Acropolis Area

The Propylaia formed the monumental entrance to the Acropolis. Built by Mnesicles between 437 BC and 432 BC, it ranks in architectural brilliance with the Parthenon. It consists of a central hall with two wings on either side; each section had a gate, and in ancient times these five gates were the only entrances to the 'upper city'.

The middle gate, the largest, opened on to the Panathenaic Way, the route for the great Panathenaic Procession.

As you walk through on the central boardwalk, admire the thick panels of marble cladding, and as you pass the northeastern section – once used as a pinakothiki (art gallery) – look up to see the marble ceiling panels. These were once painted with gold stars on a blue field. Up ahead, beyond the Propylaia to the right, near the Parthenon, the path leads past (new) ceiling panels, stored upright. They are startlingly huge, giving a sense of the true height of the Propylaia's columns.

The Propylaia is aligned with the Parthenon – the earliest example of a building designed in relation to another. It remained intact until the 13th century, when various occupiers took it as a palace and started adding to it. It was badly damaged in 1645, when lightning struck gunpowder the Turks had stored here. Archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann paid for the removal of one of its appendages – a Frankish tower – in the 19th century. Reconstruction took place from 1909 to 1917 and again after WWII. Restoration was completed in 2010.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Acropolis Area attractions

1. Temple of Athena Nike

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The small but exquisitely proportioned Temple of Athena Nike sits at the southwest edge of the Acropolis, jutting in front and to the right of the…

2. Beulé Gate

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Inside the main entrance of the Acropolis site, the path leads you up through the Beulé Gate, named after French archaeologist Ernest Beulé, who uncovered…

4. Odeon of Herodes Atticus

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This large amphitheatre was built in AD 161 by wealthy Roman Herodes Atticus in memory of his wife Regilla. It was excavated in 1857–58 and completely…

5. Acropolis Main Entrance

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The main Acropolis entrance is used by tour groups so can be very busy. Come here for the disabled accessible lift.

6. Erechtheion

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Although the Parthenon was the most impressive monument of the Acropolis, it was more showpiece than working sanctuary. That role fell to the Erechtheion…

7. Parthenon

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Designed to be the pre-eminent monument of the Acropolis, the Parthenon epitomises the glory of Ancient Greece. Meaning 'virgin's apartment', it's…

8. Acropolis

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The Acropolis is the most important ancient site in the Western world. Crowned by the Parthenon, it stands sentinel over Athens, visible from almost…