Dreamed for the crowds to Athens of the 2004 Olympics, the New Acropolis Museum replaces the very old and tired looking one up on the hill. Building started in 2003, but was not complete until 2007. The transfer of the artifacts from the Acropolis took some time, and the Museum actually opened in 2009. It looks pretty out of place, as the big, shiny and modern building at the bottom of the hill. But the content, and the curation make it well worth the visit.
The site itself is built upon the archaeological remains of life in the area long ago, and thus the entrance and the lower ground of the Museum display these below foot. Glassed floors, and open spaces around the paths to the doors, let you peer down into old walls and rooms, reminding you of the age of Ancient Greece.
Once you have entered, and paid admission, you then walk through the floors in a designated route, to allow you the process as if you are seeing the Acropolis on the hill - but this time, with all the ancient trimmings reconstructed.
The first spacious section is the Gallery of the Slopes, displays artifacts excavated from the ascent up the hill to the Parthenon. Plus you can see more of the excavated spaces below your feet, through the glass floor.
Up the stairs is the Archaic Gallery, a room filled with natural light, and dotted with ancient, restored statues. Whilst I was there, there was a guided tour for a school group, who was pointing out the different features of some of the statues that had been restored of their colours and details - overhearing some of this made me take closer looks at each of the painted idols and gods. The colours are brilliant. The displays are informative, in that some are not fully repainted, so you can see the differences between restoration and time wear.
The top floor is impressive for it's incredible views of Athens all around, almost as much as for it's exhibit content. The floor to ceiling windows allows for spectacular views, on a 360 degree scale as you take in the artifacts inside.
This floor has the Parthenon Gallery. Here is the space that truly fills in the gaps your imagination and the efforts of time, the elements and the deliberate removal has had on your vision of the detail of the Parthenon up on the hill. The frieze, which runs around the top of the great monument - all 115 blocks of it - are displayed here, in order as they were intended. Human figures to deities, and animals such as horses, are all depicted. As you walk around this to-scale model, some of the stone is original, but not many, you get a sense of what the Parthenon was like. It nothing short of impressive!
On you way down from the top floor, in the middle of the building, is an alcove with the Caryatids of Erechtheion. Well, five of them, with the sixth standing in London at the British Museum. Many of these have now been restored, although when I was there one of the lady's was shrouded in cloth as work continued in bringing her back to some of her former beauty and glory. Seeing the detail and shapes within the marble dress is really amazing.
The Museum visit complemented the time I spent up the hill taking in the ancient iconic ruins of Athens, and indeed Ancient Greek civilisation, piecing it all together, to complete the picture of what it all once was.
Serious Tip: Go for the shade break in the heat of the day, at the very least, but I recommend going after you have visited the Acropolis on the hill, for context. Also, sit and watch the video of the imagined reconstruction of the Parthenon to really put the pieces together for you.
Cost: 5 Euro! Crazy cheap!
Time Spent: I probably spent over an hour to an hour and a half in here walking around, taking in all the details.
Quirky Tip: My most memorable vision within the gallery is a women's face, in marble, that looks like the sculpture has been crying black tears. She is so captivating! These tears are actually remnants of the dyes used in the colouring of her statue. There are many more treasures of enchantment to be found within the faces and scenes played out within the Museum, if you look out for them!