Mycenae is an important archaeological site in Greece which was once the city at the centre of the Mycenaean civilisation (c.1600 BC – 1100 BC).
Believed to have been inhabited since Neolithic times, Mycenae flourished into a fortified city and was ruled at one time by the famous King Agamemnon.
At its peak, Mycenae was one of the most important cities in Ancient Greece and is linked to several works of cultural significance, including the Odyssey and the Iliad. Today, Mycenae contains several well-preserved sites, including the Lion’s Gate and the North Gate, which form parts of its fortified walls and which once stood 18 metres high and 6 to 8 metres thick. The walls, made of huge limestone boulders, are characteristic of the Cyclopean masonry that the Mycenaeans used to construct their wall circuits. Another example can be seen at the nearby site of Tiryns.
A few other dwellings can also be seen at Mycenae, together with a granary and some guard rooms. Other important structures include Mycenae’s Terraced Palace, which was abandoned in the 12th century, the religious structures which comprise several shrines and temples, a large underground cistern and the grave sites, which date back throughout Mycenae’s history.
The most impressive of the burial sites and arguably the most remarkable of Mycenae’s sites is the Tomb of Agamemnon, also known as the Treasury of Atreus. This once elaborate 13th century BC tomb is carved into Mycenae’s hills.
There is also the Tomb of Clytemnestra, another monumental tholos-like tomb constructed in c.1200 BC.
The site of Mycenae was famously excavated by German businessman Heinrich Schliemann in the 19th century. It was Schliemann and his team who excavated Grave Circle A, situated in the bottom right hand corner of the citadel. Skeletons and more regal gold was discovered in the shaft graves, including the ‘Mask of Agamemnon’. Unfortunately for Schliemann, more recent archaeological study of this gold face mask suggests it dates to c.1600 BC, several centuries before the Trojan War.
Mycenae was made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999, along with the nearby site of Tiryns. The closely connected history of Tiryns and Mycenae make them ideal locations to visit in succession. Many of the most famous discoveries made at Mycenae, including the golden face mask of ‘Agamemnon’, can be seen at the National Archaeological Museum at Athens.
There is also a museum at Mycenae, within which are a variety of other objects uncovered during excavations.
Getting to Mycenae
The journey to Mycenae by car takes roughly two hours from Athens, but Mycenae also has good transport links between the nearer cities of Corinth and Nafplion. This includes a regular bus service.
Mycenae is situated roughly 20km away from its ‘sister site’ at Tiryns and 25km from the modern town of Naplion. Parking is available right next to the entrance of the archaeological site.
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