If you’re planning to visit Athens, don’t miss the ancient city beneath the ancient city.
Remains of streets, houses, bathhouses and workshops from about the 7th to the 9th centuries AD can be seen below the Acropolis museum in the Makriyianni area of the Greek capital.
The ruins of the ancient settlement were uncovered during initial construction of the museum, which opened in mid-2007 within walking distance of the iconic Acropolis.
In what was initially considered a controversial move, the museum was constructed above the ruins in a way that allows visitors to look at the ancient Roman and early Byzantine foundations.
We’d already been to the Acropolis, the symbol of ancient Greek civilisation and one of the most visited places in the world – and we then walked down the southeast side of the hill.
We turned off Dionysiou Areopagitou Street onto the glass walkway that leads to the museum entrance.
Looking down through the glass, we could see the start of excavations of an ancient urban settlement.
Then we came to a large viewing hole cut in the walkway to better display well-preserved remains from the 7th century AD.
These included a large circulat foundation of a Byzantiine tower, into which people were throwing coins like a wishing well.
The glass floor continues into the museum proper to allow visitors to view even more of the excavations.
We checked with staff and were told that, by sitting the museum on pillars, the contemporary building deliberately floated above the Makriyianni foundations.
When excavations are finished, it’s hoped that museum visitors will be able to learn about the history and religious significance of the Acropolis at the same time as understanding the daily lives of people who lived in the shadow of the temples.
The museum itself displays more than four-thousand objects from the Acropolis, covering periods from the Bronze Age to Roman and Byzantine Greece.
It is a well-designed modern museum, with an easy ‘flow’ of exhibits, plenty of seating and a video area on the top floor. The interior escalators make the building particularly assessible and the large windows offer an excellent views of the Acropolis.
Because the museum is so centrally-located, it is close to most of the main attractions in Athens and is easy to find.
That area of Athens is named after Ioannis Makrygiannis, a general in the Greek War of Independence, who once owned a house and land nearby.
Note: The writer flew to Greece from Australia courtesy of Scoot Airlines, on its Sydney-Singapore-Athens service.