What are the best vantage points to take photos of the Acropolis? I found myself asking this as I prepared for my Mediterranean holiday, with my first stop being Athens.
When I went to Athens for the first time many years ago, I met a traveller as she was leaving Greece and she told me the following:
‘There are only 2 good things about Athens – the Acropolis and the first road out of there!’
I had to laugh because the city did look ‘unfinished’. Thankfully it has been beautified since – mainly for the 2004 Olympic Games.
However, the Acropolis is still a beautiful imposing figure overlooking the whole city (even with the scaffolding attached). You can't miss it where ever you walk around the Athens city centre. So, on this trip I decided to take photos from high vantage points. Views of the majestic Acropolis from a distance instead of up close and personal.
Below I have outlined each photographic spot with my personal recommendation – eg. If you should focus on sunset or sunrise photos with examples of my photo’s.
This is the highest point in Athens city, much higher than the Acropolis, so I think is the best spot to capture the whole area of the Acropolis perched on the rocky outcrop.
It’s only a 20-minute walk from Syntagma Square, following along Pindou Street and then up a couple of flight of stairs.
From there you have the option to go up the hill by cable car/funicular (through a tunnel) or walk up a gradual winding path. Arriving in the heat of the day will make the walking harder though.
To grab a sunrise photo, you’ll have to walk up to the top because the first cable car starts at 8.00am (in the summer). This photo was taken at 9.00am (the sun is behind me).
It looks like a standard postcard photo but it was the perfect time to take a photo without the hordes of tourists. In fact, there were only two of us up there!
TG Tip: Definitely worth to walk down the hill instead of taking the cable car as you can take photos from different angles along the way.
Unfortunately, the viewing platform becomes overcrowded in the evening as the sunset photos seem to be more interesting. As the sun lowers, it lightens up the Acropolis in orange hues. Then when the sun finally sets, the Acropolis is lit up artificially.
The cable car costs EUR5 one way or EUR7.50 return. I bought a return ticket because I didn’t want to walk down in the dark. There are two restaurants up the top so why not combine the viewing with a dinner.
It is a small viewing area to view the acropolis in the distance and you have to push your way through for your chance to take an uninterrupted shot. The Acropolis is too far really for phones. Once you zoom in you get a lot of distortions. So, I really recommended a good camera with a good zoom.
I arrived at 7.30pm for sunset photos. Best to get up there at least 1 hour before sunset so you can take photos of the acropolis, temple of Zeus and the stadium lit up by the sun. The sunset was at 8.30pm in July. Then 25 minutes later they started lighting up the acropolis artificially. So, I took some more evening shots with the lights – before it got too dark. Well worth the wait around and pushing in for your go to take photos.
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I’m adding this recommendation as you can take a photo with a little twist even though I was unable to. The photos from here are different because you can capture the Temple of Zeus in the foreground with the Acropolis towering in the background.
Unfortunately, Adrittos Hill, which is a park, was closed indefinitely. Locals told me that they’re not sure when it will re-open. I was so disappointed.
Adrittos Hill is located next to Panathenaic Stadium. Only a 5-minute walk away. If the park happens to re-open when you visit, do send me a photo and I’ll feature it in this blog.
Temple of Zeus - the Acropolis from street level
While I was drowning my sorrows about the closed Adrittos Hill, I decided to visit Temple of Zeus from the ground. Only a 10-minute walk away, I reluctantly paid the EUR6.00 entrance fee.
Not much to see. Much fewer pillars are still standing compared to the Acropolis. But if you walk to the other side of the temple, you can capture the temple in the foreground with the upper part of the Acropolis towering above in the distance.
The closest vantage point to the Acropolis is the neighbouring Philopappos Hill.
The entrance to the park is at the roundabout where the buses park – opposite the road that leads to the ticket booth. As you walk up the main paved promenade inside the park, follow the sign to Philopappos Monument. The walking paths are well worn and you’ll meet other tourists along the way, so you can’t get lost.
Along the way, there are gaps in the trees to exposing you to several different viewing points of the Acropolis. The clearest and highest vantage point is from the monument itself.
The afternoon photos are nice as the sun is almost behind you. I went there at 5pm (month of July) and the sun wasn’t too high.
Unfortunately, as you can see, the western end of the acropolis, the part that faces the afternoon sun is completely covered in scaffolding. It doesn’t make for the most spectacular photo but it's necessary for continual ongoing work to keep the Acropolis upstanding.
I then went down to visit inside the acropolis for my close-up shots.
I left at 7.30pm and went back to Philopappos Hill to take sunset shots of the Acropolis – to capture the sunlight beaming onto the buildings.
There was about a 100 people up there to watch the sunset but it's such a wide area so no one was cramped or in the way. 25 minutes after the sun set, the lights on the Acropolis appear on each building one by one.
About 40 minutes after sunset its still quite visible to walk down from the monument – as there is no lighting on the hill. After that its quite dark but the white coloured stones on the steps show the way. However, the flashlight on your phone is sufficient. As an extra precaution, I walked down following other tourists in case anyone wanted to attack me being a solo traveller. There’s only lighting on the main paved promenade at the entrance of the park.
Summary - putting in order my favourite places to photograph the Acropolis
If you have limited time in Athens and want to spend your time wisely in getting the best photos of the Acropolis, below is my suggestion in an order of the impression it made on me.
Lycabettus Hill - at sunset.
Philopappos Monument - during late afternoon and/or sunset.
Inside the Acropolis - for close up photos. Early morning or late afternoon for light effects.
Adrittos Hill - if they've opened the park in the meantime.
Lycabettus Hill - sunrise (and if you want to avoid crowds).
Which view of the Acropolis did you like the most? If you’ve been to Athens, did you find another vantage point that has not been mentioned above?