Visiting the Acropolis: Highlights
The Acropolis of Athens needs no introduction. The word “Acropolis” means “highest point” and this once mighty citadel looks down and across a bustling city of 665,000 Athenians. For anyone with a passing interest in Greece or history or democracy, the historical site of the Acropolis is iconic. Visiting the Acropolis, the most important archaeological site in Greece, has been a dream of travelers for centuries, and many famous writers have been inspired by this incredible open-air museum.
A visit to the Acropolis and its highlights such as the remains of the Parthenon, the Temple of Athena Nike, the Propylaia, the Erechtheion, and the Odeon of Herodotus Atticus is a must for any Greek itinerary. It’s hard to imagine almost anywhere else where you can see, in one day, this amount of history, myth, and legend. From the epic duel between Poseidon and Athena to King Aegeus while is believed to have flung himself off the Acropolis thinking the Minotaur had eaten his son, get ready for a mythological extravaganza!
However, for the best possible experience visiting the Acropolis, there are a few things to consider. This guide will help with all the information you need to know, from Acropolis entry fees to hours and what to expect. For the best accommodation close by the Acropolis, see my post on Best Athens Hotels Near the Acropolis here.
What you need to know before you visit
The Acropolis is Athens’ most famous and popular attraction, and it sees millions of visitors every year – so things are pretty well run. However, to make the most of your visit to the Acropolis, a little bit of pre-planning goes a long way!
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How to get Acropolis Tickets
The easiest way to get Acropolis tickets is to buy them online. This will save you a lot of time and hassle in getting your ticket. While you can usually buy them at the entrance, the line up is usually huge – sometimes several hours in summer! So it’s much better to buy them online in advance.
It is possible to buy the tickets directly from the official Electronic Ticket System website which was launched in mid-2018. However, I would instead recommend buying the ticket online through a service like Get Your Guide. The best instant online ticket that you can download directly to your phone (no printing or having to exchange the electronic ticket for a paper one at a site removed from the Acropolis) is here. The best Acropolis and Acropolis Museum online ticket combination is here. (This combined ticket does require you to pick up your tickets from the ticket office, 400m south of the Acropolis entrance.
The main reason for choosing a Get Your Guide ticket is that you can change the date (or even cancel) your ticket if your plans change. On the other hand, tickets bought through the Ministry of Culture and Sports are non-refundable.
Another reason is that the Acropolis admission-only ticket is the best in the class “skip-the-line tickets.” The Acropolis in Athens can get extremely busy, and you don’t want to waste good exploring time lining up! It does cost an additional €5, but I think this is well worth it – especially in the busy peak times.
I also recommend Get Your Guide instead of some other well-known online skip-the-line companies because with these companies you almost always have to exchange your online ticket with a physical one at a kiosk several hundred meters from the attraction. I MUCH prefer to simply have my Acropolis Admission ticket emailed to me and then show this on my phone as I enter the Acropolis.
A final reason to choose Get Your Guide rather than other skip-the-line Acropolis vendors is that I have had these companies refuse to refund tickets when they state that the Acropolis is open, but when I have turned up, it’s closed.
For the best Acropolis guided tours (and for those that include the Acropolis Museum as an option), see the Best Acropolis Tours section below.
Acropolis Entrance Fees
The Acropolis ticket price changes depending on the time of year that you are visiting. From 1 April to 31 October (high season), an adult ticket to the Acropolis is €20. Between 1 November and 31 March (low season), all adults are entitled to the reduced price of €10.
Other visitors may be entitled to a 50% price reduction on tickets. This includes EU citizens over 65 years old and tertiary students from non-EU countries. You’ll need a valid ID to get the discounted entry to the Acropolis.
Some visitors are entitled to free entry to the Acropolis. Most notably this includes all children under the age of 18 and students of EU universities, with a valid ID or passport. You can find the full list here.
