The Parthenon is the former temple of the goddess Athena, located on the Acropolis in the heart of Athens. The temple is considered the most important surviving building from ancient Greece, and is a symbol of western civilization and the founding of democracy. It became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987, thanks to it “symbolizing the idea of world heritage.”
The Acropolis on which it sits refers to the area where Athens’ most important classical structures can be found. While the Parthenon is considered the most important, it also includes the Propylaia, the Erechtheion, and the temple of Athena Nike. At the Erechtheion (a smaller temple dedicated to both Athena and Poseidon) you’ll find the caryatids — six maidens taking the place of columns to support the entablature. While the original six were removed due to weather erosion, you’ll find them holding up well in the Acropolis Museum. The six onsite are perfect replicas, however, and here you can appreciate their fine detail and artistic work. The Propylaia refers to the gateway to the site, and the temple of Athena Nike was a place to worship war deities.
A trip to Athens can’t be complete without a visit to Parthenon. You’ll find yourself dwarfed in its shadow, and awestruck by the amount of work that must have went into building it thousands of years before any sort of modern technology came about. Take your time, and enjoy.
Places to Visit at the Acropolis
Temple of Athena Nike
- Acropolis Museum
Unique Things to See Around the Acropolis
Theatre of Herodes Atticus
- Theatre of Dionysus
- Theseo Ancient Agora
- Temple to Poseidon
- Hill of the Nymphs
The Parthenon was once devoted to the Greek goddess Athena, whom Athens considered their patron god of war, wisdom, courage, and culture. According to Greek myth, Athena and Poseidon once had a contest for Athens. To appeal to the citizens, Poseidon created a spring of water, and Athena’s gift was an olive tree. The citizens felt Athena’s gift was more useful, and so the city became hers.
Construction began in 447 BC, when the Athenian Empire was at its peak. It was completed not long after, in 438 BC and is of the Doric order. Its decorative sculptures are some of the finest in the country. The current Parthenon actually replaced an older Pre-Parthenon destroyed in the Persian invasion of 480 BC. It was primarily used a treasury, and then as a treasury of the Delian League. During this time, the Propylaia, the Erechtheion, and the temple of Athena Nike were also erected.
In the 6th century AD, the Parthenon was converted into a Christian church, and after the Ottoman conquest, was turned into a mosque in the 1460s. In 1687, an Ottoman ammunition dump exploded and damaged the site and its many sculptures. Over the years, important work has been done to restore the site, and is still ongoing today. When you arrive, you’ll notice the many cranes and scaffolding hard at work — Athens is doing its best to preserve the site, so please respect these ancient grounds.
Getting around Parthenon
The Parthenon is found at the Acropolis in the centre of Athens. If you’re staying in the middle of town, you’ll have no trouble reaching this place on foot. Athens’ modern Metro system is also easy to navigate, and there is a station dedicated to the Acropolis.
You will have to pay a small entrance fee upon arriving at the Acropolis. This will give you full access to all the Acropolis sites, including the Parthenon. However, without a history lesson, you may find much of the area underwhelming. It’s recommended to hire a local guide for the Parthenon and Acropolis to get the full experience of just how important this site is the world.
Did you know…?
Although modern replications of the Parthenon feature the site with a gleaming white exterior, it’s actually more likely that its entire facade was extremely colourful. Naturally, the colour faded with weathering over the years.
Did you ALSO know…?
The Parthenon was originally built to resist earthquakes!
Best time of year to visit the Parthenon
The Parthenon is open year-round, although scheduled downtime for maintenance sometimes occurs. Certain days of the year include free entrance to the Acropolis, including every the first Sunday of every month from the beginning of November to March. Keep in mind that these days generally come with an influx of visitors.
If you can, visiting during Athens’ shoulder seasons, like February to early May, or September and October. Temperatures in Athens can soar in the summer months, making it uncomfortable to navigate a mostly unshaded archaeological site. If you do visit in the summer months, bring lots of water and wear sunscreen/sunhat.
Ready to plan your visit to Athens? Check out these popular guides and trips.