Visit Mycenae, one of the most important ancient Greek sites

La Porte des Lionnes

Would you like to discover this exceptional ancient city? Follow our guide to Mycenae, a treasure trove of ancient Greek heritage!

An ancient pre-Hellenic Bronze Age city, Mycenae is situated on a hill between the Profitis Ilias and Zara mountains. It lies to the northeast of the plain of Argos, in the Peloponnese.

A Unesco World Heritage site, the city is surrounded by fortifications made of Cyclopean walls, an assemblage of huge stone blocks.

If you’re coming to Greece, you really must visit Mycenae during your stay! It’s one of the most important ancient sites in Greece and on the continent. Would you like to discover it soon? Then follow our comprehensive guide to Mycenae.

The city of Agamemnon, leader of the Achaeans during the Trojan War

La cité antique de Mycènes

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Aerial-motion

The ancient city of Mycenae lies at the heart not only of Greek mythology, but also of the continent’s civilizational history. According to mythology, it was founded by Perseus following the accidental homicide of the king of Argos, Acrisios.

Having ceded the latter city to the nephew of the deceased, Perseus left to found a new city: Mycenae. The name is thought to be an allusion to the pommel of his sword or the mushroom he discovered there.

Perseus then asked the Cyclops, the superhuman giants who built Tirynthe, to build the city walls. For the classical Greeks, the large stone blocks used could only have been assembled by these giants, hence the name Cyclopean walls!

In the Homeric story, Mycenae is also the kingdom of Agamemnon, leader of the Achaeans during the Trojan War. Homer describes the city as rich in gold and important to the goddess Hera.

During the 2nd millennium BC, Mycenae was a major hub of mainland Greece. Together with neighboring cities, it formed the « Mycenaean » civilization. It reached its apogee between the 14th and 13th centuries BC.

But the mighty city, like the rest of the Mycenaean civilization, showed signs of destruction between the late 13th and early 11th centuries BC. The causes are still debated among experts: foreign invasions, earthquakes, fires or internal conflicts, or several intertwined?

In all cases, Mycenae became a minor city. Its fortifications were even destroyed after Argos sacked the city in 468 BC.

What to see and do in Mycenae

Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999, Mycenae is a major site in ancient Greece and Europe. Known since antiquity, the ruins of Mycenae were described by Pausanias in the 2nd century AD.

The first excavations took place in 1841 and the site has been studied in detail since 1876. Many small archaeological wonders can be discovered when visiting this ancient city.

The Lioness Gate and the Cyclopean wall

La Porte des Lionnes

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Irina Rogova

A major hub of mainland Greece in the 2nd millennium BC, the fortified walls of Mycenae protect the ancient city. It is composed of massive stone blocks, which have given the fortifications their name of « Cyclopean walls ». These fortifications are characteristic of the Mycenaean civilization and are the best preserved.

There are two entrances to the citadel. The Lioness Gate is the main entrance to the ancient citadel of Mycenae. It was built in the 13th century B.C. on the north-western side of the acropolis. It takes its name from the sculpture of two lionesses in heraldic pose. These are placed on the pediment above the entrance.

The Lioness Gate is a wonderful example of monumental sculpture from the Mycenaean civilization. It is the only monument from the Greek Bronze Age to depict an animal that survived unburied.

Grave circles

Les tombes à fosse de Mycènes

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Georgios Tsichlis

Once through the Lioness Gate, you enter the citadel of Mycenae. Inside two circles in the acropolis, archaeologists have discovered numerous royal tombs.

These two large circles, A and B, contain several pit tombs. They are surmounted by a slab or stele sculpted in bas-relief or flat. They also contain a wealth of funerary material.

Inside, terracotta figurines, ceramics, gold masks and jewelry were found. These Mycenaean masks retain the features of the great heroes of the dead, thanks to gold leaf casting. The most famous is the mask of Agamemnon, found in tomb V in circle A.

The royal palace

Le palais royal de Mycènes

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Dimitrina Lavchieva

A final must-see site in the citadel is the royal palace. Accessible via a steep path, it stands at the highest point. Unfortunately, it was destroyed by fire.

This royal palace stands on a terrace in the heart of the enclosure, according to a tripartite plan typical of Mycenaean palaces. It once dominated the citadel’s other buildings, notably the large residential houses along the ramparts.

The Treasure of Atreus

Le Trésor d'Atrée

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Karl Allen Lugmayer

Outside the fortified enclosure, archaeologists discovered nine large monumental tombs with domes. Shaped like beehives, they were built using the corbelling technique.

The most impressive is the so-called « Treasure of Atreus ». It was named by Heinrich Schliemann, a 19th-century German archaeologist. Schliemann devoted his life to the search for treasures throughout Greece. In 1874, he excavated Mycenae in great detail. His great obsession was to discover Troy and prove the existence of Agamemnon, the legendary king of Mycenae.

According to some, the Treasure of Atreus is Agamemnon’s true tomb, not least because of its dimensions. Although, like the others, it is preceded by a long open-air corridor and accessed through a monumental doorway, the corridor is 36 meters long and 6 meters wide! It is also surmounted by an enormous lintel. The dome of the burial chamber rises to a height of 14 metres. Don’t miss a visit!

Mycenae Archaeological Museum

Le musée archéologique de Mycènes

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Anton_Ivanov

Before you leave the ancient site, there’s one more place you must visit: the Mycenae Archaeological Museum! You can’t visit Mycenae in its entirety without taking a tour.

