Lunch at the New Acropolis Museum

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View of the Parthenon from the Cafe/Restaurant in the Museum
View of the Parthenon from the Cafe/Restaurant in the Museum

One of the highlights of my trip to Greece this past summer was my visit to the New Acropolis Museum in Athens. The word “acropolis” refers to the highest point in a city or town. There are other “acropolises” in Greece – Athens’ is the most well-known.IMG_8311

The Acropolis of Athens is a limestone rock with a sheer drop on all sides (except to the West) and for this reason, it made for a great defensive position. It has some distance from the sea but it can still be observed. This was an advantage against pirates and other invaders.IMG_8290

Located on the Acropolis is the Parthenon. The existing building was built under Pericles between 447 and 432 BC.  Pillaged but not destroyed by the end of the Roman period, the Parthenon went through important changes from the 5th century AD and onwards. The statue of  Athina was taken & carried to Constantinople in 426AD, then the temple was transformed into a church under Justinian, dedicated first to Saint Sophia and then to the Virgin Mother (Panagia Theotokos).

Ancient olive trees outside of the Museum
Ancient olive trees outside of the Museum

Afterwards, it became the Metropolitan Church of Athens. Paintings covered the walls, a dome was constructed on the marble roof (or to replace it?). The pronaos (inner area of portico) was transformed into an apse and the spaces between the columns of the peristyle were walled-up (at the base at the very least). The eastern pediment was pierced by a small circular window, to allow some light to enter.IMG_8298

At the beginning of the 13th century and under Frankish dominance, the church became Roman and with the name of St. Marie of Athens. The bishop of Cyriac of Ancona was the first to recognize the “temple of Pallas” and to to leave a sketch of it.IMG_8304

With Ottoman (Turkish Rule) came the erection of a minaret on the South-West corner. Until the 17th century, the temple was complete and many drawings and sketches exist, notably by  the Marquis de Nointel’s painters.IMG_8305

In 1687, sculptures of the pediments, metopes and the frieze disappeared after an explosion.A provisional store of gun powder blew up after a deserter tipped off the Venetians. The explosion shook the Parthenon on September 26, 1687, overturning 28 columns, destroying the walls of the cella and 3/4 of the sculptured frieze.IMG_8306

Once the city was taken, Morosini wanted to take the “trophies” to Venice, including the western pediment – the best preserved. In trying to take them down, the whole central part (Poseidon and the horses of Athena’s chariot) accidentally (oops, you idiot) fell to the ground and was smashed to pieces.IMG_8309

When the Turks returned, they built  a small domed mosque in the centre of the breach, without a minaret. The monument was again pillaged in 1801-1803 by Lord Elgin, who arrived from Constantnople armed with a firman (decree)  from the Sultan.IMG_8310

He took dozens of statues, 56 blocks of the frieze and 15 metopes that in 1816 were brought to the British Museum. IMG_8289

The New Acropolis Museum consists of three floors. It’s a rectangular museum that is designed to replicate the Parthenon. Each floor contains artifacts from the temple and many damaged pieces have been repaired or replicated by man.

A recurring theme throughout the museum are the many shadows, empty spaces where missing pieces belong. A hope for their just and long-awaited return is shared by Greeks and non-Greeks alike. It seems that the British government and museum curators are the only ones against this.

I urge you to sign the online petition to return the Parthenon Marbles to Athens.

In hindsight, I wish I could go back and spend a whole day at this museum. It’s probably a wonderful (quieter time) to visit the New Acropolis Museum now that the tourist season has ebbed.IMG_8313

Another regret I have is not being able to take as many photos as I would have liked. It appears that the rules pertaining to photos have changed. Security folk are everywhere and I was a little perplexed as to why I couldn’t take photos when so many people who visited the Museum were able to when it first opened.

My friend Ivy of Kopiaste visited the Museum soon after it’s opening and she shared some striking photos.

So, why did the rules change on taking photos? The security guard that I asked told me that too many people were taking photos with “flash”…more of a distraction and annoyance. Whatever photos I took here with taken in haste and with no flash.

The end of visit to the Museum was spent at the cafe/restaurant with it’s striking view of the Parthenon. There were line-ups for a table but the seating is quick and the service was world-class.

