Greece’s Acropolis is overrun, and visitors are sweltering in the heat. Here’s the plan to address it

Anyone with plans to visit Greece this summer is going to find a few changes to the entry system at the country’s most popular tourist attraction.

The ancient site of the Acropolis in Athens now attracts almost 17,000 visitors daily – a number that is, astonishingly, 70% higher than last summer. As a result, authorities in Greece are rushing through new measures to protect the site and the welfare of visitors, many of whom have stood in the entry line the past week in blistering temperatures and relentless sun.

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Temperatures hit highs of 109°F (43°C) this week, with the heat wave set to continue for at least six more days. Sun shades will be installed before the weekend, authorities say, to protect visitors in endless queues on the hill approaching the site.  

Red Cross workers distributing bottles of water to visitors outside the Acropolis in Athens © Angelos Tzortzinis /AFP via Getty Images

The Red Cross is also monitoring the situation and is on site distributing water and attending to visitors suffering from heat exhaustion.  

New crowd-control measures at the Acropolis 

Starting at the end of July, the country’s Ministry of Culture is set to implement an hourly time slot or “visitor zone” system for those with pre-purchased online tickets. This new measure will be introduced along with electronic scanning of tickets for speedier access, as will separate entry points for large organized tour groups.

Cruise ships account for a high percentage of visitors to the Acropolis, with ships docking for an average of nine hours in the port of Piraeus. Thousands of fresh passengers arrive daily eager to experience Athens’ number-one visitor attraction during their very short time in the city. 

The overcrowding situation has raised alarms with Unesco, which has expressed concern about the structural preservation of the Acropolis, listed as a world heritage site since 1987.  “The wait and the amount of people that are here is definitely overwhelming,” a customer services operator told AFP. World Heritage Watch, a non-governmental organization which supports Unesco in protecting and safeguarding sites of international value, noted that the Acropolis currently lacks visitor management plans required under the UN watchdog’s World Heritage Convention, to which Greece is a signatory.

The site, which dates to 4000–3000 BCE, served as a fortress during the Neolithic period and later as a place of worship dedicated to the goddess Athena. In July 2019 the site was closed on a number of days due to extreme heat, when temperatures hit 96˚F (35.6˚C). With much of mainland Europe in the grip of a heatwave, anyone with plans to visit the Acropolis over the coming week, should keep a watch out for any news of closures.

Tourists queue at Propylaia, the monument’s ancient gate at the Acropolis in July 2023  © Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP via Getty Images

Despina Savvidou, co-founder of Athens Walking Tours who visits the Acropolis many times each week with tour groups, welcomes the new changes.   “The new regulations will undoubtedly contribute to alleviating the challenges. Separate entrances for groups and the implementation of time slots, as seen in many renowned monuments worldwide, will allow better planning and control.”

A cap on ticket sales is also something she thinks will help.  “Authorities will block specific days or times when visitor capacity is reached. However, it is essential that adjustments can be made in situations such as extreme weather conditions.”

7 tips for visiting the Acropolis this summer

Buy tickets in advance
Make sure to take advantage of discounts on offer for students and anyone under 25 from EU countries. There are many sites selling tickets and combo tickets, but entry for one adult is  Be aware that the ticket office on site  doesn’t accept cards, only cash.

Consider visiting on Saturday
This is cruise turnover day, which means crowds are significantly lower.  

Be patient and flexible
Time your visit well. “Aim to visit before 11 am or after 5 pm,” advises Despina. Most people right now try to avoid the heat by visiting the Acropolis early in the morning but this is leading to waiting times at security lines. The site opens at 8 am and lengthy crowds are already forming at that stage. 

Remember to cover up
There is little shade at the site, so bring a hat and wear plenty of sun protection. Comfortable, rubber-soled, closed shoes are a must, as the stone and marble ground is uneven, slippery and hot. According to official dress-code guidelines, shoulders and knees must be covered.

Capture the Parthenon on Acropolis Hill during the early evening © Shutterstock

Bring as much water as you can carry
Once inside the site, there is nowhere to buy water (the kiosk just outside sells small bottles of water for €4.95, but often sells out). The new culture minister has said she is making it a priority to have water stations inside the site – but for now, come prepared.

Research ahead of your visit
Read up as much as you can before visiting, or watch a meaty documentary, to enhance your time at the Acropolis. The audio guides provided at the site can be glitchy, so be sure to bring your Lonely Planet Greece guide, and/or have our online content queued up. Opting for a guided tour is also a good option.  Experienced licensed guides like Despina will lead you to the most significant parts of the iconic landmark, minimizing time spent under the sun. Also make time for the Acropolis Museum, at the foot of the southern slope, which will give you great context for the marble structures you see on the hill. 

Important: find a good rooftop bar.
When evening comes, the monument is illuminated and visible across Athens. If you have the right vantage point come sunset, that is.


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