Perched on its craggy escarpment overlooking the heart of Athens, the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Acropolis (its name means ‘high city’ in ancient Greek) is the most famous classical site in the world. The colonnaded Parthenon may be first stop for most visitors, but the marble remains of the Erechtheion stood at the very soul of the Acropolis, marking the spot where the mythical ancient Greek gods Poseidon and Athena fought for ownership of the fledgling city. Named after the legendary King Erechtheus, the temple was built on the north side of the Acropolis hill between 420 and 406 BC, to a design by Athens’ great statesman, Pericles. It was a relatively late addition to the complex of temples and theaters, replacing an older temple as the center of religious ritual at the Acropolis.
Built on a slope and fronted by six Ionic columns – still almost complete after 2,500 years – the Erechtheion is best known for its ornate Porch of the Caryatids (also called the Port of the Maidens), supported by marble statues of six virgins draped in cloaks. These days the statues are copies, but five of the originals (one has lost her head) can be viewed in the awesome New Acropolis Museum adjacent to the ruins.
The Acropolis is open in summer Mon 11am–7.30pm; Tue–Sun 8am–7.30pm; winter daily 8.30am–3pm. Admission €12, concessions €6. Walk up to the Acropolis from Plaka or follow the pedestrianized boulevards of Apostolou Pavlou and Dionissiou Areopagitou. Parts of the Acropolis are under restoration and have been covered by scaffolding for what seems like decades.