Free Admission days for visiting the Acropolis
There are several days per year where it is free for everyone to visit the Acropolis. It can be crowded on these days, however, that’s a big discount! The free days for the Acropolis are:
- 6 March
- 18 April
- 18 May
- Last weekend of September
- 28 October
- Every first Sunday from November 1st to March 31st
You do not need to book a ticket in advance on the free days – just queue at the ticket line at the main entrance to the site (as early as you can, to avoid the crowds.)
If you are planning to visit a lot of the archaeological sites, then you may be interested in a combination ticket which allows you entry to seven sites. In addition to visiting the Acropolis, you can visit the Acropolis Hill, Hadrian’s Library, the Ancient Agora, The Temple of Olympian Zeus, the Roman Agora, the Kerameikos, and Aristotle’s School on this ticket.
There is no guide and you use the “skip the line” queue at each archaeological site. This Pass includes three digital audio tours to download to your phone as well as three offline interactive maps. Check prices, reviews, and availability here.
The site is open nearly every day of the year, with only a couple of annual closures. The Acropolis and Parthenon opening hours do vary a little depending on the season. The usual Acropolis open hours are:
- November 1 to March 31: 8 am to 5 pm
- April 1 to October 31: 8 am to 7 pm
Note that the last entry to the Acropolis is half an hour before closing time.
There are six days a year when the Acropolis closes, so make sure you don’t plan your visit on one of the following days:
- New Years’ Day (Jan 1)
- March 25
- May 1
- Easter Sunday (see Note below)
- Christmas Day (Dec 25)
- Boxing Day (Dec 26)
Note: Easter in Greece IS NOT the same date as Easter in other countries. Check the date for Easter Sunday in Greece – I have been caught out by this!
The day of your Acropolis visit
Once you’ve bought your ticket and planned your trip to Athens, it’s time to visit the Acropolis! Here’s what to expect on the day, as well as some helpful hints.
What to bring and wear for your Acropolis visit
You’ll want to spend a few hours exploring the archaeological remains atop and around the Acropolis, so you want to make sure you’re comfortable. Here are a few musts for what to bring and wear while visiting the Acropolis:
- A camera. The Parthenon is difficult to photograph without a wide-angle lens. Many of the best shots of the Acropolis include the surrounding vistas of Athens itself. Again, these shots are better with a wide-angled lens.
- Passport/ID card if you are intending to get the reduced entry (even if you have already bought your ticket online).
- Sturdy shoes, as some of the ground is quite uneven, there are flights of rough-hewn steps and you don’t want to fall. This is especially so at the magnificent Odeon of Herodes Atticus. The Acropolis is a hill and there are a few steep sections walking up from the various Metro stations.
- Sunscreen, especially during the warmer months. Even if it doesn’t seem particularly hot or sunny, you can still get very burnt out in the sun for a few hours.
- A water bottle, as all that exploring is sure to see you work up a thirst! There are water fountains at the Acropolis, so you can fill it back up again for free.
NOTE: Pick-pockets and bag snatchers abound in the streets below the Acropolis. Wear your bag on the front of your body and keep your hand on it until you have entered the Acropolis.
The best season and time to visit the Acropolis
Like many of the world’s most famous landmarks, the Acropolis is prone to large crowds and over-tourism in the peak season (June to August). To avoid the huge crowds, it’s highly advisable to visit the Acropolis as early as you can.
If you arrive around 15 minutes before opening time (i.e. about 7:45 am), then you will stand the best chance of enjoying some peaceful time at the Acropolis. Trust me, no sleep is worth missing the chance to experience the Acropolis at its calmest and most beautiful!
If you aren’t able to visit the Acropolis early in the morning, then crowds do start to die down again around 2 pm. So, you could visit in the late afternoon instead. I have visited just before closing time. Depending on the time of year, you can lose the light quickly. Great for atmosphere, lousy for photography!
In general, the peak time to avoid is between around 11 am and 1 pm when the crowds are at their largest. Off-peak, don’t go just before closing time as there is not enough light.
