The Acropolis is Athens’ iconic crown jewel. Standing over the modern sprawl of the city, this is the heart of ancient Athens, the place that is most clearly a testament to the city’s epic history and importance. It is easily the most popular monument in Athens. In this post we share tips for how to visit the Acropolis.
Designed as a citadel in the 5th century BC, the structures atop the Acropolis have grown, warped, changed. At one point under Ottoman rule, the Parthenon functioned as a mosque; at another during the Morean War, it served as place to store gunpowder. The Acropolis is the key to why ancient Athens took root here, with its safe haven towering over the city.
Planning Your Visit
The Acropolis is located in the center of Athens, just next to the Plaka neighborhood and just south of the Agora. It’s visible from many other neighborhoods of the city, especially when it is lit up at night.
The Acropolis is an elevated plateau that is actually comprised of many buildings. The Parthenon is the most well-known, but there are twenty other structures, including: the Old Temple of Athena, the Erechtheum, the Statue of Athena Promachos, the Propylaea, the Temple of Athena Nike, the Eleusinion, the Sanctuary of Artemis Brauronia, the Chalkotheke, the Pandroseion, the Arrephorion, the Altar of Athena, the Sanctuary of Zeus Polieus, the Sanctuary of Pandion, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, the Stoa of Eumenes, the Sanctuary of Asclepius, the Theatre of Dionysus Eleuthereus, the Odeon of Pericles, the Temenos of Dionysus Eleuthereus, and the Aglaureion.
As you can imagine you can spend many hours when you visit the Acropolis.
Acropolis Museum sits at the base of the site and is a modern and well-designed space that holds many of the excavated antiquities. The museum is designed to echo the topography of the actual Acropolis, which makes this an appropriate introduction to the site itself. Containing interactive exhibits that make the ancient antiquities come to life and well as excavated statues and ancient items, the Acropolis Museum is a rich accompaniment to visit the Acropolis. With wide sunny windows that look out onto the site, a clean airy space that emphasizes the majestic nature of the antiquities, and some transparent floors that allow you to peak into the ongoing excavations, the Acropolis Museum is a wonderful space to explore. There is an empty space waiting for the return of the Elgin Marbles, which remain in the UK.
To Visit the Acropolis, know that it is open from 8am to 5pm in the winter season and 8am to 8pm in the summer. In the summertime in particular, it is best to go early in the morning as the crowds are thinner (and sometimes even nonexistent!), the heat is manageable, and the views are magnificent as ever. Late afternoon, when the heat begins to dissipate, is also a good time to visit. If you have to begin in the middle of the day, it’s advisable to begin your visit with the Acropolis Museum, which has air conditioning.
Tickets to visit the Acropolis cost 12 EUR, and also lets you enter other sites in Athens including the Ancient Agora. Tickets to the Acropolis Museum cost 5 EUR. There are various discounts available, depending on age and nationality, which can be found on the Acropolis Museum’s website.
Visit the Acropolis with Context
We have a few options to visit the Acropolis with Context Tours.
Acropolis Tour – This three-hour walk investigates the archeological history of the Acropolis, as well as the sweep of its history and how it has impacted the growth of Athens today. The walk will finish (or perhaps begin) at the newly-built Acropolis Museum, a great accompaniment when we visit the Acropolis.
Parthenon for Kids – This interactive, family-friendly walk explores the rites and rituals of ancient Athens, using the Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum as the tools to discuss sacrifice, Greek drama, and religious rituals.
Drinking Antiquity – Acropolis Seminar and Ancient Beverages – This is a special experience that combines our Acropolis Seminar with the opportunity to taste chef-concocted ancient beverages in antique vessels at a historic Athens residence.
Full Day Athens Itinerary from Cruise Ship – Our adaptable one-day Athens itinerary can bring you up the Acropolis, out to the Platonic Academy, into the Agora, and beyond.
Terrain and Temperature
The path up to the Acropolis inclines at a slight steepness, and the ground is covered with slippery white cobblestones. It’s necessary to wear good shoes, as shoes without any traction will make climbing to the top more difficult. The walk up usually takes 15 minutes.
Though the Acropolis once had an elevator for visitors with mobility issues, it has long been out of service and is, frankly, a little terrifying: the elevator is attached to the sheer side of the structure, resembling an amusement park thrill more than a helpful ascension assist. It is closed indefinitely.
For slow walkers and those who tired easily, the Acropolis can be difficult to ascend, though not impossible. For those who are confined to wheelchairs, it is nearly impossible to get up to the top of the Acropolis– unfortunately, this site is not very accessibility-friendly.
The best seasons to visit Athens are autumn and spring, when the weather is mild and sunny. Summer in Athens is very hot and humid, especially mid-day. Winter can be rainy and gray.
If you are planning to visit the Acropolis in the summer, it’s important to bring water, sunscreen, and perhaps a hat to block the sun. The heat and the crowds in middle of the day in the summer can be intense at the Acropolis.
The nearest metro stop to the Acropolis is, appropriately, the Acropoli station. This is on the red line of the metro, just past the travel hub of Syntagma Square. The Acropolis Museum in just around the corner from the metro station, and the Acropolis is roughly a 15-minute walk away.
OTHER CONTEXT WALKS YOU MIGHT LIKE
Acropolis – Literally meaning “edge of the city,” many Greek cities have Acropoli but the one is Athens is so important and impressive that it is the only one that can be referred to without a city name– it is, simply, The Acropolis.
Parthenon – A famous temple on the Acropolis, dedicated to the Greek goddess Athena.
The Elgin Marbles – Also known as the Parthenon marbles, these classical statues were removed from Greece by the Earl of Elgin in 1806 and eventually ended up in the British Museum. The Greeks want them back, and there is empty space in the Acropolis Museum ready for their return, should it happen.
Erechtheion – A temple, dedicated to Athena and Poseidon.
Propylaea – Any monumental gateway. The original Propylaea is the one on the Athens Acropolis.
The Acropolis through its Museum. by Panos Valavanis. 2013
Unlocking Mysteries of the Parthenon. by Evan Hadingham. Smithsonian Magazine, 2008.
Deep Frieze. by Daniel Mendelsohn. New Yorker, 2014.
Acropolis Maidens Glow Anew. by Liz Alderman. New York Times, 2014.