Undoubtedly, Athens is one of the most historic cities in the world. It is home to some of the most renowned ancient Greek monuments, including the iconic Acropolis and Parthenon. The city has a long and rich history that dates back thousands of years. It was once the centre of Ancient Greece and has since become an international destination for tourists from all over the world.
It is no exaggeration to claim that Greece hosts dozens of interesting archeological sites of global importance, that deserve our visit and attention. From the Acropolis of Athens to Delphi, from ancient Dodoni to the sanctuary of Hippocrates in Kos, from Vergina to ancient Olympia, from Lindos to Mycenae, there is a wealth that fills Greeks with pride for their ancestors and their homeland, and a whole spectrum of artistic miracles reminiscent of a civilization which overpasses the borders of a country to represent the spirit of mankind.
The archeological sites of Greece, from the smallest and most insignificant to Sounio, ancient Olympia, and the Acropolis, belong to the world human heritage and deserve our undivided interest. So it’s worth taking a closer look to these legendary marbles, starting with the most “famous”. Below we have gathered basic information about ten archeological sites in Greece that we should all visit:
The Acropolis of Athens: The Acropolis of Athens is the most striking and complete ancient Greek monumental complex still existing in our times. The Acropolis and its monuments are universal symbols of the classical spirit and civilization and form the greatest architectural and artistic complex bequeathed by Greek Antiquity to the world. Composed of Propylea, with the temple of Victory, the Erechtheum, with the Caryatids, and the world symbol of Culture – the Parthenon, the greatest and finest sanctuary of ancient Athens, is primarily dedicated to its patron, the goddess Athena. The awe that the visitor feels in front of the grandeur of the ancient temple cannot be compared to anything. Combining the ascent to the Acropolis with a visit to the New Museum, then we will be able to understand much better what we see there.
Delphi: At the foot of Mount Parnassos, within the angle formed by the twin rocks of the Phaedriades, lies the Pan-Hellenic sanctuary of Delphi, which had the most famous oracle of ancient Greece. The sanctuary of Delphi, set within a spectacular landscape, was for many centuries the cultural and religious centre and symbol of unity for the Hellenic world.There, in the majestic temple of Apollo, the Oracle of Delphi operated where Pythia lived and gave her famous, ambiguous oracles. Today, in the archeological site of Delphi, visitors can see the remains of the ancient temple, the dedications of the cities, with the Treasure of the Athenians standing out, the ancient theater and the ancient high school as well as Castalia Pigi and the dome of Athena Pronaia. The very remarkable Museum of Delphi perfectly complements the visitor’s experience.
Ancient Olympia: The place where the Olympic Games were born could only be of enormous importance to the entire civilized world. In Ancient Olympia, in the northwestern Peloponnese, the Olympic Games were held in antiquity, which automatically meant a truce and a cessation of wars. At the archeological site, where the most important sanctuary of ancient Greece was located and where the touch of the Olympic Flame is performed today, visitors are given the opportunity to see the remains of the majestic temple of Zeus, the temple of Hera, the ancient Stadium, the Palaestra, the Bouleuterion and much more. All the miraculous statues found during the excavations are housed in the museum of Ancient Olympia, causing awe to visitors, with those of Victory of Peony and Hermes of Praxiteles being the most famous among them.
Knossos: Knossos is the site of the most important and better known palace of Minoan civilization, which depicts the achievements of this very particular cultural era. Knossos is located just outside Heraklion in Crete, and was the seat of King Minos, the supreme ruler of this civilization, that flourished from 3000 to 1400 BC. The palace of Knossos is associated with the myths of the Labyrinth and the Minotaur, Theseus, Ariadne, Daedalus and Icarus. The Little Palace, Royal Villa, House of the High Priest, the Villa of Dionysos and, of course, the House of the Frescoes with the rich and colorful decorations on the walls, are parts of this unique artistic complex which is able to transfer us to its mythical dimension.
