Best Ancient Ruins in Greece – 25 Greece Ruins to visit in 2024
What are the best ancient Greek ruins to see on your next trip to Greece? The ancient Greek world fuels the Western imagination with tales of gods and goddesses, oracles, and monsters but this is Greece and there are ruins everywhere you look!
In this detailed guide, I show you how to visit the 25 most important and awe-inspiring ancient Greek ruins yourself and give you the best tour options as well. I’ve divided it into the main tourist zones of Greece: Athens, Attica, and Sterea, the Greek Islands, the Peloponnese, and northern Greece.
Let’s dig in!
The Acropolis of Athens
Athenian agora of athens, temple of olympian zeus, greek islands, akrotiri – ancient thira (santorini), the sacred island of delos, minoan palace of knossos in crete, temple of aphaea, aegina, asklepieon, kos, atticus and sterea, temple of poseidon, sounion, the sanctuary of artemis at brauron (vravrona), peloponnese, temple of apollo epicurius, bassae, epidaurus (epidavros), northern greece, ancient philippi, vergina (aigia).
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Map of Ancient Greek Ruins in Athens
Where to start with the majestic Acropolis Hill and its numerous ancient ruins?
The Parthenon, the Erechtheion, the Propylaea, the Temple of Athena Nike, Herodotus’ Odeum, and the Theater of Dionysus are perhaps the major sites to see on any visit to the Acropolis.
In fact, they are the most important sites to see in all of mainland Greece .
The ruins of the Parthenon are majestic. Begun in 447 BC, this temple to the goddess Athena is the greatest surviving building of Classical Greece.
It was constructed when Athens was the world’s great cultural center and the other buildings you see on the top of the Acropolis were also built at this time.
It is considered the most perfect example of Doric architecture ever built.
The Parthenon was built on the site of an earlier Persian temple. It has been a Greek temple, a Christian church, and a mosque during its centuries of life.
It has had munitions exploded within it and its sculptures have been taken to other countries (the Elgin Marbles).
It never hosted the cult of the goddess Athena, rather it functioned as a political symbol of victory over Persia, and a united Hellenic identity.
The Propylaia is the monumental gate, or entranceway made of enormous marble blocks that are still the modern entrance to the Acropolis.
As you walk up the steps of the Propylaia you will see a small temple on your right. This is the Temple of Nike, and a giant statue of Athena Nike, the winged goddess of war, once looked out from here over the city.
As you descend the Acropolis you will come to a magnificent Roman theater, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus.
And just inside the southern entrance gate, you will see the place where theater was invented, at the Theater of Dionysus.
The main monuments on Acropolis Hill can be seen in a half-day (get there when it opens!)
Read more about Everything You Need to Know to Visit the Acropolis: Acropolis Entrance Fees, Hours, and Tours and I’ve created the Essential Acropolis Self-Guided Walking Tour if you’d like to see the monuments without joining a tour.
The Acropolis of Athens Podcast Episode
Rather read than listen? You can learn all about the major myths of the gods and goddesses of the Acropolis, and about many other Greek ruins, in the Trip Anthropologist podcast series about Ancient Greece. The first episode is devoted to the Acropolis.
The Acropolis Museum is the next must-see stop.
Completely different from the dusty ancient ruins on the Acropolis, this stunning modern building has separate areas for the main Acropolis buildings and shows you the treasures found inside.
As you walk up to the Acropolis, you can’t but notice the Temple of Hephaestus on the northwest slope.
This beautiful and intact temple is known as a Doric peripteral temple and stands upon Agoraios Kolonos Hill.
The temple is also to the northwest of the enormous excavation zone that is the ancient Agora of Athens and is one of its many temples.
Agora is a marketplace (which is why Agoraios Kolonis hill is known as Market Hill). Because of its large dimensions, it is also known as a place of gathering.
There are over two dozen significant buildings or structures in this Agora which is the best example of any Agora in Greece.
The site has been excavated annually since 1931 and there is a museum on-site (in the Stoa of Attalos) that displays, not just ancient Greek finds but also Byzantine , Turkish, and Roman objects.
This was once a mighty temple in the middle of Athens dedicated to Zeus, the King of the Olympians. You can’t but help see the ancient ruins immediately (500 meters) below the Acropolis.
It took 638 years for the building to be finished from its beginning in the 6th century BCE.
At the turn of the millennium, the Temple of Zeus was the greatest temple in a country that was really good at building grand temples for the gods.
But like most of the wonderful ancient structures in Athens, it was subjected to multiple invasions and abandoned, and its columns were used for other buildings.
Despite being used as a quarry, 16 enormous columns still stand, making it one of the most important structures of ancient Greece that remain. It is now an open-air museum.
There are two equally fascinating parts of this interesting site northwest of the Acropolis which is also called Ceramicus.
The inner part of Kerameikos was inside the walls of ancient Athens. Ceramicus was the potter’s quarter and the word “ceramics” comes from this site.
The other part of Kerameikos was outside the city walls and included a very famous cemetery.
This area has been used as a cemetery for over 5000 years and the Kerameikos Museum houses the best collection of burial goods in Greece.
The Sacred Way begins here and runs to Eleusis with funerary sculptures lining the route.
Map of Ancient Greek Ruins: Greek Islands
If there was ever a truly credible contender for the lost city of Atlantis, it is here at Ancient Akrotiri on the island of Santorini.
Ancient Akrotiri was a sophisticated and wealthy city of three-story villas with a view of Crete from the rooftop terraces.
That was until the mother of all earthquakes blew apart the island that was called Thera and left the magnificent caldera that makes Santorini sunsets so spectacular.
Ancient Akrotiri was covered in lava and is being excavated. You can walk through this Minoan city that is 3,000 years old. Streets, murals, and furniture can all be seen. It’s Santorini’s hidden gem.
You can stay in Santorini near the ruins, in the lovely fishing village of Akrotiri. For a detailed guide about Akrotiri, how to visit, and where you can see its found treasures, read Why you must see Ancient Akrotiri on Santorini.
Delos is a small island next to its better-known sibling, Mykonos .
Unlike Mykonos , Delos is not known for its parties and nightlife but it is one of the most important mythological sites of the ancient world. It was made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1990.
Delos is so old it was a sacred sanctuary island for 1000 years before the Greeks believed it to be the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis.
The Terrace of the Lions has seven remaining lions lining the Sacred Way.
The Delian Temple, the remains of the colossus of Apollo, and the temples and structures to Dionysius and Zeus are just some of the many archaeological treasures remaining on this island.
It’s no wonder UNESCO describes Delos and its ancient ruins as “exceptionally extensive and rich.”
Rhodes was called Lindos in ancient Greece and it is well known for the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the seven ancient wonders of the world that once stood guarding the entrance to the harbor, as well as for the Acropolis of Lindos.
Greek mythology holds that the island was born from the nymph, Rhodus, and Helion, the sun god. Their three children are the names of the three ancient cities on Rhodes and these cities can be seen today.
The island was continually invaded, including by the Minoans, Mycenaeans, and Dorians and there is rich archaeology and history of this fascinating island.
The ancient cities, acropolis, Olympic stadiums, and temples make Rhodes one of the most popular Greek destinations.
For a detailed guide on the Acropolis of Lindos, read Ancient Lindos Rhodes: Incredible Things to See and Do.
Rhodes Podcast Episode
Rather read than listen? You can learn all about the Colossus of Rhodes, the Oracle’s prophecy, and the Acropolis of Linda in Rhodes in the Trip Anthropologist podcast series about Ancient Greece.
Crete is the home of the Minotaur and the labyrinth but Knossos is believed to be the oldest city in Europe, dating to 7-8000 BCE.
Knossos Palace was the center of Minoan culture. The first Knossos Palace showed that the population was large and enormous wealth was being generated to create such incredible structures so early in human history.
Earthquakes are the scourge of Crete (and of Ancient Greece generally) and the current palace is built on earlier palaces felled by earthquakes.
It is enormous for such an ancient building – covering five square acres if you include its outbuildings.
As the peak of the sophisticated ancient Minoan culture, it is an important site to visit to see the ancient Greek civilizations.
It’s also important to visit the Heraklion Archaeological Museum so that you can see wall frescoes and objects that were found inside the Palace.
For a detailed guide, read Visit Knossos Palace and the Minotaur Labyrinth.
Rather read than listen? You can learn all about the Minotaur, Daedalus’ labyrinth, and the Palace of Knossos in the Trip Anthropologist podcast series about Ancient Greece.
Less than an hour from Athens lies the best-preserved ancient Greek temple you will see in Greece. On the Saronic island of Aegina, atop a hill is a 5th-century BCE Temple dedicated to Aphaea.
This perfectly proportioned temple was constructed using 32 limestone columns and 25 of the Doric columns remain standing.
It is part of the Sanctuary of Aphaea, the mother goddess, and is one of several impressive ancient Greek ruins on this once-wealthy island.
What a fantastic day trip from Athens!
The Greek god of medicine was Aescelpius. Around 300 sanctuaries for healing were created across the Hellenistic world, the greatest remaining one being on the island of Kos (see also Epidaurus below).
His symbol, of a snake wrapped around a staff, remains globally as a symbol of doctors, medicine, and healing.
Askelpieon sanctuaries were all about holistic healing and beautiful natural settings were important. The ancient Greek sanctuary sits peacefully atop a hill looking out towards Turkey.
The Asklepieon at Kos is reputed to have been founded by the world’s most famous ancient physician, Hippocrates (who was born here in Kos).
Three levels of ruins remain including two Temples of Asclepius built in the 2nd and 4th centuries BCE as well as a Temple of Apollo, and an altar of Kyparissios Apollo.
Map of Ancient Greek Ruins: Atticus and Sterea
The importance of Delphi to the ancient Greeks can’t be understated. It was the center of the universe, marked by the Omphalos or naval.
In Greek mythology, Zeus sent two eagles to find the center of the universe and they alighted at Delphi, where the ancient city was built.
Delphi was originally called Pytho. It is on the slopes of Mount Parnassus and is one of the greatest sites remaining of the ancient Greek world. Homer recounts the myth of Apollo coming to Delphi as a dolphin.
The Oracle of Pytho was consulted about the most important decisions facing the ancient Greeks. Over time this prehistoric oracle became known as the Oracle of Delphi who resided at the Sanctuary of Apollo.
The 4th century BCE Temples and the cave where the Oracle practiced were much-visited sites in ancient times. Delphi became the place for the congregation of people from all over Greece with celebrations throughout the year as well as the Pythian Games.
For any lover of ancient Greece history and myths, Delphi is not to be missed and for a comprehensive guide, read Oracle of Delphi: Why and How to Visit.
Ancient Delphi Podcast Episode
Rather read than listen? You can learn all about how to visit the archaeological site of Delphi and about the Oracle of Delphi in the Trip Anthropologist podcast series about Ancient Greece.
Accessible on a day trip from Athens, the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion looks out at the Aegean Sea from mainland Greece and is dedicated to one of the most important figures of Greek mythology, the King of the Sea.
The beautiful Doric Temple of Poseidon is the second temple to Poseidon on this site, the first likely being razed by Xerxes I at the same time that he was razing all the buildings on the Acropolis of Athens.
The Temple was built in 444-440 BC in hexastyle. This means it had six Doric columns at the front of the portico. The temple would once have contained a 20 feet high bronze statue of Poseidon.
The God of the Sea is the son of Cronus and was eaten by his father. It’s perhaps understandable that the god of the sea, storms, earthquakes, and horses was thought to be a little bad-tempered.
The Eleusinian mysteries were an initiation ceremony that was held every year at the Panhellenic Sanctuary of Eleusis in Attica.
They were the most important rituals in Ancient Greece and the Sacred Way led from Athens 14 miles to Eleusis and was the only road in Greece.
The secret religious rites were in honor of Demeter and Persephone and related to the ancient Greek myth of Hades abducting Demeter’s daughter, Persephone. The secret rites were practiced for 2000 years.
Among the ancient ruins at Eleusis is the Telesterion, a large hall used for the initiation into the Eleusinian Mysteries. It was constructed in 435 – 421 BCE.
For a detailed guide to visiting Eleusis, read Secrets of Eleusis: Eleusinian Mysteries
Eleusis and the Elusinian Mysteries Podcast Episode
Rather read than listen? You can learn all about how to visit the archaeological site of Eleusis (Elefsina) and the stories of Demeter, Persephone, and Hades in the Trip Anthropologist podcast series about Ancient Greece.
Brauron is one of the most important sites of worship for the cult of Artemis. Sanctuaries to Artemis usually consisted of groves of trees near water.
The sanctuary at Brauron includes some interesting ancient ruins: a temple to Artemis, a stone bridge, a pi-shaped stoa, springs, and caves.
Girls participated in pre-puberty and fertility rituals. In the archaeological museum at Brauron, you can see all the objects that girls threw into the sacred spring during the pre-puberty rituals (called the arkteia ) to appease the goddess Artemis.
Map of Ancient Greek Ruins: the Peloponnese
This incredible temple has been globally looted.
Unfortunately, like many other ancient sites, through theft, bribery, and other means, its treasures are either lost at sea or now exhibited in major museums in London and Moscow.
The Temple of Apollo Epicurius is described by UNESCO as “one of the best-preserved monuments of classical antiquity.” It was built by the ancient Greeks at Bassae, in the Arkadian mountains.
It is dedicated to Epicurius, the god of healing and of the sun.
Built by the ancient Greek Phigaleians in the fifth century, it was perhaps designed by the same man who designed the Parthenon.
It gained its listing as a UNESCO World Heritage site in part because of its use of all three Greek columns but also for its daring architectural innovations.
Its sculptures and its wonderful preservation mean that if you are in this part of Greece, it’s a must-see site.
Only two hours from Athens and close to the nearby town of modern-day Corinth, Ancient Corinth became Greece’s greatest city-state.
The home of Sisyphus and devoted to Poseidon, this large archaeological site dating back more than 5,000 years contains a very photographic Temple of Apollo.
The Temple of Apollo is the only one within an entire ancient city you can walk around and lies beneath the Acrocorinth.
The Acrocorinth is the largest and tallest acropolis in Greece and the fortress protected the route across the land into the Peloponnese.
For a detailed guide to visiting ancient Corinth, read Ancient Corinth and Acrocorinth
Epidaurus is the reputed birthplace of Asclepius, the son of Apollo and the Greek god of medicine. The Asclepius at Epidaurus.
Today the most impressive remaining ruins of Epidaurus are its magnificent theater at the southeast end of the Sanctuary of Asclepius.
Of all the ancient Greek theaters , the theater of Epidaurus is considered the most perfect for its aesthetics and more importantly, for its acoustics.
The theater of Epidaurus was built toward the end of the fifth century. The music, dramatic shows, festivals, and games held here (it could seat 14,000 people) were believed to help with the health of patients.
Close to the ancient ruins of Corinth and only 120 km from Athens, Mycenae was the Kingdom of Agamemnon.
In the Late Bronze Age (around 1200 BCE) it was the richest palace center in Greece. In Greek mythology, it was founded by Perseus, son of Zeus.
But the Mycenae worshipped Minoan gods and goddesses and is considered the forerunner to the Greek religion. For example, the Mycenae sky deity became the Greek god, Zeus.
Mycenaen culture flourished with prosperous families dominating the area and creating elaborate tombs that can be seen today.
These families were organized into chiefdoms and a complex social hierarchy existed.
The Mycenean culture was carried through the ancient world through the poems of Homer. In Greek history, the period from 1600 BCE until 1100 BCE.
It’s known as the Mycenae period because of the influence of this great military culture that dominated much of Southern Greece and its southern islands.
The citadel on the top of the acropolis above the ruins of ancient Mycenae is built in a style known as Cyclopean because the stones are so large it was thought only Cyclops could move them.
There are many iconic ruins to see in ancient Mycenae, including the Grave circles, it was here that the gold mask of Agamemnon was found.
But what makes this citadel so exciting is the monumental sculptures that make up the Lion Gate. Read all about this fascinating piece of ancient Greek architecture here: Visit the Mycenae Lion Gate at Ancient Mycenae.
At the foot of Mount Kronos on the Peloponnese west coast, lies the sanctuary of Olympia.
Within the sanctuary is the Temple of Hera and also the Temple of Zeus, and it was here that one of the Ancient Wonders of the World was discovered, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia.
Famous as not only the most important religious center in Greece, it was also the most important athletic site.
Olympia was dedicated to Zeus and is the birthplace of the Olympic Games, a national event, that was held at Olympia every four years to honor Zeus.
The last Games were held in 393 BC and Olympia was destroyed in the next century.
The great temples, buildings, athletics tracks, and gymnasiums of Olympia continue to be excavated and restored.
For a comprehensive article about visiting Ancient Olympia, read: Visiting the Ancient Stadium at Olympia, Greece.
Olympia and the Olympic Games Podcast Episode
Rather read than listen? You can learn all about how to visit the archaeological site of Ancient Olympia and about the original Olympic Games in the Trip Anthropologist podcast series about Ancient Greece.
For 7,000 years there has been a sizeable village on this site that has been continuously occupied. That makes Argos one of the world’s oldest villages.
Phillip the II of Macedon and Alexander the Great come from the Macedonian royal family of Argos.
There were a great number of mythological Kings of Argos as well as being the mythical birthplace of Perseus, a son of Zeus.
An ancient theater of Argos (3rd century BCE) sits beside the Ancient Agora (built in the 6th century BCE) but these are only some of the archaeological ruins in this fascinating ancient city.
Situated between Nafplion and Argos, this hill fort existed as a settlement before even the Bronze Age.
It was at its most magnificent during the Mycenean Era in ancient Greece. The Citadel of Tiryns was built in 1300 BCE and controlled the trade between the sea (just over a km away) and inland routes.
Tiryns was influenced by the great Mycenaean culture of Crete and the concept of “Cyclopean” architecture and masonry comes from Tiryns because of the sheer size of the stonework used to construct the Fort.
(The Cyclops were a mythical race of Thracians. They were called Cyclops after their King, King Cyclops). The thickness of the defensive walls of the Citadel in some places is 17 meters or 57 feet!
It’s this history of the Cyclops that makes Tiryns one of my favorite ancient sites, and being so close to the main tourist areas of the Peloponnese makes this ancient Citadel of Tiryns a fascinating day trip.
Like Corinth, Sparta was one of the great city-states of ancient Greece. Originally named Lacedaemon, by 650 BCE Sparta’s military power made it the greatest of Greece’s city-states.
During the Greco-Persian Wars, the Greek city-states came together as a unified army under Sparta’s leadership. Sparta’s domination began to recede after its loss to the Thebans in the Battle of Leuctra in 631 BCE.
Sparta had a unique social system that sought to maximize the military proficiency of the Spartan population – Sparta wanted to create a society where each of its different classes supported the training, upbringing, and preparedness of its elite forces for war.
