With over three million visitors in 2019, the Acropolis in Athens is one of the world’s most visited ancient monuments. Hardly surprising given the position this ancient site has come to hold in western civilisation today; a symbol for the origins of democracy. Even though the site currently closed to all visitors, or if you are not able to visit Athens yourself, there are many other ways of exploring this extraordinary archaeological site. Here Thomas brings together some of the best resources available online to create your own virtual tour of the Acropolis in Athens, safely and wherever you are.
This article is a list of recommended virtual and digital resources relating to the ancient Acropolis. For detailed information about visiting the archaeological site when it reopens to visitors, including details about buying tickets online, skip-the-line-tickets, and a selection of suggested guided walking tours, see our guide to the Acropolis in Athens.
A virtual reconstruction of the Acropolis in the 5th century BC in the Acropolis Interactive 3D app by Mozaic, available free of charge on both Google Play and the iOS App Store.
As amazing as some of the wonders of technology are these days, I am one of those who believes nothing will replace actually being on the Acropolis yourself. But for many different and very real reasons, that is just not possible for many millions of people who would love to visit what many think of as the origins of western democracy. And for these people there are some wonderful resources available online.
Over the last few days I have scoured the internet collecting this online material. And in this article I present a set of digital experiences as a collection that I believe really does provides the next best thing to being on the hilltop under the Athenian sky. Also, a great set of resources for those who like to research sites thoroughly before they visit.
The Acropolis on Google Street View
The Acropolis in Athens as seen on a satellite view on Google Maps.
As you can see in the screencap above showing an aerial view of the Acropolis on Google maps with the Pegman activated, the hilltop is not crossed with light blue lines, only small blue dots. Unfortunately we are not able to take a Street View route around the Acropolis and its various monuments through a continuous panorama of stitched together images, as you can at many other monuments around the world.
There are many blue dots, and if you zoom in on the original Google Map, there are many more. Each of these represents a 360° panoramic photos from that spot (with the usual caveat of if they were uploaded to the correct spot) uploaded by visitors to the Acropolis. Dragging the yellow Pegman from the bottom right of the screen to loads that photo and clicking and dragging your mouse across the photo you can change the view in 360°. Look in the top left of the screen, and you will see the name of the person who uploaded the photograph and the date. This is a great way of seeing the Acropolis, ‘through the eyes’ of other visitors at different times of the year.
Virtual Acropolis – Acropolis Restoration Service
A similar concept of the Google Map for the Acropolis is the basis for the virtual tour of the Acropolis produced by a Greek gaming company CulturPlay for the Acropolis Restoration Service. Entering the application, visitors see an aerial view of the acropolis, with colour-coded dots (below)
The starting point of the virtual tour of the Acropolis – an aerial view of the hilltop. The colour code of the dotes corresponds to the colours used for each of the monuments.
By clicking on one of those dots, visitors can see what the Acropolis looks like from that point on the hilltop. An example is presented below. You are then able to move about the Acropolis, from one 360° photograph to another by clicking on watermarked owls – the project’s logo. You can also read about what you are looking at by clicking on the Description and Subject links in the lower left corner of the screen. The eye icon moves about the navigation bar at the top depending on what structure you are looking at.
Looking southwest across the Acropolis just after sunset, with the Parthenon on the left and the Erechtheion on the right.
This is a great application. The application offers a structured collection of 360° photographs of the various monuments on the Acropolis. Obviously as a project of the government’s restoration project, the creators had access to the best photographs. And there are some neat features, such as the aerial compass at the right edge of the screen indicating the view you are looking at across the Acropolis. The information provided in the descriptions is certainly going to be reliable, and is a good introduction to the history and architecture of the Acropolis.
If I was nitpicking I would say for an application produced in 2014 it is a bit clunky. More specifically, the interface between the photographs and the presentation of descriptions could be much more sophisticated. Looking at what is available, however, I like this virtual tour very much and greatly enjoyed exploring the Acropolis with it. See for yourself, I used the free website version on my laptop and desktop, it is also available free of charge on the App Store for iPads only.
Virtual Tour of the Acropolis by Clio Muse Tours
Seeing the monuments on the Acropolis through magnificent photographs should surely only be one element of any virtual tour of the Acropolis. Clio Muse has produced an audio tour (available in English, Spanish and French) that can be easily installed on any desktop or mobile device not only introduces virtual visitors to the site to historical facts but also through the power of storytelling tales of ancient and modern times will enhance your appreciation and understanding of this important place.
Some of the points of interest on Clio Muse’s audio tour of the Acropolis.
For a very reasonable price (€14.99 as of April 2020) you get two-hours of facts and stories located in street and satellite views, and based on detailed research that you can access it repeatedly and anytime. The audio tour is suitable for both Android and iOS devices.
More Information and Buy the Audio Tour of the Acropolis via the GetYourGuide website. Also available are audio ‘home tours’ of the ancient sites of Delphi and Olympia.
Virtual Interactive 3D App by Mozaik
Having seen the 360° panoramic photographs and listened to stories about the various buildings on the Acropolis, an interactive 3D app produced by Mozaik gives enables you to see what this extraordinary place would have looked like in ancient times.
A digital reconstruction of the Erechtheion on the Acropolis 3D interactive app produced by Mozaik.
The Acropolis was at its height in the 5th century BC, and it is this period that is presented in Mozaik’s app. There is nothing ‘clunky’ about this app. In fact it is sophisticated and intuitive, with interactive views of the ancient city, the Acropolis and each building, with brief text that is easily accessed. Users are able to change the language in to any one of over 20 languages. Besides being able to look closely at each building, users are also able to walk through the reconstructed Acropolis, or follow a 2.47 minute animation tour. And of course there are a number of ways of getting inside the Parthenon.
Free to download in both Google’s Play Store and Apple’s App Store to mobile devices, this is a excellent way to get a feel for what the Acropolis looked like in the 5th century BC. This applies equally to having used the resources suggested above as well as before or after visiting the Acropolis.
The Acropolis on YouTube
Not surprisingly perhaps there is a lot on YouTube about Ancient Greece generally and the Acropolis more specifically. Here are a few that I feel are worth watching as they are reliable, interesting and engaging.
Athens: Triumph and Tragedy from the In Search of History Series, produced for the History Channel. Released in 1997, perhaps the documentary is a bit dated, but it is a good introduction to the history of the Acropolis in 43 minutes, with many expert contributors and narrated by David Akroyd.
Parthenon and The Erechtheion are two short documentaries (16 and 8 minutes respectively) produced by SmartHistory for the Khan Academy. These two in depth examinations of two of the most captivating monuments on the Acropolis were created by Steven Zucker and Beth Harris.
Two short documentaries explore what we know about the construction of the Parthenon, from the source of the marble on quarries on Mount Pentelikon to erecting of the columns on the hilltop in Athens. They are Discovery Channel’s Engineering Feats of the Golden Age – The Parthenon (14 minutes) and Discovery UK’s Secrets of the Acropolis (8 minutes), from their Blowing UP History series. Both are presented by very engaging scholars, leaders in the field of ancient Greece, Jim Coulton and Edith Hall, respectively.
My final recommendation from the offerings on YouTube is a very short, six and a half minutes, history of the Athenian Acropolis from 3500 BCE to 2010 AD, through 3D reconstructions. Well worth watching, as none of the other mentions above offer this history, reconstructed in this way. Although this started out as a hobby in 2008, it has developed quite considerably since, see more of their work on the reconstructions of Athens on their Facebook Page and their Website.