The Acropolis is the centerpiece of Athens. Rising up from the city center is a rocky, fortified, limestone plateau, topped with the Parthenon and several other ancient monuments. For most visitors to Athens, a visit to the Acropolis tops the list of things to do, making this a very popular place to visit. If you want to know how to visit the Acropolis, we have a lot of information to share with you.
In this article, get tips on how to avoid the crowds, how to purchase your tickets, what you will see while you are here, and tips to have the best experience.
A Brief History of the Acropolis
The word “acropolis” is defined as a citadel or fortified part of an ancient Greek city, typically built on a hill. There are other acropoleis is Greece, however, the Acropolis of Athens is the most famous.
This rocky hill has been inhabited since the 4th millennium BC. The buildings that still stand today were constructed under the direction of Pericles in the 5th century BC. The Parthenon, the Temple of Athena Nike, the Propylaea, and others, are the remnants of the Golden Age of Greece.
The Parthenon dominates the Acropolis. This is one of the most recognizable and imitated buildings in the world. It was built to honor the Greek goddess Athena Parthenos, the patron of Athens, and it is considered to be the most important surviving building of Classical Greece.
Since its construction, the Parthenon has also served as a Christian church and as an Islamic mosque. A portion of the Parthenon was destroyed when the Venetians struck and hit the building with a mortar round, fired while attacking the Ottomans.
Since 1975, the Acropolis and the Parthenon have been undergoing extensive renovation. The marble columns of the Parthenon are being restored and most likely you will see scaffolding holding up the portions of the Parthenon during your visit. Many of the artifacts have been moved to the Acropolis Museum, located in Athens, and the British Museum, located in London.
There are two ticket options for entrance into the Acropolis and Parthenon. You can purchase a ticket for entrance only into the Acropolis or you can purchase a combination ticket into the Acropolis plus six more archaeological sites.
Acropolis Only Tickets
Summer: April 1 to October 31: €20
Winter: November 1 to March 31: €10
There is free admission to the Acropolis on these days: March 6, April 18, May 18, last weekend of September, October 28, and every Sunday from November 1 to March 31.
Cost: €30 summer and winter
This ticket gets you admission into the Acropolis, the Ancient Agora, Roman Agora, Hadrian’s Library, Temple of Olympian Zeus, Kerameikos, and Aristotle’s School.
If you plan to visit the Acropolis and two or more of these archeological sites, it is absolutely worth it to purchase the combination ticket. Once you have the combination ticket, you will skip the ticket line at each of these sites and at the Acropolis.
Combination tickets are valid for five days from the start date and can only be used one time for admission into each site, including the Acropolis.
You Can Purchase Your Tickets Online in Advance
On the official website, you can purchase your tickets in advance for a specific day. Just note that once you purchase your tickets, you cannot change the date of your visit or get a refund.
To navigate the website, click the “EN” for English. Click “visitors.” On the next page, choose “Attica” as the region and then “Acropolis and Slopes.” Select your date and your time slot (the time is for statistical purposes only, it’s not your time of entry). On Step 2, choose “single-use” for the Acropolis-only ticket and “combined” for the combination ticket. Complete the purchase.
Free Entry Vouchers: If someone in your group qualifies for free entry (under 18 years old, students, tour guides, etc.) and you are purchasing your tickets online, you will be sent a voucher by email. This voucher will need to be turned into the ticket booth for an official ticket. So, even though some members in your group can skip the ticket line, if you are traveling with kids, you will still have to wait in the ticket line to get the official entrance ticket.
What We Did: We did not purchase our tickets in advance because we did not think it would save us any time in line, since we traveled with two kids. Instead, we visited Kerameikos first. This is one of the sites on the combination ticket. There was no line here and we purchased the 5-day combination ticket. At every other site we visited we simply used the ticket to pass through the turnstile. We never had to wait in a line while visiting the Acropolis and the archaeological sites.