Spartan historic sites to visit include a theater, temples, an acropolis, a city wall, and the foundations of an ancient bridge. The ancient city ruins are now on the outskirts of the modern city of Sparti.
Map of Ancient Greek Ruins: Northern Greece
In eastern Macedonia is the UNESCO World Heritage site of ancient Philippi which lies on the Via Egnatia, the road that links Asia to Europe.
King Philip II of Macedonia took the city and named it for himself. Historians believe he did this because of the nearby gold mines and to protect it from the attacking Thracians.
Although it became an important Roman city , in Hellenistic times it was the site of a wonderful theater, walls, gates, and a funerary heroon (or temple) which can still be seen today.
Pella is the Ancient Greek word for stone and the name of this important archaeological site in Macedonia.
The birthplace of Alexander the Great, Pella was an important seaport, but it is now landlocked.
Pella was an incredible city for the ancient world, with water piped to individual houses and waste piped away from them. The central market or Agora takes a full 10 city blocks!
Other incredible finds include the Pella Curse Tablet which is a written spell in a language created by the ancient Macedonians.
The massive Palace and temples of Dionysius, Demeter, Aphrodite, and Cybele lay in ruins at this impressive site.
Rediscovered only in the 19th century, Aigia (now called Vergina), was the ancient capital of the Macedonian Kingdom and contains the Royal Macedonian tombs.
The monumental palace ( circa 340 BCE) remains and was the seat of power of the dynasty that included Phillip II and Alexander the Great.
The city is a treasure trove of ancient Greek monuments. In addition to the Palace with its murals and painted stuccoes), there are temples, sanctuaries, temples, monumental tombs, and a royal necropolis.
The necropolis contains more than 500 tumuli (barrows or burial mounds).
The burial tomb of Phillip II is underground and is an amazing museum. This is a site you just can’t miss out on if your travels take you to northern Greece! Read Vergina Greece: visit the royal Macedonian tombs for a detailed guide.
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Hi there, I’m Monique , an award-winning author & cultural anthropologist with a passion for ancient sites, culture, & wine. I’m passionate about Greece, Italy, & Cyprus travel, & divide my time between Australia & Europe. Read more here
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15 Most Remarkable Ancient Greek Ruins
Amazing sites in greece to take you back in time.
When planning a visit to Greece, these remarkable ancient Greek ruins should definitely be on your checklist. Besides showcasing architectural and engineering marvels of the era, strolling through the vast temple grounds or what used to be bustling marketplaces can be truly inspiring. You can also spark envy by posting a selfie against backdrops from the late Bronze Age or Hellenistic Period.
Some of the amazing sites that you simply can’t miss include the Acropolis, perched on top of a rock with the Parthenon as its major landmark. We’ve gathered other notable sites below, ranging from lost cities, grand temples and royal burial grounds where you can step back in time to Ancient Greece.
Acropolis of Athens
Ancient architectural wonders perched on a rock.
The Acropolis is literally the high point of any trip to Athens – Ancient Greece’s archeological wonder occupies a large and elevated flat rock that overlooks the capital. The hilltop site’s jewel in the crown is the Parthenon, an imposing temple dedicated to Athena, the patron goddess of the city.
Interestingly, various restoration efforts over the site continue to this day, bringing back most of the forms of the 5th-BC temple complex. You can follow the path known as the Panathenaic Way down from the Acropolis of Athens, which is an ancient ceremonial route that leads you from the town and up to Agora Square.
Location: Athens 105 58, Greece
A fortified town near ancient Sparta
Mystras, also called the town of Myzithras, is a fortified town in Peloponnese, the heartland of Ancient Greece on the Mani peninsula. The town’s scenic landscape – complete with scenic and flowing hills – is peppered with medieval ruins that range from Mycenaean domes to hillsides covered in fallen columns of grand temples.
Impressive ancient buildings that still stand tall today around the town of Mystras include the 13th-century hilltop fortress that was built by William II of Villehardouin, as well as the Pantanassa Monastery, a Byzantine and Gothic legacy that’s well kept and has a series of pleasant pathways flanked by flowering gardens and shrubs.
Location: Mystras 231 00, Greece
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Castle of monolithos, a medieval hilltop castle with fantastic views.
The medieval castle ruins of Monolithos Castle stands on top of a tall rock on the southwestern coast of Rhodes Island. The Byzantine castle dates back to the 15th century and had a newer castle built on top of it. Many travelers make the pilgrim to the top to marvel at the stunning Greek island views – the ruins simply add to the dramatic effect.
The journey to the castle is part of the adventure. Start off at Monolithos Village and continue along a forested road that’s usually lined with stalls of local vendors selling honey, olive oil, and traditional drinks.
Location: Ataviros 851 08, Greece
photo by Waielbi ( CC BY-SA 3.0 ) modified
Temple of Apollo, Delphi
Climb the hill to consult an ancient greek oracle.
The Temple of Apollo, set high on the slopes of Mount Parnassos, is the jewel of Ancient Delphi. It’s where people from all over Ancient Greece used to make their pilgrims to seek wisdom from the namesake Greek oracle and sun god. You can follow an uphill path to the temple, which is riddled with a variety of stone ruins that range from treasuries to monuments.
If Olympia had its Olympic Games, Delphi had the Pythian Games which included arts, music and poetry competitions besides sporting events. That’s why you can find a massive 5,000-seater amphitheater on the slopes near the temple, which hosted these events. You can reach Delphi on a roughly 2-hour drive northwest of Athens.
Location: Delphi 330 54, Greece
The sacred mountains of Ancient Greece
Meteora is a complex of breathtaking monasteries and hermitages, built mostly on top of tall rock pillars in the town of Kalabaka. A UNESCO World Heritage site in Athens, the series of spectacularly gigantic rock formations in the mountainous region of north-western Greece looms over the quiet town.
Most of the monasteries were abandoned and left to ruins following natural disasters and series of turmoil, while a few remaining ones had been repopulated in the past century by monks from Mount Athos – another sacred Greek mountain. The drive to Meteora is also considered by many to be among the most scenic road trips one could take through Northern Greece.
Location: Mitropoleos, Athens 105 56, Greece
Phone: +30 21 0335 2380
Explore the remains of an ancient city
The vast ruin of Kameiros is a prominent archeological site on the Greek island of Rhodes. The ancient city-state dates back to 7th century BC and was almost entirely demolished following an earthquake. Today, you can stroll through the remains of the city with a few columns still standing in the marketplace.
Throughout the city, you’ll get a feel of how folk went about in the city and how they used to live their lives. The residential area has half walls with a series of living quarters. The summit is where you can visit the Temple of Athena, which looks over the city and the scenic seascape beyond.
Location: Kameiros 851 06, Greece
photo by EffiDK ( CC BY-SA 4.0 ) modified
The birthplace of the Olympic games
Olympia Theatre is an ancient Greek sanctuary, whose name gave way to the major international sporting event we know today. It is where ancient athletes trained and where they were put to the test. Strolling through the vast complex, you’ll easily find that it’s much more than a sports arena.
Standing columns nestled among lush trees and pathways, with a series of temples. It is a primarily an ancient religious site dedicated to Zeus and other gods in the Greek pantheon, like Nike. Olympia Theatre was only opened to the masses during the ancient Olympic game festival held for Zeus himself.
Location: Archaia Olympia 270 65, Greece
photo by John Karakatsanis ( CC BY-SA 2.0 ) modified
An ancient acropolis surrounded by lush landscape.
The extensive ruins of the ancient city of Corinth, otherwise referred to locally as Korinthos, lies between the Greek mainland and the Peloponnese peninsular region in southern Greece. While you’ll find only a few Doric columns from the 6th-century temple of Apollo standing tall here, the breathtaking landscape alone is worth the road trip.
The ancient Corinthian metropolis saw its fall following a massive raid by the Ancient Romans, who also went on to enslave its people. On your visit here, check out the Fountain of Peirene, which served as the primary source of water and also forms the city’s epicenter.
Location: Archaia Korinthos 200 07, Greece
Phone: +30 2741 031207
Theatre of Epidaurus
An extraordinary technological breakthrough from ancient greece.
The Theatre of Epidaurus is an ancient Greek amphitheater hidden in the hills of the same name, about a 2-hour drive southwest from Athens. It is known not only for its grand scale – seating 14,000 spectators – but also for its advanced acoustics, which were a technological breakthrough of its time.
The theatre’s 55 rows of limestone seats were precision-cut into a bowl shape on the hillside. You can swap places with a travel partner and check out the acoustics for yourselves. Near the amphitheater are the remains of a healing center – music was believed to be a major part of medicine in Ancient Greece.
Location: Epidavrou, Tripolis 210 52, Greece
Ancient graves with archeological treasures.
Depending on your perspective, Kerameikos Cemetery can come across either as haunting or beautiful. This ancient grave complex, in fact, started out as a settlement of potters – hence the name, which we borrowed for ‘ceramics’ in English. It just so happened that there were tombs on the site dating back to the early Bronze Age.
The cemetery expanded from around 1,000 BC onwards and was eventually used during the Christian period through the 6th century AD. Some of the tombs are peculiarly designed, with intricate carvings and monumental statues. Check out the excavated sites and a small onsite museum with its amazing collection of ancient ceramics.
Location: Ermou, Athens 105 53, Greece
photo by Paweł 'pbm' Szubert ( CC BY-SA 3.0 ) modified
Acropolis of Lindos
An ancient citadel atop a steep cliff.
The Acropolis of Lindos is a naturally fortified citadel set on top of a cliff overlooking the modern town on the south-eastern coast of Rhodes Island. The ancient site offers breathtaking views over the Aegean seascape. A series of stone steps leads you through the Acropolis’ many scenic levels.
From down below in the charming town, it may look like a daunting climb up to the rock formation. But you can easily reach the citadel by foot or by riding donkeys, which are provided by local guides for about €7. A separate fee, usually from about €12, applies at the fortress’ entrance.
Location: Lindos 851 07, Greece
Phone: +30 2244 031258
Ancient Agora of Athens
The heart of ancient athens.
The Ancient Agora of Athens is an unmissable bonus site near the Acropolis where you can explore the remains of an ancient Greek marketplace. It’s a 15-minute walk northwest from the magnificent Acropolis. There’s an onsite museum with a collection of interesting Athenian artifacts on display, where you can learn about how life was back in ancient times.
The museum also features statues and busts which adorned the streets of the Agora. Excavations have been carried out throughout the site since 1931, with treasures continuously being discovered, exhumed, restored, and put on display to this day. Surrounding the site are scenic hillsides that add to the photo opportunities.
Location: Adrianou 24, Athens 105 55, Greece
Open: +30 21 0321 0185
photo by George E. Koronaios ( CC BY-SA 4.0 ) modified
A fortified city from the bronze age.
Ancient Mycenae is one of the oldest Greek archeological sites on the Peloponnesian Peninsula. The hilltop fortified city dates back the 7th century BC and features the ruins of an acropolis, a palace as well as a series of tombs. The Mycenaeans were considered the first Bronze Age society to emerge on the European mainland.
You can explore the ruins of the ancient city with rewarding vistas from the top – rolling green hills with the blue waters of the Argolic Gulf in the far distance. Find the awe-inspiring Lion Gate with its stacked boulder archway with carved lions at its peak.
Location: Mycenae 212 00, Greece
Open: Daily from 8 am to 8 pm
Phone: +30 2751 076585
photo by Vislupus ( CC BY-SA 4.0 ) modified
Knossos Archeological Site
The legacy of a lost minoan civilization.
Knossos is an ancient city on the island of Crete that’s known to be the remaining legacy of a lost Minoan civilization. It’s also considered to be the largest Bronze Age archeological site on the island as well as being Europe's oldest known city.
Among the ruins, check out the magnificent palace complex of Knossos which you can explore inside and discover a maze of different rooms and quarters. Some of the walls and sidewalks are coated in red ochre and vividly pigmented frescoes. You can view a great collection of art dating back to the Bronze Age at the Heraklion Archeological Museum.
Location: Knossos 714 09, Greece
Discover old macedonian royal tombs.
Ancient Aigai, which roughly translates to ‘The Land of Goats’, is known as the land of the warrior kings of Macedonia. It’s called Vergina today. Deep in a hillside lies a royal burial site of Macedon, which also surprisingly included the tomb of Phillip II, the father of Alexander the Great.
One of the best places to see the treasures of Ancient Aigai is at the Museum of Royal Tombs. Here, you can marvel at the series of dazzling objects, ranging from intricate Macedonian wall art and delicately crafted golden diadems to small yet detailed carvings of ivory figures that were found inside Phillip II’s tomb.
Location: Vergina 590 31, Greece
Open: Monday from 8 am to 8 pm, Tuesday from midday to 8 pm, Wednesday–Sunday from 8 am to 8 pm
Phone: +30 2331 092347
photo by Klaus-Peter Simon ( CC BY-SA 3.0 ) modified
This article includes opinions of the Go Guides editorial team. Hotels.com compensates authors for their writing appearing on this site; such compensation may include travel and other costs.
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For History Buffs: Top 10 Archeological Sites To Visit In Greece
Greece is home to some of the most important archeological sites in the world. Explore the list of the top Greek ruins to visit.
For history buffs or ancient world enthusiasts, a trip to Greece is an unforgettable experience. Greece is a treasure trove of archeological wonders with a rich history that spans thousands of years. It is home to some of the most important archeological sites in the world, with an array of impressive ruins of Ancient Greece that document the people who once lived in this part of the planet. From the temples of Athens to the palaces of Crete, there are countless sites to explore. Here are ten must-see ancient archeological sites in Greece for any budding historian.
10 The Acropolis Of Athens
The Acropolis of Athens is undoubtedly one of the most famous and iconic archeological sites in Greece. Located on a rocky outcrop overlooking the city, the Acropolis is home to several ancient buildings and temples, including the Parthenon, the Erechtheion, and the Temple of Athena Nike. The site has been inhabited since prehistoric times, and the buildings on the Acropolis date back to the 5th century BC.
The Acropolis is also among the oldest UNESCO World Heritage sites and the most ancient ruins in Greece, and visitors can take a guided tour to learn more about the site's history and significance.
Located on the island of Crete, Knossos is said to be the oldest city in Europe (not just one of the oldest ruins in Greece) and is now an important archeological site that was once the center of the Minoan civilization. The site was discovered in the early 20th century by British archeologist Sir Arthur Evans, who worked on the site for over 30 years.
Knossos is famous for its Palace of Knossos, which was the administrative and cultural center of the Minoan civilization. The palace features intricate frescoes, colorful ceramics, and a labyrinthine layout that has captured the imagination of visitors for centuries.
Related: Ancient Cities Unearthed: These Are The 10 Most Recent Ruins To Be Discovered
8 Ancient Olympia
Located in the Peloponnese peninsula, Ancient Olympia is the site of the original Olympic Games. The games were held every four years from 776 BC to 393 AD, and the site was considered a sacred place dedicated to Zeus, the king of the gods. Visitors can explore the ancient stadium, the Temple of Zeus, and the ruins of the Gymnasium and the Palestra. The site also features several impressive statues and monuments, including the Nike of Paionios and the Hermes of Praxites.
Epidaurus is an ancient city located in the northeastern part of the Peloponnese peninsula. It is renowned for its well-preserved ancient theater and healing sanctuary. The theater, built in the 4th century BCE, is considered one of the finest examples of ancient Greek theater architecture and is still used today for performances during the annual Epidaurus Festival.
The healing sanctuary, known as the Asklepieion, was a center of medicine and health in Ancient Greece, attracting visitors from far and wide seeking healing and divine guidance. Visitors can explore the remains of the Asklepieion, including the temple, stadium, and dormitory for the patients, as well as the theater and other ancient buildings that give a glimpse into life in ancient Greece.
Delos is a small island located in the Aegean Sea, near the island of Mykonos. The island was considered a sacred place in ancient times and was dedicated to the god Apollo. Visitors can explore the ruins of the ancient city (easily one of the best tours Mykonos has to offer history buffs), which includes several impressive temples, sanctuaries, and houses. The site is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is considered one of the most important archeological sites in Greece.
Philippi is an ancient city located in the northeastern part of Greece, near the border with Bulgaria, and is one of the best ruins of Ancient Greece. The city was founded by Philip II of Macedon in 356 BC and was an important center of trade and commerce in the ancient world. Visitors can explore the ancient theater, the Acropolis, and several impressive monuments, including the Octagon, the Roman Forum, and the Early Christian Basilicas.
Related: Exploring Ancient Treasures: A Tour Of South America's Top 10 Ruins
Akrotiri is an archeological site located on the southwestern coast of the Greek island of Santorini. Today, it's one of the most interesting Greek ruins to visit since it came to an untimely end; Akrotiri was buried under volcanic ash (much like Pompeii) following the eruption of the Thera volcano in the 17th century BCE. The excavation of the site has revealed a remarkably advanced civilization, with intricate frescoes, sophisticated urban planning, and advanced engineering techniques.
Akrotiri visitors can explore the remains of the ancient city, including the well-preserved buildings, streets, and drainage systems. The site also boasts a wealth of artifacts, including pottery, jewelry, and tools, which provide a fascinating glimpse into daily life in Ancient Greece. Akrotiri is considered one of the most significant archeological sites in the Aegean region and is a must-see destination for anyone interested in ancient history and civilization.
Corinth, situated in the northeastern part of the Peloponnese peninsula in Greece, is one of the best ancient Greek ruins to visit . It is a prominent archeological site that bears witness to the ancient city's rich history. The city was a major hub of trade and commerce, connecting the Ionian and Aegean seas. It was also home to the renowned Temple of Apollo and the Acrocorinth, a towering fortress perched atop a rocky peak that offered stunning views of the surrounding landscape.
The remains of the city include ancient markets, baths, and temples, as well as a stadium that once hosted the Isthmian Games, one of the most important sporting events in the ancient world. Visitors can explore the city's past through its many well-preserved ruins and artifacts, which provide a glimpse into the city's cultural and economic significance.
Delphi is another UNESCO World Heritage Site that was once the center of the ancient world. Located on the slopes of Mount Parnassus, Delphi was known as the site of the Oracle of Delphi , where the priestess Pythia would prophesy the future. The site is home to several ancient temples and monuments, including the Temple of Apollo, the Theater, and the Stadium.
Visitors can take a guided tour to learn more about the site's history and significance, and many choose to make the pilgrimage to the nearby Mount Parnassus National Park for its stunning natural beauty. All in all, this spot is one of the top ancient Greek ruins to visit in terms of beauty.
Related: Forgotten Treasures: 10 Off-The-Beaten-Path Ruins That Will Leave You Spellbound
Mycenae is one of the best ruins in Greece to visit; it was once the capital of the Mycenaean civilization, which flourished from the 16th to the 12th century BC. The site is located in the northeastern part of the Peloponnese peninsula and is home to several ancient structures, including the Lion Gate, the Citadel, and the Palace.
