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Climbing the Acropolis of Athens: A Complete Travelogue and Guide

Updated: Apr 26


Have you ever dreamed of visiting Athens and climbing up to the Acropolis? We did, visiting Greece was definitely a trip of a lifetime, (and now we have). This is a complete travelogue and guide to climbing the Acropolis of Athens.


 

NB (September 2023): Greece has implemented a limit on the number of visitors to the Acropolis, capped at 20,000 per day. Beginning September 4, 2023, visitors must select an available hourly timeslot from the official site. Be prepared to adjust if your desired timeslot is fully booked. Once booked, visitors are granted 15m prior and 15m after to enter.

 


The Parthenon atop the Acropolis, as seen from The Temple Zeus, Athens, Greece
The Parthenon atop the Acropolis, as seen from The Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens, Greece



Climbing the Acropolis: Which Entrance is Best to Enter the Acropolis?



We have always dreamed of visiting Athens (A City of Giants) and the Acropolis, and after some research and selecting options that worked best for us, we had the most amazing and unique travel experience. Research really does pay off, in our humble opinions. On our second morning in Athens, bright and early, we headed to the side entrance of the Acropolis (away from the large and crowded tour buses), ready for our self-guided tour.



LUXURY TRAVEL TIP: The Athens Gate Hotel is located in the heart of the Athens city center, only a 5 minute walk to the Acropolis. It boasts unique views of The Acropolis from their rooftop restaurant, while the rooms have balconies that overlook The Acropolis or The Temple of Olympian Zeus.



Research indicated that though both the front and side entrances (and climbs) were equally challenging, starting away from the parking lots was less crowded and (for us) the best option.


We had an early breakfast at the Athens Gate Hotel and left by 7am. The 5m walk to side entrance was quick and casual. The side gate was locked when we arrived and only a few people were waiting.





Located on Dionysiou Areopagitou street, across form the entrance to the Acropolis Museum, the side entrance is on the south slope and does not appear like an entrance to the Acropolis at first glance. Trust us, it is less known and less popular, so it is the the best entrance from which to enter the Acropolis of Athens.


This entrance is normally reserved for small groups and skip-the-line ticket holders, so wait time is minimal.

We would highly recommend having your Acropolis tickets prior to reaching the entrance, to avoid any delays.





 

TIP: rather than a single Acropolis ticket, we purchased a combo ticket, as we were in Athens for a few days and planned on visiting a number of historical sites. By purchasing the ticket at one of the other sites included on the list, we avoided the long lines at the Acropolis on the day we visited.


NB (December 2023): Greece announced that for the first time in 5 years, the ticket prices for the archeological sites will be revised and the combo ticket eliminated, beginning April 1, 2025. Archeological sites will be slotted into 5 different categories, with the ticket prices for each ranging from $5-20 Euros, the Acropolis remaining in its own category, with a ticket price of $30 Euros.

 


Climbing up the Acropolis, Athens, Greece
Climbing up the Acropolis, Athens, Greece


How Long Does it Take to Climb to the top of the Acropolis?



Climbing the Acropolis is easier than you think. When you first enter from the side gate, the path is wide and sloped. Slow and steady, we made our way up the winding path to the marble steps near the top. It was not easy, but it was not overly difficult either. The angles were somewhat steep and it was a near constant climb, but something almost anyone could do.


You do not need to be in peak physical condition to make the trek. The key is always to take your time and move at your own pace. We stopped to take photos along the way and walked slowly, so in total the trek from entrance to the top took only 20-25 minutes. Some who entered after us walked fasted and sped their way to the top, but everything bottlenecks when you reach the steps, so it really doesn't matter how quick you are. It's always best to go at your own pace and focus on the journey, there is so much to see that you may miss if you just race through and speed to the top.


 

TIP: If you're visiting Athens, Greece during the summer months, be sure to dress appropriately in comfortable, breathable clothing (cottons and lines are preferred) with flat footwear with some grip. It feels hotter on top of the Acropolis, there is little to no shade and the stone is uneven, so watch your step.


Update: Greece felt a record-breaking heat-wave in the summer of 2023 (specifically in July), with temperatures reaching 46.4 degrees Celsius (115.52 degrees Fahrenheit). As a result, Athens authorities decided to close access to the Acropolis during the hottest hours of the day.

 


Panoramic view of the city of Athens from the Acropolis, Athens, Greece
Panoramic view of the city of Athens from the Acropolis, Athens, Greece


As we approached the steps and started to climb, we were asked to stand aside and make room for the guards. It just so happened that at that moment, the Presidential Guards were leaving the Acropolis, in their determined and structure routine, after having raised the flag. The Presidential Guards (knowns as Evzones), are mainly volunteers from the Hellenic Army.


One of their many duties include the raising and lowering of the Greek flag on the sacred rock of the Acropolis. This only occurs on Sundays and national holidays. We happened to be visiting the Acropolis on a Sunday morning.


