17 Things to Know Before You Visit the Acropolis of Athens

A trip to Athens in Greece is incomplete unless you have visited the Sacred Acropolis Hill of Athens. The Acropolis of Athens, a UNESCO-listed World Heritage, is the most striking and complete ancient Greek monumental complex still existing in our times.

You will love this post if you have questions about the Acropolis Hill of Athens but have little time to review every historical detail. I have all the basic information about the Acropolis in Athens in short questions and answers.

View of Philopappou Hill from the Acropolis hill in Athens and part of the Odeon of Herodes Attikus.
View of Philopappou Hill from the Acropolis

Important Ticket Note (May 6th, 2024)

There has been discussion about (radical) changes in the entrance tickets in all archaeological sites in Greece. Some of the main changes will be:

  • Abolition of the €30 combo ticket for Athens sites as well as all the other combo tickets around Greece (eg Nafplio – Mycenae)
  • Abolition of half-price tickets during low season (November to March)
  • Acropolis ticket which is €20 right now for high season will become €30. For the time being at the official ticket services for April, the prices remain the same as they were in 2023. I will be checking the website as often as I can to register for any ticket transition and will update this page.

*Some of the links below are affiliate links. That means I may make a commission if you click and buy.

In the meantime, let’s find out all about the Acropolis of Athens!

My Latest Acropolis Video

Walk with me and visit the most important monuments on the spectacular Acropolis Hill!

1. Are the Acropolis of Athens and the Parthenon the Same?

Propylaea and Athena Nike Temple in Acropolis Hill as seen from Areopagus Hill

Not exactly.

Acropolis is a rocky hill, in Athens center, 156 meters above the Saronic Sea. Parthenon is one of the Temples dedicated to the goddess Athena that you can find on the Acropolis Hill. Acropolis Hill used to be the largest and most stunning complex in Ancient Greece, reaching its peak in the 5th century BCE.

Today, you can see up close the remains of a variety of constructions:

Model of Acropolis of Athens in the 5th century BC by the University of Texas. Acropolis of Athens.
Model of Acropolis of Athens in the 5th century BCE by the University of Texas
  • Few traces from its Mycenean era.
  • Classical Greece Temples devoted to the ancient goddess Athena (Parthenon (Athena Parthenos), Erechtheion (Athena Polias), and Athena Nike.
  • Monumental Entryways (Propylaea) and the Acropolis Walls
The Dionysus Theater
  • The Greek Classical Theater of Dionysus Eleuthereus.
  • Small Brauronia (or Vravronia) Sanctuary devoted to Artemis (The main Sanctuary of Artemis was in Vravrona).
  • Chalkotheke.
  • Roman Constructions (Rome and Augustus Temple, Agrippa’s Base, Beule Gate, Odeon of Herodes Atticus).
  • Fractions of ruins from its Ottoman era.

Parthenon was the main, largest, and most elaborate mixed Doric and Ionic Temple of Acropolis Hill, dedicated to Athena Parthenos (Virgin). It was built between 447 and 438 BCE and was designed by the great architects Iktinos and Callicrates.

The Parthenon Temple became the center of religious life in Athens and a symbol of Athenian democracy and power. The combination of Parthenon Doric metopes and the Ionic frieze on the walls are considered unique masterpieces. 

2. Why is the Acropolis called ‘Sacred Hill’?

Map of ancient greek sanctuaries. Acropolis of Athens.
Ancient Greek Sanctuaries

Ancient Greece had many Sanctuaries, five of which were sacred areas in Greece:

  • Delphi: it was the most significant oracle of the ancient Greek world.
  • Athens: it was one of the most powerful and significant ancient cities. Democracy, philosophy, science, legislation and so more were founded here.
  • Eleusina: every year, the Eleusinian Mysteries took place and was one of the most significant religious sites in ancient Athens.
  • Olympia in Peloponnese housed the biggest Sancturay of Zeus and the Olympic Games (to honor Olympian Zeus), the largest Panhellenic Games took place.
  • and Delos island near Mykonos: Apollo was born here and it was a significant religious center that also evolved into a large commercial hub.