Mycenae: Immediately after the Minoan Civilization, the Mycenaean flourished in Greece. Mycenae ‘Rich in Gold’, the kingdom of mythical Agamemnon, first sung by Homer in his epics, is the most important and richest palatial centre of the Late Bronze Age in Greece.Today on the hill of Mycenae outside Argos, visitors admire the Lions’ Gate, but also the impressive, vaulted, royal tombs, the royal palace and the golden mask discovered by archaeologist Henry Schliemann in the 19th century and known as “Face of Agamemnon”.
Vergina: One of the greatest challenges of archeology is still the locating of the tomb of Alexander the Great, but the excavation, that has taken place in his homeland, has brought to light “important” data from the reign of his father, Philip II as well as his royal tomb. Other important remains in the city of Aigai – first capital of the Kingdom of Macedonia, situated near Vergina, in northern Greece, are the monumental palace, lavishly decorated with mosaics and painted stuccoes, and the burial ground with more than 300 tumuli, some of which date from the 11th century B.C.
Sounio: A very impressive archeological site, the temple of Poseidon in Sounio, Attica, attracts thousands of visitors every year. Connected with the myth of the Aegean and Theseus, the majestic temple stands on the edge of a hill, on the cliff above the sea. Visible from a long distance, it creates an idyllic setting, especially on summer nights with a full moon.
Messini: Ancient Messini in the Peloponnese is one of the best preserved ancient cities in Greece. Visitors can clearly see the ancient high school, the theater, the Stadium, and many other buildings of the city. The Fountain of Arsinoe, the fabulous mosaics, and the impressive gate of the ancient city offer us a real journey in the time-space. Next to the archeological site is the museum, which houses the findings of the excavations and which perfectly complements the visit to the site.
Lindos: In southern Rhodes, Lindos Acropolis rises dominantly on a steep cliff, overlooking the sea. Being the most impressive archaeological site on Rhodes, the place constitutes a cultural mosaic, containing ruins of the temple of Lindia Athena, temples from the 4th century BC, as well as the Propylaea, the great Hellenistic Stoa, and the Byzantine chapel of Saint John. The ancient citadel was “enriched” in later years and is now surrounded by a medieval fortress that makes the image even more impressive.
Epidaurus: Constructed in the late 4th century BC to host religious ceremonial events in honor of god Asclepius, the theater of Ancient Epidaurus – the most famous theater of antiquity, remains “alive” to this day. It is worth visiting it both as an archeological site to admire its symmetry and its acoustics, and to watch some of the performances of the famous Epidaurus Festival, so as to feel feel like the spectators of the ancient drama.
Being at the same time a classical jewel and a vibrant modern country, Greece has a lot to offer the demanding traveler, the researcher and especially the art enthusiast. With a history that counts over 3000 years, the country is a museum itself.
So, let’s have some culture please!
It will start in Athens, take selfies in front of the Acropolis. In Heraklion – Crete, you will fall in love with the “Parisiennnes” of Knossos. Thessaloniki will enchant you with its Byzantine spirit and the Charioteer of Delphi will look straight into your soul. Then you can enjoy your wine along with the Knights of Rhodes. Don’t forget to swim into the seas of Modern Greek painters.
The Acropolis Museum (Athens): Situated under the Acropolis Rock, this impressive five-story building handsomely displays the riches and the priceless artifacts that have been found on the sacred rock of Acropolis. More than any other ancient pieces, the Parthenon friezes’ fragments of exquisitely carved marble capture snippets of good–natured divinity and humanity—in one, the goddess Athena Nike fastens her sandal (something you didn’t think goddesses had to do). Priests, soldiers, horses and ordinary citizens parade across the marble strip, and you almost want to jump in and join the procession. Titans, gods and humans, statues of young ladies (Korai), and horse riders (Hippeis), legendary battles, and themes drawn from Attic mythology will transfer you to the heroic and magical world of Ancient Athens. Having been voted as “the best museum in the world” by the British Guild of Travel Writers, the Acropolis Museum is an absolutely must go and see.
