the monumental gateway to the Acropolis in Athens; the main entrance through which thousands of tourists pass en route to the other monuments surrounding the Acropolis. Due to original stairs having been lost, the public enters and exits via slopes built for this purpose. Whilst walking through this gateway, take time to reflect on the ability of ancient Greeks to build such architecture on such a huge scale and on such a difficult site.

An impressive structure in its own right, the Propylaea was designed by the architect, Mnesicles and constructed between 437-432 BC. It has a central building with two adjoining wings on the west (outer) side, one to the north and one to the south. The colonnades in the east and west had a row of Doric columns, while a row of Ionic columns divided the gateway into three parts. This is, therefore, the first building known to us with Doric and Ionic colonnades visible at the same time. It is also the first monumental building in the classical period to be more complex than a simple rectangle or cylinder.

The Propylaea survived intact through the Greek, Roman and Byzantine periods, but was severely damaged by an explosion of a powder magazine in 1656. It has been partly restored, since 1984.

7) Erechtheion (must see)

The Erechtheion forms part of the Acropolis and is one of the finest examples of Greek Ionic architecture. It was also the most sacred among temples on the Acropolis due to serving as a sanctuary of the city's main cults. The temple was dedicated to Athena – goddess of wisdom, Poseidon – the god of sea, and the snake-bodied hero Erechtonius. According to legend, this legendary hero was killed by Poseidon during the battle for the patronage of Athens.

Around 400 BC, the leader of Athens, Pericles commissioned sculptor and mason, Phidias to build the structure you may see today. It is made of marble and the friezes were of black limestone.

The temple has three main parts: the main temple, the northern and the southern porches. The main temple has two cellae, one dedicated to the Goddess of wisdom, Athena, and the other to the God of sea, Poseidon. It symbolized the reconciliation between the two after their battle for the patronage of Athens. The northern porch has Ionic columns and a Propylon. The most striking feature, however, is the famous porch of maidens. These six massive female figures seem to be supporting the porch roof on their heads. No other temple has such detail for pillars. The maidens are, in fact, plastic copies of the originals now housed in Acropolis Museum. This was done to prevent them from melting further in the caustic climate around Athens.

At night the temple's foundation lights up and illuminates the entire structure on the north side of Acropolis. It's a beautiful sight to see from a rooftop restaurant or bar within the vicinity.

Why You Should Visit:
Similar to the other temples on Acropolis, this one reflects the ancient Greeks boasting and passion for the powerful gods, glorious heroes, and honorable kings during their time.
At night the temple's foundation lights up and illuminates the entire structure on the north side of Acropolis. It's a beautiful sight to see from a rooftop restaurant or bar within the vicinity.

Try and have a guided tour to experience the full explanations and history of the site. However, if you skip the tour, you can manage better at your own pace and time.
Also, make sure to visit early in the morning as it may get very hot later in the day and carry water as you won't get anything inside.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 10am-7pm; Sun: 10pm–12am

8) Parthenon (must see)

Parthenon is the most imposing structure sitting at the very top of the Acropolis which still evokes a great deal of awe, particularly at a close range. It was built around 440 BC in gratitude to goddess Athena, patron of the city, for her blessings during the war with the Persians. Climbing to the temple, albeit not difficult as such, is a bit challenging in terms of taking care not to slip along the way. Still, the Parthenon is well worth it and is a great spot for taking pictures, given the panoramic views of Athens, the port of Piraeus and the Aegean Sea opening from up there.

The construction of the Parthenon was commissioned by Pericles, leader of the ancient Athens metropolis, while Phidias, a renowned master sculptor and mason, supervised its ornamentation. The building itself makes one of the best examples of Doric architecture in Greece; however, the sculptural embellishment is more of an Ionic order. Guides to the temple often use photos with an overlay showing what it looked like complete with roofs and all the other elements. The nearby Acropolis Museum is worth checking out, in this respect, to see the facade marble tiles and other decorations attesting to the grandeur of this site.