3. Why did the Ancient Greeks Build the Acropolis’ Temples?

The Acropolis Hill had always been an important landmark for ancient Athenians long before the Temples that you see today were built. There are traces from its Mycenaean era (1650-1060 BCE) when there was a palace built on the Acropolis, near the area where the Erechteion Temple stands.

Pericles with his companion Aspasia discuss with Pheidias the Parthenon. Acropolis of Athens.
Pericles with his companion Aspasia discuss with Pheidias the Parthenon Sculptures – credit AFP

Pericles (c. 495-429 BCE), Athens ruler and orator, at the peak of Athenian Democracy, launched a monumental construction project in the Acropolis. They wanted to celebrate the Greek victory against the Persians in Marathon in 490 BCE, and in Thermopylae, Artemisio, and Salamina island in 480 BCE.

Athens, Acropolis Hill included, was destroyed in 480 BCE by the Persians. Pericles persuaded the Athenian council that they should not only replace the destroyed Temples but also build a monumental Temple for their protector goddess, Athena, as a symbol of their leadership and victory.

After the joined Greeks’ victory against the Persians, the Athenians were becoming more and more powerful. Athens, a member of the victorious Greek city-state alliance (the Delian Alliance, from the island of Delos near Mykonos), became a leader, and the other cities started paying taxes to Athens.

Reproduction of the internal part of Parthenon with Athena Statue - Hulton Archive
Reproduction of the internal part of Parthenon with Athena Statue – Hulton Archive

Besides the Temples, a gigantic 12-meter-high statue of Athena was created by Pheidias inside the Parthenon, using ivory and gold. The statue was removed by the Romans in the 5th century CE, some 1000 years later than after it was erected. A rumor says that it was transferred to Constantinople in the 10th century.

 Varvakios Athena in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens
Varvakios Athena in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens

There is no trace left of this statue today but there are several small-scale Roman copies like the ones in Lenormant and Pergamon. One Roman replica, the Varvakios Athena – not the most accurate though as it misses the figures carved on the base – can be seen in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.

The Parthenon Temple, besides its religious purpose, was mostly a powerful symbol of Athenian Democracy, a War Monument against the Persians and the Hellenic Victory, and through the depiction of the Zoophoros sculptures, a Monument of the power and capabilities of the Athenian citizens.

4. What are the Temples on the Acropolis made of?

Karyatides in Erechtheion

The Acropolis Temples were made from white crystalline marble quarried from Mount Pentelicus, located 10 miles northeast of Athens.

It was built from 15,000 marble blocks of various sizes. Approximately 600 craftsmen and 150 stonemasons prepared for the transportation. Possibly among them was Socrates. When he was young, he worked as a stonemason, just like his father, before abandoning this profession “for the sake of education,” as Lucian wrote.

Erechtheion Temple

From Mount Pentelicus, the workers using a downhill road had to transport the marble to Athens. Upon arriving they had to carry the rocks up the steep slopes of the Acropolis. It must have been a very difficult project for the workers.

5. Where is the Acropolis Entrance?

The main Entrance of Acropolis Athens
Main Entrance of Acropolis Athens

There are two entrances to the Acropolis of Athens:

The northern main entrance is close to Theorias Str. and the southern, at the junction of Thrasyllou Str. and the pedestrian Dionysiou Areoparitou right across from the Acropolis Museum.

Southern Entrance

As the main entrance is close to Dionysus Restaurant and the Acropolis main parking, it is preferred by coaches and large groups. However, the queues at the main entrance are sometimes really wild.

You better use the southern entrance which is the one I prefer as you can easily see all the monuments in a more natural way and usually it is less busy. A lot of visitors just exit from the main entrance and never make it to the south part of the Acropolis (slopes).

Book an Acropolis Small-Group Guided Tour with an Entry Ticket

Small Group tour of Acropolis, 2 couples with a guide in front of Erechteion
Small Group Tour of Acropolis

Visit the Acropolis and see Athens’ most famous monuments. Hear fascinating ancient Greek myths from your licensed guide by Get Your Guide! Check availability and prices for this amazing tour here.

