Last updated on May 22nd, 2020 at 04:02 pm
Athens doesn’t need to be expensive if you are on a budget. Here are a few tips on how to see Ancient Athens for free!
How to see Athens on a budget
Although the monuments of Ancient Athens are definitely worth the 30 euro entrance fee for the combined ticket some people may not want to spend that money.
Fortunately, there are ways to see Athens for free. Although you may not actually be able to go inside many of the main attractions, the majesty of landmarks such as the Acropolis or Panathenaic Stadium can be appreciated from the outside.
Note: There are some free entrance days each year to the monuments and museums in Athens. You can check out our guide here to free museums in Athens.
So, if you are prepared to walk a lot and see things from a distance, it is possible to enjoy the ancient monuments for free. Here’s how.
A walking route to see Ancient Athens for free
In our opinion, the best way to explore a city is on foot. And there is no pedestrian street in Athens as magnificent as the street stretching between Acropolis metro and Thisseio metro.
This street was pedestrianised in 2004, a while before the Olympic Games. A welcome infrastructure development in Athens!
There are very few places in the world when you can walk in the centre of a city and be surrounded by ancient monuments, trees, locals, visitors, street artists and street vendors.
The Athens walking route follows along Dionysiou Areopagitou and Apostolou Pavlou Pedestrian Streets.
This is what you can expect to see along the way, starting from Acropolis metro station and finishing at Kerameikos.
Points highlighted in purple are free, and those marked in red require a ticket. We have also marked in blue other points of interest that are free of charge.
Ancient Athens for free – A walking map of Athens
- Behind you, you can see the Temple of Zeus (ticket needed) and Hadrian’s Arch (free)
- Walking on, you will soon see the Acropolis Museum (ticket needed) to your left
- In a few minutes, you will see the Dionysus theatre (ticket needed) to your right
- If you look up, you can see the Acropolis (ticket needed) on top of the hill to your right
- Walk on, and you will see the Herodion theatre (open only for performances in summer and autumn) on your right hand side
- To your left, you can see Philopappou Hill (free) and Pnyx Hill (free)
- Continue, and you will soon see a road leading to Areopagus Hill (free), to your right
- Walk on, and you will see the Ancient Agora (ticket needed), to your right
- Walk for a few more minutes, and you will see Thisseio metro on your left
- Turn left, and in a few minutes you can see the Kerameikos ancient site (ticket needed). You can admire the site from the outside. The nearest metro stations are Thisseio and Kerameikos.
Ancient Athens for free – The sites
Here’s a description of some of the sites you see when following the walking map of Athens.
1. Arch of Hadrian / Hadrian’s Gate
This huge gateway is located alongside a modern avenue. It was built in honour of the Roman emperor Hadrian, in 131 AD. It is entirely made of pentelic marble, and is very well preserved.
Tip: If you stand near the arch of Hadrian, you can’t miss the Temple of Zeus nearby!
2. Philoppapou Hill (Filopappou Hill) or Muses Hill
This amazing green area right in the centre of Athens, is very popular with locals and visitors alike. You will see locals walking their dogs and strolling up to the top, and visitors taking pictures of the Acropolis.
The Hill is best known as Philopappou Hill, named after the prince Philopappos, who was of Syrian descent and died in Athens in 116 AD.
To honour his memory, the citizens of Athens built a grand marble tomb monument on the top of the Hill, which still stands in great condition.
The famous Greek philosopher Socrate’s prison is said to have been somewhere on Philopappou Hill. The exact location is probably not certain.
If you are visiting in summer, you can consider checking out a performance in Dora Stratou Theatre.
Tip: Do not forget your camera, as Philopappou Hill offers some of the best views of the Acropolis!
3. Pnyx or Hill of the Nymphs
Right next to Philopappou Hill, you can find another hill with the rather unusual name “Pnyx”. This is one of the most important places in ancient Greece.
Pnyx is the place where the Athenians gathered to host their popular assemblies (ekklesia), after political power was transferred to the citizens, towards the end of the 6th century BC. At that time, the Pnyx was right outside the city borders.
All the important Greek politicians, statesmen and speakers that you may have heard of, such as Pericles, Aristides and Demosthenes, once delivered a speech on the Pnyx.
This is where all important political decisions were taken. Any Athenian citizen had the right to speak during an assembly – at least in theory.
If you are visiting Pnyx Hill on your walking route to see Ancient Athens for free, you can also visit the National Observatory of Athens.
Tip: While on the Pnyx, you can pack a picnic and enjoy the amazing views!
4. Areopagus Hill or Areios Pagos
Areopagus Hill, also known as “the Rock”, is a large rock very close to the Acropolis.
In the ancient times, it served as a court, where homicide trials took place. According to some historians, trials only took place after dark, and never on full moon nights, because murderers were considered to be unholy, and the judges and audience should not be polluted by their sight.
In 51 AD, Apostle Paul delivered his famous speech on the Areopagus.
The Rock offers an excellent view of the Acropolis and the surrounding area, and is lovely at absolutely any time of the day.
Our favourite time to be there is probably around sunset, when Acropolis is being lit up, or even at night. Then again, the view is amazing first thing in the morning!
Tips: You can climb up the hill on either the ancient rocks, or the modern metal stairs. We strongly suggest wearing comfortable shoes, as they can both be very slippery!
Free admission days
Finally, if you happen to be in Greece on certain days of the year, you may visit the ancient sites in Athens for free. Be prepared, however, to meet plenty of other people who had the same idea!
You can visit the sites of Ancient Athens for free on the following dates:
- 6 March – In memory of Melina Mercouri, who was Minister of Culture in the 80s and 90s
- 18 April – International Monuments Day
- 18 May – International Museums Day
- The last weekend of September – European Heritage Days
- 28 October – The “Ochi” public holiday
- Every first Sunday in November, December, January, February and March
If you are lucky enough to be an EU student, or you are under 18 years of age, you can also visit the monuments for free, with a valid student ID.
If you have any questions about seeing Ancient Athens for free, you can leave a comment below!
More Athens guides
You might also be interested in these other travel guides to Athens.
- Ancient Athens – Combined Ticket For The Archaeological Sites Of Athens
- Free things to do in Athens
- Athens pedestrian friendly approach
- Street art in Athens – A guide to the best Athens street art
- Our favourite museums in Athens
- Ten things you should know about Greece
- Athens Walking Tours With A Local
- How to use the Athens metro