THE ACROPOLIS MUSEUM OPENS IN ATHENS -NOW ALL IT NEEDS IS THE ELGIN MARBLES

Chaps, it looks as if we're running out of arguments. In the long-running dispute over who should have the Elgin Marbles — the exquisite frieze sawn off the Parthenon between 1801 and 1805, and currently housed in the British Museum — the Greeks may have just played the winning card.

Yesterday, Athens saw the official opening of the state-of-the-art Acropolis Museum, almost within touching distance of the monument itself.

And the top floor, which is specifically designed to house the controversial sculptures, is the finest display case you're ever likely to see.

Walled on all four sides by glass, the floor reconstructs both the frieze and the 92 metope sculptures set within it in something like their entirety.

Plaster casts take the place of the sections that are missing — and for a British visitor, they make for extremely uncomfortable viewing. We're not the only nation that has taken bits of the building.

The Louvre has some of it, and there are fragments in Würzburg and Copenhagen, but it's clear from the endlessly repeated initials "BM" (British Museum) on the information plaques that we've got all the best bits.

We can argue all we like about how we saved the sculpture from years of turmoil in Greece, but with this room finally completed, it's obvious where they now belong.

You can imagine the fanfare that has accompanied the opening. I was at the preview for the Greek press on Wednesday, and even that was blessed by a bishop and attended by the kind of paparazzi scrum you'd expect for Britney.

And if it makes you wonder whether it might be time to stretch the resources and plan a visit to see what all the fuss is about, then you'd be right.

Just don't go for the museum alone. The irony inherent in the project is that, with most of its star attraction missing, the collection feels half-baked. It does have its moments.

The caryatids are here — the graceful women/pillars that used to support the southern porch of the Erechtheion (and yes, the British Museum has one of these too).

There's also a particularly fine explanation of classical Athenian weddings, using fragments of vases. For the moment, though, this is more a political statement than a world-class collection. If you're after dazzling artefacts and original sculpture, you need to go to the National Archaeological Museum, just a couple of stops north on the Athens Metro.

Instead, consider the new museum as the final touch in the rehabilitation of the whole Acropolis site and you won't be disappointed. The really important step was made before the 2004 Olympics, when the roads around it were pedestrianised.

Now, instead of the roar of traffic, you get cafe conversation and birdsong.

The intellectual and emotional buzz that comes from visiting such a dramatic and significant monument is accompanied by sensual summer pleasure, too.

Athens may be one of the most congested cities in Europe, but you won't feel it here, staring up at the Parthenon's columns as they turn to gold in the evening sunlight. Suddenly, your high-speed city break will feel like a proper holiday.

Beat that, Bloomsbury.

Travel brief

Visiting the museum: tickets for timed entry to the Acropolis Museum (theacropolismuseum.gr) can be booked online, and cost only €1 (85p) until December 31. For more infor¬mation, visit breathtakingathens.com