6. When is Acropolis Open? When is Best to Go?

Athena Nike Temple

Starting from September 4th, 2023 the Minister of Culture decided that there will be a program of visiting zones in Acropolis. The maximum daily number of visitors to the Acropolis cannot exceed 20,000, a number that will be distributed into hourly zones, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and will apply to all visitors, whether individual or in groups. Book your ticket on Acropolis’ official website here.

Acropolis of Athens’ time of operations are:

  • Summer: April 1 to October 31 – 8 am to 8 pm (last entrance 7.30 pm).
  • Winter: November 1 to March 31 – 8 am to 5 am.
  • Closed on: January 1, March 25, May 1, Greek Easter Sunday, the second day of Easter, December 25 & 26.

If you are visiting Acropolis between May and September, you may encounter a lot of people. And if a cruise ship has arrived in Pireaus, then the crowds will be wild.

Try to go as early as possible in the morning or late in the afternoon.

7. How much is the ticket to the Acropolis? Can I buy it online?

Odeon of Herodes Attikos exterior

Between April 1st – October 31st the general admission ticket is €20.

Certain groups are eligible for half-price or free entrance – usually for EU citizens. Check here to see if you are eligible for reduced entrance.

A combo ticket (€30) permits entry within five days to the:

Half-Price Entrance (not valid for the combo ticket): All archaeological sites in Greece have a half-price ticket from November 1 to March 31.

Free Entrance: From November to March, admission is free on the first Sunday of the month and on the dates March 6th, April 18th, May 18th, the last weekend of September, and October 28th.

Skip the Line

Regarding selling tickets by individuals who promise a “skip the line” service, the Greek Minister of Culture Ms. Mendoni pointed out that this is deceiving the public since such a service cannot be applied due to the nature of the monument.

Online Ticket to Acropolis

Buy your entry ticket to Acropolis in advance from the Greek Official e-ticketing service here. Follow the simple steps below to book your online ticket for Acropolis:

  • Choose the region ‘Attika and Central Greece’
  • then ‘Acropolis and Slopes’
  • Choose the date you want to visit
  • Choose your time slot
  • Choose your single-use ticket (€20 in high season) or your combo ticket (€30)
  • However, you should keep in mind that if you change your mind, those tickets are NOT REFUNDABLE. If this is the case you better book your tickets from a travel agency. Please send me a message if you need one).

8. Parthenon throughout the centuries. Destruction in many parts…

Parthenon as a mosque, ολδ γραωθρε
Parthenon as a mosque

Christian religion in Greece was legalized in 313 CE and Theodosius I, Byzantine Emperor, forbade the practice of ancient Greek religion in 392 CE. Emperor Theodosius II in 435 AD ordered the destruction of ancient temples and sanctuaries, but he converted into Christian churches the most important ancient temples, the Parthenon included.

The Parthenon Temple was turned into Panagia the Athiniotissa (Virgin Mary of Athens) Christian church, a three-aile basilica in the late 6th century CE. The Christians, knocked out the eastern wall of the cella to make an apse, knocked off heads, and did other damage to the sculptures, especially the metopes, because of the pagan subjects.

During the Latin Occupation, in 1204 CE, and for 250 years, the Parthenon was turned into a Roman Catholic church.

In 1458, when the Ottoman Sultan came to Athens, he turned the Parthenon into a mosque. The Ottomans used some of the metopes for target practice.

In 1687 Parthenon was bombarded by the Venetians (more in question 9).

In 1801 Elgin removed half of its friezes and metopes (more in question 10).

In 1822 the Turks broke the pillars to remove the iron they knew the ancient Athenians had used to enforce the pillars.

In 1833, the Acropolis was finally liberated by the Greeks.

Nazis raising their flag on Acropolis
Nazis raising their flag on Acropolis

In April 1941 Acropolis was desecrated by the Nazis when they raised their swastika flag on the east edge of the Acropolis. On May 30th, 1941 two brave 18-year-old university students, Manolis Glezos and Lakis Santas climbed to the Hill and took the Nazi flag down.

Their brave act inspired many others to create resistance groups against the Nazis. Lakis Santas died in April 2011, and Manolis Glezos in March 2020, and were both buried like Greek heroes. There is a Memorial plaque of this event on the east side of the Acropolis near the raised Greek flag.

