Its time for you to emerge yourself into the world of the Acropolis Museum; the archaeological museum in the center of Athens that houses the findings of the Acropolis of Athens while being located on the archaeological site of Makrigianni, a remnant of the Roman and Early of Byzantine Athens.
The first museum of the Acropolis that was ever built, was completed in 1874 and was located on the southeastern part of the Parthenon. As the years went by, the excavations taking place in the Acropolis Hill brought to light an ever-increasing amount of exhibits, making the museum inadequate to hold the entire collection. Therefore, in 1888, a smaller building was added to the east of the existing building. Despite additional extensions in 1953, the building was eventually determined to be failing to hold the vast collection of findings that were continuously being discovered in the rock, and along with the efforts of Greece to have the Parthenon marbles returned from the British Museum, the construction of a new museum became compelling.
The main entrance of the Acropolis Museum - credits: Yakov Oskanov/Shutterstock.com
The new Acropolis Museum opened in 2009 and is a total of 25,000 m² with an exhibition of 14,000 sq. meters. Its opening ceremony included the then Minister of Culture placing a piece of marble that was returned from the Vatican Museum to a Parthenon metope, symbolizing the Greek demand for the return of the Elgin marbles in the new Acropolis Museum.
The new Acropolis Museum is located on the site of the former archaeological site of Makrygianni, around 280 meters from the Parthenon, with its main entrance on Dionysiou Areopagitou Street and additional entrances on Makrigiannis and Hadjichristou streets. Line 2 of Athens’ underground has a station called ‘Acropolis’ that brings visitors right outside the museum.
The exterior of the Acropolis Museum is truly an architectural piece of art. One thing that the visitors notices right away is the dominant presence of glass, which helps the museum rely on natural lighting, a necessary feature for the welfare of the exhibits. The museum is built around a core of concrete that replicates the exact size of the Parthenon frieze. It is based on elevated columns founded between the ruins of the archaeological site of Makrigianni in order to protect it, while at several points, inside and outside the building, the floors are transparent, so that people get to see the antiquities. The museum is divided into 5 stories, with the collections of the museum being exhibited in four levels and the fifth level housing supporting spaces such as the restaurant and the Acropolis Museum gift shop.
View of Athens for the 'Parthenon Hall' located on the third floor of the Acropolis museum - credits: serkan senturk/Shutterstock.com
On the ground floor, visitors of the Acropolis Museum can find exhibits from the sanctuaries that were built on the slopes of the Acropolis, as well as everyday objects of the Athenians across all time periods of antiquity.
On the first floor, in the eastern and southern parts of the ‘Archaic Works Hall’, lie the famous sculptures from great temples of the Acropolis, as well as the offerings of the faithful Athenian, such as the world-acclaimed ‘Caryatids’, the female sculptures that served as columns supporting the porch of the Erechtheion temple, the ‘Horsemen’, the ‘Sculptors’, the statues of goddess Athena, the marble reliefs, and the small bronze and clay offerings.
On the third level, one can find the ‘Parthenon Hall’. On the perimeter of its walls, the marbles of the Parthenon frieze have been places in sequence, depicting the Panathenaic games. The galleys of the temple have been placed on pedestals on the east and west side of the floor. The eastern pediment depicts the birth of goddess Athena from the head of Zeus, while the western one the conflict between Athena and Poseidon. There, visitors can also watch a video presentation about the Parthenon and its sculptural decoration while enjoying a breathtaking panoramic view of Athens.
The Acropolis Museum cafe - credits: Maria Chavdarova Mavrona/Shutterstock.com
After the 'Parthenon Hall', the route takes the visitor back to the first level, where the findings from the Propylaia, the Temple of Athena Nike and the Erechtheion are on display. Among others, this part of the museum houses notable sculptures of the classical period, copies of the imperial years, votive and emphatic reliefs of the 5th and 4th century BC, embossed statues and portraits and, as well as selected works of the late antiquity and the Byzantine times.
It is no coincidence that in May 2013, British newspaper Sunday Times ranked the Acropolis Museum in 3rd place on the list of the ‘50 Best Museums in the World’ and in November 2010, in a competition of the Union of Journalists of Travel Authors of Great Britain, the museum was voted the ‘Best Museum of the World’. The new Acropolis museum is a sight to behold; a combination of culture and history that marries the past to the future of Greece, and a place everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime!