The Acropolis is an incredible and unmissable part of a visit to Athens but it is also absurdly crowded, hot and exhausting and can be overwhelming. It helps to be prepared, especially if you have kids with you.
Here’s a combination of things that were either helpful to know (or would have been helpful if only we’d known)…..
i) Current guidebooks and any online sites that haven’t been recently updated, will only have the old information on booking Acropolis tickets. Be aware that from July, 2023, a new system was introduced and you now need to book a specific time slot. Early morning slots are especially good as you can avoid the real heat in the middle of the day.
ii) Buying the combo ticket (€30) is excellent value. It lasts for 5 days and includes entry to seven ancient sites. Entry to the Acropolis on its own is €20 so if its your first time to Athens, it makes sense to buy it (unless you’re here in winter when many sites are half price). We didn’t visit all 7 of the sites but we more than got our money’s worth - very pleased we did this.
iii) Don’t make my mistake and try to cram the Acropolis and Ancient Agora in same day - it was serious overload and we didn’t the Agora justice because we were ancient-ed out.
iv) There are two entry points. Its not a make or break decision. We used the south gate (opposite the Acropolis Museum) simply because it was only 5 mins from our hotel. The advantage is that it's not the main gate so the queue is smaller. The disadvantage is that it’s an uphill walk, around past pass the Theatre of Dionysus and the Odeon, to reach the Acropolis stairs.
v) Climbing the Acropolis stairs, through the Propylaea gateway is not for the faint-hearted. This is where you can get seriously hot and bothered. We were pushed and jostled along in a sea of people. There’s no queue or line - people just swarm in and push their way to the top. Hang in there because once you actually get to the top, it all opens up and becomes a sprawling area with plenty of space.
vi) The crowds make it really easy to overlook the lovely little Temple Athena Nike as you climb the Acropolis stairs. It’s high up on your right hand side.
vii) Bring plenty of water, hat and sunscreen. In summer, it gets so hot and it so very exposed up on the Acropolis, with no reprieve from the sun. We saw one man selling bottled water behind the Parthenon but otherwise there was nothing.
viii) The don’t-miss highlights include the Parthenon, the Erechtheion, The Theatre of Dionysus and the Herod Atticus Odeon. Miss any one of these and you’ll be disappointed.
ix) Toilets do exist but are hidden away. We found a security guard who directed us to them.
x) Wear flat, comfortable shoes with grip because the stony area around the Parthenon is quite slippery. I saw several people slip and it will wreck your day it you twist an ankle. The tricky thing is it doesn’t look slippery but because the marble’s been worn smooth by centuries of people walking over it, you can easily lose your footing.
xi) They don’t give out maps or information at the ticket desk so if you’re not on a guided tour then bring a guide book, or download a map and information beforehand. At the very least stop at the information board near the entry gate and take a photo of the map there.