9. Why is the Southern Wall of the Parthenon Missing?

Parthenon Temple of Acropolis, internal. Credit.Nikos Spilos

The Parthenon may have been almost 2,000 years old in 1687 CE, however, it was still in very good condition, with all walls standing and all its decoration marbles more or less in place.

In 1687 the Venetians under the rule of Morosini seized the Acropolis. Morosini knew that the Ottomans used one of the Parthenon rooms to store the powder gun and he bombarded the Parthenon destroying all but one of its four walls. The Parthenon roof also collapsed. However, there is a 15-year restoration program of the northern wall of the Parthenon’s cella.

10. Why are the Parthenon Marbles in the British Museum?

parthenon marbles in british museum
Parthenon Sculptures in the British Museum

Parthenon was further damaged by Elgin between 1801 to 1803 when he violently removed – cutting them with a saw – about half of the surviving sculptures of the Parthenon, as well as sculptures from the Propylaea and one Karyatida from Erechtheion.

He, later on, sold the Parthenon Marbles to the British Museum where are still kept. The Greek government has been trying for over 40 years to persuade the British Museum to return the Parthenon Marbles where they belong, in Greece.

There are also two pieces from Parthenon marbles, a frieze and a metope in the Louvre Museum.

11. Why are the Parthenon Marbles Important?

Part of Zoophoros (frieze)

Pheidias was the master sculptor of the Parthenon Marbles, along with an army of assistant sculptors. The sculptures were set around the top part of the gigantic Parthenon, a 160-meter-long frieze consisting of 378 humans and god figures, and 245 animals, and are considered masterpieces of utmost beauty and artistic perfection.

The frieze (Zoophoros) was – probably – a sculpting story of the annual religious procession that was taking place in Athens, called the Panathenaic Procession.

A “zoophoros” is called a continuous zone with relief representations, usually, in Ionic rhythm temples and it replaced the metopes in the section above the columns of the external colonnade.

12. Are there any Sculptures Left on the Parthenon?

Parthenon Marbles in the Acropolis Museum

No, there are no marble sculptures left on the Parthenon. Everything you see on the site is plaster casts and the original sculptures have been moved into the Acropolis Museum to protect them from air pollution.

13. I am a Mobility-Challenged Person, Can I Visit Acropolis?

Acropolis Map with the dotted routes for people with disabilities.
Acropolis Map with the dotted routes for people with disabilities.

Yes, there is a new Acropolis elevator, and improved wheelchair-friendly paths were installed in 2020, but you need to go to the main entrance of Acropolis right above Dionysos Parking to access it.

The Acropolis Lift on the slope of the Acropolis
 The Acropolis Lift on the top of Acropolis
The Acropolis Lift on the top of the Acropolis

There are signs guiding you towards the entrance and the elevator as well but in case you can’t find it, when you get to the entrance gates, get your entrance ticket and afterward ask the guides for directions on how to get there. The entrance to the lift is a minute from the ticket booth.

There is always someone at the exit gates who can help you with the lift. The lift will take you straight to the top of the Acropolis, where the Temples are.

The Acropolis exit and signs
Acropolis exit and entrance towards the lift.

The facility is not available during extreme weather conditions and strong winds.

You may also enjoy: Accessibility and Greek sites

14. Acropolis Dress Code

Parthenon in the background and Erechteion on the right

There is no dress code for the Acropolis like in Greek Monasteries such as Meteora Monasteries. If it is summer, you need a hat, comfortable clothes, good walking shoes, sunscreen, and plenty of water with you.

If it is winter, as this is a hill, it can be windy and cold and if it has rained, it can be slippery ascending the marbled steps. Again good walking shoes and warm clothes are needed.