National and Archaeological Museum (Athens): Being one of the most important museums in the world and the largest archeological museum in Greece, this museum hosts the ocean of Ancient Greek art. Its stunning collection has it all: treasures from the royal tombs at Mycenae, Linear B tablets, enigmatic Cycladic marble figurines, wall-paintings from Thera, superb red–and black–figured vases, bronze statues, marble reliefs of gods and goddesses, sculptures from the seventh to the fifth centuries BC, everyday life objects and scientific instruments like the Antikythera device are some of the riches that this monument of monuments has to offer to the eyes and the soul of the classical scholars and not only.
Herakleion Archaeological Museum (Crete): Few museums can boast of holding virtually all the important remains of a major culture. Considered as the museum of Minoan culture par excellence worldwide, this modern museum near the port of Herakleion, houses representative artifacts from all the periods of Cretan prehistory and history, comprising unique exhibits of Minoan art. Elegant bronze and stone figurines and exquisite gold jewelry, athletes, dancers, and other subjects in the superb frescoes from Knossos seem to reach across the millennia and invite us to become part of one most ancient civilizations on earth.
Museum of Byzantine Culture (Thessaloniki): Showcasing the art and architecture of the Byzantine legacy in the city of Thessaloniki, this attractive museum focuses on the depiction and representation of Byzantine culture and lifestyle. Its’ exhibitions, ranging from the Byzantine design and decoration, domestic handicrafts, food and clothing to sepulchral architecture and painting aim to guide visitors in the mystical and luxurious world of the Byzantine Empire.
Archaeological Museum of Delphi (Delphi): Situated on the wider archaeological site of the Delphi Pan-Hellenic sanctuary – religious center of the Hellenic world, the Archaeological Museum of Delphi, focuses on the history of the Delphic sanctuary and oracle, covering a long time span from prehistory to Late Antiquity. The dialogue between metal and marble which characterizes the archaic period, manifested in offerings, sculpture and architecture will enchant you. Of course, the most impressive exhibit of the museum is the famous bronze Charioteer, with his deep look.
Museum of Cycladic Art (Athens): Situated in the center of Athens, this light-filled museum, hosts the 3,500-year-old masterworks of Cycladic art. Here you can admire these smooth, fine and elongated figures that inspired modern artists like Picasso so deeply with their expression and simplicity.
Archaeological Museum of Rhodes (Hospital of the Knights) (Rhodes): Housed in the monumental Hospital of the Knights of Saint John, in the Medieval City of Rhodes, the Archaelogical Museum of Rhodes contains of archaeological artifacts from various parts of Rhodes and the neighboring islands. Burial finds from ancient cemeteries, classical and roman sculptures and mosaic floors, archaic kouroi and marble statuettes of the god Sun and the Aphrodite Bathing.
Archaeological Museum of Olympia (Olympia – Peloponnese): Unfolding the history of the sanctuary of Zeus and its celebrated games, the Archaeological Museum of Olympia ranks among the most important museums in Greece. Renowned for its collection of ancient Greek bronzes and for its sculptures like the ones of Apollo and Hermes, the museum calls us to perceive the spirit of Olympic Games at the place where they were born.
Benaki Museum (Athens): Lying at the heart of Athens, Benaki Museum constitutes a materialized narration of the Greek history. From antiquity and the age of Roman domination to the medieval Byzantine period; from the fall of Constantinople (1453) and the centuries of Frankish and Ottoman occupation to the outbreak of the struggle for independence in 1821; and from the formation of the modern state of Greece (1830) down to contemporary Greece, its collections invite us to take part in the Greek odyssey.
