120 kilometers/75 miles from Athens, Mycenae (Μυκήνη in Greek) is one of the most iconic archaeological sites in the Peloponnese!
What is the history of this extraordinary ancient city? What to see and do in Mycenae? How to get there? Where to stay near the site? Follow the guide!
👉 Preparing your trip to the Peloponnese?
You’ll find detailed tips and recommendations in the Captain’s article: a Guide to the Peloponnese
Brief history of Mycenae
The legendary city of Mycenae holds a special place in Greek mythology, especially in the Homeric stories.
The city was said to have been created by Perseus and would later become the kingdom of Agamemnon, emblematic protagonist at the head of the Achaean army during the Trojan War.
Mycenae was also associated with a host of mythical characters who inspired poets, storytellers and playwrights through the centuries: Clytemnestra, Iphigenia, Electra or Orestes.
According to historians, Mycenaewas founded in the 3rd millennium BC, but that the city really reached its zenith one millennium later, in the 2nd millennium BC.
The Mycenaean civilization, who appeared around 1700 B.C., was indeed to dominate Greece during more than four centuries.
The importance of Mycenae was such that the city even gave its name to a whole period of Greek history at the end of the Bronze Age: the Mycenaean period, from 1600 to 1200 BC.
The Mycenaean civilization disappeared rather suddenly around 1100 BC: the reasons for this brutal collapse remain to this day mysterious and unknown… (earthquake, pirate attack, revolution or all three at once?)
🤔 Where did Mycenae get its wealth from? 🤔
One thing is certain: the remains discovered at Mycenae suggest that the city was incredibly wealthy!
Historians have made a number of assumptions to explain Mycenaea’s wealth:
– the city may have been created by a rich Cretan dynasty which brought its wealth to the continent when founding the city
– the city’s treasures may have been be the result of plundering in Crete or in Egypt
– the Mycenaean wealth may have been amassed slowly, over the centuries
The discovery of Mycenae
The ancient site of Mycenae was discovered by French archaeologists in 1822, but the excavations only began some fifty years later, under the direction of the German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann. Since then, the citadel has been the subject of much attention from specialists and historians!
In 1999, the archeological site of Mycenae was listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Visiting the ancient site of Mycenae
Perched on a hill to the north-east of the plain of Argos, in the Peloponnese, the archaeological site of Mycenae invites visitors to discover the extraordinary civilization that dominated Greece for nearly 4 centuries: the Mycenaean civilization.
Follow the guide!
The Lion Gate
At the entrance of the city, the Lion Gate is probably the most emblematic symbol of Mycenae.
Surmounted by a bas-relief representing two lionesses on either side of a column, this imposing door is undoubtedly reminiscent of the Cretan aesthetic. Historians indeed assume that Mycenae maintained very strong links with Crete.
Dating from around 1250 BC, the Lion Gate was the main entrance to the city. Another simpler gate, the poster gate, is also to be found to the north of the site.
The cyclopean wall
The surrounding wall, called “cyclopean” because it is made of large stone blocks, was built in 3 stages: construction began around 1300 BC and the wall was then enlarged around 1250 BC and finally around 1200 BC.
The same type of wall can be found on the neighboring Mycenaean site of Tyrinthe (listed with Mycenae as a Unesco World Heritage Site).
The Royal Palace
Unfortunately poorly preserved – according to historians it was destroyed in a fire – the royal palace was arranged around a large square room (called megaron) with four columns supporting the roof.
Located on the heights of the citadel, the palace was terraced with three rooms, including the megaron, following one another in enfilade.
The site also presents the remains of other more or less modest dwellings.
The circle of graves
In the late 19th century, German archaeologist Schliemann excavated a first circle of tombs (called circle A) inside the citadel walls, next to the Lion Gate, where he discovered pits topped by steles containing bones and rich funerary objects.
the famous mask of Agamemnon – a funerary mask gilded with gold leaf – was discovered in one of these tombs (tomb 5).
Much later, in the 1950s, a second circle of tombs was excavated (circle B). Located outside the citadel enclosure, it contains burials much older than circle A, dating back to the 16th or 17th century BC!
The Treasury of Atreus
Nine domed tombs were discovered around the citadel of Mycenae, the most famous of which is undoubtedly the Treasury of Atreus.
While these circular tombs – which are similar to beehives – are all of monumental dimension, the Treasury of Atreus, with its 14- meter ogive dome is the largest.