Once they passed, we walked through the columns and Acropolis Hill opened itself up to us. With the sun shining bright in the morning sky, it was utterly beautiful.




The Greek Flag swaying proudly atop Acropolis Hill, Athens, Greece
The Greek Flag swaying proudly atop Acropolis Hill, Athens, Greece



Do You Know Why the Greek Flag is Posted at the Acropolis?



Speaking of the flag, have you heard the heroic story of the two teenage boys who secretly climbed to the Acropolis to remove the Nazi flag? We hadn't until we were in Athens, and it's a wonderful story.


In the dead of night on May 30, 1941, armed with nothing but book knowledge, two young Greek men climbed over wire fences, up to the hill and silently removed the Nazi flag. It was seen as the first major act of resistance in Europe, and the Greek flag remains posted there today as a reminder. Neither of us are Greek, but the story moved us, and standing atop that hill, we were proud to see that flag (and even teared up).





If, unlike us, you do not enjoy endless research before you travel and prefer to learn about the sites and highlights of ancient ruins from the tour guide, we would highly recommend booking a private local guide for a truly unique travel experience. Local guides are normally more knowledgeable about the sites and provide added insight that a non-local guide cannot.


  • If you're looking for more inside information, consider booking a Athens Private Guided Tour, where a local can provide you with information and answer any questions you may have.


Private tours allow you to customize what you want to see, what aspects you want to focus on and give you absolute control over your unique experience, in a way a large group cannot. In large groups, your voice is drowned out by the many guests and often the guide will speak in generics to appeal to everyone.




Path around The Acropolis, Athens Greece
Path around The Acropolis, Athens Greece

 

NB (December 2023): Greece announced that they will be offering 2-hour absolutely private guided tours of Acropolis Hill, beginning on April 1, 2024. Each small group will be a max of 4 people and will be offered souvenirs. The tour will be offered during the summer months at sunrise (7-9am) or sunset (8-10pm), with a maximum of 5 groups.

 

If a private guide is out of your budget (especially the ultimate private tour of the Acropolis listed above), we would recommend a small group tour. Groups with 5-10 people are much more personal and accommodating than the large groups of 20-30 guests and cost less than a private guide.



Small group combo tours are the most efficient way to see the highlights of a city, without having to climb into a large coach and waste time waiting for the entire group. Smaller groups are more personal and when booked into a combo tour of the city, tend to bond and get along better than the anonymity of a large group.



 


TIP: If you plan on visiting the Acropolis of Athens without a guide, and plan on visiting other sites during your stay in Athens, Greece, we recommend the purchase a combo ticket from one of the other ancient sites included in the package in the day/s before you visit the Acropolis.


This allows you to avoid the long lines at the Acropolis ticket office on the day of the visit, as the combo ticket is valid at all participating sites for the next consecutive 5 days.


NB (December 2023): Greece announced that for the first time in 5 years, the ticket prices for the archeological sites will be revised and the combo ticket eliminated, beginning April 1, 2025. Archeological sites will be slotted into 5 different categories, with the ticket prices for each ranging from $5-20 Euros, the Acropolis remaining in its own category, with a ticket price of $30 Euros.

 


The Parthenon, Athens, Greece
The Parthenon, Athens, Greece



Climbing the Acropolis: What is There to See at the Top, on Acropolis Hill?



We spent a lot of time at the top, on Acropolis Hill, walking across every possible area, not wanting to miss a different view or angle. The Parthenon, even covered in scaffolding, is an absolutely gorgeous piece of architecture. Impressive and intimidating, it commands respect.


 

TIP: Do not sit on the ruins of The Parthenon! This should be evident, especially with the velvet ropes warning you not to cross, but you would be amazed how often this happens. No matter if you believe it is only one photo, and one second won't do it any harm, the ruins are ancient and fragile.

 

The Erechtheion is equally impressive, especially the phenomenal Porch of the Maidens, which was once considered the most sacred part of the Acropolis, dedicated to the Gods Athena and Poseidon. They are regal and beautiful, I often called them simply "The Ladies". The artifacts upon the Acropolis Hill are beautiful replicas that glow when the sun is shining upon them.




The Porch of the Maidens, Athens, Greece
The Porch of the Maidens, Athens, Greece


The Maidens were once six in total. One was taken/stolen and now stands in the British Museum, the remaining five are on display at the Acropolis Museum, kept there for protection and conservation.

There has been a long-time call for The British Museum to return the missing Maiden so she can reunite with her sisters, in her rightful place in The Acropolis Museum.


Despite protests and calls between governments, the British Government remains firm that they have every right to keep the beautiful artifact. To this day, a space is left for her along side the other Maidens in The Acropolis Museum.





