How fascinating it is to leave for an adventure in such a mighty city and be able to plunge into its different periods of history. In a cultural or historical aspect Athens seems to have very few rivals.
You’ll be able to wander around Greek or Roman ruins, following the steps of local inhabitants living here dozens of centuries ago. Time stops, and you have an impression of entering the pages of history books. On top of that, Athens succeeds in finding a good compromise by shifting to urbanism without losing its folklore - and the city’s famous districts will leave you with no doubt about it.
Which season to choose and which to avoid?
High season in Athens is from May to October, with a particular peak in July and August.
The lowest number of visitors arrives in January and February, that’s the best period to avoid crowds - you may even sometimes get the impression you’re alone at Acropolis.
Spring is the best time in terms of crowds/weather ratio: with the Mediterranean climate, it’s warm with a lot of sunshine. The closer the summer is - the more crowded it becomes. April is probably the best month, with the temperatures rising up to 19°C and a moderate number of visitors in the city.
Beware that Easter Week attracts big crowds, but that’s a very unique spiritual period you may want to see despite higher visitation numbers: many rites and traditions differ as Greece is an Orthodox country. Check the Orthodox Easter dates, as they are usually different from the Catholic ones.
Fall period is slightly worse for visiting Athens (and Acropolis particularly) than spring: there are more visitors and it rains more often. November would be a good option, as there are no crowds left in the city. You may consider coming at the end of October - beginning of November to see one of the main Greek holidays - the Ohi Day (October 28), when most public buildings and residences are decorated with Greek flags, and military and student parades are held.
Photo credits to Tilemahos Efthimiadis via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Being a number one site in Athens, the Acropolis and its museum attract the biggest crowds in the city. Those are the two sites you should carefully plan your visit to. For the rest of the city museums and sites, crowds are usually moderate with waiting seldom exceeding 10 minutes.
The museum’s visitors flow remain more or less the same throughout high season: you’ll see about 3-4 times more tourists compared to the calmer months. It doesn’t work the same for Acropolis: on an August day there will be statistically 10-12 times more people than in January!
During peak season the main problem in Athens is the heat. It may be unbearable to stay in the sun, and Acropolis is an outdoor site. The best way to kill two birds with one stone (avoid heat and crowds) is to arrive right at the opening time (or even 10 minutes before) to be one of the first visitors.
Photo credits to brownpau via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Acropolis crowds in summer depend a lot on cruise timetables: a huge number of Greek capital’s visitors arrive for a one-day trip with a cruise and leave the same day. Usually they do the Acropolis first thing in the morning or, in rare cases, early afternoon. Most of them turn back to the ships at about 3-5 pm. So if you didn’t manage to get up early enough to be at Acropolis for the opening - you may try your luck at the end of the day. Beware to check the opening hours on the official website and come about 1,5-2 hours before it closes in order to have enough time.
Tip: If the crowds become annoying - head to the Museum of the Ancient Agora, which is very interesting and never crowded.
Tip 2: During off-peak season (November to April) there’s no need to arrive that early: prefer the 9-11am time slot to explore the site at your own pace or a sunny mid-afternoon for a more pleasant experience.
If you’re coming during summer or September - you would probably prefer visiting the Acropolis museum in late morning or early afternoon, to stay out of the heat. That’s not the best solution in terms of crowds (those are peak hours), but probably worth doing for your personal comfort. The Museum’s cafeteria is a nice place to have lunch. The smallest crowds in the museum are either early in the morning (before 10 am) or late in the afternoon.
If your trip dates fall on a Friday - you could visit the Acropolis Museum during extended opening hours. That’s the best moment! Friday evenings, especially in low season, is when the museum’s attendance is very low. Arrive after 4-5pm, try to join the evening gallery talk at 6 pm (highlighting the major masterpieces in the Acropolis Museum) and stay for a dinner in the museum’s restaurant with an amazing view over Acropolis (open until midnight on Fridays, booking recommended).
Once inside the museum, prefer exploring it from top to bottom (the opposite way to the majority’s itinerary). You’ll see the Parthenon gallery first. Great if you visit the museum in the morning, this will allow you to get to this Gallery well before it gets packed. It is the best part of the museum, and it has a view of the Acropolis. It would be a pity if you discovered this gallery at the end, already too tired to fully appreciate its beauty.
The Archaic Gallery on the second floor is another must-see part of the Acropolis Museum. Be sure not to miss this gallery - one of the most beautiful sculpture galleries in Europe!
Photo credits to Dave Tucker via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
If you have enough energy left after - get back to the galleries you’ve passed to explore the finds from the slopes of the Acropolis and learn more about its history.
Tip: The longest queues for the museum tend to form from 10:00 to 13:00. You might want to consider buying your ticket online on the official website to avoid queuing.
Tip 2: we suggest you don’t wear skirts, tunics or dresses for your own comfort, as some of the floors are transparent, giving a full view to visitors on the floor below you!
Everywhere else in the city queues are rare, and you can always avoid them by coming either early or an hour or two before the closing time. Here’s our choice of Athens’ museums:
Open on Monday from 1pm to 8pm, from Tuesday to Friday from 9am to 8pm and Saturday and Sunday from 9am to 4pm. The best moment to visit is before closing time.
Extended hours on Thursdays (till 8 pm), closed on Tuesdays.
This museum has two entrances:
There is an internal connection between the buildings. In case you find a queue at the ticket office - check the other entrance, there may be no queue at all! Admission fee includes same day admission to both wings.
This museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 9am to 4pm.
There’s no city pass for the Greek capital. But you won’t really need it! The prices are very low compared to other European cities. The most expensive ticket - for Acropolis - costs €20 and also gives access to Ancient Agora of Athens, Archaeological Museum of Kerameikos, Hadrian’s Library, Kerameikos, Museum of the Ancient Agora, North slope of Acropolis, Olympieio, Roman Agora of Athens, South Slope of Acropolis. If you’re a student or under 18 - you may have the right to reduced ticket rates or free admission almost everywhere. And in order to avoid queues and crowds it will be enough just to follow our tips!
We’re waiting for your postcards and καλό ταξίδι (have a great trip)!