The site is also home to several burial sites, including the Tomb of Agamemnon, which was discovered by German archeologist Heinrich Schliemann in the late 19th century. Mycenae is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and visitors can take a guided tour to learn more about the site's history and significance.
The Must-Visit Ancient Sites in Greece for History Lovers
Recognised as the birthplace of western civilisation, Greece feels like a history book come to life. These are Culture Trip’s pick of the must-see sites no history lover should miss.
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High on top of a hill overlooking Athens stands the proud remnants of four of the most well-known ruins preserved from the ancient world. The iconic Parthenon, Propylaea, Erechtheion and the temple of Athena Nike make up the Acropolis of ancient Athens. The word “Acropolis” refers to the highest point of the city; to reach these impressive structures you must ascend a slope up a steep bluff. After passing through the Propylaea (the monumental gateway), guests can walk the hilltop and take in the great marble facades that have stood here for over two thousand years.
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Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark
Dive into one of the most wondrous ancient places in the world, where heaven and earth once met. Delphi was known as the prime place of worship for Apollo, the Greek god of the sun, as well as a place of worship for many other gods and goddesses. It was also the location where the oracle of Delphi was filled with the spirit of Apollo. Today, numerous ruins from the city remain, including the Temple of Apollo, treasuries, the theatre and athletic structures, including the stadium that held the athletic Pythian Games, when competitors gathered from all over Greece to compete.
Historical Landmark, Architectural Landmark The ancient city of Corinth is located on a narrow stretch of land joining the mainland of Greece and the Peloponnese. Before being sacked by the Romans in 146 BC, the city was one of Greece’s major establishments, flourishing with commerce resulting from its tactical location. Under the Romans, the city continued to prosper, which explains why the most interesting ruins to view here are of Roman build. When visiting, check out the Temple of Aphrodite, the Temple of Apollo and the Roman forum. There is also a sacred spring with a secret passage nearby, leading to a small shrine.
Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark Known for the masterful acoustics of its well-preserved theatre, Epidaurus was a small city blessed with a mild climate, fertile land and several natural springs. Within the city stood the Temple of Asclepius, a god famed for having extraordinary powers of healing. Consequently, pilgrims travelled to Epidaurus from all over, bringing dedications that funded numerous art and construction projects. Because of the excellent condition of the theatre, it is perhaps the favourite structure to visit while at Epidaurus. The acoustics allow guests to hear clearly from anywhere in the stands, which makes the ruin a fascinating place to visit. Today, the theatre at Epidaurus is still used for live music concerts and performances during the summer.
Historical Landmark, Architectural Landmark
Knossos, the capital of Minoan Crete, is the largest archaeological site in Crete. It houses the ruins of an expansive palace that is supposedly the location of the fabled labyrinth from the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. It’s considered to be one of Europe’s oldest cities, and the site is home to numerous intricate murals and art works, including the Royal Chambers, porticoes and irrigation drains.
Historical Landmark The ancient city of Mycenae, once the home of Agamemnon, the king who united the Greek city states and proceeded to demolish the city of Troy, is perhaps one of the most important and awe-inspiring sites of ancient Greece. During the Bronze Age, Mycenae dominated the culture of the area – not surprising when considering the impressive structures that remain today. The world-famous Lion Gate still stands, constructed from large stones stacked upon one another, along with a cylindrical-shaped tomb that is often considered to be the burial place of Agamemnon’s father, Atreus.
Olympia, a sanctuary dedicated to the worship of Zeus, the king of the gods, was the location of the Pan-Hellenic Games, held every four years. These games are considered to be the first Olympics, which has made the site quite popular. Within the Temple of Zeus was a statue of the deity that stood an impressive 12m (39ft) tall – it was thought of as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Today, the site contains a myriad of ruins, including the thermai (ancient baths), the Heroon (monument of the unknown hero) and various temples.
Historical Landmark The ancient city of Aigai, near Vergina, Greece, was known as the first capital of the Macedonian Kingdom. Today, Aigai, which comes from the Greek word for goats, is known as the burial site of the Macedonian King Philip II – father of Alexander the Great. It is an incredibly large burial site, featuring more than 300 tombs that are lavishly decorated and stand above ground. Aigai is also known as the city where Alexander the Great, the conqueror of much of the Mediterranean and Asia Minor, was proclaimed king.
Historical Landmark As the great rival of Athens in ancient Greece, Sparta prided itself on the iron-hearted warrior culture that remained the backbone of their civilisation. The archaeological site of Sparta today is more widespread and scattered than many of the ancient cities of Greece. As this is also the fabled home of Menelaus, the brother of Agamemnon, one of the more well-preserved and studied ruins is called the Menelaion. Despite its sparse culture as far as art and impressive buildings go, the Spartan ruins still have an acropolis and city which includes a theatre.
The Athenian Agora
Arguably the second-most famous archaeological site in Greece is the ancient Agora, located just below the Acropolis, in Athens. In Greek, the word “agora” refers to a gathering or market place, which is basically what this collection of ruins represents. Located in the centre of the city, the Agora remained in use for nearly 5,000 years, undergoing many new constructions and demolitions. Now, archaeologists work to explore the site in reference to ancient Athens, and visitors can enjoy the rebuilt Stoa of Attalos, a long colonnaded building that extends along the edge of the site, plus learn about the well-preserved Temple of Hephaestus.
Natural Feature A Unesco World Heritage Site, Meteora is the largest archaeological centre in Greece in terms of the area it covers. The looming sandstone cliffs are astonishing enough, but these are somehow topped by a complex of Byzantine monasteries teetering on narrow stone pillars and overlooking the vast green valley below. Considered the ideal place to achieve isolation in early Christian times, the first monastery here was established in the 14th century, and only six of the initial 24 are still active today.
Most tourists flock to Santorini for the world-famous sunsets and romantic restaurants, but the holiday island is also home to the Bronze Age settlement of Akrotiri. A vital Minoan port town, it was covered in volcanic ash in the 17th century BC and excavations did not begin until 1867. It is now referred to as the Greek Pompei, and treasures including frescoes, buildings and artefacts have been unearthed there, with excavations continuing to this day.
Climb the headland above Lindos in Rhodes to reach the dramatic Acropolis that towers over the sea below. The remains of the citadel are surrounded by battlements and include the ruins of a theatre, a 14th-century Castle of the Knights of St John and the Temple of Athena Lindia which dates back to the 4th century BC. Go early to avoid tour groups and get the sweeping views over the coastline to yourself.
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Greek Ruins: The 8 Best Historical Sites in Greece
Your Guide To Greece
December 21, 2019
As one of the most prominent civilizations in the ancient world, Greece offers a wealth of historical sites for visitors to explore. Dozens of familiar cultural institutions—architectural styles, the Olympic games and even democracy itself—originated in Greece, making it a dream destination for history buffs. If you’re planning a trip to this sunny Mediterranean nation, be sure to add the following eight Greek ruins to your travel itinerary.
The 8 Best Greek Ruins
The acropolis (athens).
Athens has endured for centuries as the political and cultural capital of Greece, and the Acropolis is its crown jewel. These are the most popular of the Greek ruins. This towering limestone peak is the city’s highest point, providing the foundation for some of the most important structures in the ancient city. Today, the Acropolis functions solely as a tourist attraction, drawing millions of visitors to the remains of these structures:
- Propylaia: These imposing marble columns combine the Doric and Ionic styles of architecture and serve as the gateway to the Acropolis.
- Temple of Athena Nike: This simple yet stunning structure on the site’s southwest corner was originally constructed around 420 B.C. and was rebuilt from its original materials in the 19 th century after being destroyed by the invading Turks two centuries earlier.
- Erechtheion: In Greek mythology, this temple was the site where gods Athena and Poseidon battled to determine which of them would become the city’s patron (Athena won). Its remains consist primarily of several Ionic-style porticoes and the Porch of the Caryatids, six sculpted maidens forming marble columns.
- Theatre of Dionysos: This ancient amphitheater once held 17,000 spectators for performances of great dramatic masterpieces; today, only 20 of the 64 tiers of seating remain.
- Herodes Atticus Theatre: This smaller, more visible theater on the Acropolis’s south side has been restored and continues to be used for performances during the annual summer festival.
The Parthenon (Athens)
Also located on the Acropolis—but significant in its own right—is the Parthenon, a temple built in the 5 th century B.C. in honor of Athena, goddess of wisdom and warfare and the city’s patron. A massive set of Greek ruins, the temple originally consisted of 136 35-foot fluted Doric columns topped by a marble-tiled roof, with pediments on the east and west ends of the temple depicting scenes from the life of Athena.
Over the centuries, the temple has served as a place of worship for multiple faiths: it was converted into a Christian church dedicated to the Virgin Mary in the 5 th century A.D. and then turned into a Turkish mosque in 1456. Unfortunately, the structure was decimated during a 17 th -century conflict between the Venetians and the Turks, but its remains are still one of the most impressive historic sites anywhere in the world.
The Acropolis of Rhodes (Rhodes)
Located on the island of Rhodes—the largest island in the Dodecanese chain in the southern Aegean Sea—the Acropolis of Rhodes looms over the western half of the city of the same name. Unlike many acropoleis of its era, the Acropolis of Rhodes was unfortified. These Greek ruins consisted of large temples, sanctuaries, a stadium and other buildings built into terraces along the hillside in the 3 rd and 2 nd centuries B.C. Although excavations of the site began in the early 20 th century, much of the structure has yet to be revealed, and only a few ruins are currently visible, including the
- Temple of Athena Polias and Zeus Polieus: Located on the northern edge of the Acropolis, this peripteral temple features a columned portico on all sides and provided a location for the Rhodians to store their treaties with other nation-states.
- Temple of Apollo: This smaller peripteral temple sits on the southern end of the Acropolis.
- Nymphaia: These elaborate subterranean spaces were carved into the rock to serve as locations for recreation and religious ceremonies; their ancient architects included water cisterns, spaces for statues in the walls and even plants and other vegetation.
- Stadium: Dating to the 3 rd century B.C., the stadium hosted athletic competitions during the Haleion Games, held to honor the god Helios.
- Odeion: This small marble theater, which was used for musical performances and rhetorical events, held about 800 spectators and has been restored in modern times.
Ancient City of Kamiros (Rhodes)
Along the northwest coast of the island of Rhodes, the ancient city of Kamiros is an architectural wonder of Greek ruins dating back to the 8 th century B.C. As one of three major Doric cities on the island, Kamiros was a critical component of the powerful Rhodian city-state.
This agricultural community produced abundant stores of olive oil, wine and figs and was the first city on the island to mint its own coins. Though Kamiros was leveled twice by major earthquakes, its citizens rallied to rebuild the thriving city until most of its inhabitants gradually relocated to the newly established city of Rhodes after 408 B.C.
Archaeologists first uncovered the ruins of Kamiros in 1929 and continued excavations until the end of the Second World War. Notable structures still visible include the Doric Fountain House, stoa (covered walkway), agora and the Sanctuary of Athena.
The site is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily during the summer tourist season, and admission is around 3 euros.
Palace of the Grand Master (Rhodes)
Located on the island of Rhodes in the town of the same name, the Palace of the Grand Master are Greek ruins that were built by the Knights of Rhodes in the 14 th century. They were constructed as a residence and administrative center for the governor.
These Greek ruins later served as a fortress when Rhodes was invaded by the Ottoman Empire in 1522. The magnificent structure was severely damaged in 1856 when ammunition stored on the lower level exploded, decimating most of the building’s lower level.
During the Italian rule of Rhodes in the early 20 th century, the palace was rebuilt in a style reminiscent of the Medieval period, serving as a holiday residence for the Italian king and Benito Mussolini. Its 158 lavishly decorated rooms are filled with fine marble, precious artwork and antique furniture from the 16 th and 17 th centuries. Many of the floors are paved with mosaics of ancient Roman and Byzantine artwork, and Italian frescoes adorn the walls.
Today, the palace belongs to the Greek government, which has opened two dozen of the rooms to tourists and established a museum on the property. The palace also hosts exhibitions and performances throughout the year.
Tours are available every day but Sunday, with hours varying based on the season. Plan to spend two to three hours exploring the palace and surrounding grounds.
Ancient City of Corinth
Roughly an hour’s drive from Athens, Corinth was a major metropolis in ancient Greece and remains so today. Many of its most interesting historic ruins are scattered on and around the Acrocorinth, a rocky peak just outside the modern city. Over the centuries, earthquakes have caused many of the ancient structures to crumble, although the foundations are still visible and quite impressive.
At the summit of the Acrocorinth, you’ll find the remains of the Greek ruins of the Temple of Aphrodite along with an agora, askepieion (healing temple), theater and fountain. Fortifications along the sides of the Acrocorinth anchor the remains of the Temple of Octavia and Temple of Apollo.
The main archaeological site also features ruins of numerous Roman buildings, including a forum, temples, porticoes, baths, fountains, latrines and other structures. Just south of the site are a Roman theater, Odeion, temple of Asclepius and Hygieia, the ancient city walls and several Venetian and Ottoman monuments.
While you’re there, be sure to make time to visit the Archaeological Museum of Ancient Corinth , which features collections of Neolithic artifacts, mosaics, terracotta figurines, marble sculptures, pottery and more.
Temple of Apollo (Delphi)
Dating back to the 4 th century B.C., the Temple of Apollo has been destroyed and rebuilt multiple times over the centuries, but it remains one of the most fascinating historic destinations in Greece.
The sprawling sacred site of Greek ruins is located about 100 miles northwest of Athens on the slopes of Mount Parnassus. The temple itself sits about halfway up the mountain, its Doric columns and stone platform rising above the valley below, where vast groves of olive trees reach from the base of the mountain to the Gulf of Corinth.
Once you arrive at Delphi , you’ll be traversing the winding uphill path of the Sacred Way, so wear comfortable shoes and plenty of sunscreen. As you make your way up the mountain, you’ll see the following sites:
- Treasury of the Athenians: This small, colorful marble building was built in the Doric style in the 6 th or early 5 th century B.C.
- Temple of Apollo: In ancient times, the temple was where the people sought prophecy from the Pythia, or Oracle, of Delphi. The priestess revealed her divinations in the adyton, a separate room at the rear of the temple.
- Ancient Theater of Delphi: At this large marble amphitheater, musical events and competitions were held in conjunction with religious festivals and the Pythian Games
- Ancient Stadium of Delphi: This remarkably well-preserved arena hosted the Pythian Games, which were in their day more significant competitions than the ancient Olympic Games.
The site is open to visitors from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Be sure to reserve at least half a day, if not longer, to explore the rich history of Delphi.
Dating back to the Neolithic period, Knossos is thought to be the oldest city in Europe. The Minoan people flourished here during the Bronze Age, and their innovations—which include one of the earliest known uses of an underground sewer and sanitation system—helped to shape western civilization. Today, visitors to the site can still witness many of the wonders of this advanced ancient society.
The archaeological site is easily accessible, located a short 15-minute drive from the island’s capital of Heraklion. It was initially identified by German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann in the mid-19 th century, but the local Ottoman authorities refused to allow an excavation at that time. It wasn’t until 1900 that British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans was able to uncover the ruins of the Minoan city and partially restore some of the structures in an effort to recreate their original design.
Knossos is famously labyrinthine, and its complexity gave rise to the myth of the Minotaur, the bull-man hybrid held captive inside the maze by King Minos. According to the legend, seven youths and seven maidens were brought to the palace from Athens every nine years to become human sacrifices. Ultimately, the Greek hero Theseus was able to find his way out of the maze using a ball of string to mark his path.
You won’t see any mythological creatures today, but you will be able to explore the following key attractions:
- Kouloures: Giant circular pits built between 1900 and 1700 B.C.; their purpose is uncertain, although theories suggest they may have served as sites for dumping trash or storing grain.
- Grand Staircase: This impressive structure was recreated by Evans using the columns, pillar bases and stone vases discovered nearby.
- Magazines: Storage rooms containing cisterns, large jars and clay tablets.
- Throne Room: Another of Evans’ recreations, this chamber features a stone throne and replicas of the original frescoes, which are now housed in the museum in Heraklion.
- North Lustral Basin: Massive slabs of gypsum and marble columns discovered by Evans were the inspiration for this recreation, theorized by Evans to have been used for purification ceremonies.
- North Pillar Hall: This most famous component of the palace is an open-air passageway lined with colonnades and connecting the palace’s central court to its northern entrance.
- Drainage system: The remnants of this remarkable feat of engineering are still visible on site.
The palace is open for touring from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the summer and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the winter. Entry is 15 euros, although a combination ticket with the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion delivers a better value. You can walk through the site yourself or join a guided tour for a richer experience. These are some incredible Greek ruins.
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Planning a trip to the historical city of Athens, Greece and wanting to wander about the magical ruins? Prepared to be blown away while literally walking back through time! The ancient ruins of Athens are one of my favorite places I’ve ever visited, due to both the magnificent beauty and their historical representation. Here are the best Athens ruins to visit when in Greece!
Psst. This post contains affiliate links. Read our disclosure .
Athens: the largest and capital city of Greece . And one of the oldest cities in the world, as it’s been continually inhabited for over 3,000 years. Whoa!
Known as the historical capital of Europe or the world’s ancient capital , Athens dates back to the 5th century and Neolithic Era.
This remarkable city was the birthplace of democracy and the motherland of western civilization.
No doubt, Athens is a city filled with thousands of years of history and a multitude of ancient ruins to show for it.
It’s one of my favorite cities in all of Europe, having explored ancient Athens for about 6 days when I last visited. My favorite part of the city though: the magical ruins .
Built centuries ago, massive monuments like the Acropolis and the Parthenon were designed and constructed as prominent architectural structures.
Nowadays, the ruins can be explored by visitors who want to literally walk through history. How cool, right?
But, with that said, if you’re short on time, which should you visit? I’ve listed out some of my favorite that I believe are worth every second of your Athens itinerary! So let’s get into it, shall we?
Table of Contents
VISITING THE ANCIENT RUINS OF ATHENS: WHICH ARE WORTH YOUR TIME?
If you’re in Athens, even if it’s just for a short amount of time, you must visit the Acropolis. Hands down, this is the most popular Greek ruin in the city!
Even if you don’t visit any other historical ruin sites, make sure to at least visit this site, as it’s the most important monument in Greece and a UNESCO World Heritage site .
The Acropolis is a rocky hill with a flat top and a remarkable example of an architectural structure demonstrating the historical stages of the 16th century BC.
Throughout the site, there are a variety of monuments that have stayed put throughout wars, explosions, earthquakes, alterations and more for almost 25 centuries.
P.S. While you’re near the Acropolis, if you have the time, don’t miss out on the Acropolis Museum! And if you need more ideas on what to do in Athens, click here.
* The following suggestions are part of the Acropolis *
One of the greatest cultural monuments and a representation of Ancient Greece, Athenian democracy, and western civilization.
Hey! Thinking of strolling about Athens’ ruins without proper travel insurance ? Think again! You never know what could happen (uh, hello, not-so-safe-ancient-steps!). Get awesome travel insurance here with World Nomads (who I always use!).
The monumental gateway to the ancient Acropolis in Athens.
The Greek word propylaeon literally means “ that which is before the gates ,” but now one can simply interpret the word as “gate building.”
The Erechtheum (Erechtheion)
Located on the north side of the Acropolis, this temple is dedicated to both Athena and Poseidon .
Additionally, the olive tree planted on the side of the Erechtheum represents hundreds of years of dedication and reverence .
The tree established the dominance of the goddess Athena within the city that would take her name.
Psst, I took all these photos with my Sony a5000 ! It’s something I NEVER travel without, as it helps me capture both incredible photos and beautiful memories! Get your own here.
Old Temple of Athena
The foundations of the Old Temple of Athena can be found in front of the Erechtheum (featured in the picture above).
Temple of Athena Nike
Nike means victory in Greek and Athena was the goddess of wisdom and victory in war.
Theatre of Dionysus Eleuthereus
A major theatre in Athens, able to seat 17,000 people and situated at the foot of the Acropolis, the Theatre of Dionysus was a perfect location for ancient Athenian celebrations.
*End of Acropolis sites*
Temple of Zeus
The Temple of the Olympian Zeus has unusually large columns and is one of the largest in the world; it’s the largest temple in the city of Athens.
Located between the neighborhoods of Thission and Monastiraki , Ancient Agora is a large area with beautiful greenery and ancient ruins.
In ancient times, Ancient Agora was the center of Athens and the site where political and judicial gatherings would take place.
*The following ruins of Athens are located within the area of Ancient Agora *
Temple of Hephaestus
The best preserved Doric temple in Greece, this temple is dedicated to both Hephaestus, the ancient god of fire, and Athena.
It overlooks Ancient Agora and most of the temple remains standing to this day.
Stoa of Attalos
This ancient greek building was used for centuries as a major shopping center in the Ancient Agora; now it’s used as a museum for artifacts and pieces of history.
*End of sites in Ancient Agora*
Roman Agora & Tower of the Winds
Located between Monastiraki and the Acropolis, the Roman Agora is a large green area containing the Tower of the Winds and other various pieces of ancient artifacts.
There are more ancient sites throughout the city but those mentioned are some of the most important and well-preserved ancient ruins of Athens.
If you’re ever in Athens, be sure to visit at least a few of these amazing Greek ruins and marvel at the beauty that was created centuries age.
Have you visited ancient Athens? Or are planning a trip there? Or better yet, are you already in this incredible city? Let me know in the comments!
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I love this post so much! Such great pictures. Greece has always been on my bucket list, and I just love the idea of visiting such historical places.
Precisely what I was looking for, thanks for putting up.
Have been to Greece just this past fall… what a wonderful trip! Of course, visited the Parthenon and the Acropolis and luckily, while we were there, we saw Salvatore Adamo in concert… wow, a dream come true. Love Greece!
The Wanderful Me
Hiya Renee! I’m so so glad you had a wonderful trip to Athens – it’s an incredible city! And such a cool experience to see a Salvatore Adamo concert. Thanks for stopping by and reading! 🙂
Excellent blog here! Also your site loads up very fast! What host are you using? Can I get your affiliate link to your host? I wish my site loaded up as fast as yours lol
Hey Maik! Thank you! My blog is hosted with Bluehost (www.thewanderfulme.com/recommends/bluehost/) but I also use the Smush plugin to shrink my image size, which can greatly increase site speed. Additionally, uninstalling any unused plugins can significantly help site speed! (Like uninstalling Jetpack!) Cheers!
Thanks for one’s marvelous posting! I quite enjoyed reading it, you can be a great author. I will always bookmark your blog and will often come back later on. I want to encourage one to continue your great job, have a nice day!
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The Most Fascinating Greek Ruins
- Greece has a rich ancient history and is home to numerous archaeological sites and attractions that showcase its cultural heritage .
- Many of Greece's ancient ruins have been recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites , providing legal protection and international recognition for their historical and cultural significance.
- The Acropolis of Athens , the ancient ruins of Delphi, the ancient city of Olympia, and the archaeological sites of Mycenae and Tiryns are some of the most important and well-known sites in Greece.
- Greece's historical and cultural heritage is not limited to mainland Greece, as there are also significant sites on the Greek islands , such as the Medieval City of Rhodes, the Old Town of Corfu, and the island of Delos.
Do you plan on visiting Greece for its staggering ancient history and culture, but you don’t know which archaeological sites and Greece attractions you should visit first? Here is a list of the most important Greek ruins worth your time!
Athens may well be the cradle of Democracy and Western civilization , but other places in Greece host must-see archeological gems as well!
Most ancient Greek ruins have been listed as UNESCO World heritage sites . However, there are some that haven't without being any less significant. As a result, we have distinguished between those recognized and those who haven't for your convenience.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites to Visit in Greece
It all started on November 16, 1972, when the UNESCO General Congress passed the Treaty on the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. In a nutshell, this Treaty states that the signatory states recognize that the regions in their national territory which have been inscribed on the list constitute, without prejudice to national sovereignty and property rights, a world heritage 'for the protection of which the international community is responsible, which must work as a whole for this purpose.'
For its part, UNESCO helps states protect these sites by providing technical assistance, vocational training, and emergency financial assistance to areas in immediate danger.
For the inclusion of a monument in the list, its criteria are nicely summarized in these two sentences: 'to show important human values for a long period of time" and "to bear a unique or at least excellent testimony to a cultural tradition, living or extinct culture.'
To be selected as a World Heritage Site , it must be a unique landmark that is geographically and historically recognizable and of particular cultural or natural significance.
Greece has 18 monuments on this list, which receive legal protection from the organization. Let's see below what they are, and let's remember parts of Greek history .
The Acropolis of Athens
The Acropolis is the most well-known monument in Greece. It dates back to the 5th century BC, and it accurately depicts the glory of the Golden Age of Pericles in the fifth century. It is mainly dedicated to Athena, the patron goddess of the city.
There are several iconic ruins in the Acropolis , with the most popular ones being the Parthenon , the Erechtheion , the Temple of Athena Nike , and the Propylaea . Replicas of the famous sculptures of Caryatides decorate the porch of the Erechtheion. At the same time, the original artifacts are exhibited in the new Acropolis Museum, which is located just opposite Acropolis hill .
The Parthenon is arguably one of the most impressive buildings on the site. With the temple being dedicated to the goddess Athena, the eastern pediment depicts her birth, which happened through Zeus’ head, according to Greek Mythology .
At the same time, the western part of the pediment depicts the battle between Athena and Poseidon , who fought over who would become the city's patron. The Acropolis is an excellent sample of classical Greek art and architecture, which justifies its place among one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. When you visit it along with the Acropolis Museum , be sure that it will leave you speechless!
Please note that the Acropolis Museum , the Heraklion archaeological museum , and the National Archaeological Museum are the top three museums of historical interest in Greece.
The ancient ruins of Delphi
The ancient Greek sanctuary of Delph i, where the oracle of Apollo was located, was the location the ancient Greeks described as the ‘navel of the world’. Harmoniously combined with the beautiful landscape and sacred significance, Delphi in the 6th century BC. was indeed the religious center and symbol of unity of the ancient Greek world .
At the foot of Mount Parnassos is the famous oracle of ancient Greece , where the oracle of Apollo was given. Ancient Delphi was the religious and spiritual center of Greek antiquity for many centuries, and the oracle's fame reached the ends of the world. Moreover, the oracle of Delphi is believed to have made important predictions regarding important events such as the Trojan War .
In ancient Greece , it was unheard of to go to war without first receiving advice from Pythia, the priestess of the Oracle of Delphi, the most trustworthy oracle of the ancient world. Pythia was a messenger of god Apollo, and no one dared doubt her oracles.
The earliest findings in the area of Delphi date back to the Neolithic period. Unfortunately, they are fragmentary until the 8th century BC, with substantial proof of occupation evident only after the establishment of the Oracle.
The Oracle maintained its glamor for two centuries, and during the 6th century, the sanctuary became independent, with its political and religious influence soaring and the first Pythian Games taking place. From then on, the Pythian Games were held every four years and were the second most important Games in Greece, after the Olympics. Today, Delphi is one of Greece's most famous archaeological sites, one you should experience firsthand!
The ancient city of Olympia
In the western Peloponnese , in the valley of the river Alpheus, Olympia flourished, the most glorious sanctuary of ancient Greece, dedicated to the father of the gods, Zeus.
Olympia was established as the most important religious and sports center. At the archaeological site of Olympia , the great Olympic Games were born. They took place every four years in honor of Zeus and, to this day, are the most prominent world sporting event.
The beginning of the cult and the mythical matches in Olympia are lost in the depths of the centuries. Nevertheless, local myths about the mighty king of the region, the famous Pelops, and the river god Alpheus reveal the strong ties of the sanctuary with both the East and the West.
The sanctuary was dedicated to Zeus , the father of gods and humans. However, besides the Temple of Zeus, Olympia hosts the Temple of Hera, the Bouleutirion, the ancient stadium where the Olympic Games were held in ancient Greece, Prytaneion, an ancient Gymnasium, the Palaestra, the Leonidaion, the workshop of Phidias, the Theokoleon, the Zanes, the Philippeion, the Echo Hall, the Metroon (dedicated to the mother of Gods), the altar of Zeus, the altar of Hera, the Pedestal of the Nike of Paionios, the Pelopion, the Hippodrome, and many other historical buildings.
Most of the buildings were constructed in the 4th century BC, and many of them have survived, reminding us of Olympia’s bright past. Many ancient buildings were used by the athletes of the Olympic Games for training and celebrating their wins. If you visit the Peloponnese, it would be a grave omission not to visit Olympia! Keep in mind that there are still events in Olympia keeping the ancient spirit alive.
The Olympic Torch that signifies the beginning of the Olympic Games is ignited every year through a reaction caused when the sun hits a parabolic mirror. Eleven women are dressed up representing the Vestal Virgins and perform a celebration at the Temple of Hera. If folklore tradition is your cup of tea, you will love the event!
The archeological site of Mycenae and Tiryns
Ancient Mycenae and Tiryns are two cities associated with the Homeric Epics, Odyssey and Iliad, which have been a model for European art and literature for thousands of years.
The archeological sites of these two cities are outstanding monuments of the Mycenaean civilization that flourished in the eastern Mediterranean and left its mark over the centuries.
According to Pausanias, Perseus built Mycenae in Tiryns and gave them this name either because the ‘fungus’ (the case) from his sword fell there or because while he was thirsty, he found a ‘fungus’ (a mushroom) and when he pulled it he saw the source of Persia, which still exists today.
The archeological sites of Mycenae and Tiryns are well-preserved sites of the two largest cities of the Mycenaean civilization, which dominated the eastern Mediterranean world from the 15th to the 12th century BC. and played a vital role in the development of classical Greece and its culture.
Mycenae lies northern to the city of Argos on the top of a low hill that overlooks the valley, stretching till the shores of the Argolic Gulf . Built on a naturally fortified location, the Acropolis of Mycenae is the first thing visitors see when they set foot in the region.
With colossal stone blocks put into creating an impenetrable wall for the protection of the “Anax” and his people, ancient Mycenae was for sure one of the most progressive and impressive places of prehistoric Greece . Don't miss the chance to visit the birthplace of Agamemnon and relive the history of Mycenae through the words of the most revered poet n human history, Homer .
During your visit, relive the stories of the Trojan War, visit massive tombs of Kings and Queens and walk around the palatial complex of Mycenae surrounded by the impressive Cyclopean walls !
The Medieval City of Rhodes
While most ancient Greek temples and ancient cities are found in mainland Greece , there are incredible relics on the islands as well. Walking in the medieval streets of the Greek island of Rhodes, one will feel that time has frozen in the time of the knights. The famous Order of Ioannina occupied Rhodes from 1309 to 1523 and left behind a great gem of architecture.
The Palace of the Great Lords , the Hospital, and the Road of the Knights make the Upper City of Rhodes an important monument of the Gothic period.
The medieval city of Rhodes , a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988, was developed without any specific urban planning around the fortress-citadel of the city of Rhodes , probably after the earthquake of 515.
The fortress was divided into two distinct urban formations in ancient times, the Kollakio north and Chora south. Kollakio includes the well-known street of the Knights, the Palace of the Grand Master or Castello, the Hospital that has been turned into a museum, the temples of the Order, and other important buildings. In Chora are the Turkish bazaar around the Suleiman Mosque, the old market, and other buildings of tourist interest.
The Old Town of Corfu
Another ancient site not located in mainland Greece is the Old Town of Corfu . It is bordered by the Old and New Fortress, created during the Venetian occupation to protect the town from the Ottomans and it is some of the most spectacular ruins in the country.
The historic center of Corfu is reminiscent of something from Italy, which is not unreasonable as the rule of the Venetians on the island lasted about 400 years. The island escaped the Turkish conquerors and managed to flourish and stand out from the rest of Greece.
The Old Town of Corfu is included in the list of world natural and cultural heritage monuments as a remarkable architectural symbol representing a critical historical period. Its registration was adopted unanimously after a positive recommendation from the international non-governmental organization ICOMOS (International Council for Monuments and Sites). It is a Byzantine settlement of the 6th and 7th centuries AD.
The Paleochristian and Byzantine monuments of Thessaloniki
The second most important city in Greece, Thessaloniki , was founded in 315 and was one of the first centers of the spread of Christianity. Among its Christian monuments are pre-Christian temples and three-aisled royal churches.
They were built from the 4th to the 15th century and constitute a timeless typological series that significantly influenced the Byzantine world. The Rotunda, St. Demetrius, and St. David mosaics are among the most important masterpieces of early Christian art.
Rotunda : The Rotunda belongs to the pericentric buildings, while its circular shape is what prompted its name. It was built in the years of Caesar Galerius, around 306 AD, as a temple for Zeus or, according to others, as a Mausoleum.
In the center of Thessaloniki, on Agias Sofias Street and north of the homonymous church, the church of Achiropoietos is preserved. Its date of construction is placed around the middle of the 5th c. Achiropoititos is part of the type of three-aisled wooden-roofed basilica with an attic, which ends in a semicircular arch to the east.
Church of Agios Dimitrios : It was built on the ruins of a Roman bath. The first church, a small prayer hall, was built after 313. In the 5th century, the prefect Leontios built a sizeable three-aisled basilica, which burned in 626 - 34, immediately after the five-aisled basilica was built. In 1493, it was converted into a mosque. In 1912, it was returned to Christian worship. It burned down in the great fire of 1917 and reopened in 1949 after its restoration was completed.
Latomou Monastery : It was built on a Roman building in the late 5th - early 6th century. In 1430, with the fall of Thessaloniki, it was turned into a mosque, while the mosaic was covered with plaster. In 1921 it was attributed to Christian worship, and then the mosaic was discovered. The monument today functions as a temple.
Agia Sofia Church : This church is located at the junction of Agia Sofia and Ermou streets. Dedicated to Christ, the true Word and Wisdom of God, he celebrated on September 14 the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.
Panagia ton Chalkeon : At the junction of Egnatia and Aristotelous streets. It was built in the area of Megaloforos, in the central market of Thessaloniki, near the Bronze Gallery, where to this day, one can find the workshops of the coppersmiths.
Church of Agios Apostolos : At the beginning of Olympou Street, near the western walls of Thessaloniki and south of Litaia Pyli. The pillar south of the church and the cistern to the northwest testify that it was a Catholic monastery.
Church of Agios Nikolaos Orfanos : Near the eastern walls of Ano Poli, between Herodotus and Apostolos Pavlou streets, is enclosed by an enclosure of Agios Nikolaos Orfanos, a member of the Vlatada Monastery, under the Patriarchate, and once a catholic monastery.
Church of Agios Panteleimon : The church, whose name is much newer, is identified with the Byzantine monastery of Theotokos Perivleptos, also known as the monastery of Mr. Isaac by its founder, the Metropolitan of Thessaloniki Iakovos (1295-1314).
The Sanctuary of Asklepios at the Epidaurus
The natural beauty, the gurgling waters, and the favorable climatic conditions established the ancient city of Epidaurus as the ideal place for healing with the power of the gods.
Thus was created the Asklepieion , the seat of the god physician of antiquity which was the most important healing center of the Greek and Roman world.
It was the main sanctuary of the small seaside town of Epidaurus , but its fame and the recognition of its importance quickly surpassed the borders of Argolis. It was considered by all Greeks the place where the medicine was born.
More than two hundred spas throughout the eastern Mediterranean were considered its institutions. Today, these monuments are not only world-famous masterpieces of ancient Greek art but also an excellent testimony to the practice of medicine in antiquity.
The Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae
The famous temple dedicated to the god of healing and the sun was built in the steep mountains between Ilia, Arcadia , and Messinia . The Temple of Apollo Epicurius , the oldest Corinthian capital, combines Archaic style with Doric Rome, with some bold architectural features .
The temple is one of the most important and imposing of antiquity. It was dedicated to Apollo because it helped the locals overcome a plague epidemic. It used to reach 1,130 meters in the center of the Peloponnese .
It was erected in the second half of the 5th century BC. and was attributed to Iktinos, the architect of the Parthenon. This monument, one of the best-preserved of classical antiquity, was the first in Greece to be declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986.
Meteora is famous worldwide for being a natural wonder and one of our country's most important religious sites. Over the centuries, many ascetics chose the solitary rocks of Meteora to live and pray to God. Today, six monasteries welcome millions of believers from around the world.
Meteora is, after Mount Athos , the largest and with a constant presence since the establishment of the first ascetics until today, a monastic ensemble in Greece.
The monasteries of Meteora were thirty, of which six are still operating today and receive a large number of pilgrims. But there are also many smaller abandoned monasteries. Most of them were founded in the 14th century.
Today, the six active monasteries in Meteora are restored, while most of them preserve their fresco decoration. The name ‘Meteora’ is newer and is not mentioned by ancient writers. In 1989 Unesco inscribed Meteora on the World Heritage List as a cultural and natural asset of particular importance.
Mount Athos is the only place in Greece that is entirely dedicated to the worship of God, and -unfortunately, and annoyingly- entry to women is forbidden. It is an autonomous part of the Greek state and belongs spiritually to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. Mount Athos includes 20 monasteries, hermitages, huts, cells, and sanctuaries.
It is located on the peninsula of Mount Athos in Halkidiki , Macedonia , while it is unofficially designated as an ‘Autonomous Monastic State.’ Since 1988, it has been included in the list of World Heritage Sites .
According to Greek mythology, Apollo was born on this small island in the Cyclades. The sanctuaries of Apollo attracted pilgrims from all over Greece, and Delos was a prosperous trading port.
Delos is a small island opposite Mykonos . It is located almost in the center of the Cyclades islands complex, and, probably due to its geographic location; it has been inhabited since ancient times. The first inhabitants of Delos built their houses around 2,500 BC, with the number of Delos' inhabitants reaching 30,000.
