The first thing that usually comes to mind when thinking about Athens is its Acropolis, which is the famous hill overlooking the city and full of ancient temples and monuments. At the top, you can see the iconic Parthenon, which is the symbol of Athens and of Greece in general.
To learn more about the history of this country and its ancient civilization, which has deeply influenced all the other Mediterranean Countries, you shall definitely spend half a day visiting this World Heritage Site!
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A Complete Guide to Visiting the Acropolis in Athens
Summer (from April 1st to October 31st): open from 8 a.m. to 7.30 p.m.
Winter (from November 1st to March 31st): open from 8.30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
- January 1st
- March 25th (National Holiday)
- Good Friday (Orthodox) – closed until noon
- Easter Sunday (Orthodox)
- May 1st
- December 25th
- December 26th
Acropolis Entrance Fee:
You can choose between two kinds of tickets:
Standard Ticket: it allows you to visit the Acropolis and its Slopes.
Its cost varies according to the season:
Summer: a full ticket is 20 euro and a reduced ticket is 10 euros.
Winter: a full ticket is 10 euro and a reduced ticket is 5 euros.
Combined Ticket: it always costs 30 euro, it is valid for 5 days and it allows you to visit the Acropolis, the Ancient Agora and its museums, the Roman Agora, Hadrian’s Library, the Kerameikos Cemetery, and the Lykreion archeological site. This is the best option if you are spending a few days in Athens and you want to visit at least 2 of these attractions: buying this kind of ticket will allow you to save both money and time since you won’t have to wait in line everywhere! Pay attention: the Acropolis museum is not included and you will have to buy a separate ticket costing 10 euros in summer and 5 euros in winter.
– People over 65
Who can visit the Acropolis for free?
– European citizens under 18
– University students
– Visitors with disabilities and people who care for them
Free entry to the Acropolis
- March 6th
- April 18th
- May 18th
- The last weekend of September (European Heritage Days)
- October 28th
- Every first Sunday of November, December, January, February, and March.
Where to buy your ticket for the Acropolis
- You can get your ticket at the ticket offices on-site or online (https://etickets.tap.gr/). Pay attention: the online ticket will have a precise date on it and it cannot be changed!
- In one of the two entrances (not recommended especially in the summer as queues are long)
How to skip the line in the Acropolis
- Get your ticket online (https://etickets.tap.gr/)
- Get a Combined Ticket at one of the ticket offices of the less crowded attractions. Please note that if one from your company is entitled to a free entry you need to visit a ticket office once you arrive in the Acropolis.
- Take a guided tour with skip the line tickets.
My favorite tours of the Acropolis
A small group guided tour of the Acropolis with skip the line tickets. The reason I like this tour is that it is a small group one, it starts at 8:30 am, so you avoid the heat and the cruise ship passengers and it lasts for 2 hours.
Another great option is the Athens Mythology Highlights tour. This tour includes a guided visit to the Acropolis, the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the Ancient Agora. It is my favorite tour in Athens as it combines history and mythology and it is also interesting for kids.
Please note that the entrance fees 30 euros (combo ticket) are not included in the price. With the same ticket, though you will be able to visit some more interesting sites in Athens the following days.
There a two separate entrance gates:
- Main entrance: western side of the hill
- Side entrance: south-eastern side of the hill. It is usually less crowded and it has more snack bars and a public toilet nearby.
How to get to the Acropolis
- Walk your way up through Plaka neighborhood
- Take the metro: line 2 stopping at “Acropolis” station or line 1 or 3 stopping at “Monastiraki” station.
When is the best time to visit the Acropolis
Try to be at the main entrance at 8 in the morning to see the Parthenon before everyone else and to be able to visit the site at your own pace without too many tourists around. After visiting the Parthenon (which is usually the most crowded place of the Acropolis), you can slowly walk your way down the hill before the cruise passengers arrive (around 10 a.m.) and heat gets excessive.
Don’t forget to buy your ticket online and in advance to be able to enter immediately at opening time without waiting in line!
As an alternative, you can visit the Acropolis late in the afternoon to enjoy the sunset from there. If you already have your ticket at hand, head to the side entrance and start your visit from the Theater of Dionysus before climbing up to the Parthenon. Once at the top, there will be just a few tourists left and you’ll be able to take your pictures and enjoy the view.