Goulandris Museum of Contemporary Art (Athens): Housed in neo-classical mansion of old Athens, Goulandris Museum of Contemporary Art hosts one of the world’s most valuable collections of the 20th century. In its colorful rooms, painting dialogues with sculpture, Van Gogh meets Picasso, and abstract expressionists like Pollock coexist with the painters of Greek modernity. A planet of modern art in the classical universe of Athens!
National Gallery of Art (Athens): Established in 1900 the National Gallery of Art in Athens is considered the most important art museum in Greece. With more than 20,000 artworks from Renaissance to 20th century’s modernity, and from El Greco to Matisse, the Gallery constitutes a real voyage into the world of Art. A very important wing of the National Gallery is dedicated to the Greek artists, either 19th century artists of neo-classicism or modern 20th century artists.
Thessaloniki State Museum of Contemporary Art (Thessaloniki): Founded in 1997, at the occasion of Thessaloniki’s year as European Capital of Culture, Thessaloniki State Museum of Contemporary Art preserves and displays works of contemporary art by Greek and foreign artists. Paintings, sculptures, drawings and constructions by artists of the Russian avant-garde like Malevich and Kandinsky seduce visitors from all over the world. Moreover, the Museum is organizing the famous Thessaloniki Biennale of Contemporary Art, every year.
Greece’s foremost cultural festival and one of the oldest performing arts festivals in Europe (1955), the Athens & Epidaurus Festival annually presents numerous theatre, dance, and music artists, acclaimed in Greece and worldwide, attracting large audiences from around the world. Held at the most prestigious venues of Athens and Epidaurus, the Festival constitutes the annual rebirth of the Greek spirit. The institution’s principal aim is to combine the Greek classical ontology with modern tendencies in arts, so as to introduce its visitors to a magical world and to provide them as well with alternative means of understanding of the contemporary reality.
It goes without saying that Athens & Epidaurus Festival is a must go for everyone who visits Greece, especially for art lovers and researchers in the field of Humanities.
Festival Philippon made first appearance in 1957, at the ancient theater of Northern Greece, and from 1984 it is the Municipality of Kavala along with the Municipal Theater of Northern Greece that held the organization of the festival. Since then, it takes place every summer (July, August) and includes theater, music, and modern dance performances. The festival has its own character and particular way to connect the Greek cultural tradition with the artistic waves of modernity.
Philippi Festival is strongly recommended as it offers us the occasion to discover Northern Greece and its vibrant culture.
Established in 1960, Thessaloniki International Film Festival remains in the centre of the Greek film production and provides the means of promoting great film producers. In November of each year, Thessaloniki becomes the centre of international filmmaking. Great Greek and foreign artists, acknowledged filmmakers and newcomers arrive in large numbers to compete on their art, adding to the everlasting glamour of the capital of Northern Greece. Being the most important Film Festival in southeast Europe, Thessaloniki International Film Festival invites us to breath its unique atmosphere.
Kalamata – the City of Contemporary Dance hosts every summer the International Dance Festival in the city’s Dance Centre. The Festival aims to promote and support Greek presence in the field of contemporary dance as well as to build bridges to international dance creativity. Wide range of trends in contemporary dance and large audiences of dance lovers create an enchanting environment and are looking forward to guide us in the amazing world of dance.
Greece is a really delicious country. Steeped in history and lapped by the Mediterranean sea, Greece is home to some of the finest ingredients in the world, which offer an abundant traditional cuisine.
Each region in Greece has its gastronomic variations and propositions. But you cannot leave Greece without tasting:
This legendary Greek meal is based on layers of sautéed aubergine, minced lamb, fried puréed tomato, onion, garlic and spices like cinnamon and allspice, a bit of potato, then a final fluffy topping of béchamel sauce and cheese.
Souvlaki is Greece’s favourite fast food. Greeks are masters of charcoal-grilled and spit-roasted meats. Souvlaki, chunks of skewered pork, served on chopped tomatoes and onions in pitta bread with lashings of tzatziki. Gyros, too, is popular served in the same way. At the taverna, local free-range lamb and pork dominate, though kid goat is also a favorite.