The Museum of Mycenae
Created in 2007, the Museum of Mycenae, located close to the archaeological site, exhibits impressive vestiges discovered on the site, among which the magnificent Mask of Agamemnon.
Captain Ulysses can only recommend exploring the museum to complete the visit of the archaeological ruins.
🤔 What about Tyrinth? 🤔
Located some 20 kilometers/12 miles from Mycenae (and only 5 kilometers/3 miles from the center of Nafplio), Tyrinth is another emblematic city of the Mycenaean civilization, also listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
While it is less impressive than the site of Mycenae, it is still worth a visit if you have the time.
Getting to Mycenae
Driving to Mycenae
Located 120 kilometers/75 miles from Athens and 25 kilometers/15 miles from Nafplio, Mycenae is quite easy to drive to. You’ll get to the ancient site in
1,5 hr or so. On the way, the Captain recommends stopping at the Corinth Canal and the theater of Epidaurus.
🚘 Visiting the Peloponnese by car 🚘
If you’re planning on exploring the Peloponnese on your own, Captain Ulysses strongly recommends renting a car: it is by far the most practical way to get around the peninsula. Not to mention that car rental in Greece is on the whole very cheap!
To find THE best deal, the Captain recommends Rentalcars, which compares offers from a host of rental services.
One last piece of advice: the Peloponnese is crisscrossed with small mountainous roads, so you should definitely opt for a fuel-efficient car, even if it is a little more expensive to rent!
Getting the bus to Mycenae
The buses shuttling between Athens and Nafplio stop in Mycenae. It is not the most convenient or fastest option to reach the site, but it is undeniably cheap.
For more information on schedules and fares, please visit the bus company’s website.
Day trips to Mycenae
If you are staying in Athens and want to explore the Peloponnese from the capital, the Captain advises opting for a day trip.
Captain Ulysses recommends two day-trips in particular:
- From Athens: Bus Trip to Mycenae, Epidaurus & Nafplio
- From Athens: Mycenae, Epidaurus & Nafplio Private Tour
🚐 Multi-day tours in the Peloponnese 🚐
To discover the emblematic landmarks of the Peloponnese without having to worry about organizing your trip, the Captain recommends opting for a multi-day trip. Transportation, hotel stays, the services of a guide and entrance fees to tourist sites are all included. More info here.
Opening times of the ancient site of Mycenae
The archaeological site of Mycenae is open every day of the year except January1st, March 25, May1st, Easter Sunday, December 25 and 26.
Schedules vary depending on the time of year:
|From November 1 to March 31||8:30 am – 3:30 pm|
|From April 1 to August 31||8am – 8pm|
|From September 1 to September 15||8:30am – 7:30pm|
|From September 16 to September 30||8am – 7pm|
|From October 1 to October 14||8am – 4:30pm|
|From October 15 to October 31||8am – 5pm|
Entrance ticket to the ancient site of Mycenae
The entrance ticket is valid for the archaeological site and the museum. Rates vary depending on the time of year:
|From April 1 to October 31||Full price : 12 €. Reduced rate : 6 €.|
|From November 1 to March 31||Single price : 6 €.|
Admission is free for European citizens under 25 years of age and non-European children under 5 years of age.
Staying near Mycenae
If you wish to stay near Mycenae, the Captain suggests staying:
- either in Archea Epidavros, near Epidaurus
- or in Nafplio
Looking for tips and recommendations? Here are all of Captain Ulysses’ suggestions in the Peloponnese!
🛏️ Accommodation: to book your accommodations in the Peloponnese, Captain Ulysses highly recommends Booking.com. From youth hostel to luxury boutique hotel: there’s plenty to choose from!
🎟️ Activities: monuments, guided tours, sports activities, boat tours, excursions… To book your activities in advance, the Captain recommends two trusted sites: GetYourGuide and Civitatis.
🚌 Local transportation: to get around the Peloponnese, Captain Ulysses can only recommend renting a car. He suggests renting your car on Rentalcars, which compares offers from a host of brands, including Hertz, Avis, Europcar and trusted local agencies.
If you prefer to avoid driving, GetYourGuide and Civitatis offer a selection of day-trips in the Peloponnese.
✈️ Flights: to book your flights to Greece, Captain Ulysses warmly recommends the Skyscanner comparator. You’ll be able to compare countless offers to find the best deal. If your dates are flexible, you can also compare prices over several months to find the cheapest flights possible.
👉 Book your tours and activities in Greece!
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