Hours of Operation
Summer: April 1 to October 31: 8 am to 8 pm (last admission 7:30 pm)
Winter: November 1 to March 31: 8 am to 5 pm
The Acropolis will be closed on these days: January 1, March 25, May 1, Easter Sunday, December 25, December 26.
Get updated hours and pricing here.
There are two entrances into the Acropolis.
The main entrance is at the western end of the Acropolis. You will purchase your ticket at the ticket office (see our map later in this article) and then walk through the main entrance into the Acropolis.
This entrance is notoriously busy. I have read that midday people can wait one to two hours to purchase a ticket here.
There is a smaller ticket office at the southeastern corner of the Acropolis. There is not much written about it in tour books and online and I only found out about it when looking at skip-the-line tours. This is the entrance that small group tours and skip-the-line tours use. Why go here? Since it is less well known, the crowds will be smaller here than at the main entrance.
However, you still might have to wait in line. Here is a photo midday on a Sunday. You may still have to wait in line, but hopefully you won’t have to wait as long as you would at the main entrance.
From this entrance, it is a steady uphill walk past Dionysus’ Theater and past a great viewpoint over the Odeon of Herodes Atticus before you get to Propylaea, the entrance into the Acropolis.
There is an elevator on the northeastern side of the Acropolis that provides access for people in wheelchairs. Learn more here.
Map of the Acropolis
Tips to Avoid the Lines at the Acropolis
1. Purchase the Combination Ticket
Rather than making the Acropolis your first stop in Athens, visit one of the less popular archeological sites, purchase the combination ticket, and then use this to skip the ticket lines at the Acropolis and the other sites. Not only will it save you time waiting in a line at the Acropolis, but this will also save you time at the Roman Agora, Temple of Olympian Zeus, and Hadrian’s Library.
We purchased our combination tickets at Kerameikos. There was no line here during our visit. FYI, the Ancient Agora and Temple of Olympian Zeus both had decent sized ticket lines from what we saw, so if you can, avoid making these the first site you visit.
2. Best Time to Visit the Acropolis
The least crowded time of day to visit the Acropolis is right at opening time (8 am) and at the end of the day (1 to 2 hours before closing).
The last hour of the day would be a wonderful time to visit the Acropolis. Crowds are low, the sun is starting to set, and it’s no longer sweltering hot (if you are here in summer). We saw very people on the Acropolis the hour before closing.
The worst time to visit is midday, especially in the summer. Crowds are high and so are the temperatures. Cruise ship crowds tend to swarm the Acropolis from 10 am to early afternoon, so try to avoid this time if you can. Even if you already have your ticket, you could still be stuck in a line waiting to enter through the Propylaea.
We braved rainy weather conditions and it worked out to our advantage. All day it had been overcast and drizzly, but in the afternoon, the skies finally opened up for real. The rain washed most visitors off of the Acropolis and sent them right down to the Acropolis Museum. We decided to take our chances and visit the Acropolis in the rain. Off in the distance, it looked like the sky would clear, so we kept our fingers crossed for improving conditions.
The four of us entered through the smaller side entrance, took our time walking up towards the Proplylaea, and once here, the rain stopped. The sun even made an appearance a little while later. Even though it was mid-afternoon on a Saturday, we shared the Acropolis with just a handful of other people. It was absolutely incredible and I know that we are extremely lucky for our timing and the weather to work out like this.
In our photos, the sky looks very dark. We had a big downpour but there was no thunder or lightning.
I would not recommend visiting the Acropolis during a thunderstorm. Once you are up here, there is nowhere to take cover from lightning, should it occur. It’s not like you can run for cover under the Parthenon. And you should know that these marble surfaces get slick when it rains, but if you don’t mind wet conditions, it’s one way to visit the Acropolis with low crowd levels.
3. Enter through the Side Entrance
Skip the crowds at the main entrance and enter through the smaller, lesser known side entrance. See our map (below) for the exact location.