15. Is There Anything that is not allowed in Acropolis?

Calico cat sitting on a rock in Acropolis Athens Greece background Odeon Herodes Attikus
Kitty over the Odeon of Herodes Attikos

The following are not allowed inside Acropolis Hill:

  • You are strictly not allowed to touch the marble surfaces – if you touch it, it just feels like a usual marble but to the marble your hands’ skin is destructive
  • Any backpack or a larger bag will have to be left at the check-in before entering the Acropolis. You can take a small bag like this one for water and a purse
  • Strollers for babies
  • Pets
  • Eat any kind of food or drink sodas – only water is allowed inside the site
  • Smoke cigarettes/ vape or similar
  • Play Music
  • Photograph the temples for commercial use

16. What facilities are there on the Acropolis?

There are public toilets (restrooms) outside of the northern entrance and also across from the Parthenon Temple where the old Acropolis Museum building is. In the Information Center, at 18-20 Dionysiou Areopagitou Str., about 50m out of the entrance of the South Slope of the Acropolis, a WC for the physically challenged is also provided.

There are also machines to buy water bottles (€0.50 per bottle), a lift, and a small medical center.

17. Is the Acropolis of Athens the only Greek Acropolis?

Acrocorinth

Acropolis means the edge of a city and is usually located at the highest point of a city.

Greece has many significant Acropolis all around the country such as:

Where to Stay in Athens

Overview of Plaka, AThens old city and the Acropolis Hill.
Plaka, Old Athens

I have collected my favorite accommodation in Athens for all types of budgets and preferences for 2024:

How to Get to the Cyclades Islands from Athens

FERRIES: The most usual way is to take the ferry from Athens ports (Piraeus, Rafina or Lavrion). Book your ferry transfer with FerryScanner or FerryHopper, and get the best prices in the market with no hidden fees. If you travel in the summer you better book your seats in advance.

Otherwise, you can catch a flight from Athens International Airport. Find below the list of the Greek Islands that have an airport and you can fly there:

AstypalaiaChiosChaniaHeraklionRethymno
Crete-SitiaCorfuMilosNaxosParos
MykonosSantoriniSyrosSkyrosKalymnos
KarpathosKasosKosLerosRhodes
KastellorizoLemnosSamosLesvosIkaria
KefaloniaZakynthosKythiraSkiathos

Plan My Trip to Greece

Do you need a custom travel itinerary or a transfer within Greece? Are you traveling solo, with your family or friends and need a tailor-made multi-day tour or a transfer?

If yes, please visit my dedicated Plan My Trip Page for a free itinerary!

How to Get to Athens Port (Piraeus) from Athens Airport

Bus X96 Peiraias Port to Athens Airport
Airport Bus
  • Bus: If you are arriving at Athens International Airport you can travel straight to the port by taking the X96 express bus (€5.5, children <6 yo, free entrance), which departs every 40 minutes and the average trip lasts 1 hour – runs 24/7.
  • Metro: (€9) is easily found across airport arrivals (blue line – M3) going directly to Piraeus port. The average trip to Piraeus lasts 1 hour.
  • Taxis are available in front of the airport (around €40 to Athens, €55-60 to Piraeus (depending on the traffic in Kifisos), and take up to 3 or 4 people with small luggage)
  • Rent a car with Discover Cars for reliable, new cars at affordable prices
  • You don’t like driving but love hassle-free solutions? Book a Private transfer with an English-speaking driver from Athens International Airport to Piraeus Ferries, or anywhere else in Greece
  • Are you looking for domestic flights in Greece? Check out the official Aegean Airlines Website.

Some of my Favorite Travel Resources for Greece

About the author
Evgenia Mataragka
Hi! I am an Athens-based Greek obsessed with exploring Greece and bringing you the best travel experience ever!

2 thoughts on “17 Things to Know Before You Visit the Acropolis of Athens”

  1. Is it true that visitors can not wear backpacks at the acropolis?
    If yes, can we wear shoulder totes for our water bottles, windbreaker, sunscreen, my collapsible cane (I have a bad hip that sometimes acts up), cooling cloth, etc.
    We are going to Athens in October 2023.

    Reply
  2. Hello Lynn
    Yes, it is true, and thank you for pointing this out. All big backpacks will be left at the check-in at the entrance of the site. You can only carry small bags with your bottle of water or purse. You don’t need a windbreaker and cooling cloth in Acropolis in October, it will be cooler. Just get water, and a hat and apply sunscreen at your hotel before you get into the Acropolis.
    Thank you and wish you have a great time in Athens 🙂
    Evgenia

    Reply

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