How to get to the Acropolis
Many Athens hotels and guesthouses are within walking distance of the Acropolis – it’s hard to miss it hovering above the city! However, if you are a bit further away then your best bet is to get the metro to the Acropolis.
As befits an ancient citadel, the Acropolis has its own metro stop, Acropoli, which is very handy for the Acropolis entrance. However, both Thissio and Monastiraki are also close to the entrance, so there are a few options.
Even a quick return trip from the airport is possible as the metro is at the airport and takes 40-50 minutes to get to the Acropolis. The Blue Line (Line No. 3) is a direct line from the airport to Syntagma Square and Monastiraki, both of which are only a short walk to the Acropolis. You will need to factor in at least 30 minutes either side to get to the Acropolis from the Metro station and into the Acropolis. Thankfully the airport is modern and well organized and the Metro station is extremely close by and well signposted. If you have a long transit through Athens – for example, of 5 hours or more, I can’t think of a better use of your time than visiting one of the most recognizable ancient sites in the world!
Frequently asked questions about visiting the Parthenon and Acropolis
Still, have some questions about your visit to the Acropolis in Greece? Here are a few common queries.
How long do you need at the Acropolis?
How long you should spend at the Acropolis depends on your personal preference. A lightning-quick visit to the Acropolis takes in the region of an hour and a half, while many other visitors prefer to stay for three or four hours. History enthusiasts may even like to stay a bit longer!
Overall, I recommend keeping at least an entire morning or afternoon free for your visit. Then you won’t feel rushed and can take it at your own pace.
What are the most important things to see?
- The first thing you will see at the Acropolis is the Odeon of Heodes Atticus. This impressive Roman theater was built in 161 AD. The steps can be slippery after rain.
- The Beulé Gate lies between the Odeon and the main entrance to the site, the Propylaea. As you climb the steps, look to your right and you will see the small Temple of Athena Nike.
- Once through the massive Propylaea you will see the Erechtheion to your left on the northern side of the Acropolis, and the unmistakeable Parthenon to your right.
- At the Erechtheion you will find the Caryatids, on the “porch of the Maidens.” These six draped figures are the supporting columns of the roof.
- The Erechtheion is dedicated to both Athena and Poseidon. You will find here the Olive Tree that ancient Greek mythology tells us sprang up after the goddess Athena defeated Poseidon. Originally the Erechtheion held wooden effigy of Athena Polias. The battle between the two is marked on the Erechtheion. The hole in the roof of the Temple is where Poseidon’s great trident flew threw the earth and the “scratches” on the floor of the Temple were made by his Trident hitting the ground. On the side of the Erechtheion furthest from the Propylaea, you will see a saltwater well caused by Poseidon’s trident. If you love history and the mythology of ancient Greece, make sure you see the Erechtheion as well as the Parthenon!
- On the southern slope of the Acropolis (or Sacred Rock), you will find the sixth century BCE Theatre of Dionysis, part of the Sanctuary of the cult of Dionysus.
Can you climb the Acropolis?
The Acropolis is located on a hill, so to see it, you will be doing some climbing! It takes about twenty minutes to climb up the stairs from either side. It’s relatively easy, however, you might want to take a few breaks along the way.
(For those with mobility considerations, there is an elevator.)
Once you are at the Acropolis, actually touching or stepping on the ruins is off-limits! You’ll attract the ire of the guards very quickly if you try, so keep a respectful distance.
Should you visit the Acropolis Museum before or after visiting the Acropolis?
Most people who visit the Acropolis also like to visit the Acropolis Museum to learn more about the history of the site. This leads to the question of whether you should visit the Acropolis, or the Acropolis Museum, first.
Opinions differ on this question. If you visit the Museum first, you may have a better context when you visit the Acropolis. On the other hand, the Museum can be more exciting after you’ve seen the real thing!
One consideration is timing. Generally, the Museum is quieter than the Acropolis itself, so if you only have one day, I recommend visiting the Acropolis first so you can beat the crowds. I find it easier to imagine the objects in their original places once I have seen the place from where they were removed.