While taking in the monuments and outstanding views from the Acropolis, we in fact experienced each area at least twice. The skies were partially cloudy that morning, and from time to time, the clouds would part and the brilliant morning sun would shine on the marbled structures. When fully exposed to the sunshine, it would be an understatement to say that the beautiful marble they were made from, glowed in a brilliant golden hue.




The Odeon of Herodes Atticus, Athens, Greece
The Odeon of Herodes Atticus, Athens, Greece


The Parthenon may be the main attraction for most tourists, but there is so much more to the Acropolis and surrounding area. Once we had our fill of the view and all the site upon Acropolis Hill, we walked back down through winding paths to the lower north and south slopes to visit the Odeon of Herodes Atticus and the Theatre of Dionysus.


The Odeon of Herodes Atticus is a beautiful well-preserved theatre, sometimes still used for events and performances. In fact, there were people on stage setting up for a performance while we were there. The Theatre of Dionysus is somewhat less impressive visually, by comparison, but historically, it is brilliant. The Theatre of Dionysus may be crumbling in areas, but many marble thrones, brilliantly carved are still in tact and impressive. Considered the world’s first theatre, it is a must visit.



UNIQUE TRAVEL EXPERIENCE TIP: For a completely unique view of the city, we would highly recommend the Athens by Night Private Tour which includes visiting the Acropolis and Parthenon at night! Imagine the privacy and the beautiful views.


The Theatre of Dionysus, Athens, Greece
The Theatre of Dionysus, Athens, Greece



Should you Visit the Acropolis Museum?



In a word, Yes! After lapping up the outdoor history, we headed indoors for some more via the (new) Acropolis Museum. Underneath the museum, partially exposed to visitors as they walk towards the entrance, is an excavation site from the early Byzantine era.


Inside, the museum is spacious and considerate, each artifact provided the respect, space and lighting it deserves. Note that photography is not allowed in the Acropolis Museum. The museum gift shop lured us in with it’s beautiful gifts and we left carrying heavy bags of souvenirs.


(I don’t think we have ever spent as much money on gifts for ourselves as we did in Greece, with the majority of that being spent in Athens at the Acropolis Museum gift shop).




Ruins underneath the Acropolis Museum, Athens, Greece
Ruins underneath the Acropolis Museum, Athens, Greece


If you, like us, would like to visit both The Acropolis and The Acropolis Museum on the same day, you may want to consider a combo tour that provides you a guide to visiting both (and keeps you on time):





Path Around the Acropolis, Athens Greece
Path Around the Acropolis, Athens Greece



After a full and eventful morning visiting both The Acropolis of Athens and The Acropolis Museum, we strolled back to The Athens Gate Hotel, cleaned up and headed out for a late lunch. There are endless restaurants to choose from in Athens, which can sometimes be overwhelming.


If you want to guarantee a great meal and experience, we would suggest opting for one of the many available Athens food tours, some that include both sites and tastes:



  • A Greek Food Walking Tour will not only allow you to taste the best of Athens, but provide you insight into the culinary influences and history.

  • If you're short on time, a combo tour, like this Enjoy Greek Food and Highlights Tour which combines the hidden, secret locations and best culinary spots, would be recommended.



No matter what you choose, the food in Athens is absolutely divine, whether you select a street vendor or a Michelin-stared restaurant. Opa!




Socrates' Prison, Athens, Greece
Socrates' Prison, Athens, Greece



Climbing the Acropolis: What other Sites are there to visit near the Acropolis?



After lunch, while my other half rested back in our room at The Athens Gate Hotel, I ventured out on my own in search of Socrates’ Prison and the Pnyx. The Pnyx is one of the earliest sites where Greeks would gather and one of the most important sites in the creation of democracy.


I personally felt comfortable and safe walking the streets of Athens alone, but admittedly, searching for the sites around the Acropolis was a bit of a challenge without a guide. Had it not been for my fear of getting lost in the dark, I would have walked for hours into the night.






If you're looking for other sites to visit in and around Athens, above and beyond the Acropolis, check out:


Download one day in Athens







 

Note: We only link to products and services that we have either used or would use, all opinions expressed are our own. Some may be affiliate links, with which we may receive a small commission for purchases made.

 



The Pnyx, Athens, Greece
The Pnyx, Athens, Greece



Is it worth it to visit the Acropolis of Athens?


In a word, absolutely!

Visiting Athens, and specifically visiting the Acropolis of Athens is definitely a trip of a lifetime. The trek to the top may be a little difficult for some, but the views alone make this a must see site when in Athens. The Acropolis of Athens is by far the most recognizable sites and most popular tourist attraction in Athens, but it is certainly not alone. This modern but ancient city is not afraid of welcoming the future, but will never forget (or stop celebrating) it's illustrious past.


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1 Comment


D Marino
D Marino
Apr 06, 2021

Oh, memories of Greece!

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