Athens has some spectacular archaeological sites and museums, right in the heart of the city. And many of these charge an entry fee. For example, a ticket to the Acropolis including the North and South Slopes costs 20 Euros (reduced to €10 during winter, ie 1 November to 31 March. Entry to all government managed sites and museums in winter is half of what it costs during summer). For those wishing to visit the Acropolis and some of the other sites there is a multi-site ticket that costs €30 (there is no winter reduction for the special, combined ticket). The ticket is valid for five consecutive days. This ticket gives access to the Acropolis and six of the other must see archaeological sites in Athens, including the Ancient Agora, Hadrian’s Library and the Roman Agora. Read on for more details and information about buying these tickets.
Visiting Athens, I was very surprised by how cheap entry to the various archaeological sites and museums in an around the city are. Although ticket prices have raised since that visit, compared to other major European cities I still believe the price of tickets for archaeological sites and museums in Athens is very reasonable.
Tickets for the Acropolis, the one site in Athens everyone wants to see – with good reason, are €20 per person. The price is reduced by 50% during winter (1 November and 31 March). Children under 18 (with proof of ID), students and others (scroll down for the full list) pay €10 for their tickets (€5 during winter). Entry to the Acropolis not only gives you access to the Citadel (where you can see the Parthenon and the Erechtheion) but also the North and South slopes, where you will find the Odeon of Herodes Atticus and the Theatre of Dionysus – amongst other features.
If you are also going to be visiting some of the other main archaeology sites in Athens, then I recommend getting yourself a Special Package Ticket. This is an’official’ ticket – in that it is produced and sold by the Greek Ministry of Culture, the body that manages these sites. For this reason the ticket is only available for purchase at the entrance to each of the sites. Currently, it is NOT possible to buy the special ticket online. Anywhere.
The cost of the special package ticket, per person, is:
€30 for the multi-ticket, all year round (there is no winter reduction)
For €30 ticket-holders get entry to the Acropolis (the Parthenon and the Erechtheion) with its North and South Slopes, as well as some of the other main archaeological sites in Athens (such as Hadrian’s Library, the Ancient Agora, the Roman Agora, Archaeological Site of Lykeion, see full details below). The special ticket does NOT include the Acropolis Museum, or any other museum in Athens.
To make entry to the archaeological sites cheaper for local residents, the Greek government recently passed a law by which entry to all sites and museums run by the Ministry of Culture would be reduced by 50% during winter (i.e. 1 November to 31 March). This does not apply to the combined or multi-ticket, which remains €30 throughout the year. Consequently, during winter it is cheaper to buy your tickets individually at the ticket office to each site than purchase a multi-ticket.
Opening Hours for the Acropolis and other sites: During summer months the sites are open daily from 8:00 am until 20:00 pm, and between 8:OO am and 17:00 pm in the winter months.
Where to buy tickets for the Acropolis?
The main ticket office for the Acropolis is below the main entrance to the Acropolis itself (ie to the west, marked with a yellow pin on the map below). During winter months queues at the Acropolis are not big, you will probably wait at most 20 to 30 minutes at busier times and on the weekends. During summer, it is another story – so follow these tips if you want to avoid the 2-hour plus queues.
This is also where you can purchase the special package ticket. But bear in mind that the special ticket is also on sale at the entrances to each of the participating archaeology sites. So in summer, if you want to avoid the queues at the Acropolis ticket office, go to one of the other sites listed below (there are never long queues at these sites). Buy the special ticket there, you will pay the same price, ie. €30. You will then be able to enter that site and visit the Acropolis when it suits you, without having to wait in any queues. Once purchased, the multi-site ticket is valid for five days.
Buy a ticket for the Acropolis online, in advance
Although the special ticket can not be bought in advance online, for a fee you can buy a ticket online for the Acropolis in advance. This is a verified vendor, through the Get Your Guide network, so not dodgy. I would only buy this ticket a) in summer, b) if I was only visiting the Acropolis and c) if paying a fee of around seven euros is better than waiting in a long queue.
Are the City Passes Worth it?
There are a couple of city passes available. Full disclosure: I have not tried and tested any of these. But looking at the price of the tickets and the costs of the individual features of the passes, you would be hard pushed to do everything in the time allotted before you start making a savings. Because of the 50% reduction in ticket prices during winter, I would not even consider these passes from 1 November to 31 March.