They were mainly Athenians and Romans and people from all over Greece and other Balkan and Mediterranean countries. According to Greek mythology , Apollo and Artemis were born on this island, and that’s why there is the great temple of Apollo. The temple was constructed around the 11th -10th century and was in its heyday in the Archaic and Classical periods (7th-4th century). Many people came from other Mediterranean towns to visit this temple during that period.
The island has been influenced by the successive civilizations of the Aegean, from the 3rd millennium BC. to the Early Christian era. The archeological site is pervasive and rich and gives the image of a great cosmopolitan Mediterranean port.
Today, only 44 people are permanent residents on the island of Delos , with most of them being employees of the archaeological site. Despite this, however, there are ferries transferring people who want to visit the archaeological area of Delos daily.
The monasteries of Daphni, Hosios Loukas, and Nea Moni of Chios
Despite their significant geographical distance, the first being located in Attica, the second in Fokida , and the third in the Aegean, these three monasteries belong to the same typological order.
The churches have been built with a large dome supported by small arches creating an octagonal space. In the 11th and 12th centuries, the churches had a variety of decorations, colorful ortho marble, mosaics, and mosaics on a gold background, all characteristic of the ‘second Byzantine Period.’
The Monastery of Daphni was founded in the 6th century on the ruins of the temple of Daphne Apollo. Some columns of the Ionic style of the ancient temple were used again. Today only one has survived, while the rest were transported to London by Lord Elgin.
The Monastery of Saint Luke is perhaps the most important monument of the mid-Byzantine era in Greece. It is a large building complex whose oldest buildings date back to the 10th century and the newest to the early 20th.
The monastery complex of Nea Moni , the most prominent monument of medieval times in Chios , was founded in the middle of the 11th century with imperial sponsorship.
The archaeological site of Mystras
The ‘miracle of Moria’ was erected as a fortress in 1249 by the King of Achaia William Villehardouin. It was recaptured by the Byzantines and later conquered by the Turks and the Venetians. The city was abandoned in 1832, leaving fascinating medieval ruins to stand in a location of exceptional beauty.
The founding of Mystras is connected with the first conquest of Constantinople by the Crusaders of the Fourth Crusade in 1204. The castle became the core of the later castle city of Mystras , one of the most important late Byzantine cities.
With the founding of the modern city of Sparta by King Otto in 1834, the movement of the inhabitants of Mystras to the new city began. In 1989, Mystras was registered as a cultural asset on the list of World Cultural Heritage .
Pythagoreion and Heraion of Samos
From the 3rd millennium BC., many cultures have inhabited this small Aegean island near Asia Minor. The ruins of Pythagorion , an ancient fortified port with Greek and Roman monuments and an impressive aqueduct, and Heraion , the Temple of Hera of Samos , are still open to the public.
Ancient Samos (Pythagorion) was considered one of the most important cities of antiquity. In this area and the area of Hera, the oldest archeological findings date back to the 4th millennium BC.
The findings that see the sunlight day by day testify to the existence of a city with a strong presence, enviable organization, and high level of culture. a city worthy of its inclusion in the Ionian dodecapolis, to verify its characterization by Herodotus as ‘the first of many Greek and barbaric passions.’
Heraion of Samos is the Dipteros Temple of Hera , with a prominent Ionic style. The only column that still stands today survives to about half of its original height. The temple's infrastructure is partially preserved up to the height of the masonry and the pillar. Herodotus characterized the temple as the largest in Greece.
The archaeological site of Philippi
Ancient Philippi is one of the most important and complete archeological sites of Northern Greece , with many monuments associated with the city's evolution from the Hellenistic period to the late Byzantine years. Moreover, its strategic position, distinguished by Philip II, was recently upgraded with the construction of ‘Egnatia Avenue’.
After the dramatic battle in 42 BC., who defined the political history of the Roman state lived a period of prosperity as a Roman colony. The Apostle Paul came to this lively urban center and founded the first Christian church on European soil in 49/50 AD, which was to change the countenance of both the city and the continent.
With the recognition of Christianity and its establishment as the state's official religion, imposing Christian temples were established, a panorama of early Christian architecture .
The ancient city of Philippi was founded on the edge of the swamps that covered the southeastern part of the Drama plain. Its first inhabitants were settlers from Thassos , who founded in 360 BC the colony of Krinides, while the city flourished during the Hellenistic years.
The historical center (Chora), with the Monastery Of Saint John Of Theologist and the Cave Of The Apocalypse In Patmos
Patmos , in the Dodecanese , is famous as the island where Saint John the Theologian wrote the Gospel and the Apocalypse . A monastery dedicated to the "beloved student" was discovered on the island in the late 10th century.
Since then, it has been a place of pilgrimage and a station of Greek Orthodox learning. The monastery complex dominates the island. The old settlement of Chora, which is connected to it, includes religious and folk buildings.
The Monastery of Agios Ioannis, the Theologian in Patmos , is perhaps the most important monastic complex in the Aegean Sea. The founder of the monastery was Saint Christodoulos.
Built on a mountain top, the monastery is surrounded by an irregular rectangular defensive enclosure. It was allegedly built on the site of the temple of Artemis and an early Christian basilica.
The Holy Cave of the Apocalypse is one of the reference points of Patmos and Christianity worldwide. The cave was the refuge of the Beloved Disciple of Jesus John in 95 AD., when the emperor Domitian exiled him to Patmos, punishing him for preaching the word of God in Ephesus.
According to Christian tradition, during John's stay in the cave, the rock was torn, and through three smaller slits, symbolizing the Holy Trinity, the voice of God was heard, which dictated to John the Holy Book of Revelation.
The ancient Greece site of Aegion in Vergina
The city of Aegion , the first capital of the Kingdom of ancient Macedonia , was discovered in the 19th century near Vergina in Northern Greece .
The most important monuments are the Palace, decorated with mosaics and frescoes, and the burial site, some of which date from the 11th century BC. One of the royal tombs in the Great Tomb was recognized as the tomb of Philip II, who conquered all Greek city-states, paving the way for his son Alexander and the spread of the Hellenistic world.
At the southern end of the Macedonian plain, perched at the foot of Pieria, are Aiges, ‘the place with many herds,’ the first city of the Macedonians. The first Macedonian urban center is located south of Aliakmonas, in the heart of the area that was for Herodotus the ‘Macedonian land,’ the cradle of the Macedonians. In the same place, Alexander the Great is proclaimed king and begins the course that will lead him to establish himself as a legend.
Dominating the plains of the Aliakmonas river and built on the foothills of the Pierian Mountains lies the ancient royal city of Aiges, the political center of the ancient kingdom of Macedon.
With a history of thousands of years, the ancient city of Aiges was the seat of the Macedonian king. The famous Argead dynasty of Macedonian kings succeeded in making the city a significant cultural, political, and economic center of ancient Greece.
A famous painter called Zeuxis worked here, as well as the renowned tragedian Euripides during the last years of his life. The most famous kings of Aiges were Phillip II and, of course, the world-known Alexander the Great. In 168 BC, the city was left in ruins after the coming of the Roman army.
In 1977, the famous Greek archaeologist Manolis Andronikos discovered the royal city and showed its riches to the world. Don't miss the chance to check up close the palaces with the exquisitely-made mosaics, the public buildings, and of course, the ‘necropolis,’ the burial site of the Macedonian Kings.
Additionally, don't forget to pay a visit to the Archaeological Museum of Vergina, where golden wreaths, tombs, and glittering armors are only some of the artifacts that will have the chance to witness!
The best ancient Greek ruins not included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list
The archaeological site of akrotiri in santorini.
The island of Santorini is known worldwide for its spectacular deep blue sea and the stunning view of the island's caldera. A fact, however, that never gets mentioned is that the island is an active volcano-shaped after numerous violent explosions.
Santorini , or Thera -as it was called in antiquity- during the Bronze Age, was one of the most important centers of the Cycladic civilization . As proof stands the archaeological site of Akrotiri.
The settlement was substantial, covering a large area with hundreds of houses, public squares, and palace complexes, reflecting a prosperous civilization with high living standards. After the volcano's explosion, the site was buried under 60 meters of ash.
As a result, the settlement of Akrotiri was outstandingly preserved, including houses more than two stories high, roads, public facilities, priceless artifacts, and impressive frescoes.
The site of Akrotiri is the Aegean equivalent of Pompeii, capable of time-traveling the visitor back to the Bronze Age ! Akrotiri is one of the most impressive Greece attractions .
The Ancient Agora of Athens
The area of the Ancient Agora has been a prominent testament of ancient Greece . It was established around the late Neolithic period as a cemetery. However, Agora swiftly became both a cultural and commercial center of ancient Athens and shaped the city's political, religious, cultural, social, educational, administrative, philosophical, and financial life.
To comprehend Agora's importance, it should be noted that its grounds hosted the public library , the Stoa of Attalos , the Temple of Hephaestus , the Bouleutirion , the Tholos , and the music school of Agrippa , among many other significant buildings of the time.
The Stoa of Attalos was a present to the city from the staunch student Attalos, who felt gratitude for the knowledge he had gained in Athens. In the 2nd century BCE, it became the shopping center of the Athenians.
Despite most of the buildings being destroyed by hostile raids, the Stoa of Attalos was restored in 1956. Today, it hosts exhibits as the site's archaeological museum. Another surviving building that still stands proud and stunning is the temple of Hephaestus.
Even if only a tiny part of the Ancient Agora is still standing, the importance of the archaeological site has diminished in no way, shape, or form. On the contrary, it remains one of the top destinations for exploring Greece's history. Therefore, we suggest you put it high on your 'to-visit' list and marvel at its admirable beauty the first chance you get!
Knossos Palace in Crete
Knossos was the center of the Minoan civilization , which existed between 2,000 and 1,500BC, and is directly connected to many tales of Greek Mythology , with 'Minotaur and the labyrinth' and 'Icarus and Dedalus' being the most popular myths related to king Minoas and Knossos Palace .
The city of Knossos was inhabited from the 7th millennium BC until Roman times, and the Knossos palace is the largest preserved part of the palatial complex, reaching 22,000 m2. It’s an engaging palace, consisting of plenty of workshops, shrines, storerooms, royal quarters, and other rooms. Most of them are designed with amazing colorful murals depicting religious rites, Mother Nature elements, or emblazonments of the everyday Minoic life and civilization .
The palace suffered much damage throughout the years due to natural disasters. However, it remains awe-inspiring to anyone who visits it. Let's not forget that it was built millions of years ago!
The Ancient Theater of Epidaurus
Epidaurus is where one can gaze in awe at the most renowned ancient theatre of Greece. During the late Classical era, Epidaurus was mainly known for the town’s Asclepion, an original remedial center. Despite people’s belief that prayer would heal them, patients did receive treatment in Asclepion thanks to the experiential knowledge of the priestesses.
At first, Asclepius was not considered a God but was idolized as a hero. Later, a temple was built, and people worshipped him as a god. The Asclepion signaled a transition from meddles attributed to supernatural powers to real medicine.
Therefore, the ancient edifice and relics of Asclepion are a reminder of the development of medical science back in the 4th century BC. What is most impressive about the area and the original health center of Asclepius is that besides the medical center itself, one can find a whole building complex built to accommodate the needs of the people who visited its premises.
There was a building where ailing people could be hosted for as long as needed. Additionally, there was a stadium where Games used to be held as a tribute to Asclepius. There were also two sanctums for Greek God Apollo and Goddess Artemis, a bathhouse, a house for the priests, and, of course, the Theater of Epidaurus .
Unfortunately, only a few parts of the buildings survive today just like in many other Greek ruins . However, archaeologists try to maintain the ruins, while there is also an archaeological museum where all the relics are exhibited.
Apart from its rich history, Epidaurus still holds the interest of both locals and visitors, with one of the most exciting theatre festivals taking place in the ancient Epidaurus Theater every year!
And here you have them. The most astonishing and fascinating ancient sites in Greece . Some of which have earned the protection of UNESCO. Of course, there are many more fascinating sites in Greece , such as ancient Corinth and ancient Sparta; however , these are our favorites.
The monuments included in the World Heritage List are selected and approved based on their value as the best examples of human creative intelligence.
They are evidence of a significant exchange of human values and provide a unique or at least excellent testimony to a cultural tradition or culture that is still alive or has disappeared.
They are directly connected with critical stages of human and Greek history , and for this reason, they have outstanding universal value and are part of the common heritage of humankind. This is why we try to include as many as possible in our Greece vacation packages !
Even the ruins that have not made it to the list are not to be missed. They are examples of ancient Greek excellence and remain a testimony to a golden age that greatly affected Western civilization and continues to this day.
Now, call us biased, but aren’t they all heart-stopping?
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the oldest ruins in greece.
Knossos Palace represents significant ruins among Greece’s oldest buildings and boasts the oldest ruins found in Greece. Interestingly, it has a historical dating of more than 4000 years ago, going to the beginning of the Minoan civilization , which was an advanced society whose capital was located in Crete.
What is the first ruin in Greece listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site?
While most would expect Acropolis to be the first site UNESCO included in its World Heritage Site list , the Temple of Apollo Epicurious at Bassae managed to be inscribed on the popular and prestigious list first.
While it is less talked about than the rest of the Greek ruins , its inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list highlights the importance of the temple dedicated to Apollo Epikourios (or ‘Apollo the helper’). Allegedly, the temple was designed by Iktinos, the architect of the Parthenon in Athens .
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13 Fascinating Ancient Greek Ruins to Explore
By James Ellis
Last updated: June 18th, 2022
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It’s said that in parts of Greece it’s impossible to break ground without finding ancient ruins. Indeed, the now-impressive Athens Metro service was delayed for many years as construction workers continued to make important finds. Little wonder, then, that the country is home to perhaps the most incredible collection of ancient monuments in the world.
The Hellenistic period spanned for more than 16,000 years from the 12th century BC to around 600 AD, giving the world philosophy, mathematics, medicine, and much more. Comprising a loose collection of city states related by a common language and culture, it gave birth to the Minoan, Mycenean and Macedonian empires and spread knowledge far and wide across the Eurasian region.
The repercussions of Ancient Greece remain all around us. Here are 13 of the most impressive ancient Greek ruins to explore.
Parthenon in Acropolis, Athens
Built in the fifth century BC and dedicated to Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom, Acropolis is the most important site to see when visiting Athens . Its iconic Parthenon temple—possibly the most recognizable ancient site in the world—sits high on a hill in the center of the city and glimpses of its majesty can be seen from any location.
The Greek landmark is home to a number of significant ruins, including the Temple of Athena Nike, the Erechtheion and the Propylaea, the site’s monumental gateway.
It’s a short hike to the summit from the road and while stunning views over the modern metropolis and a breeze often greet you, the sun reflecting off the pale marble ruins can be dazzling, so come prepared.
Acropolis Museum, Athens
One of the best museums in Europe , the Acropolis Museum sits in the foothills of the Acropolis itself. The museum tells the incredible story of this iconic site and poignantly has spaces left empty in the hope the controversial Elgin Marbles will one day be returned by the British Museum in London.
Spreading over some six square miles and occupied since the neolithic era, Knossos in Crete is not only the most expansive Bronze Age site in Greece, but is also thought to be the oldest city in Europe.
The main site takes in the vast palace dating from around 2000 BC that provided the epicenter of the Minoan Civilization and covers around five acres. At the time, it provided an incredible show of wealth for an empire that stretched to Athens and beyond.
The palace’s layout may well be the inspiration for one of the most enduring myths that Greece is known for , the legend of the Minotaur, a fierce beast to which seven Athenian boys and girls were sacrificed each year until it was vanquished by the Athenian hero Theseus.
Temple of Poseidon, Sounio
On the southern tip of the Athenian Peninsula, some 30 miles from the city center, the Temple of Poseidon stands on a hill, overlooking the sparkling Aegean Sea. The temple dates from around 400 BC, though others are thought to have preceded the current structure on the same site.
Dedicated to the God of the Sea, Storms and Earthquakes, it, too, plays a role in the story of the Minotaur. Theseus’ father, the Athenian King Aegeus, waited for the return of his son’s boat from Crete, expecting to see white sails if Theseus had defeated the minotaur, and black if he had perished on his quest.
In his joy at victory, Theseus forgot to take down his black sails and Aegeus, in grief at his son’s passing, threw himself into the sea, giving it the name Aegean. Many Greeks now believe the incredible sunsets seen here daily are testament to his memory.
The temple is arguably one of the most beautiful Greek ruins today, thanks to its location and elegant simplicity.
Read: Unforgettable Day Trips From Athens
Olympia Archaeological Site, Olympia
Set in a valley at the confluence of two rivers, Ancient Olympia is the legendary site that gave birth to the original Olympic Games, a celebration of ancient cultures and sporting events during which all conflicts were halted.
The modern games are just one of the legacies from here, though. In its heyday (between the 10th century BC and fourth century AD), its temples, such as the Altis, the sanctuary to the gods, influenced similar feats of architecture around the wider Hellenistic world.
The Statue of Zeus that is once said to have resided here was listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
A visit today reveals a largely sleepy spot, the surrounding hills and valleys little changed from ancient times. So many of the structures are still in place, it’s not hard to imagine oneself being transported back in time to when Olympia was one of the most significant cities of its day.
Acropolis of Lindos, Rhodes
The word Acropolis is not unique to the magnificently preserved citadel in Athens—translated from the ancient Greek, it means “city on the edge”. There were many such settlements around the country, a legacy of population centers keeping themselves atop a hill so danger could be spotted early.
One of the finest examples is this magnificent complex above what is now the holiday resort of Lindos on the island of Rhodes . Dating from the fourth century BC, the site consists of temples, a theater, a stoa (a magnificent covered walkway) and cemeteries.
As with its counterpart in Athens, it’s a challenging walk to the 400-foot summit, so it pays to be prepared with water and some form of shade.
Read: Best Places to Go Hiking in Greece
Archaeological Site of Delos, Delos
This small, rocky island off Mykonos is one of Greece’s most important historical and archaeological sites, a living museum where the excavations take place all around you.
Said to have been the birthplace of the twin Gods Apollo and Artemis, the remote island has had a checkered history, going from a site of worship where no one was allowed to be born or die, to a bustling port in the Roman era, to eventual abandonment in the eighth century as its population dwindled.
Terrace of the Lions in Archaeological Site of Delos, Delos
The result today is a site that is full of wonder, where highlights include temples, markets and mosaics, as well as the Terrace of the Lions, a walkway of seven snarling beasts (thought to have been 12 at the time of construction) that was built to honor Apollo. An informative museum tells the island’s story.
Ancient Corinth, Corinth
Known to Christians through the first two New Testament letters of St Paul, Corinth was one of ancient Greece’s largest and most significant cities.