Acropolis Museum hours are here
Should you take an Acropolis guided tour?
Neither the online ticket nor the skip-the-line ticket includes a guide. You can, however, download an audio guide (Rick Steves’ guide is free and very well-regarded) to add some extra context to your Acropolis visit).
Another option is to take a guided tour, either privately or as part of a group. If you love history, then this can add a huge amount to your visit. You’ll have the chance to ask questions and hear insider stories – plus, it entitles you to skip-the-line entry!
The best Acropolis guided tours are below. I include the best Acropolis-only tours, the best Acropolis and Acropolis museum guided tours and the best tours of Athens is you’re short on time that includes the Acropolis. I have included two tours that leave from the Cruise Port and a tour that includes visiting the majestic Temple of Poseidon, as well as one for foodies.
The Best Acropolis Guided Tours
This tour with perfect reviews sells out quickly, in part because it is only of 2-hours duration. It also has the advantage that you meet your guide at the Acropolis Metro Station.
- The tour includes stops at the Parthenon, the Erechtheum, the Temple of Athena Nike and the Propylaea
- Includes admission fees, “skip the line” tickets and the tour is led by a professional art historian
- A well-reviewed tour that sells out fast
The Best Acropolis and Acropolis Museum Tours
There are two options to see the Acropolis and the fabulous Acropolis Museum – with a tour guide or by purchasing the entry tickets alone. The best four tours are included here.
It is impossible to really understand the grandeur of the Acropolis and the many important Temples on the outcrop and on its slopes without seeing the artifacts that populated these ancient sites. The new, state of the art, Acropolis Museum is one of the most important museums in the world and this tour is a convenient way of seeing both sites in a coherent and logical way with a licensed archaeologist.
- These focus on the Acropolis Museum tour is on the artifacts found within the sites you will visit at the Acropolis.
- A high-quality tour that is conducted by a field expert and licensed archaeologist. tickets must be redeemed at the ticket office before entering the first site, 300m south of the Acropolis.
- Four hours in duration with Skip The Line access to both attractions with free cancellation up to 24 hours before the Tour.
- Meet your guide at the entrance to the Acropolis Metro station
The same tickets but without a guide!
- These two tickets can be used anytime within 30 days of purchasing the tickets.
- The tickets must be redeemed at the ticket office before entering the first site, 300m south of the Acropolis.
- Skip the line access to both attractions.
This tour has perfect reviews. It is 5 hours duration and includes return transfers to your accommodation. Entry tickets to the Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum are also included.
- Panathinaikos Stadium is the first stop and then you pass by the Greek Parliament to see the Evzoni Guards. Then to the Zappion Conference Center in the National Gardens of Greece and pass by the Roman Temple of Olympian Zeus, Hadrian’s Arch, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Numismatic Museum at Schlieman’s House, the Catholic Cathedral of Agios Dionysios Aeropagitis, Constitution Square and then to the Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum.
- Professional guide included
- Skip The Line tickets
This 6-hour tour includes the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the Theater of Dionysus, the Acropolis (Temple of Athena Nike, the Temple of Erechtheion, the Propylaia, and the Parthenon), the Ancient Agora, and the Ancient Cemetery of Keramikos. Lunch is free time for whatever restaurant you choose, followed by a tour of the Acropolis Museum. The Guide provides a kind of Treasure Hunt that takes you through all the best parts of the museum.
- Entry fees are not included, you purchase them at the sites.
- A very well-reviewed tour that steeps you in the mythology of ancient Greece.
- Meeting point depends on the tour option chosen and you can choose a tour conducted in English or French.
The Best Acropolis and Athens Tours
Combing two of my favorite things to really get to know somewhere fast: ancient ruins and local food and markets! The tour is of 4 hours duration and begins at the Acropolis metro station where you meet your guide and then tour the Acropolis. After the Acropolis, you set off for the Central Athens market.
- Entrance ticket to the Acropolis not included.