More Information About the Special Ticket
A number of people qualify for a 50% reduction/free admission, so be sure to have valid ID/passport/student ID if you are:
► over 65, and Greek or EU citizen
► under 18
► teachers accompanying school groups
► accompanying a blind or disabled person
► Students of University and higher education institutes
The central portion with the photograph of the Parthenon is yours to keep. To the right of that photograph is the stub that gets you entry to the Acropolis. Notice that there are three stubs to the left of the photograph. Originally there were six (one for each of the sites listed below), but by the time I took this photograph, I had already visited three sites. These are the ticket stubs you will be required to hand over at the entry to the other sites.
If you want to visit one or more of the associated sites, and are not visiting the Acropolis, there are individual entry tickets for these sites (details below). So even if you do not intend to visit the Acropolis, but do want to visit all other sites – you would save by buying a multi-ticket. There is only one ticket for entry to the Acropolis, and that is €20 (unless you qualify for the fee ticket) – and that includes entry to the North and South Slopes of the Acropolis.
Besides the onsite museums of the Ancient Agora and the Kerameikos cemetery, none of the museums are included in this multi-ticket. But, again the entry fees to these museums is not too expensive. The Acropolis Museum for example is only €5.
Note that each of the stubs have the ticket number on it. This is what they use to check that you ticket has not passed its five day validity period. Be warned, they do check it. Do not worry about the ticket falling apart. After a few days of taking the ticket in and out of my pocket, it was in bits. Clearly, the people in the ticket booths have seen this before, and as long as you have the bits and they can compare the numbers, they seemed to be happy.
Explore More Archaeology & History Sites & Museums in Athens
Most of us are more familiar with Athens of the 5th century BC, the so-called Golden Age of Pericles. And for this reason the iconic Parthenon on the city’s acropolis is where we all head, and with good reason. Archaeological evidence, however, shows there has been continuous habitation going back to the Neolithic, the age of Europe’s first farmers. This makes Athens one of the oldest cities in Europe. With more than 6,000 years of history there is so much more to explore than the Acropolis. Byzantine churches from the 11th and 12th centuries, Ottoman Mosques and baths … See More Sites & Museums in Athens.
SITES INCLUDED IN THE SPECIAL PACKAGE TICKET
The sacred rock in the city of modern day Athens is one of the most well known archaeological sites in the World, and the most visited attraction in Athens. For ancient Athenians, it was the most important religious centre. Although occupied since the Neolithic, it was not until the 11th century BC that the Acropolis became the home of the cult of Athena. The monuments we visit today are much more recent, dating to the 5th century when Athens was at the height of its power. There are a number of religious buildings on top of the Acropolis, the most iconic of which is the Parthenon. The other well known structure is the Erechtheion.
Single Entry: €20 (reduced €10)
North & South Slope of the Acropolis
While most visitors to the Acropolis head straight for the top, there is much to see on the Northern and Southern Slopes of the Acropolis. The buildings on the slopes of the Acropolis reflect the religious and cultural importance this area had in Athens during the Archaic and Classical periods. Besides the relatively well preserved Odeon of Herodes Atticus and the Theatre of Dionysus, both slopes have a number of sanctuaries, churches and sacred caves. There are two separate entrances, the two slopes are joined by the Ancient Peripatos Street, so both the north and south slope count as a single site.
Entry to the North and South Slopes is included with entry to the Acropolis, ie €20 (reduced €10)
For Athenians, the Agora was not just a market place where they came daily to buy food and goods, it was also the political and judicial centre of the city. There are remains of many ancient temples, but it is the exceptionally well-preserved Temple of Hephaistos that catches everyone’s eye. The reason it is has survived so well is because it became a church in the 7th century AD. There are great views over the Agora to the Acropolis from the temple. The Entry to the Agora includes entry to the Museum of the Ancient Agora – housed in the restored Stoa of Attalos, which has a vast and impressive collection of artefacts.
Single Entry: €8 (reduced 4€)
Built in 132 Ad, Hadrian’s Library was a gift from the Roman Emperor Hadrian, hence its name, to the people of Athens. Hadrian was an ardent cultural Hellenophile, and he did much to leave his mark here. Today we enter the site from the west at the imposing Pentelic marble façade, with its monumental Corinthian propylon, or gateway. The library was a rectangular peristyle structure with an interior courtyard, 122 by 82 metres. The ‘library’ where the papyrus books were stored were on the eastern side. A small onsite exhibition room houses a colossal statue of Nike and some other artefacts recovered.
