Rare snow covers Acropolis of Athens in dazzling white blanket

The ancient Acropolis in Athens was covered in white during a rare snowfall on Feb. 16, 2021.
The ancient Acropolis in Athens was covered in white during a rare snowfall on Feb. 16, 2021. (Image credit: ANTONIS NIKOLOPOULOS/Eurokinissi/AFP via Getty Images)

Unusual weather blanketed the Acropolis with snow on Tuesday (Feb. 16), turning the iconic site in Athens into a scene from a holiday card. 

An aerial image of the complex, which is perched on a fortified hill above Athens, shows the Parthenon against a backdrop of white. The smaller Erechtheum, a temple dedicated to the deities Athena and Poseidon, is also visible. 

Snow is a rare sight in Athens, but much of Europe has been experiencing unusually frigid temperatures in the past week. According to the Associated Press, workers at the Eiffel Tower in France had to use a blowtorch to melt ice collecting on the monument. Significant snowstorms also hit the United Kingdom and much of Eastern Europe as a series of low-pressure systems brought cold Arctic air southward, where it collided with moist, warmer air over the continent. 

In Athens, some residents dealt with power outages and the shutdown of public transportation as wet, heavy snow fell. Others broke out their skis on the cities' hills, according to the AP

The natural hillside of the Acropolis has been fortified since at least the 13th century B.C., when the top of the hill was the site of the home of the local Mycenaean ruler, according to the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The elegant temples that still stand today were built in the fifth century B.C. 

The Parthenon was raised as a celebration of victory by the Greeks over the Persians, who invaded in 480 B.C. and destroyed an earlier temple that once stood at the same spot. Other than the Erechtheum, the UNESCO World Heritage Site also includes a monumental gateway known as the Propylaea and the Temple of Nike Athena, a small structure at the southwest corner of the hill. 

The snow on the Acropolis is doomed to melt quickly. Temperatures in Athens are forecasted to reach 38 degrees Fahrenheit (3 degrees Celsius) on Tuesday (Feb. 16), with temperatures around 60 F (15 C) over the weekend. February temperatures in Athens have averaged around 57 F (14 C) as the high, with lows around 44 F (6 C). 

Originally published on Live Science

Stephanie Pappas
Live Science Contributor

Stephanie Pappas is a contributing writer for Live Science, covering topics ranging from geoscience to archaeology to the human brain and behavior. She was previously a senior writer for Live Science but is now a freelancer based in Denver, Colorado, and regularly contributes to Scientific American and The Monitor, the monthly magazine of the American Psychological Association. Stephanie received a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of South Carolina and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.