- Stop at 5 different artisan eateries
- All food and drinks consumed on the Tour are included in the price of the Tour
A very well reviewed tour of 3.5 hours duration that starts in the morning and includes return transfers from your accommodation. A quick and quality tour that is concluded by lunchtime – but what a morning!
- Entrance ticket and a private guide are included
- Private transfer in luxury non-smoking air-conditioned buses
- The tour begins at Panathinaiko Stadium. Pass by the Prime Ministers residence in the former Royal Palace, the Catholic Cathedral, St. Paul’s Church, and the Russian Orthodox Church, the Temple of Zeus, the Academy, and Constitution Square.
I love the Temple of Poseidon! It is one of the most popular day trips from Athens. See the Temple of Poseidon and the Acropolis in one convenient tour. The tour takes 8 hours and is a well-reviewed tour.
- Return transfers from your accommodation
- Entry tickets not included
After visiting the Acropolis, the tour continues to the Temple of Olympian Zeus and Panathenaic Stadium before watching the Changing of the Guards ceremony in front of the Greek Parliament. You then journey along the coast to the Temple of Poseidon in Cape Sounion. Enjoy a panoramic view of the Aegean Sea, and then travel back to Athens via Lake Vouliagmeni.
The Best Acropolis Tours from the Cruise Port
This tour has perfect reviews and is only of 3 hours duration. Entrance fees are not included.
- Round trip transfer from the Port of Piraeus and back
- Acropolis guided tour by a private guide and Skip the Line service.
- There is free time in the Plaka in this tour.
This very popular tour sells out fast. It is 5.5 hours in duration. This is an ideal combo tour to see the city center sights in just a few hours. The tour starts at the Syntagma metro station for a brief look at the ancient artifacts displayed at the metro’s museum. You’ll also see the Greek Parliament, the Monument of the Unknown Soldier, and watch the Changing of the Guards. Next, your guide will walk you through the National Gardens, Zappeion Hall, the Temple of Zeus and Hadrian’s Arch. From there you will walk towards the Acropolis through the walkway of Dionysiou Areopagitou. Then you’ll benefit from skip-the-queue entry into the Acropolis followed by a guided tour of the Acropolis Museum.
- Round-trip transfer from the port of Piraeus
- Includes an Acropolis guided tour and an Acropolis Museum guided tour
- Accompanied by the professional licensed tour guide
Further Links and Information
- Where to Stay to see the Acropolis? Read my Best Athens Hotels Near the Acropolis post.
- There are so many things to do in Greece. See all my best articles on Greece (including Ancient Corinth) and see all of the activities in Greece from Get Your Guide here
- Now that you’ve seen the Acropolis, keep reading about the 25 Best Ancient Greek Ruins
- If you’ll only be in Athens on your upcoming trip, read my comprehensive article about Athens Ruins: Ancient Greek Sites of Athens to plan your itinerary to the most important historical sites in Athens.
- More detailed information on how to book transport, airfares, Athens flights and how to get to Athens more generally, accommodation and travel insurance is available on my Travel Resources page
- Ministry of Culture and Sports Acropolis Visitor Information: http://odysseus.culture.gr/h/3/eh355.jsp?obj_id=2384 and email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
- The Acropolis Museum: https://www.theacropolismuseum.gr/en
- There are so many things to do in Santorini, Greece and it’s only a short flight or ferry ride away. See all of the best things to do in Santorini, from Get Your Guide here
- For the things you need to know before you book your trip to Santorini, including the best time to visit Santorini, see my travel guide here
- For a comprehensive guide about where to stay on Santorini, including the pros and cons of the nine main villages and towns on Santorini, see here
- For the must-see Ancient Akrotiri Minoan city, see my blog post here
- And for another must-do activity on a trip from Athens to Santorini, see my Sailing around Santorini blog post about to choose and book the best sailing cruise here
- And for the third absolute must-do activity on Santorini, see my detailed post on the Fira to Oia Caldera Edge Hike here.
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