The Acropolis is not so crowded in winter, so you can choose your favorite time of the day and you can start from both the entrance gates. Just keep in mind that closing time is 3 p.m. until March 31st, so it’s best to start your visit in the morning, in order to have enough time for a peaceful visit without having to rush it! Check the weather forecast before planning your visit, since rain can make the ground muggy and slippery and there is no shelter at the top.
Visiting the Acropolis with kids
Make sure to buy your ticket online and in advance to skip the line at the entrance and prevent kids to get bored before starting their visit! You can also choose a guided tour to make the visit funnier and more interesting and a themed tour like the Athens Mythology Highlights tour will be even better. Also, remember that strollers are forbidden and that it’s best to bring along enough water and snacks for all the family.
Visiting the Acropolis with mobility issues
You’ll find an elevator on the north-eastern side of the Acropolis and you can ask the staff at the entrance for directions. If you get there by taxi, ask your driver to kindly take you there by car. In order to skip the line, buy your ticket online and call in advance ((0030) 210 3214172 or (0030) 210 3214173) to make sure the elevator is working and available. Keep in mind that the elevator is only reserved to people with mobility issues and it’s not a short cut!
Practical tips for visiting the Acropolis
- Wear comfortable shoes, since you’ll have to walk for a long time and the ground can get slippery and dusty
- In summer, remember to wear your sunglasses and a hat and to bring some sunscreen with you
- Bring plenty of water with you, since there are no kiosks nor fountains inside. There’s only a small kiosk close to the main entrance gate.
- There are not many toilets there, but you can find one close to the main ticket office and another one at the top, at the eastern side of the Parthenon.
History of the Acropolis
The Greek word “Acropolis” means “high city” and it usually refers to any outpost or stronghold located on top of a rocky hill. However, this term is mostly associated with the Acropolis of Athens, which is the most famous one and one of the most popular landmarks of Greece for international tourists.
Let’s discover the main historical events and periods that shaped this place:
- Mycenean Era: the first settlements date back to the Bronze Age (around 1200 B.C.). At that time, a fortified royal palace was erected at the top of the hill.
- VI century B.C: the first temple dedicated to goddess Athena was built on the hill. Locals used to celebrate their religious festivals there and the Acropolis became a sacred place.
- IV century B.C.: the Persians destroyed the majority of the buildings of the Acropolis during a battle.
- Pericles Era (495 – 425 B.C.): the Acropolis witnessed its golden age and the main monuments were built (the Parthenon, the Propylaea and the Temple of Athena Nike)
- Roman Era (I -III century A.C.): towards the end of the Roman Era, the Parthenon was turned into a Christian church dedicated to the Virgin Mary and the other buildings were abandoned or turned into something else.
- Middle-Ages: the Acropolis was used as a military fortress both by the Franks and the Turks.
- XV century: the Turks turned the Parthenon into a mosque and the Erechtheion into the Governor’s harem
- XVII century: in 1687, most of the Acropolis was destroyed during the Venetian siege. The Parthenon was used to store gunpowder and it was blown up.
- XIX century: the English Ambassador Lord Elgin got the permission to take away many marble decorations and statues. He took many pieces of art to England and he sold everything to the British Museum. The first archeological excavations and restoration works began in this period, but not before the end of the War of Independence.
Mythology of the Acropolis
Among the many legends and myths about the Olympians, one tale is particularly tied to the Acropolis: the legendary challenge between Athena and Poseidon.
They fought to gain control over Attica Region and they challenged each other to offer the inhabitants the best gift. Poseidon hit the ground with his trident creating a powerful and fast horse that could win all the battles, while Athena hit the ground with her spear creating an olive tree to give oil and food to people and to cure wounds.
The judge of this competition was Zeus, who decided to reward the most pacific gift: for this reason, Athena became the “official” goddess of the Region. That challenge took place on the Acropolis and it was said that the olive tree that still grows on its top was the one created by Athena herself.
Things to see in the Acropolis
The first thing you’ll see while entering the Acropolis from the main gate is the former monumental access to the temple area. This building named Propylaea was designed by the architect Mnesicle and it was erected between 437 and 432 B.C.