Single Entry: €4 (reduced €2)
Not far from the Ancient Agora is the 1st century BC Roman Agora. An inscription on site lists Augustus and Julius Caesar as donors for its construction, don’t miss this on your way in. The agora was a large courtyard surrounded by stoas, shops and other commercial buildings. Just beyond the agora, but within the boundary of the site as it is today are the remains of the public toilets and the octagonal Tower of the Winds, built for astronomical purposes housing a hydraulic clock. The tower has some exquisite carvings that depict the ‘eight winds’.
Single Entry: 8€ (reduced €4)
On the northwestern fringes of the ancient city of Athens is Kerameikos. As the name suggests this was an area that was once inhabited by potters. But it is also the site of the oldest and largest Attic cemetery. Walls surround an enormous archaeological site that has a wide range of ancient funerary monuments and structures, from a tumulus mound to family tombs and individual columns. On site, and included in the entry fee is the Archaeological Museum of Kerameikos. The museum houses the artefacts recovered from archaeological excavations, and are displayed to show the changing funerary practices in ancient Athens.
Single Entry: €8 (reduced €4)
The main attraction of the Olympieon is the colossal Temple of Olympian Zeus – one of the largest temples in the ancient world. Despite its size, you can not gaze at this monument through the fence, you have to stand at the foot of these massive columns (16 of the 104 are still standing) to appreciate just how big hey are. Beyond the area of the enormous temple are the the remains of other urban structures, including a Roman bath house, various residences, a 5th century basilica, and remnants of the city’s fortification wall. Just outside the site, next to one of the busiest streets in Athens is Hadrian’s Arch.
Single Entry: €6 (reduced €3)
The Archaeological Site of Lykeion
During recent rescue excavations the remains of an ancient palaestra were discovered. This was the legendary Gymnasium of Lykeion (Lyceum). Historical sources suggest this area was an idyllic grove, it is best known to us as the location of Aristotle’s school of philosophy. The name comes from the sanctuary of Apollo Lykeios, which was built sometime before the gymnasium. But sadly this temple was not found during the archaeological investigation of this site. For visitors today a surface area of 0.25 hectares (50 x 48 m.) has been exposed, revealing part of the palaestra where athletes trained in wrestling and boxing.
Single Entry: €4 (reduced €2)
Unless you have mobility issues, if you are relatively fit, all of the sites are within walking distance of each other. The Olympieon is the only site on the south side of the Acropolis away from the Acropolis. But, it is not that far from the Acropolis Museum – which is just opposite the entrance to the South Slopes of the Acropolis and the Theatre of Dionysios. All the other sites are to the north of the Acropolis. And all but the cemetery site of Kerameikos are close to each other. Kerameikos is not that far to walk from the Thesseio Metro Station.
Being in the centre of Athens, there are many restaurants and Cafés, as well as street vendors selling refreshments, close to the sites – and not all seem to be taking advantage of tourists.
Pressed for time? If you are relatively fit I suppose you could visit all sites in one day, but it would be a long day and a bit of a rush. But it would be a great day!
Activities, Guided Tours & Other Things to Do in Athens
While getting yourself to all of the above archaeological sites is easy and straightforward, sometimes, just sometimes a guided tour is a great idea. And of course there is so much more to see and do in Athens than this list of amazing sites. There is the obvious option of a half-day sightseeing tour of the highlights of Athens, morning or afternoon – you choose. For something really different see the Acropolis of Athens by Segway on a 2-hour tour, led by a local guide! Or experience the beauty of Athens by night with dinner and folklore show. Escape the city for a peaceful break and a luxury, day cruise with lunch. If gastronomy is your thing, treat yourself to a Greek Food and Wine Tasting, or go one step further with a Greek Cooking Class in an Athens Taverna. These are just a few of the many activities available to visitors, just have a look at this more complete list of things to do in Athens, which includes some great ideas for day-trips out of the city.
Archaeology Travel Tip
During my stay in Athens, I was a guest of the 4* Herodion Hotel. The view on to the Acropolis from the roof top terrace (on which meals are served) and bedrooms on the northern side of the hotel is any archaeology traveller’s dream! After a day walking the streets of this ancient city, getting into bed and dozing off with a light up Parthenon in sight is quite magical. The hotel is literally a stone’s throw from the Acropolis Museum, so take advantage of the late night openings. The Herodion is also ideally situated for easy, walking access to all the best sites and museums in central Athens, and the metro for those that are further away. Their in-house map of the city centre is one of the best I saw.
Recommended Guidebooks for Athens and the Acropolis
The following guidebooks for Athens and the Acropolis are available on Amazon.com (see the same set of books on Amazon.co.uk):