Isthmus of Corinth
Set midway between Athens and Sparta on the Isthmus of Corinth (a narrow stretch of land that separates the Peloponnese from the Greek mainland), it lies around three miles south of the modern city that bears the same name.
Corinth’s strategic location made it a hotspot for trade and it’s thought that at its height in 400 BC, its population reached almost 90,000—a staggering amount by ancient standards.
Temples, forums, fountains, and baths were built and the remnants of these can be seen today in excavations that extend from the ancient city to Acrocorinth hill, a citadel in the style of the Acropolis.
Ancient Mycenae, near Nafplio
The world has a lot to thank 19th-century amateur archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann for. Not only did he discover Ancient Troy in present-day Turkey when no one expected him to, but he went and repeated the feat in Mycenae in 1876.
Until then, Mycenae was thought to be the stuff of legend. Featuring heavily in Homer’s The Odyssey and The Iliad, it was claimed to be the home of Agamemnon, the king who commanded the Greeks during the Trojan War. Schliemann’s discoveries put the ancient site firmly on the map.
Set on a hilltop between vast Greek mountain ranges , it is home to Agamemnon’s Palace, various tombs and graves, and a dramatic lion gate, as well as a small, yet highly informative, museum.
Hadrian’s Arch and the Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens
Hadrian’s Arch, Athens
Named after the ancient Roman Emperor and constructed around 131AD, Hadrian’s Arch is a magnificent Pentelic marble gateway in central Athens. Topped with Corinthian columns, it was once the entrance to an ancient road that led to the nearby Temple of Olympian Zeus.
Interestingly, the underside of the arch has conflicting inscriptions depending on which way one is facing. On the side facing the Acropolis, it reads: “This is Athens, the ancient City of Theseus”, while the inscription facing the Olympian reads “This is the city of Hadrian, and not of Theseus.”
Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens
A short walk away sits the Temple of Olympian Zeus, one of the most ambitious and long-standing construction projects in the ancient world. Work began on the temple in the sixth century BC but was not complete until 628 years later.
With the fall of the Roman Empire, its magnificent marble was plundered and quarried and the site fell into disrepair a little more than 100 years after its completion. Despite that, 16 of the original 104 gigantic columns remain, dominating this part of the Athenian skyline.
Theater of Epidaurus, Epidaurus
The ancient Theater of Epidaurus is little short of a miracle. Able to house 16,000 people and built in the fourth century BC in the lush hills of the Peloponnese, its acoustics to this day are quite incredible.
Send a friend to the last tier of marble seats and whisper something on the stage and, providing the theater is not packed with other visitors, they will be able to hear you.
Sanctuary of Asclepius, Epidaurus
The setting here is so magnificent that there is still an annual festival of shows, while there is also much to see beyond the theater itself thanks to its location as part of the Sanctuary of Asclepius, dedicated to the ancient Greek god of medicine, full of temples, baths, and healing areas.
Archaeological Site of Aigai, Vergina
In the foothills of the Pierian Mountains, an hour’s drive south-west of Thessaloniki , lies the largely unassuming village of Vergina, home to another of Greece’s greatest finds—the ancient royal capital of Macedon, dating from the fourth century BC.
Aigai was the seat of the Royal dynasty of King Phillip and his son and successor, Alexander the Great. Within ten years of taking over from his father, young Alexander had created one of the largest empires in history, stretching from Greece to India, remaining undefeated in the many battles he fought in the process.
Royal tombs in the Archaeological Site of Aigai, Vergina
The site was discovered in the 19th century, but it was not until the mid-1970s that it was truly excavated to reveal royal tombs, cemeteries, temples, a theater, and an acropolis.
Today, you can tour the underground tombs, marvel at the marble ruins, and wonder at some of the incredible treasures that were rescued from the tombs in the associated museum.
Panathenaic Stadium, Athens
This magnificent stadium, originally built in 330 BC, is known locally as the Kallimarmaro (“beautiful marble”) as it’s the only stadium in the world constructed fully out of marble. This is thanks to a 144 AD rebuild by the Greco-Roman senator Herodes Atticus.
Later abandoned for many years, it was excavated and refurbished to host the first modern Olympics in 1896 and is still in use today as the finishing point of the annual Athens Marathon and for other sporting and cultural events.
Able to hold up to 80,000 people, the stadium is a truly jaw-dropping affair, the lines of marble seating closely hugging the modern track that now surrounds the central field. The stadium is a short walk away from Athens’ other archaeological sites and so makes for a great add-on or a standalone visit.
Akrotiri of Thera, Santorini
On the beautiful volcanic island of Santorini lies another magnificent Minoan site, Akrotiri. The Bronze Age settlement here is thought to have been one of the Minoan civilization’s most populous urban centers, with great riches, thanks to its extensive port.
That all came to an abrupt end some time in the 17th century when, like Italy’s Pompeii, Akrotiri was covered in volcanic ash and remained so for more than 3,700 years. In 1967, modern excavations began.
The ash fall means the site is beautifully preserved and it’s easy to see why many locals believe Akrotiri to be the inspiration for Plato’s Atlantis legend.
The old settlement is protected by a bioclimatic roof, and visitors walk around on suspended walkways as the ancient city unfolds just a few feet below them in a mesmerizing way.
Discover the wonders of Ancient Greece for yourself on a luxury cruise to Greece with Celebrity Cruises. Browse itineraries on our website and book your Aegean adventure.
James is a freelance travel writer who has visited more than 80 countries. A keen ultramarathon runner, he spends his time between his adopted home of Greece and his real home in the UK’s Yorkshire Dales.
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10 OF THE MOST IMPORTANT ANCIENT SITES IN GREECE
In the country that gave birth to western civilisation, every step you take is a journey through history. Boundless curiosity and a spirit of exploration never fail to take hold as you wander around ancient temples, theatres, stadiums and cities. Around you are buildings and temples constructed at least two-and-a-half thousand years ago: the Acropolis, Delphi, Knossos, Mycenae, Olympia… among the sites that embody the spirit and grandeur of Ancient Greece. So which sites do you have to visit at least once in your lifetime?
In the heart of modern Athens , the iconic rock of the ancient Acropolis rises to greet every new visitor in turn. The cornerstone of European civilisation, it is still a marvel, a reminder of what mankind is capable. You’ll finally see with your own eyes the creations of Athens’ Golden Age: the Parthenon, the Propylaia, the Temple of Athena Nike, the Erechtheum with its famous Caryatids. Τo get a fuller picture of the glory that was Greece, you’ll also want to visit the other important Athenian monuments : the theatres of Dionysos and Herodes Atticus, the Areopagus, the Pnyx, the Kerameikos Ancient Cemetery, the Ancient Agora and the Roman Forum, the columns of the temple of Olympian Zeus and Hadrian’s Gate. Not to forget, of course, the atmospheric old neighbourhoods of Plaka, Philopappos, Monastiraki and Thiseion. The entire history of Ancient Greece lies at your feet.
The sacred rock of the Acropolis
Temple of Poseidon
At the southernmost peninsula of Attica is Cape Sounion, the site of the astonishing cliff-top temple of Poseidon that was completed in 440 BC.
Sacred to Zeus, the father of gods and man, where the Οlympic Games were born. At the archaeological site of Olympia, in the western Peloponnese, stood one of the wonders of the ancient world, the enormous gold and ivory statue of the god made by master sculptor Phidias.
Feel the spirit of Ancient Olympia
The most important and wealthiest of the Mycenaen palaces, in the northwestern Peloponnese, with its famed Lion Gate and the Cyclopean walls mentioned by Homer.
The great comedies and tragedies of the ancient world are still are performed in one of the most beautiful ancient theatres in the world, just 45mins away from Mycenae.
The ‘navel of the Earth’, where the most celebrated oracle of ancient times resided. It was here that the revered Pythia uttered her predictions, made more portentous by the spectacular setting in Central Greece. The Temple of Apollo, the god of light, is its most important monument.
Feel the aura of Delphi’s world-famous archaeological site
Greece’s most beautiful archaeological park, near Katerini in northern Greece, with ancient sanctuaries, theatres, baths, mosaics and villas.
Another gem in northern Greece are the Royal Tombs of Philip II, father of Alexander the Great, and other family members of the great Macedonian dynasty. The underground museum should be among the current wonders of the world, for its exquisite gold finds and rare paintings.
Feel the majesty of Vergina’s Royal Tombs
A World Heritage Monument and the holiest island of antiquity, just opposite Mykonos. Dedicated to Apollo, the whole island is an archaeological site.
Exploring the birthplace of Apollo on Delos
Knossos & Phaistos
The two most famous Minoan palaces on Crete. The first, just outside Heraklion, contains King Minos’ labyrinth. The second, near the south coast, overlooks the Libyan Sea.
Exploring the Minoan palace of Knossos on Crete
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The Parthenon on Acropolis Hill, Athens
Where to See Greek Ruins | A Chronological Travel Guide
At its height during antiquity, the Greek Empire dominated the banks of the Mediterranean, with settlements in over 20 modern-day countries including Turkey, Italy, Cyprus and parts of Northern Africa. In addition to the ruins, this region boasts one of the most pleasant climates on the planet along with ease of travel and mouth-watering cuisine. Each period during the reign of the Greeks contains a fascinating insight into Europe’s first advanced civilization, which influenced much of the western world we know today. We’ll start by exploring these periods, with examples of the best ruins for each, and then provide a summary of the most historically dense regions in which one can explore the ruins of the Greek Empire.
A Brief History of The Greek Empire & Where it was Located
The aegean civilization | early bronze age 2000 – 1450 bc.
A collective term for the Minoan, Cycladic and Helladic civilizations, the boundaries of what can be considered the start of Greek civilization fall largely within modern-day Greece. The Helladic civilization controlled much of the mainland while the Minoans and the Cycladic civilization controlled Crete and the Cycladic islands respectively. Many of the ruins of this era were destroyed by either the Thean Eruption, a massive volcanic eruption on the island of Santorini, or the period of mass burning and looting during the Late Bronze Age Collapse. Thankfully, there are several sites that remain and many artefacts, including sculptures and pottery, safely housed in museums dotted around Greece.
The 4 Minoan Palaces, Crete
Perhaps the most iconic of the 4 palaces, Knossos was arguably the oldest city in Europe and the archaeological site displays the best-preserved ruins of this era. Its painted red-black pillars and mural offer the best insight into what these ruins would have looked like during their heyday. 3 of the palaces are relatively close together. Knossos and Malia are a 35-minute drive apart and Phaistos, on the south coast, is an hour from Knossos. Zakros is a further 2.5-hour drive from Malia on the far eastern side of the island, although, this region of Crete is stunning and, being the furthest away from the island’s International air and ferry ports, is the least visited.
The Mycenaean Civilization | Late Bronze Age 1600 – 1100 BC
Largely considered to be the first advanced civilization on mainland Greece, the Mycenaeans expanded the territory of the Greeks into Anatolia in modern-day Turkey. This period plays host to several of the most famous Greek myths, including Hercules and the Siege of Troy. In fact, Homer’s two epic poems, the Iliad and the Odyssey are based around the latter of these two myths; the Iliad details the Trojan War and the conflict between Agamemnon and Achilles, while the Odyssey details the journey home of Odysseus, one of the war’s great heroes. I digress. While many of the ruins of this period were also destroyed during the Late Bronze Age Collapse, there are several sites preserved remarkably well, all things considered.
Troy VII, Hisarlik, Turkey
After some debate in the historiographic community, Hisarlik, named Ilion in Homer’s Iliad, is widely accepted as the location of the ancient city of Troy. Whether the Battle of Troy actually took place or not, there still remains an archaeological layer of Hisarlik named Troy VII, which dates back to Mycenaean times from 1300 to 950 BC. Found in the north-west corner of Anatolia, the Archaeological Site of Troy was excavated in 1870 and designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Points of interest include an array of foundations, theatre ruins you can walk around and a museum, which is found just under a kilometre from the archaeological site.
Mycenae & the Lion Gate, Peloponnese
30 miles south of Corinth in the Peloponnese region of Greece, the citadel of Mycenae, along with another Mycenaean citadel, Tiryns, were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. Mycenae was the proud centre of the Mycenaean Civilization and this archaeological site contains the ruins of a megaron, a grand central hall, Cyclopean walls and the Lion Gate. The most recognisable of the ruins at Mycenae, the Lion Gate was the primary entrance to the citadel and features a wonderful example of Cyclopean masonry, two lions carved into a massive limestone boulder.
The Greek Dark Ages – 1,100 – 800 BC
A particularly bizarre and relatively unknown period in history, the Late Bronze Age Collapse not only affected Mycenaean Greece but most of the civilizations surrounding the western Mediterranean. This period of destruction saw almost every major city destroyed and ushered in the region’s Dark Ages. Subsequently, the next few centuries were spent rebuilding what was destroyed and there aren’t any ruins of note from this period.
Ancient Greece | The Archaic Period 800 – 480 BC
To rise from the ashes ; to emerge renewed, revitalised, or reborn as something different following some total destruction or ruin. If there is a better example of this idiom than Ancient Greece, I’m not aware of it! Lasting roughly three centuries, this period saw the rise of, and conflict between, the great cities of Athens, Sparta and Corinth and gave birth to the Olympic games in 776 BC. Trade also grew substantially during this time and was responsible for the Great Colonisation of the Mediterranean. During this period, the Greek Empire began to take shape, expanding to over 20 modern-day countries, with settlements spanning the Mediterranean from modern-day Spain to the banks of Georgia and Russia. For the intrepid traveller, this opens up a wide range of countries one can visit in search of greek ruins.
This rise from the ashes tale was not only true for Greek civilization but even more so for the Persians. Around 550 BC, Babylon was quickly becoming the centre of the world, the Persians had conquered most of Asia and Greek colonies around Anatolia began to fall to this great empire. This ignited a 50-year series of epic battles known as the Greco-Persian War, which included such historical events as the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC and the legend of just 800 Spartans holding back the Persian invasion. The Greco-Persian Wars ended with Greece taking back Anatolia and reaching the height of its empire up to this point. One of the cultural areas showing the most growth during this period was architecture, with now famously Greek columns becoming prevalent in many of the large structures built during this period and leaving behind some of the most famous of all the Greek ruins.
Archaeological Site of Delphi
Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Archaeological Site of Delphi is just over a 2-hour drive northwest of Athens in the foothills of the Pindus mountain range. If you’ve explored the busy streets of the capital for a few days, the tranquil drive up to the site of Delphi is worth it on its own merit. The site includes a spectacular mountain-enclosed theatre and several reconstructed elements including an Athenian Treasury and a Tholos or temple. The Tholos, pictured above, is a great example of Doric architecture, in particular their columns, which you’ll recognise from many of the other ruins in Greece.
Ancient City of Corinth
Corinth is strategically placed on the isthmus between the Attica and Peloponnese regions of Greece, which allowed them to control trade between these centres. Unlike Athens, the Archaeological Site Of Corinth is separated from the modern city, lying several kilometres to the south-west. The site’s most famous ruin is the Temple of Apollo, each column is made from a single piece of stone and remains remarkably well intact. Being such a strategically positioned city, Corinth was highly valued by the Romans as well and many of the ruins of this period can also be seen at this site.
Archaeological Site of Sparta
Of the three sites mentioned for this period, the ruins of Sparta are easily the least impressive but nonetheless important given the myth-like reputation of the Spartans. This site itself contains a small theatre and some interesting stone blocks bearing ancient Greek inscriptions. The modern town of Sparta is quaint in comparison to its larger counterparts and is decorated with bronze statues immortalising Spartan legends like Leonidas. If you decide to include Sparta in your itinerary be sure to check out the town’s centrally-located Archaeological Museum, which houses many of the artefacts found at the site and displays pieces that predate Greek times all the way up to the Roman occupation.
Classical Greece | The Classical Period 480 – 323 BC
Of all the eras in Greek history, the Classical Period is the most well-known and is to credit for the most impressive & well-kept ruins. This period begins with the successful recapture of Anatolia and is commonly thought of as Greece’s renaissance. Science and Philosophy were valued highly during this period with Plato founding the Academy, where Aristotle studied for several years, in 387 BC. Art and Literature were also highly valued during this time, leaving behind a collection of beautiful theatres and sculptures. At this point in Greece’s tumultuous history, there were two major states left, Athens and Sparta, who battled intermittently during this period. The warring ceased briefly with the signing of the Thirty Years’ Peace treaty in 446 BC but was resumed not long after with the beginning of the Peloponnesian War in 431 BC. This era, and arguably with it the height of the Greek Empire, came to a close in the early 4th century BC with the death of Alexander the Great who had come from the north to conquer all of Greece and subsequently most of Asia.
The great Parthenon which sits atop Athens’ Acropolis, was Built between 447 – 438 BC by Pericles, a general who is credited with much of Athens’ stellar reputation during its golden age. It is generally thought of as the best example of the Doric order, an architectural style known for its simplistic appearance when compared to the other classic orders. Originally built as a temple, this impressive structure eventually became Athens’ treasury and was later used as a church by the Romans and a mosque by the Turks. In addition to the Parthenon, Athens’ Acropolis also features many other fascinating sites you can visit including the Erechtheion, the Propylaea and the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, all pictured above.
Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion
It’s hard to think of a better tribute to Poseidon, Greece’s mythological god of the sea, than the temple at Cape Sounion. Just over an hour south of Athens, this temple sits at the southern tip of the Attic peninsula overlooking the Saronic Gulf and is worth a visit for the view alone. Another example of Doric architecture, the temple has been rebuilt several times and of the original 38 white marble columns, 16 remain. Sunset is one of the best times to photograph the temple and the site also features a cafe where you can sit and watch the sun disappear into the gulf.
Epidaurus Theatre, Peloponnese
If you visit only one theatre on your trip to Greece, simply put, Epidaurus should be it. Known as the best-surviving theatre from Ancient Greece, this gigantic structure can house up to 14,000 people and boasts spectacular views of the surrounding landscape. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the theatre is famous for its acoustics and still hosts plays and concerts there to this day. Be sure to check out the archaeological museum, which houses many immaculate sculptures and other artefacts. Epidaurus is only 45 minutes southeast of Mycenae and well worth the visit if you’re in the Peloponnese region.
The Macedonian Empire | The Hellenistic Period 323 – 146 BC
Meaning “to imitate Greeks”, the Hellenistic Period begins with the passing of Alexander the Great after his conquest of the Persian Empire and ends with Rome’s conquest over the Corinthians at the battle of Corinth. Unfortunately, Alexander’s empire collapsed quickly following his death and was split up between his generals sparking the Diadochi Wars. During his epic conquest, Alexander left behind very little resembling ruins, and this period has often been neglected by historians. One of the most famous sculptures in the world still remains, however, and is proudly on display at one of the world’s most celebrated museums.
Nike of Samothrace, The Louvre, France
Not strictly a ruin per se, but well worth a mention. Depicting Nike, the goddess of victory, this sculpture was found on the Greek island of Samothrace in the north Aegean sea in 1863 and is thought to have commemorated a battle at sea. Most likely not worth the trip if you’re in Greece strictly for the ruins, if you ever happen to be in Paris, take a trip to the Louvre so see this symbolic monument to Europe’s first great empire.