The Parthenon remained unchanged until the 5th century AD when it was converted to a church. Under the Turkish rule, it served as a mosque. In 1687, during the siege of the Acropolis by Francesco Morosini, the Parthenon was bombarded and largely destroyed. Another great damage to it came in the early 19th century at the hands of Lord Elgin of Britain, who looted much of the temple's sculptural decoration and sold it to the British Museum.

Despite that, the Parthenon remains one of the most important surviving architectural monuments of Greece and, over the years, has served an inspiration for many public buildings worldwide: parliaments, universities, museums, libraries and more. All the recent renovations of the Parthenon further reveal the timeless beauty of this masterpiece.

Why You Should Visit:
An imposing monument that still evokes a sense of awe when you see it close up. The views of the city from this point (one of the highest) are beautiful, too.

Go to the Acropolis early in the morning – otherwise, you may spend 1-2 hours in the line.
There are two gates at the Acropolis. Make sure you enter and leave at different gates so you don't miss anything.
You will save money by buying a combination ticket which also covers Odeon of Herodes Atticus, Theater of Dionysus, Temple of Olympian Zeus, and Ancient Agora of Athens.

Opening Hours:
Mon: 11am-7:30pm; Tue-Sun: 8am-7:30pm (Apr-Oct); Daily: 8:30am-3pm (Nov-Mar)

Walking Tours in Athens, Greece

Create Your Own Walk in Athens

Create Your Own Walk in Athens

Creating your own self-guided walk in Athens is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Athens Food Walking Tour

Athens Food Walking Tour

Traditional Greek cuisine is one of the healthiest in the world, and prices in all but the flashiest establishments afford excellent value. The prevalence of vegetable and dairy dishes makes eating out a delight for non-meat eaters. Carefully selected appetizers (tzatzíki, dolmádes, kalamarákia) can constitute a full meal. Greece’s most famous slow-cooked oven dish, however, is probably...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.2 Km or 1.4 Miles
Walking Around the National Garden

Walking Around the National Garden

The National Garden is an impressive, historic park in the center of Athens, complete with artificial streams and duck ponds. Formerly known as the Royal Garden, it was commissioned by King Otto’s queen, Amalia, in 1838, reason why it is located directly behind the Old Palace (currently the Greek Parliament building). Not only is it a welcome refuge from the swirl of traffic just outside the...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.4 Km or 2.1 Miles
Plaka Attractions Walking Tour

Plaka Attractions Walking Tour

In the shadow of the Acropolis stands Plaka, the most picturesque and oldest district of Athens, with continuous habitation from antiquity until today. The “neighborhood of the Gods”, as it is called, is like a romantic, atmospheric trip to old Athens adorned with antiquities, historic 19th-century buildings, museums and Byzantine churches.

From the vibrant Syntagma Square walking down...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.6 Km or 2.2 Miles
Athens Introduction Walking Tour

Athens Introduction Walking Tour

Athens is one of the oldest European cities, widely regarded as the birthplace of Western Civilization. Its history begins in the Neolithic period between 4th and 3rd millennium BC. The first settlement on the site of Athens was situated on the rock of Acropolis which means “high city” in Greek.

According to the Greek mythology, the name “Athens” emerged from a competition between the...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.2 Km or 2.6 Miles

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip

A Self-Guided Food Walk in Athens

A Self-Guided Food Walk in Athens

Just as many things in Greece, dining in Athens is very much laid-back with the majority of local eateries seeing patrons begin to congregate for dinner only after 8 pm. Eating-wise, the Athenians favor simplicity, leaning to the more casual and not so pricey tavernas where food is plentiful. To...
15 Best Cafes in Athens

15 Best Cafes in Athens

While in Athens it is immediately noticeable that the local cafe culture thriving. Through this directory you will get a chance to visit very different establishments, ranging from "kafenia", to hip, modern coffee shops and get first hand experience of the diversity of contemporary Greek...
Souvenirs Shopping: 19 Uniquely Greek Products to Bring from Athens

Souvenirs Shopping: 19 Uniquely Greek Products to Bring from Athens

A cradle of European civilization, Greece, in general, and Athens, in particular, have long been - from the days of the Roman Empire up until present - the lure for travelers and history buffs seeking to find and bring home something memorable. Today's Athens (much as its ancient self) offers a...