Kerameikos Athens: The Ancient Necropolis

Kerameikos Athens is located northwest of Acropolis Hill and Ancient Agora. The site was initially widely known as Kerameikos Pottery as it used to be the potters’ quarter of Ancient Athens.

The ruins of Kerameikos Archaeological site in Athens Greece
Inner (Eso) Kerameikos

Later the area was also known as Kerameikos Cemetery as this became Athens’ main ancient cemetery with numerous funerary sculptures to have been erected along the Sacred Way. The Sacred Way (or Eleusinean) started from Kerameikos, passing the Daphni Monastery and the Temple of Aphrodite to Eleusis town (21 km from Athens).

3 young girls walking  around the ruins of Kerameikos in Athens Greece
Walkways in Kerameikos

When you visit the Kerameikos archaeological site today you will see a large area with remains of various ancient constructions in its northern part: the Themistoclean walls, Dipylon, Pompeion, and the Greek Orthodox Church of Agia Triada (Holy Trinity).

The walls of Kerameikos Archaeological site in Athens Greece
Themistoclean Walls

In the western part of the site, among beautiful olive trees, you will walk along impressive tombstones with dedicated inscriptions. This is where the small in-house museum is also located with artifacts from the surrounding Kerameikos Necropolis.

Find in this post how to get to Kerameikos, about the entrance tickets and the opening hours, historical information on the monuments, and the nearby must-visit sites.

Word Tip: the Engish word ‘ceramics’ comes from Kerameikos.

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My Latest Video on Kerameikos

How to Get to Kerameikos Athens

A couple walking at Ermou st. with the fence of Kerameikos and the Lycabettus Hill
Ermou St. with the fence of Kerameikos and the Lycabettus Hill

The entrance of the archaeological site of Kerameikos is located 200 meters from Thision metro station, on the pedestrian part of Ermou 148 St. towards Technopolis. Kerameikos is usually combined with a visit to the nearby Ancient Agora of Athens, halfway between Monastiraki and Thisio metro stations. Ancient Agora is the second most important site in Athens.

Tip: You can also get off at Kerameikos metro station and walk to the Kerameikos site, which is a 10-minute walk away. That way you can also explore a very popular Athenian area with cafes and taverns known as Gazi.

The terrace of Athenian View Loft neark kerameikos in Athens
Athenian View Loft Terrace

A fantastic apartment in Gazi with Acropolis views is the Athenian View Loft, 5 minutes away from Kerameikos metro and the archaeological site.

What you will see at the Kerameikos Athens

 The Road of the Dead in Kerameikos Archaeological site in Athens Greece
The Road of the Dead in Kerameikos

When you get toward the main entrance of the Kerameikos archaeological site you will notice that it is spread a few meters below the ground surface. As you walk around the site, you will walk on the same level as the Athenians did in the Classical period (5th and 4th century BCE).

Digital reproduction of Kerameikos as it was in ancient Greece
Digital reproduction of Kerameikos. Dipylo is on the left and the Sacred Gate is on the right. Credit photo: https://ancientathens3d.com/el/kerameikos-walls/

Until 1863 Kerameikos Athens was known only from the texts of Thucydides and Pausanias since the entire area of the ancient cemetery was covered by rubble up to 9 meters high. On top of this rubble were a few small houses and a soap factory. Around this time, the tip of a tombstone was found accidentally and the excavations started.

Kerameikos Archaeological site between trees
Kerameikos Archaeological site

Today the area of Kerameikos is a beautiful outdoor green site with Lycabettus and the Acropolis dominating the horizon. The stream of Iridanos, the vegetation, the turtles, and the occasional basking cat make it a lively area and not the place of the dead.

Kerameikos Pottery and Cemetery

Kerameikos Archaeological site ruins
Kerameikos ruins

Although Kerameikos has been used as a cemetery as long ago as the 3rd millennium BC it was initially a settlement of potters and vase painters. The whole area was the main production center of the famous Attic ceramic vases.

Potters were drawn to the Kerameikos by the clay deposits of the Iridanos River which had much more water in ancient Athens than it has today. However, the riverbank was often overflowing and destroying the potters’ settlements, who finally abandoned the area.

Kerameikos Archaeological site, Road of the Dead with statues and tombstones
Road of the Dead in Kerameikos

Kerameikos then became one of the most important cemeteries of ancient Athens, from prehistoric to Byzantine times (1,100 BCE – 500 CE). The Athenians buried their prominent citizens, the generals, and warriors who had fallen in battle, even the priestesses in their temples.

A couple readins a signpost at Kerameikos Archaeological site
Kerameikos sites

The Athenians have always respected their dead especially those who fell in battle defending the freedom of their homeland. Apart from the various honorable events that they organized, they also constructed magnificent tombstones and funerary monuments of high artistic and cultural quality.