The Best Places to See Ruins of The Greek Empire
The Peloponnese Region
Although Athens is certainly thought of as the best place to see Greek ruins, I happen to disagree! Home to the great cities of Sparta and Corinth, the Peloponnese plays host to more UNESCO World Heritage Sites than anywhere else in Greece and most of them pertain to the Greek Empire, including the two examples below. I can think of much worse things to do than spending a week or two driving around this peninsula, and its proximity to Athens itself means you can easily tick off both of these places in the same trip.
In the northwest corner of the Peloponnese peninsula, you’ll find the ancient site of Olympia, which hosted the Olympic games for 4 centuries between the 8th and 4th centuries BC. Although not standing in their entirety, the remains at this site are in better shape than many others on this list and, with a bit of imagination, give you a true sense of what it must have been like to compete at the games in ancient times. In addition to the ruins, Olympia has two museums, the Archaeological Museum of Olympia presents artefacts found at this and other sites across Greece. The other, the Museum of the History of the Olympic Games of antiquity, is dedicated to telling the story of the Olympic games and how it evolved over centuries.
Temple of Apollo Epicurius
The Archaeological site at Bassae is just over an hour and a half drive south of Olympia on the western side of the Peloponnese and is most famous for its temple dedicated to Apollo Epikourios, one of the most important Greek gods. Like many of Greece’s great ruins, the site at Bassae sits in a remote mountainous landscape, it should come as no surprise then that Apollo was a god of healing among other things. At the time of writing in 2020, the temple is covered in a white tent to protect the ruins as renovations are carried out, however, even inside the tent you can easily appreciate its grandeur and a trip to this tranquil part of Greece is an absolute must.
One of the most enchanting capital cities in the world, the bustling streets of Athens sit beneath the Acropolis and Mount Lycabettus. Thanks to its Golden age during the fifth century, Athens has some of the most spectacular ruins you’ll find and is the closest location on this list to Greece’s main International Airport. In addition to the Greek ruins, Athens also has many Roman-era concert halls and churches. As with most capital cities, Athens is incredibly easy and cheap to navigate, allowing you to visit many sites on the same day. The accommodation options in Athens are also unparalleled along with its range of restaurants, cafes, bars and other amenities.
Theatre of Dionysus
Another famous site at the Acropolis, on its southern bank, this is the oldest theatre in Athens and dedicated to Dionysus, the son of Zeus and Semele, who was a god of wine and ecstasy (nope, the actual meaning of ecstasy). In its heyday, the seating area would have hosted around 15 thousand people and surrounded a dome-shaped orchestral area in front of the main stage. The theatre is just a stone’s throw away from a handful of other amazing attractions including the Acropolis Museum, which is just across the road, the Acropolis itself and the Temple of Olympian Zeus.
Temple of Hephaestus
To the northwest of the Acropolis, you’ll find one of the best-preserved ruins in Athens, in the middle of Thissio park. Another structure commissioned by Pericles, the temple took over three centuries to finish and is another classic example of Doric architecture. A huge structure with all of its 34 columns intact, the temple is over 30 meters long and is an incredible feat of engineering given the technology available at the time. The site is just across the road from Thissio subway station and sits next to the Church of the Holy Apostles, a Greek orthodox church (not from the same period) that is well worth checking out if you’re in the area.
If you’re in Athens for the ruins it would be a shame to miss its impressive array of museums. In addition to the famous Acropolis Museum and the National Archaeological Museum, stop by the Museum of Cycladic Art if you’d like to learn a little more about this early period. This 25-year old museum, occupying 4 floors contains a collection of ancient Greek art with a focus on artefacts from the Cycladic islands. This is one of the best places to see well-preserved Cycladic sculptures along with pottery from the Classical and Hellenistic periods. The museum is easily accessible via the Athens transit system and is just over the road from the archaeological site of the Lyceum of Aristotle.
Anatolian Coast, Turkey
The first of our lesser-known locations for Greek ruins, Turkey’s Anatolian coast was part of the Greek Empire on and off for centuries. First settled by the Myceneans in 2nd millennium BC, this strip of coastline was hotly contested with the Persians for many years. Turkey also contains many Roman ruins and a lot of the sites contain examples of architecture from both empires. If you would like to extend your trip from Greece or just explore somewhere a little more off the beaten track, Turkey offers a wonderful collection of ruins with the added ability to visit other Turkish highlights such as Pamukkale and Istanbul.
Temple of Apollo, Didyma
Didyma sits on the southwest coast of the Anatolian peninsula, in the Turkish riviera. Unfortunately, much of this sanctuary was destroyed over the years, however, unlike many of the simplistic columns you’ll see from this era, many of the column bases and capitals at Didyma are intricately designed with carvings of mythological beasts and patterns. The most famous ruin at the site is a temple dedicated to Apollo, pictured above, which was initially built in 700 BC but destroyed and rebuilt over the years as the Greeks and Persians warred over this land. The sea in this region is an almost indescribable shade of blue and it would be a travesty not to explore this stretch of coastline while you’re in the area.
Ancient City of Ephesus
Although the best-preserved ruins at Ephesus are from Roman times, this ancient city was an important Greek centre belonging to the Ionian League, an alliance of 12 city-states during the Classical era. This city has a rich history with archaeological evidence dating from the Mycenaean period, through Ancient and Classical Greece and into the Roman occupation of the region. Interestingly, the city used to lie on the banks of the Mediterranean, which is now 3-4 kilometres further west. A long street decorated with columns runs from the old harbour to a theatre and offers an immersive insight into what it might have been like to live in this ancient city. Ephesus is around an hour and a half north of Didyma.
Another place not often thought of as the classic location for Greek ruins, Sicily was settled by the Greeks during the Great Colonisation of the Mediterranean in the Archaic period. In addition to housing some of the best-kept ruins from Ancient Greece, Sicily is also one of the nicest areas in the Mediterranean, with many additional sites to visit including several volcanoes. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, there are no ferries from Greece to Sicily, so if you’re exploring Greece first, fly from Athens International Airport where you’ll find the widest range of flights.
Valley of the Temples
As you no doubt guessed from its title, this archaeological site in the centre of Sicily’s south coast is home to a collection of temples dedicated to various Greek gods. Most of the temples here are Doric in style and constructed in the 5th century BC, the Temple of Concordia is particularly impressive. Also known as the archaeological area of Agrigento, this site was designated a UNESCO world heritage site in 1997 for being “an extraordinary testament of Greek civilization in its exceptionally preserved condition”. Aside from being historically fascinating, the Sicilian coastline lies a mere 2-3km from the site, which is lined with quaint harbours and long sandy beaches.
Neapolis Archaeological Park
A UNESCO site containing both Greek and Roman ruins, the Neapolis Archaeological Park sits on Sicily’s east coast in the city of Syracuse. Of all the ruins at the site, the most impressive, in my opinion, is the Greek theatre. Be sure to check the theatre’s performance schedule as this is something you won’t want to miss. The performances, especially those in the evening, are incredible to watch and the amount of effort put into the production, stage, props and costumes is clear. During the day, hike to the top of this theatre for a spectacular view of the Mediterranean’s Ionian Sea.
Northern Greece (Ancient Macedonia)
Last but most certainly not least, northern Greece may not contain the number of impressive ruins its southern equivalents do, however, the historical importance of this region is undeniable. Northern Greece, or Macedonia as it was known at the time, was home to two of the Hellenistic Period’s heroes, king Philip II and his son, Alexander the Great. There are two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in northern Greece, including the capital of Macedonia, Aigai. For any history buff or anyone looking to extend their stay in Greece, a trip up to the less-visited northern half of the country will not disappoint.
Archaeological Site of Philippi
Founded in the 4th century BC under a different name, the site was an important fortified city of the aforementioned king Philip II after he conquered it in 356 BC and renamed it, Philippi. The site contains an impressive theatre, an intricate structure of foundations and walls and the city’s main gate. The Archeological Museum of Philippi is well worth a visit with its collection of both Greek and Roman artefacts including sculptures and statues, pottery and a model of what the town would have looked like in ancient times. The other UNESCO site in Northern Greece, Aigai, lies just over two hours east of Philippi and would be a shame to miss if you’re in the area.
A Complete History/Timeline of Ancient Greece , Ancient Greece in 18 Minutes , Map of the Greek Empire , Ancient-Greece.org , Matt Barett’s Greece Guides , UNESCO , Wikipedia , Encyclopedia Britannica , Google Maps
Ruins, Isles & More: the 10 Best Places to Visit in Greece
The Modern Travel Agency
With its iconic landmarks, cosmopolitan cities and beautiful Mediterranean scenery, Greece always enchants. We’ve rounded up 10 of the best places to visit in Greece, from ancient ruins to picturesque beaches.
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In the meantime, here’s a little Greek travel inspo.
The 10 best places to visit in Greece
Greece is a favorite of culture connoisseurs and relaxation junkies alike. There are tons of places to lay out in the sun, with crystal-blue waves crashing on the shore and ruins standing prominently in the distance.
Eager to know the best places to visit in Greece? Here are a few of our favorite landmarks and destinations.
1. The ancient ruins & monuments in Athens
The Acropolis , the Temple of Olympian Zeus, Hadrian’s Library…Athens is filled with ancient ruins dating back to the Classical Era, the Roman Empire and more.
No Greece itinerary is complete without seeing at least a few of these behemoth monuments from past civilizations. But if you only have time to see one, the Acropolis is especially worth visiting. The old temple stands above much of the rest of the city, offering fantastic panoramic views.
Athens isn’t just one of the best places to stay in Greece because of its ruins, of course — the vibrant city is home to so many fun experiences, including a thriving nightlife scene.
Pro tip: some of the best boutique hotels in Athens , like King George, also offer stunning views of the Acropolis from their rooms.
Connect with Fora to plan and book your stay, and to get answers to questions like “ How many days in Athens do I need?”
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2. Athens Riviera & Poseidon’s Temple at Cape Sounion
The Athens Riviera makes a case for being one of the best places to visit in Greece.
Boasting beautiful and diverse beaches, sapphire-blue waters, luxe resorts (including one of the best couples resorts in Greece ) and more, the Riviera is a great destination for travelers seeking a seaside escape and a taste of Mediterranean life. The nightlife here is prime, especially during the warmer months. (Check out our Greece nightlife guide.)
And if you’re looking for more cultural landmarks, the ruins of Poseidon’s Temple overlook the beaches at Cape Sounion.
3. The stone villages of Zagori & Pindus National Park: where to stay in Greece for something a little different
The region of Zagori may be an unexpected entry among the best places to visit in Greece, as it’s not nearly as popular as places like Athens or Santorini (BTW: check out the best places to stay in Santorini ). However, Zagori is home to dozens of quaint, stone villages offering a dramatically different side of Greece from the cities and islands to the south.
The local cuisine is heartier, and instead of rows of trendy bars and restaurants, you’re more likely to encounter traditional mom-and-pop cafés and pubs.
Zagori’s forests, which include Pindus National Park, are rife with opportunities for outdoorsy adventuring like whitewater rafting and hiking.
Connect with Fora for hotel recs in Greece’s Zagori region.
4. The monasteries of Meteora
Easily one of the most unique places to visit in Greece (and arguably the world), the monasteries of Meteora are built atop huge, jutting pillars — some as tall as 1,300 feet. The temples date back to the early 1000s, during the height of the Byzantine Empire. Even if you’re not especially interested in the sites themselves, hiking the challenging trails through gorgeous scenery is rewarding in itself.
It’s worth noting that while the monasteries are open to the public, they are active places of worship, and guests are encouraged to dress modestly and be respectful.
5. The Ladadika neighborhood of Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki, another one of the best places to visit in Greece’s mainland, differs from Athens in that its influences are much more diverse. Whereas Athens heavily favors ancient Greek architecture, Thessaloniki features an eclectic mix of Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman styles.
Thessaloniki’s coolest areas are inherently walkable, particularly along its lively waterfront in the Ladadika neighborhood, famous for the White Tower of Thessaloniki and delicious gastronomy to explore.
Connect with Fora to plan and book your Thessaloniki getaway, and to get the inside scoop on its coolest haunts.
6. The stunning beaches & unique culture of Halkidiki
Just south of Thessaloniki, you’ll find the mainland region of Halkidiki (a.k.a. Chalkidiki), denoted by picturesque sandy beaches and hiking trails through gorgeous, hilly forests.
Most of the development in the region is relegated to quiet beach resorts, but there are a few Old-World towns like Kassandreia and Kalandra that are fun to explore, especially if you’re keen on sampling the local tavernas and cafés.
Overall, the vibe here is much more relaxed than what you’ll find in the larger cities, so it’s where to go in Greece if you want to kick back and enjoy the views.
7. Delphi: once the “center of the world,” per the ancient Greeks
A cornerstone of ancient Greek culture for over 400 years, Delphi has been visited by ordinary pilgrims as well as rulers of city states, both of whom would make the treacherous journey to consult with the high priestess, or Oracle of Delphi . As the reign of the ancient Greeks waned, though, the site lost much of its luster for the better part of 1,500 years.
In the late 1800s, however, a long chain of archeological efforts began to restore Delphi to what it is today: arguably the best place to visit in Greece for travelers interested in Classical Era ruins and ancient Greek culture.
8. Mount Olympus National Park, where the Greek gods once resided
For those seeking fresh alpine air and beautiful scenery, Mount Olympus National Park — the same Mount Olympus once said to be the home of the ancient Greek gods — is one of Greece’s best places to visit.
The park is one of Europe’s last remaining biological reserves and is home to dozens of rare species like golden eagles, peregrine falcons and even Eurasian wolves. Hiking through the park's four major trails tops most travelers’ to-do lists, but you can also ski here in winter.
Planning a trip to Greece ? Fora can help you build an awesome itinerary with a day trip to Mount Olympus National Park.
9. The romantic stone streets & scenic harbor of Nafplio
Modern Greece’s former capital and the one-time playground of the Athenian elite, Nafplio is where to go in Greece if you want a great mix of relaxation and opportunities for cultural immersion. The city isn’t as busy as Athens or Thessaloniki, but it still has a fun energy to it, and the weather and scenery are perfect for enjoying the surrounding beaches and hillside trails.
Nafplio’s waterfront promenade is particularly inviting, with plenty of fun tavernas , bars and restaurants — not to mention striking views of the small harbor. The architectural style also features a unique blend of Venetian, Ottoman and Neo-Classical Greek influences. Together, these features create a charming backdrop for an intimate couples’ trip.
10. From Santorini to Corfu: the Greek Isles
You can’t create a list of the best places to visit in Greece without mentioning the Greek Isles. There are literally thousands of them, though only about 200 are inhabited. And of those 200, most are incredible travel destinations.
Crete and Santorini are among the most popular, with a huge range of things to do.
Mykonos, which many consider to be the capital of Greece nightlife , is another popular choice. But there are also quieter islands like Milos and Paros, which offer a more authentic, laid-back experience.
Check out our guides to where to stay in Crete or the best Greek islands for families for more inspo.
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Not quite ready to book? Still wondering where to go in Greece? Check out these other Greece travel guides for more inspiration.
Where to Go in Greece for the First Time: 5 Best Options
The 6 Best Greek Islands for Couples’ Trips
Where to Stay in Milos, Greece: 5 Great Options
Where to Stay in Paros, Greece’s Most Under-the-Radar Island
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16 Of The Best Archaeological Sites In Greece
A guide to the best archaeological sites in Greece. It includes the Acropolis, the Ancient Agora, Delphi, Olympia, Mycenae, Epidaurus, Ancient Delos, Ancient Akrotiri, and more!
The archaeological treasures of Ancient Greece
Greece is world famous for its ancient past. Many visitors come to Greece to learn more about the ancient Greek civilization, and to admire the wonderful ancient sites.
However, choosing which archaeological sites to visit isn’t all that straightforward. There are over 500 (!) major and minor archaeological sites in Greece, many of which have on-site museums.
This article lists some of the most important archaeological sites in Greece. You will find out why they are so important, what you will see, where they are, and how to visit.
1. The Acropolis of Athens
The Acropolis of Athens is the most important archaeological site in Greece. It was built in the 5th century BC, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The word “Acropolis” means “the highest point of the city”. Indeed, the Acropolis is an ancient citadel perched on top of a hill right in the center of Athens. As such, it offers stunning views of the Greek capital, including the theatre of Dionysus and the theatre of Herodes Atticus.
The Acropolis is not just one building, but a complex of several ancient temples, and was an important religious center for Ancient Athenians. The most famous temples on the Acropolis Hill are the Parthenon, the Erechtheion, and the Temple of Athena Nike.
How to visit the Acropolis of Athens
Most people visit the Acropolis with the convenient combined ticket , which offers access to seven ancient sites in Athens. A single-entry ticket to the Acropolis costs 20 euro from April to October, and 10 euro in the off-season months.
I recommend taking a guided tour of the Acropolis , which will help you understand more about life in Ancient Athens. I’ve taken guided tours a few times in the last decade and each time I learn some new things!
If you are visiting in summer, it’s best to get your tickets in advance, and to avoid the hottest hours of the day. Wear non-slippery shoes, bring some water and a hat, and check out these other tips for staying cool in the summer in Athens .
The Acropolis is open from 8.00-20.00 in summer, and 8.00-17.00 in winter. The exact opening hours vary during the shoulder months. For more information, have a look at the official Acropolis website .
2. The Ancient Agora of Athens
The Ancient Agora of Athens was the civic, social and cultural center of ancient Athens during the classical era. It was used as a marketplace and meeting point, where Athenian citizens gathered to discuss political and social issues.
Today, the Ancient Agora is a vast green area which is full of ancient ruins and statues. The highlight is the imposing temple of Hephaestus, the best preserved ancient temple in Greece.
There is also a brilliant archaeological museum explaining aspects of life in ancient Athens, housed in the reconstructed Stoa of Attalos. Here is a full guide to the Ancient Agora of Athens .
How to visit the Ancient Agora of Athens
Most people will visit the Agora on the combined ticket for the ancient sites in Athens . Otherwise, a single entry ticket costs 10 euro from April to October, and 5 euro during the winter months.
Allow at least a couple of hours if you want to read all the information in the museum. In my opinion, this is one of the most underrated museums in Athens.
There’s also a guided tour of the Ancient Agora that you can take. In my opinion, it’s totally worth it as there’s tons realto learn about life in the ancient city of Athens.
The Agora is open from 8.00-20.00 in summer, and 8.00-17.00 in winter. Have a look at the official Ancient Agora website for updated information.
3. The Temple of Poseidon at Sounion
One of the most photographed ancient Greek temples is the temple of Poseidon, which was built in the 5th century BC. It is located at Cape Sounion, about 70 kms out of central Athens, and stands majestically on a rocky hilltop, offering stunning views of the Aegean Sea.