Main Things to See
The sites on the Acropolis are organized into two areas, the Acropolis and the slopes. The sites on the Acropolis include the Propylaea, the Temple of Athena Nike, the Parthenon, and the Erechtheion. Those on the slopes are located on the south side of the Acropolis and include the Odeon of Herodes Atticus and the Theater of Dionysus.
This is the gateway into the Acropolis. If you enter through the main entrance, this will be the first thing you see. It’s a grand entrance, meant to impress visitors with its colonnaded entryway and marble buildings.
Temple of Athena Nike
The Temple of Athena Nike stands next to the Propylaea. This small temple is dedicated to the goddess Athena Nike who was the protector of the city of Athens. It was recently renovated…completely taken apart and then put back together again…about 15 years ago.
The Temple of Athena Nike is the small, colonnaded building near the upper right hand corner of this photo.
The Parthenon is the centerpiece of the Acropolis. For many visitors this is the main reason for visiting Athens.
First view of the Parthenon after walking through the Propylaea.
Since the Parthenon is undergoing major renovation work, part of it will be covered with scaffolding, and it will remain like this for some time. Even so, it’s an amazing sight to see.
You are not allowed to walk onto the Parthenon but you can walk around the entire circumference of it.
Erechtheion, Pandroseion, and the Old Temple of Athena
What appears to be one building is really three separate temples and sanctuaries. These were built on a sacred spot on the Acropolis, the site where Athena and Poseidon battled for patronage of Athens, the site where a salty spring appeared when Poseidon hit the ground with his trident, and the site where an olive tree grew when Athena hit the ground with a rock.
An olive tree still grows beside the building, although this tree was planted at the beginning of the 20th century.
One of the most startling features are the famous Caryatids, six female statues who serve as columns to support the roof of the porch.
Viewpoint of the Acropolis and Athens
Located at the far eastern end of the Acropolis is a slightly elevated viewpoint. Just look for the Greek flag. From here, not only do you get a wonderful view across the Acropolis and the Parthenon, but you also get one of the best views over Athens.
Looking east from the Acropolis. In this view you can see the Temple of Olympian Zeus and a small part of the Panathenaic Stadium.
Theater of Dionysus
Located on the southern slope of the Acropolis and near the Acropolis Museum is this ancient theater. It was built in the 4th century BC and the Greek tragedies of Euripides and Sophocles were performed here.
The view of the Theater of Dionysus from the Acropolis. You can also see the Acropolis Museum and the Temple of Olympian Zeus in this photo.
Odeon of Herodes Atticus
This is one of the more “modern” buildings on the Acropolis, built in 161 AD. This theater can accommodate almost 5,000 people and it is still used for performances during the summer months. It is located on the southern slopes near the Propylaea.
What to Bring
Wear a pair of comfortable walking shoes with good traction. The surfaces are uneven and the marble can be slippery. This gets even worse if it’s wet, so be prepared for slippery surfaces if you are here during or after it rains.
Sunblock and sunglasses are a must. There is no shade on the Acropolis.
Bring water, especially if you are visiting during the summer months.
Do You Need a Guide?
A guide is not necessary to visit the Acropolis.
Each building on the Parthenon and the slopes have signs that give you the history and importance of each site. Signs are written in Greek and English.
If you want more info than just a few signs but don’t want to take a tour, consider purchasing Rick Steves’ Greece Travel Guide. He has a very nice walking tour through the Acropolis with lots of interesting facts about the Parthenon and the history here.
Finally, you can take a tour of the Acropolis. Get Your Guide and Viator both offer tours.
A visit to the Parthenon can last one to three hours.
After Your Visit
You can exit through the side entrance and make the Acropolis Museum your next stop. Or, exit through the main entrance and walk to Areopagus Hill (Mars Hill) for a stunning view of Acropolis.
About Our Visit
We visited Athens in mid-April during Easter holiday week. From here, we went to Mykonos, Naxos, and Santorini.
Are you planning a visit to Athens and the Acropolis? Comment below if you have any questions or if you want to share your experience.
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