I urge you to grab a bite at this eatery. Have a light lunch that’s affordable, utilizes Greek ingredients and paired with very good Greek wines by the glass.IMG_8312

My companion for my visit to the Museum was my good friend Maria. I’ve know Maria since 1980 as she used to live in Thessaloniki and we would spend summers together in Halkidiki.IMG_8314

IMG_8315We ordered some Assyrtiko white wine from Santorini and we sampled the following dishes:

A sandwich made with a salami from the island of Lefkada.IMG_8316

Graviera cheese from Crete with melon and thyme and honey.IMG_8317

Next up were quenelles of Kopanisti cheese with watermelon. Kopanisti is a soft chees, it’s salty and it has a hint of a blue cheese flavour.IMG_8318Finally, we had a potato salad with cured Sardines from Mytlini (Lesvos), orange segments and sunflower seeds.IMG_8319

Please do include a stop at the New Acropolis Museum and it’s worth waiting for a table at the restaurant surrounded by so much history. Order, drink some Greek wine, nibble and think about where you’re sitting, the glory that is Greece and the fact that you’re surrounded by centuries of history, culture and civilization. I had to pinch myself to see if I was dreaming.

If you are not reading this post in a feed reader or at then the site you are reading is illegally publishing copyrighted material. Contact me at truenorth67 AT gmail DOT COM. All recipes, text and photographs in this post are the original creations & property of the author.

© 2007-2009 Peter Minakis

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Peter Minakis

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27 Comments for “Lunch at the New Acropolis Museum”


When we went to the British Museum in March we were really surprised at the amount of people taking flash pictures & it was really annoying, plus they were taking flash pictures of things in glass displays, so basically they were getting pictures of a flash!


The Acropolis Museum is a must for every visitor and believe me although I visited it when it opened I wouldn’t mind being there everyday.


as someone who gets peeved by pushy tourists with camera-happy tendencies, i can definitely see where the new rules are coming from. i suppose i’ll just consider the lack of inside shots as yet another reason to visit in person.


many smaller museums allow photos w/o flash, others allow flash in sculpture halls, as those are not light sensitive.(flash can effect ptgs over time.) but busy museums often just say no b/c it is easiest to police, rather than telling everyone to turn off flash. i am dying to go to this museum, i havent been to athens since it was built,


I thought the reason museums don’t allow flash photography was because the flash can actually deteriorate the statues.

The food was as lovely as the museum itself. I’m hungry.

I do hope the stuff makes it back to the musuem. However, I’m glad I had my chance to see it at the British Museum a couple of years ago. ;-) I don’t know when I’ll go to Greece, so it’s nice to know I had my chance to see that little part of it.


I havent been in Greece for over than a year now and it is so good to have this online journey through your last posts.

Σε ευχαριστώ!
μμΜΜΜμμμμάααααααααααααααααααακια σου πολλά!!!


I read a piece in Vanity Fair a couple of months ago about this – it sounds just wonderful! And the marbles should absolutely be returned.


Thanks for the history lesson Peter! The “no flash” rule seems to be quite prevalent in a lot of the historical places in Greece. Again, thanks for sharing!


Amazing story, history and pictures (the ones you were able to take). Greece ranks high in my list of places I want to visit before I die and reading posts like this make my dreams alive.


Oh, YES, I see you tried salami from my hometown, how exciting! Hope you liked it.

I failed miserably to go to the museum this summer so hoping to make it before Christmas. I’ll try my luck with photos and visit the cafe too, food looks great!


I love all those historical facts Peter! I agree that it is weird that more and more museums and other public places are not allowing anyone to take photos anymore. In most cases it is so they will sell some of the postcards on the way out!!


When I was in Athens the last time the museum was under construction and the opening was delayed. While Greece is not on my current travel list, the posts you are creating from your summer vacation and enticing…indeed!


i think the acropolis museum is right in asking people not to take photos inside it – many places in britian do this, and it is clearly done for reasons of preservation (with a hint of snobbery); the acropolis has taken a bashing in terms of its greek preservation, so the less light (akin to pollution), the better…


Not sure why photos are no longer allowed if you don’t use a flash. There seems to be so much natural light in the new museum. There was a small museum at the Parthenon that housed the caryatids are they now at the the new museum?


I loved the new museum, it is such a big asset for Athens. Unfortunately we went on a Sunday and it was impossible to get a table at the restaurant. However, I noticed many good looking dishes coming and going and I will definitely give it a try at some point. Plus, the prices are ridiculous!



Peter, thank you for such a great report! I always love your blog, your recipes are inspired & inspiring, but I don’t post comments… But I have to say, this is about the best article I’ve read about the Acropolis Museum & the Parthenon! It’s too bad they’ve cracked down on photography, but it’s good to know you wish you’d spent the day!



Thanks for introducing me to Ivy! Her is another great blog, and you’re right, her pics of the museum exhibits are striking. Yay- another foodie blog to follow!!


The Acropolis Museum was not open yet when I went. I will have to make sure that I get the chance to visit it.

Those cheese and melon dishes look nice and refreshing and good!


Thanks for the details description the wonderful pictures . I am going to Athens next week and I’ll be definitely tempted by stopping at this restaurant. The menu looks yummy.