The monument to Dexileos, the 20-year-old son of Lysanias of Thorikos, one of the five Athenian horsemen, who died in a battle against the Spartans
The monument to Dexileos, the 20-year-old son of Lysanias of Thorikos, one of the five Athenian horsemen, who died in a battle against the Spartans

The tombstones were decorated with beautiful relief sculptures that you get to see in the Road of the Dead inside the Kerameikos. Outside the fenced area, in 1994 during the excavations for the Kerameikos metro station, they discovered a group burial of Athenians who had died in the terrible plague that struck the city from 430 to 426 BCE.

Fortification of Kerameikos Athens

Kerameikos Wall fortification
Part of the Walls in Kerameikos

Right after the battles against the invading Persians in Marathon in 490 BCE, in Thermopylae, Artemisio, and Salamina island in 480 BCE, Athenian ruler Themistocles hastily decided to build a wall to protect the city in 478 BC. The walls have remained in history known as Themistoclean.

The marble bull from the tomb of Dionysius of Collice amongst olive trees
The marble bull from the tomb of Dionysius of Kollytos

The walls separated Kerameikos into two parts: The Inner Kerameikos – within the walls – used exclusively for residential settlement, and the Exo (outside) Kerameikos, for burial use.

A marble gate at Kerameikos in Athens

There were also gates in the wall, with two of the most important ones: the Dipylos Gate, which was the starting point for the procession of the Panathenaea to Plato’s Academy. And the Sacred Way (or Eleusinean Way), through which the procession of the Eleusinian Mysteries passed, heading, towards the sanctuary of Demeter in Eleusis.

Kerameikos Museum

Gravestones outside the Museum of Keramikos in Athens
Kerameikos gravestones outside the Museum

This is a relatively small and compact museum, with four rooms centered around an open-air quadrangle hosting all the findings from the German archaeological School excavations. Although small, the museum is characterized as the most exclusive and richest, mainly in burial exhibits, in the Greek territory.

It was built in 1938 with a donation from the German industrialist Gustav Oberlander. The Boehringer brothers contributed financially to the expansion of the museum.

The "raging bull", the epitaph monument of Dionysius of Colyteos in the Kerameikos Museum
The “raging bull”, the epitaph monument of Dionysius of Kollytos in the Kerameikos Museum

From the exhibits, you will learn about burial customs and traditions in various periods of Greek antiquity as well as a wealth of grave goods that accompanied the deceased to the next world. There are also many shells with the names of famous Athenians who were exiled, a usual tactic used to eliminate opponents of Athenian politicians.

Inner Kerameikos archaeological site with grass
Inner Kerameikos

Note: The Museum exhibits the findings from the archaeological site of Exo (Outer) Kerameikos. The findings of the Inner Kerameikos site are exhibited in the Ancient Agora museum inside the Attalos Stoa.

Kerameikos Opening Hours & Tickets

Kerameikos ruins toward Sacred Way
Kerameikos toward Sacred Way

If you are visiting Athens for the first time, and plan to stay for at least 2 days then you should buy the ‘package’ ticket that gives you access to 7 major sites for the current price of €30 (valid for 5 days). The sites that you can visit with the package ticket are:

The entrance ticket to the Kerameikos is €8 per person between April and October and €4 between November and March. The Half-Price Entrance is not valid for the combo ticket. All sites take both credit cards and cash and offer an official ticket.

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

Kerameikos’ Opening Hours are 8:00 am to 15.00 or 17.00 or 20:00 depending on the month you are visiting (and the time of the sunset)

Tips for Visiting Kerameikos

A woman walking on a pathway in Kerameikos in Athens Greece
Walking Kerameikos pathways

How much time do I need for Kerameikos?

Generally speaking, you should plan to spend at least an hour or 90 minutes at the archeological site.

Is Kerameikos Accessible?

Yes, it is. There is flat access with a ramp.

Is there a WC inside Kerameikos?

Yes, there is, free of charge with a ramp as well

Is there a shop inside the Museum?

Yes, there is a small shop.

Can I drink or eat inside Kerameikos?

You are not allowed to eat or drink inside any archaeological site in Greece, only water is allowed to carry around. There is no café/restaurant inside the site.

Recommended Guided Tours for Athens

Nearby Sites to Kerameikos

Monastiraki and Plaka

If you are visiting Athens for a short period then you have to make the best of your time. Near Kerameikos are some sites that will help you understand better the fascinating and diverse history of Athens:

  • At the north end of the Kerameikos fence, find the Jewish Holocaust Site and the two Athenian Synagogues.
  • Go to the 11th-century Byzantine church of Agioi Asomatoi across from the Thision metro.
  • The Ancient Agora of Athens in Monastiraki, Adrianou St. On the parallel street, you will find Ifaistou St, which is flanked by many shops, selling all kinds of clothes, shoes, and antiques.
  • Go to the Psyri area, which is hardly 10 minutes away, and choose one of its taverns for less tourist food.
  • Visit Hadrian’s Library which is across from Monastiraki Metro station.
  • Go to the Roman Agora and Kanellopoulos Museum in Plaka.

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    Did you visit the Ancient Kerameikos? Let me know what you think about visiting Kerameikos in the comments, I’d love to hear whether I managed to get it onto your bucket list! Till next time, Evgenia❤️

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

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