Acropolis’ New Rules to Curb Overtourism

The familiar scene of tourists in Athens languishing in long lines under the sun, eagerly waiting to visit the Acropolis, will soon be a relic of the past. This is thanks to a novel entry system that is designed to cap daily visitor numbers and manage the flow of tourists. The new measure comes amid concerns of overcrowding and potential damage to the UNESCO World Heritage site. In the summer of 2023, up to 23,000 visitors visited the Acropolis on a daily basis, often leading to delays and overcrowding, especially with large groups visiting before noon.

As such, the daily visitor maximum at the Athens Acropolis has been set at 20,000 people. To further manage the influx of tourists, staggered entry times have been implemented. Under the new system, visitors will be allowed entry at different times throughout the day, with a maximum of 3,000 people allowed entry from 8 AM to 9 AM, 2,000 during the next hour, and varying numbers across the rest of the day. This approach aims to distribute the foot traffic more evenly, since half of the Acropolis' visitors currently arrive between 8 AM and 12 AM.

Timeline and rollout: When will the new Acropolis visiting hours come into effect?

The new entry limits, which came into effect on September 4th for a trial period, could become permanent starting in April 2024. Visitors are required to book a time slot in advance through the official Acropolis website. While there will be no time limit on visits, people who come with guided tours or from cruise ships, who account for about 50% of the daily visitor count, typically spend an average of 45 minutes exploring the archeological site.

A new era at the Acropolis: Why the change in visiting policy now?

Greece's Culture Minister Lina Mendoni emphasized the importance of these measures both to protect the Acropolis, as well as to enhance the visitor experience. In a radio interview, Mendoni stated that while tourism is desirable for the country, it is crucial to find a balance where excessive tourism does not harm the monument. The new measures are seen as a way to protect the monument and improve the overall experience for visitors.

This initiative reflects a broader trend across Europe and other parts of the world, where cultural sites and museums are implementing similar policies to curb overtourism. These efforts aim to preserve the sanctity of these sites and protect them from irreparable damage, a concern that has been heightened following a post-pandemic travel surge.