Unfortunately, its construction works were interrupted by the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War. The main building is lined with 6 Doric columns, similar to the ones you can see in the Parthenon, while the lateral wings were left incomplete, even if the northern one was often used as a banquet hall.
The Propylaea had several different functions throughout the centuries, from the headquarter of the byzantine bishops to a gunpowder deposit, which caused the heavy damages occurred during the XVII century siege.
Temple of Athena Nike
It is the smallest building of the Acropolis and it is located near the Propylaea. It was built of limestone covered with marble in 420 B.C. by the architect Callicrate and its main function was celebrating the goddess of Victory. Inside, there was once a wooden statue representing Nike, that is the Victory herself, without her wings: this way, she could never leave the city of Athens again!
The main feature of this temple is the presence of 4 monolithic Ionic columns on both its front and its back. The external decorations represent some battle scenes between Greeks and Persians that were carefully observed by the Olympians. This building was later turned into a Christian church by the Romans and into a deposit of weapons by the Turks.
The most iconic monument of the Acropolis is also the most crowded and the most photographed one. It is located on top of the hill and it is visible from a great distance.
It was once the most sacred place in Athens, because it was dedicated to Athena, who was the patron goddess of the city. Its name comes from the term “parthenos” meaning “virgin”, that was the surname of Athena, but also the name of the room housing her 12m tall statue. It was built around 432 B.C. by Callicrate and Ictino, while Fidia was the main artist in charge of its decorations and statues.
It was already considered an architectural masterpiece by its contemporaries and you can still admire the perfect harmony of every part, which was obtained thanks to some special optical illusions.
Later on, the Parthenon was used as a treasury, then it was turned into a Christian church, like many other Greek temples, and it was also converted into a mosque during the XV century. It was the main gunpowder deposit of the city in the XVII century and it was blown up during the Venetian siege in 1687.
In the XIX century, it was plundered by Lord Elgin who took away many pieces of art and marble decorations that are still displayed in the British Museum. There are many “pieces “of the Parthenon scattered throughout the world and you can also see them in Paris and Copenhagen. What remains of its statues and decorations is still visible in the local Acropolis Museum.
Another sacred place hosting many rituals and religious festivals was this temple built in Ionic style between 420 and 406 B.C. It was the last great work of the Pericles Era before Athens fell prey to the Spartan and its Golden Age came to an end.
This temple is located on the northern side of the Acropolis and it takes its name from King Erechtheus, but it was dedicated to both Athena and Poseidon. Its main feature is its arcade lined with 6 huge statues representing some female figures named caryatids. Today, you can only see their copies, while the original ones are kept in the Acropolis museum, except one that is kept in London.
This temple was dedicated to Pandrosus, who was the daughter of Cecrops, the first King of Attica. In its courtyard, there was once an altar dedicated to Zeus Herkeios (the protector of the hearth) and the sacred olive tree of Athena.
Temple of Athena Polias
It was once the main temple of the Acropolis, at least until the construction of the Parthenon. It was dedicated to Athena Polias who was the patron goddess of the city. It is located in the middle of the Acropolis, just in front of the Erechtheion, and it was built upon the remains of an ancient Mycenean royal palace. This temple was completely destroyed by the Persians in 408 B.C and it was only rediscovered in 1885.
In the foothills of the Acropolis, you can see an ancient theater that is still in use today! Here you can watch some classical plays and tragedies during the summer months (for information visit the Athens Festival site here). It dates back to the Roman period and it was built by the philosopher and teacher Erodes Atticus in the memory of his wife.
It dates back to the VI century B.C. and it was the largest theater in Greece, with a capacity of 17.000 people. Dionysus was the protector of wine and it is said that the first theatrical performances in history originated from the celebrations held in Athens in his honor.
Around the V century, some wooden benches were placed there to let people watch the first plays, then a stone staircase and an altar were built and finally a real theater hosting the first classical tragedies.
Now, this archeological site has no secrets left for you, so get ready to dive in ancient history and get to know the Olympians and their myths!
If you have any questions on how to visit the Acropolis in Athens, leave a comment below.