The Acropolis museum in Athens, is the most visited museum in Greece. Opened back in 2009, it is a purpose built, thoughtfully designed building, boasting an incredible collection of artefacts, and unparalleled views of the Acropolis itself. Why then, do I think it is the McDonald's of the museum world?
As part of my ongoing mission to visit every museum in Athens for my #museummonday feature at Dave's Travel Pages, I knew that sooner or later, I would have to write about the Acropolis Museum. I have visited this museum three times over the past months. Each time, I have come away with the feeling that it is an excellent museum, but lacks soul. It's actually quite hard to put into words. The best thing I can do, is write about the museum itself and what you can expect. I'll add in my personal thoughts along the way.
The Acropolis Museum
As mentioned before, the Acropolis Museum is located opposite the Acropolis itself. It is easily reached via the metro system, and there are no prizes for correctly guessing that the metro station you need is called Akropoli (or Acropoli/Acropolis… depending on the spelling of the day). The admission fee is 5 euros, and there are various concessions available. Opening hours vary with the high and low seasons, although some holidays excepted, you can be certain it will be open every day between the hours of 09.00 and 16.00. Visit the museum site for more detailed opening times.
The Acropolis Museum in Athens is laid out over four floors, which are floors 0,1,2, and 3. The space is light and airy, and escalators link the floors together. In some way, it reminded me of a shopping mall, and perhaps that's why I think the building lacks personality.
Floors in the Acropolis Museum
Anyway, Level 0 is the entrance level. There will be a small queue at the door (it's a popular place after all), and once in, you will need to put any bags through an x-ray scanner. After this quick security check, you need to join another queue in order to buy tickets. With the tickets in hand, head to the entry point for the museum proper, and scan the barcode face down to open the gate. Pro tip – If at all possible, don't visit the Acropolis Museum with a large bag. You will be required to leave it in the cloakroom. This will involve joining yet another queue.
If you have seen that I have mentioned the word ‘queue' a few times, then you will by now have the impression that the Acropolis Museum in Athens is a busy place. And you would be right. At some point, every tour group in Athens will visit the museum, and the numbers of large, organised tours are astounding.
To the independent traveller, this can be something of a pain, but it can also be made to work to an advantage. Want a free tour of the Acropolis Museum? Just tag along with a group speaking your language, no one will know! Of course, you don't need to do this. Most of the exhibits are very well marked, and have detailed information boards near to them. There can be a degree of information overload though.
This is where my thought that it is the McDonald's of museums came about. The place feels a little rushed, and whilst it does serve an immediate need, leaves a person feeling empty an hour or so later.
Don't Take Photos…
The Acropolis museum also has a weird “don't take photos' policy. On level 1, keen, on the ball security staff will politely ask people not to take any photos. I really have no idea why. Taking photos is permitted on the other levels though. Why should this be? It's one of those frustrating things that is never adequately explained, made all the stranger by the fact that several people have told me that when the museum first opened, the rules were actually reversed! Back in 2010, you could take picture on the lower levels, but not on the Parthenon level. Go figure!
The route through the Acropolis Museum in Athens leads ever upwards, until reaching the final level, known as the Parthenon Gallery. This gallery has been purposefully designed to best show the famous marbles, which for ease of identification, I will call the Elgin Marbles. One problem though, is that most of the Elgin Marbles are in the UK.
About Those Marbles
I am not going to go into the rights or wrongs of Lord Elgin buying the marbles from a Turkish carpet seller in a fez and shipping them off to England here. (leave a comment below!). What I will say though, is that the marbles would look absolutely stunning in this location at the Acropolis Museum. As it is, the museum has displayed the marbles they have, and used faithful replicas to fill in the spaces. This floor of the museum is really the crowning jewel of the museum.What's more, it also offers stunning views out onto the Acropolis itself.
So, overall, the Acropolis Museum in Athens is one of those places you have to visit when in Athens. It does help to give a background to ancient Greek history, and also has some excellent exhibits which are faultlessly displayed. As I mentioned though, it just isn't one of my favourite museums in Athens. Too busy, lack of soul, no personality? Kind of a combination of those things I guess.
To go back to my McDonald's analogy again. It serves its purpose as a museum, a little like McDonald's serves its purpose in the world of dining. Fast in and out. Something tasty, but ultimately not quite filling enough.