Sometimes a patty, sometimes a lightly fried ball, be sure to try these starters any chance you get. The fritter is usually made from grated or puréed courgette blended with dill, mint, or other top-secret spice combinations. Paired with tzatziki, for its cooling freshness, you just can’t lose.
The main element in this exquisite Greek dish is lobster meat that is coupled with a flavorful tomato-based sauce and served over pasta. The dish is typically prepared with spaghetti, while the sauce is usually enriched with wine and various herbs and spices.
This Greek classic consists of an oven-roasted combination of potatoes and a leg of lamb, which can be marinated or seasoned with olive oil and fresh herbs. The dish is mainly prepared for special occasions or family gatherings, and it is typically served with a drizzle of lemon juice.
This classic Greek dish consists of sautéed shrimps that are traditionally deglazed with the anise-flavored ouzo, then doused in a rich tomato sauce, and finally topped with crumbled feta cheese. The dish was named after sagani, a small, two-handled pan traditionally used for preparing one-pot dishes.
This classic Greek dip typically combines grilled eggplant, garlic, and olive oil into a creamy and flavorful dish that is mainly enjoyed as a part of meze — traditional meal service comprised of a selection of small dishes. Although simple, it is incredibly versatile and is often elevated with additional ingredients such as groundnuts, cheese, different vegetables, and a variety of fresh herbs and spices.
Fasolada is a simple and traditional Greek soup made from dried white beans that are drizzled with olive oil and eaten with various vegetables and herbs such as onions, barley, celery, and tomatoes. The dish is nutritious and reminiscent of antiquity, as barley, olives, and beans were the three crops that sustained the armies of Alexander the Great.
Greeks love their sweets, which are often based on olive oil and honey combinations encased in flaky filo pastry. The classic baklava involves honey, filo and ground nuts. Or try galaktoboureko, a sinful custard-filled pastry. A more simple sweet is local thyme honey drizzled over fresh, thick Greek yogurt.
Greek-style rice pudding is a popular dish that is usually enjoyed as a sweet breakfast, a light afternoon snack, or a comforting dessert. In its basic form, it consists of rice and milk that are slowly cooked and vigorously stirred until they transform into a thick, almost custard-like treat.
Food in Greece is not complete without a drink or two. Greeks love to drink. After all it is awesome to relax with a glass of alcohol or beverage. Here are some of the most popular drinks in Greece.
Ouzo is the king of Greek drinks. Ouzo is a type of brandy made of anise flavor and has a wonderful, strong taste. It is usually drunk with added ice and water and it goes well with seafood and salty dishes, and it tastes much better by the beach.
Raki, also known as tsipouro or tsikoudia, is a strong drink widely produced and consumed all around Greece. It is a type of brandy made with grapes. It is transparent and very mild. Raki accompanies meze – food in a small side dish and it revolves around Greece’s strongest alcoholic drinks.
Rakomelo is a strong alcoholic drink, native to Greece, which is perfect in cold weather. It is made of hot raki, honey, cinnamon or cardamom and cloves. It is sweet and strong. The drink is widely consumed because it is high in flavonoids and it’s an excellent salve for ailments such as sore throats and cough.
Metaxa is a sweet tasting brandy drink that is mild and classy. Its color resembles to the French cognac. It is carefully produced to satisfy the taste buds of those who try it.
Mastiha is a unique sweet liqueur, flavored with the resin gathered from the mastic tree, a small tree that only grows in Chios island. Mastiha’s flavor is unique and exquisite. It is a quite strong and addictive drink.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of wineries around Greece, and every area has its own distinctive types of grapes. Crete, Santorini, Samos, Nemea and Macedonia in the North, produce their own varieties of red or white wine. One of the most popular Greek wines is retsina – a white wine typical of Thessaloniki. The famous sweet wine (vin doux) of Samos is also a nice choice for the wine lovers who visit Greece.