Located at the foot of the ancient citadel, it houses artefacts dating back to the Bronze Age. They were obviously found on the archaeological site, but also in the surrounding area.

Here you’ll find objects discovered during the excavations, including those from the various tombs in Circles A and B. Copies of weapons and bowls, ceramics and frescoes are also on display.

Unfortunately, one of the major pieces from the ancient site, the « Mask of Agamemnon », is now in the National Archaeological Museum inAthens.

How to visit Mycenae

As an ancient site, Mycenae can only be visited on foot. However, there are two options for organizing this cultural discovery.

You can opt for a guided tour from Athens, often combined with other historic sites, or a visit directly on site, guided or on your own. In the latter case, we recommend staying in Argos, a charming historic town close to Mycenae.

An excursion from Athens

La cité antique de Mycènes

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Irina Rogova

  • Price: €90 on average
  • Activity highlights: transport included from the capital, discovery of other ancient sites

Numerous guided excursions depart from Athens to Mycenae. These tours frequently include other sites in the Peloponnese, such as the incredible site ofEpidaurus. These tours usually last a full day. You’ll be transported in an air-conditioned bus or minibus.

A professional guide will also accompany you for the day. You’ll visit Mycenae and learn more about its history, mythology and the discoveries made by archaeologists.

A walking tour of the site

Visite à pied de Mycènes

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Benny Marty

  • Price: €12 full price, €6 concessions
  • Bonus of the activity: autonomy during your visit

Of course, you can visit Mycenae without a guide. You can also find audio guides online, or hire local guides.

As for opening times, the site is open from 8am to 5pm in November and December. From January to March, it opens only until 3.30pm. In April, it’s open from 8am to 7pm. From May to August, you can visit Mycenae from 8am to 8pm. Every two weeks until the end of October, the closing time is reduced by half an hour.

Opening times may also vary on public holidays. The site is also closed on January 1, March 25, May 1, Easter Sunday and December 25 and 26.

How to get to Mycenae

By car

You can visit Mycenae from Athens by car. The journey takes 1h30. From Athens, take the A8 freeway towards Corinth. Once over the canal, take the exit for Nemea/Nafplio/Mycenae. Before Nemea, exit and follow the road to Mykines. To reach Argos, you can follow the same route.

By bus

You can also visit Mycenae by public transport. There are bus routes between Athens and Argos. Once in Argos, you can also take a bus to Mycenae to discover the ancient site. During the summer months, there are several departures a day.

From Athens, there are no direct bus routes to Mycenae. So it’s best to opt for a guided tour if you don’t want to spend one or more nights in Argos.

Are combined tours available?

La porte nord du palais de Mycènes

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Andronos Haris

A visit to the ancient city of Mycenae is often combined with a visit to other emblematic sites in the Peloponnese region. You can book a number of guided excursions from Athens, lasting one or more days. These include visits to Mycenae, Epidaurus, Corinth, Nafplio and Argos.

These excursions usually last a full day, but some extend over several days. Depending on the tour and duration, you should expect to pay an average of around 100 euros for a guided tour from Athens.

We recommend this type of combined tour if you want to discover all these ancient sites during your stay. You won’t have to worry about transportation from Athens. You also won’t have to rent a car. But expect a quick visit to each site.

Good addresses in Mycenae

To make your visit to Mycenae a memorable experience from start to finish, Generation Voyage has come up with a few good addresses to make your visit unforgettable!

As far as accommodation is concerned, you can stay near Mycenae and visit the ancient site and surrounding area at your leisure. Alternatively, you can stay in Athens and take a guided day trip with transport to discover the city.

To find your ideal accommodation, we recommend in particular using a hotel comparator such as Booking or the Airbnb platform. If you’d like to stay close to Mycenae, we suggest two accommodations in nearby Argos that may be just what you’re looking for.

Where to stay in Mycenae

If you want to stay near Mycenae, you’ll probably have to stop off in Argos, less than 20 minutes from the ancient site.

Palladion Boutique Hotel
Palladion Boutique Hotel

Photo credit: Booking

The two-star Palladion Boutique Hotel is located in the central square of Argos town. The comfortable rooms are individually decorated and open onto balconies. They feature everything you need for a pleasant stay near Mycenae.

The establishment also offers free private parking and a wide range of massage services. A Turkish bath is also available. We can only recommend it for your stay in Argos and the Peloponnese.

Apollon Hotel
Hôtel Apollon Argos

Photo credit: Booking

The Apollon Hotel is also located in the center of Argos, a city in the heart of the Peloponnese. The hotel offers air-conditioned rooms with balcony. Decorated with care, they feature pastel colors, attractive furnishings and tiled floors.

The hotel also features a restaurant, a charming lounge area and free private parking. The hotel also offers car rental services to help you with your adventures in the region.

The best restaurants in Mycenae

Near the tourist site of Mycenae, you’ll find numerous restaurants where you can have lunch. One of these is Melina’s Taverna Restaurant, located in the village of Mykines, at the foot of the ancient city. The dishes are generally hearty and delicious, and the atmosphere is peaceful.

We also recommend the Taberna Dimitris or the Agamemnon Pallas restaurant. In any case, you’ll find plenty of places to eat at the foot of Mycenae.