The do’s and don’ts of visiting Greek archaeological sites
Hi Frugalistas! Greeks are proud of their history and culture. As the cradle of democracy, philosophy, medicine and so many other cultural norms and institutions they are indeed right to do so. Many visitors to Greece and to Athens in particular, visit to understand, experience and enjoy that history. There are some rules for the unwary – both official, and unofficial. Because I believe it is important to be a “good guest” no matter where you visit, here are my top do’s and don’ts for getting the most out of visiting Greek historic sites.
Do dress appropriately
Many Greek archaeological sites are quite natural, and even “rustic”. That means paths can be steep. It means lots of steps. Dressing appropriately is therefore key. Good, sensible rubber soled shoes are a must. You will be outside a lot, so if the weather is chilly or inclement, take a proper coat and wet weather gear. Even though Athens is a sophisticated city, don’t dress up to go to the Acropolis!
The day I visited the Acropolis, there was a gorgeous young woman, beautifully dressed, complete in high heels. Her mother was taking very posed photos that would undoubtably look fabulous on her Istagram feed. But……she couldn’t walk around the site in those shoes! I can’t imagine how she got up there, and can’t imagine she enjoyed herself – she just looked so uncomfortable…….
Do enjoy the details
Many Greek archaeological sites are very grand. Big sites, grand buildings, big columns and grand vistas. But look closely…..there is so much more to see. Study the details on those columns. Enjoy and understand the decoration on walls and friezes. Seeing, and understanding the detail will add to your appreciation of just how clever those ancients were – and why today’s Greeks are so proud of them!
Do put the camera away
I know I’ve said this before, but as in all of the wondrous places in the world, it is important to put the camera away and just enjoy what you are looking at.
By all means, take plenty of photos – these are very photogenic places after all. But take the time to put your camera away and just enjoy.
Some museums (including the Acropolis Museum) do not allow photos, so you can’t help but concentrate on enjoying yourself and what you are looking at.
Do go early or go late
This is another thing I say all the time. There are plenty of reasons why I say so in Greece. Many sites are quite exposed, so can feel very warm even on quite mild days – going early, or in the cool of the late afternoon just makes sense. Tour groups start arriving from about 10.00am onwards, so getting in early means you don’t have to fight them for access. Your photos will always look nicer, and the always limited seating will be more available.
Like everywhere, popular sites can have long queues to enter. Queuing is never first class and is just a waste of your precious travelling time. I love to arrive early, wander around in peace and relative quiet, get to close to things I want to see up close, then leave – feeling sorry for the queuers as I am heading out the door onto my next adventure!
Yes, that’s right. Don’t touch. There are signs in many sites. There are areas that are roped off. Regardless of whether you believe it is valid or not, a good guest always respects the local rules…….
Don’t pose with the statues
Greeks regard posing with the statues as disrespectful. It is policed heavily – with one exception. In the Acropolis Museum everyone, and I mean everyone, was posing with the Caryatides in full view of the guard.
There are plenty of places where you can take photos of yourself among the historic sites – your trip will not be ruined if you don’t get that photo of yourself with that one statue.
Don’t visit anywhere just because you think you should
When I was in Athens recently I didn’t go to the Greek National Archaeological Museum. That’s right, I didn’t go to THE main antiquities museum in all of Greece. Was I mad? Did I run out of time? Was it closed? No, I’m just not that interested.
There are so many interesting things to do and see in Athens I just didn’t want to go to that particular museum. I went to the Acropolis, I went to the Acropolis Museum, I went to a couple of smaller ruins. On a trip to the Peloponnese, I went to the Corinth Museum. That was enough antiquities for me.
Instead I spent hours wandering the backstreets of the Acropolis – so charming. I loved visiting the Benaki Cultural Museum to look at the domestic arts and crafts of Greece (look for my review on a future post). I went on my Culinary Backstreets food walk. In other words, I spent my time the way I wanted to spend it, not spending it the way I “should have” just because I was in the cradle of antiquity.
Having someone else’s holiday, and doing things because you feel you should is a waste of your precious time and money. Spend your resources on what is important to you. You will spend less money, waste less time and have more fun. That’s what great travel is all about.
Don’t assume you will have access to amenities
While there will be toilets, don’t assume that you will be able to buy a drink or something to eat inside the sites. There is a small kiosk outside the entrance to the Acropolis, but even it doesn’t have anywhere to buy a drink of water inside. Plan ahead. If you want to spend plenty of time touring around and enjoying your visit, take a drink, and if need be something to eat. This is particularly important in warmer weather.
The archaeological sites in Greece are the reason why many visitors head to Greece. Follow my advice, enjoy, and be a “good guest”.