The area of Sounion, which lies at the southernmost point of the Attica peninsula, was a key point for Ancient Athens. Its strategic location made it an ideal point to monitor ships sailing through the Saronic Gulf. In addition, it was close to the Ancient Lavrion silver mines, an important source of income for the Athenian state.
Here is my full guide to the majestic temple of Poseidon .
How to visit the Temple of Poseidon
The easiest way to visit the Temple of Poseidon is on a half-day tour from Athens . Alternatively, you can also rent a car and drive there yourself. Relying on public buses can be tricky, especially if you are on a tight schedule.
The sunsets here are spectacular. I recommend arriving an hour or two before sunset, and spending some time just looking at the Aegean Sea!
For more information on opening hours and tickets, check the official Temple of Poseidon website .
4. Archaeological Site and Museum of Ancient Delphi
Ancient Delphi is another UNESCO World Heritage Site in Greece. It is located in the area of Fokida in mainland Greece, on the side of mount Parnassus, roughly a three-hour trip out of Athens.
Originally, the Sanctuary of Delphi was a place of worship of Mother Earth. Later, it became a cult place for God Apollo, and home to the Oracle of Delphi and the priestess Pythia. Its importance was so great, that it was considered to be the centre of the ancient world.
Today, you can see the remains of various ancient buildings, most notably the temples of Apollo and Athena. There are many more ancient relics, such as the remains of an ancient theatre and a large stadium at the top of the hill. The landscape is truly majestic, and adds to the special energy of the site.
Here is my guide to Ancient Delphi . Also, have a look at this article about the inspirational Delphic Maxims , which were found inscribed all around the site.
How to visit Ancient Delphi
You can visit Ancient Delphi and the superb museum on a day trip from Athens. You can either take a public bus , hire a car , or take an organized guided tour .
In summer, the site is open from 8.00 to 20.00. Always check their website for more details on opening hours, admission prices, days with free entrance etc. If you decide to visit independently, allow at least three to four hours for your visit.
Tip: Do not skip the ancient stadium! It’s located at the highest point of the site, and it’s totally worth the climb, as it offers the best views of Mt Parnassus and the wider area of Delphi.
5. Ancient site and museum of Mycenae
Ancient Mycenae is one of the top archaeological sites in Greece. It is located in the region of the Peloponnese, about two hours south-west of Athens.
This is the area where a powerful ancient Greek civilization, known as the Mycenaean civilization, emerged during the Bronze Age, in the early 2nd millennium BC. This culture reached its peak between 1,350 and 1,200 BC.
The citadel of Ancient Mycenae was enclosed within thick fortified walls. The settlement behind these walls, consisted of several buildings, including the Mycenaean King’s palace and the outstanding Mycenaean tombs.
The entrance to the settement, which is the landmark of Ancient Mycenae, is known as the Lion Gate. It dates from 1,250 BC, almost a millennium before the Acropolis of Athens was built!
For more information, have a look at my guide to Ancient Mycenae .
How to visit Ancient Mycenae
You can easily visit Ancient Mycenae on a day trip from Athens. You can use the public buses, but hiring a car is probably easier as you will have more freedom.
Many people prefer to visit Ancient Mycenae on an organized tour which also includes the ancient site of Epidaurus and the historic town of Nafplion. This is a great idea as you can see three of the highlights of the Peloponnese in just one day.
If you visit independently, check the official Ancient Mycenae website for more information on opening hours and admission tickets.
6. Ancient site and theatre of Epidaurus
Ancient Epidaurus is one of the most important ancient sites in Greece, and one of my own favourites. It is located two hours away from Athens, and just a half-hour’s drive from Ancient Mycenae.
The site is best known for the theatre of Epidaurus, with its incredible acoustics. However, it was a lot more than this. It was an important religious sanctuary, dedicated to the Greek god of medicine and healing, Asclepius / Asklepios.
The sanctuary was known as Asklepieion, a healing centre where people came to be treated by the powerful god. The Theatre was built in order to accommodate musical performances, which were held to honour Asklepios.
Here is my guide to Ancient Epidaurus .
How to visit Ancient Epidaurus
The easiest way to visit Ancient Epidaurus is to take an organized day trip from Athens . You can also visit on your own, either by rental car or on the public buses.
You should know that the ancient theater is also used for performances every summer. Seeing a show at the grounds of the ancient sanctuary is a fantastic experience, and you should absolutely go for it if you get the chance.
For more information on visits, opening hours etc, check out the official Ancient Epidaurus website .
7. Archaeological site and museum of Olympia
Ancient Olympia is another UNESCO World Heritage site in Greece. It’s located in the western Peloponnese, just under 4 hours away from Athens.
This sacred site has been associated with the Ancient Olympic Games since 776 BC, when they were established. They took place to honour Zeus, the King of the Gods, and they were the most important celebration in Ancient Greece.
Many of the temples and other buildings in Olympia have not survived – but the excellent museums make up for it. Here are my guides to Ancient Olympia in Greece and the origins of the Olympic Games .
How to visit Ancient Olympia
It is possible to visit ancient Olympia on a day trip from Athens, though it will be a rather long day. Before you plan your visit, check the official Ancient Olympia website for opening hours and other information.
My suggestion is to hire a car and go on a mini road trip. There are tons of places worth visiting in the Peloponnese, including the coastal towns of Nafplio, Gythio and Kalamata . You will also find plenty of beach towns and resorts where you could spend a few days.
8. The Acropolis of Lindos in Rhodes
The Acropolis of Lindos is an imposing ancient citadel, located on the east coast of Rhodes, in the Dodecanese group of islands. It is one of the most visited ancient sites in Greece.
Lindos town dates back to the 11th century BC. In the 9th century BC, a temple was built to honor the patron goddess, Athena Lindia. Later, the site was taken over by numerous invaders, including the Knights of St. John, who also built the monumental palace in Rhodes Town.
Today, visitors can see what has remained of the temple of Athena, and the ruins of the city walls that were built around the citadel. There are also some byzantine churches and an ancient theatre. Lindos town, at the foot of the hill, is a quaint little town that is worth exploring for a couple of hours.
How to get to Lindos
You can easily get to Lindos from Rhodes town by bus, taxi or rental car. There are also all sorts of organized bus tours , or you could even opt for a boat trip and travel in style!
Have a look at this detailed guide on how to get around Rhodes .
It’s important to know that Lindos is a citadel, and is on top of a hill. To reach the top, you have to climb a few flights of stairs going through the quaint Lindos town. Some people prefer to ride a donkey to the top, but please refrain from doing that.
For some more information, have a look at the official website: Acropolis of Lindos .
9. Ancient Delos Archaeological Site and Museum
Ancient Delos is an magnificent UNESCO site which covers a whole island. It is located very close to the famous Mykonos , in the Cyclades.
According to Greek mythology, two of the Olympian Gods, Apollo and his twin sister Artemis, were born on Delos. As a result, the island was of major religious and spiritual significance to the Ancient Greeks, who came from far and wide to pay their tributes.
In the 2nd century BC, Delos was declared a free port. Soon, it became the world’s most important commercial hub. Traders, merchants and bankers moved there from faraway lands, and the island became very multicultural.
Even though the official language was Greek, there was no official religion, as people coming from other cultures were free to worship their own gods. Sadly, the golden days of Delos didn’t last long, as it was attacked twice by foreign enemies only a century later, and was subsequently abandoned.
Here’s a longer guide about Ancient Delos . In my opinion, it’s one of the most interesting archaeological sites in Greece.
How to visit Ancient Delos
Today, you can visit Ancient Delos on a little boat, as a half-day trip from Mykonos. As this is a popular site, it’s best to pre-book a guided tour , which includes the boat tickets from Mykonos to Delos and back.
There are also some sailing tours from Mykonos that also include a stop at Rhenia , another deserted island.
Note that the island is closed over the winter period, so you can only visit from April to October. Unless you are one of the few archaeologists who work there, overnight stays are strictly prohibited. You can find more information about opening hours etc on the official website .
Related guide: Where is Mykonos
10. The Archaeological site of Akrotiri in Santorini
Ancient Akrotiri is located on the famous island of Santorini, in the Cyclades islands. It is a prehistoric settlement dating from the 4th millennium BC, and was once one of the most important ports in the Aegean.
Unfortunately, a series of earthquakes and a volcano eruption in the 17th century BC, brought the sudden end of the ancient settlement. This might be what inspired the legend of the Ancient Atlantis!
Miraculously, many buildings, tools and artefacts survived under the lava and the ashes, and have helped archaeologists understand the level of development of the ancient civilization.
How to visit the Ancient city of Akrotiri
You can easily visit Akrotiri on your own, either by public bus or your own transportation. Or, if you want to find out more about this iconic archaeological site, you can take a guided tour of Akrotiri .
Tip: You’ll be happy to know that a roof canopy fully protects the ancient site, so you won’t have to deal with the scorching summer sun!
Check the official website for more information and opening hours.
11. The Catacombs in Milos
If you visit the beautiful island of Milos , make sure you visit the Catacombs. They are the biggest known catacombs in Greece, with a length of 184 meters.
The Milos catacombs were built in the 1st century AD, in order to be used as a Christian cemetery. They were abandoned in the 5th-6th century AD, due to earthquakes and landslides. Around 8,000 Christians are estimated to have been buried here.
How to visit the Milos Catacombs
The Milos Catacombs are located close to Plaka , the main town of the island. You can get there on the public bus, or your own rental vehicle.
You can only enter the catacombs with a site guide, and you will have roughly 15 minutes inside the site itself. For more information, read the official website .
12. The Minoan Palace of Knossos in Crete
The Palace of Knossos is the best known archaeological site in Crete. It is located close to Heraklion, the biggest city in Crete.
The area of Knossos was continuously inhabited from around 7,000 BC to the 5th century AD. It reached its peak during the times of the Minoan civilization which developed in Crete from 2,000 to 1,500 BC. The town became an important and wealthy commerce centre.
The Knossos Palace is said to be the palace of the legendary King Minos. It was first built around 1,900 BC, but was later destroyed and rebuilt a couple of times. Apart from the famous palaces, the site was also home to rich tombs, several workshops and several other buildings.
The site was excavated and extensively reconstructed in the 20th century. The items that were excavated, including the exquisite frescoes, figurines, other artwork and everyday items, are on display in the excellent Heraklion Museum.
How to visit the Palace of Knossos
The Palace of Knossos is a short bus ride / taxi ride from the city of Heraklion, or you can drive there in a rental car. Guided tours are also available.
Opening hours in summer are 8.00-20.00. To avoid some of the crowds, try to visit first thing in the morning, or in the evening. Visit the official site for more information.
Tip: Crete is one of the hottest Greek islands to visit in October . As Knossos is really popular, October is a great month to go, as there will be fewer visitors.
13. Archaeological site of Phaistos in Crete
While many visitors go to Knossos, not as many make it all the way to Phaistos in south Crete. I find this site amazing for many reasons, which includes the incredible views of the Cretan landscape!
Phaistos was the second most important Minoan city after Knossos, and its history follows a similar timeline. It continued to be wealthy until the 2nd century BC, when it was destroyed by the nearby city of Gortyna.
The site is really well preserved. It makes you wonder whether there are some restorations which are not so obvious to the untrained eye!
How to get to Phaistos
There are frequent public buses from Heraklion to Phaistos in summer, and less frequent in winter. If you hire a car , it will take you about an hour and a half to drive from Heraklion to Phaistos.
For information on opening hours, visit the official website .
14. Archaeological site of Gortyna in Crete
Close to the site of Phaistos, you can visit the archaeological site of Gortyna. The first inhabitants arrived here around 3,000 BC.
The city became more prosperous from the late Minoan period onward. It was already wealthy during the 5th century BC, when the Gortyn Law Code was written. Gortyn reached its peak during the Roman era, and was destroyed by the Arabs much later, in 824 AD.
How to get to Gortyna
You can use the public buses to get from Heraklion to Ancient Gortyn. Or you can hire a car , and combine it with a visit to Phaistos and more places in Crete. Check the official website for more information.
15. Fortified islet of Spinalonga in Crete
The small island of Spinalonga is located to the east side of Crete, close to the popular Elounda, and just over an hour’s drive from Heraklion. You can visit the well preserved Venetian castle, that was built in 1579. This is the only site in this list that does not date from the ancient times.
One of the main attractions of Spinalonga is its sad recent history. At the beginning of the 20th century, the island was chosen to be a place of exile for the lepers of Crete. Soon, lepers from all around Greece and abroad were forcibly quarantined here.
Initially, living conditions were very poor, but due to the efforts of some of the residents they gradually became better. The island was closed down in 1957, after the remedy for Hansen’s disease was discovered.
Victoria Hislop’s book “The island” describes life on Spinalonga, and a popular TV series has also been created. It’s worth reading the book or watching the series before you visit, as it will help bring the island to life.
How to visit Spinalonga
A fun and top-rated way to visit Spinalonga is this organized tour , which also includes a 4WD road trip and some olive oil tasting.
You can also visit Spinalonga independently. You will need to reach the small port of Plaka, just across the strait, from where you can hop on a small boat that will take you to the island.
Here is the official website , with all the information you need on Spinalonga.
16. The UNESCO Archaeological Site of Aigai (Vergina)
The archaeological site of Aigai, or Vergina, is located in Northern Greece, in the region called Macedonia. The site is an important archaeological area, where the tombs of many kings of the ancient Kingdom of Macedon have been unearthed.
The on-site museum is perhaps the most atmospheric museum in Greece. It is a subterranean structure which was built around the royal tombs, in order to protect them. Visitors can see various objects used when the deceased were buried. Photography is not allowed inside this area.
In December 2022, the new museum of Aigai, which is a short drive away, also opened to the public. Here, visitors can see more artefacts discovered in the area of Vergina, including items of pottery, various tools, and intricate golden jewelry.
How to get to Vergina
Many people choose to visit the site in Vergina on an organized day trip from Thessaloniki . If you want to be more independent, and explore other sites in the area, you can always use a rental car. There are also public buses from Athens you can take.
Here is some more info: Archaeological Site of Aigai (Vergina) / Museum of the Royal Tombs
More ancient sites in Greece
These are only a handful of the most famous archeological sites in Greece. But there are many, many more that are worth visiting! You will find that it’s impossible to visit them all in one trip! Here are some more sites to visit in Greece:
If you are a fan of archaeology, you should definitely aim to spend a few days in Athens. Apart from the world-famous Acropolis and the Agora, there are five more archaeological sites in central Athens, which you can visit with the Athens combined ticket :
- Temple of Zeus
- Kerameikos Ancient Cemetery
- Roman Agora
- Hadrian’s library
- Archaeological site of the Lyceum of Aristotle
If you prefer to visit Ancient Athens for free, you can look for the days of free entrance for the sites in Greece , or follow my free Ancient Athens walking route .
Here is a cool story explaining how Athens got its name !
Peloponnese is probably the area with the most archaeological sites in Greece. Places like Mycenae, Olympia and Corinth might have figured in your history books – but there are plenty more to visit.
Apart from ancient history, Peloponnese has lots to offer – Byzantine settlements, lovely beaches and dramatic landscapes. Here are some important sites, some of which also have a museum:
- UNESCO World Heritage Site of Mystras – also, have a look at this article about Euphoria Retreat
- Ancient Messene
- Ancient Corinth
- Archaeological Site of Nemea and Nemea Stadium
- Temple of Apollo Epikourios
- Castle of Pylos
- Palace of Nestor
- Castle of Kalamata
- Castle of Methoni
- Rio Fortress
I strongly recommend renting a car and driving around the Peloponnese, in order to visit as many sites as you can!
Many settlements, palaces, tombs and cemeteries have been discovered on the island. You will need several days, and a rental car, to visit them all. Who knows, you might even decide to return to Crete for another vacation!
Here are some more famous sites in Crete, beyond Knossos and Phaistos:
- Palace of Zakros
- Malia palace
- Cave of Psychro – Diktaion Antron
- Roman cemetery at Matala
While Ancient Lindos is very popular, the main attraction in Rhodes island is the medieval city of Rhodes, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
But there are more archaeological sites on the island that are worth visiting:
- Palace of the Grand Master
- Acropolis of Rhodes
- Acropolis of Ialyssos
- Archaeological site of Filerimos
- Archaeological Site of Kamiros
Just make sure you leave some free time to visit some of the lovely beaches in Rhodes !
Here are all the ways you can get around Rhodes .
It’s fair to say that most tourists don’t have the chance to visit Northern Greece. Which is a shame, as there are numerous sites to visit. As you are moving towards the north, the landscape changes, and so do the sites, settlements and ancient civilizations.
The tombs of Vergina and the ancient sacred city of Dion are among the best examples of the Macedonian civilization. Combine that with the Roman and Byzantine monuments in Thessaloniki , and Northern Greece might become your new favourite Greek destination!
Here are a few of the monuments and sites in Northern Greece:
- The majestic Meteora Monasteries , a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Ancient Pella
- Ancient Philippi
- The Paleochristian and Byzantine monuments in Thessaloniki, such as the Rotonda
- Ancient Dion
- Nekromanteion of Acheron
- Ancient Nikopolis
- Castle of Platamonas
- Cave of Petralona
Ticket prices and opening hours for the archaeological sites in Greece
Most people visit Greece during the summer season, from April to October. Summer opening hours for the top archaeological sites in Greece are typically 8:00-20:00. The smaller sites have shorter opening hours, usually around 8:30-15:30, but this may vary from one year to the next.
Winter stretches over the off-peak months, November to March. During that period, the majority of the ancient sites open around 8:30 and close somewhere between 15:30 and 17:00. Some of the minor sites may be entirely closed in winter. This includes the site of Ancient Delos .
The best place to look for updated information for each site that you want to visit is the official Ministry of Culture Website . Here you can also find out more about entry ticket prices, free entrance days, closures on public holidays and any discounts. Despite the dated appearance, it’s updated regularly.
Also, take a look at this article with Greek celebrations and national holidays . On some of those days, ancient sites are closed, but on others they offer free entrance!
A few tips for visiting the ancient sites in Greece
Before you set off to explore the ancient sites in Greece, here are a few tips:
- Wear comfortable, non-slippery walking shoes – I cannot stress this enough! Reaching most of the sites involves climbing a lot of stairs, or climbing on hilly and uneven terrain. Personally, I think Teva sandals are the best shoes for Greece .
- Bring loose, comfortable clothes suitable for the season. If you are visiting in summer, carry a light jacket as well, as some of the on-site museums may have a low temperature. Here’s my guide on what to pack for Greece for every season .
- If you are visiting in summer, avoid the warmest hours of the day (11:00-17:00). Make sure you have sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, and plenty of water with you.
- Buy your tickets in advance, especially for the popular sites like the Acropolis, Knossos, Lindos, Delos, or Delphi. Or even better, get a guided tour!
- If you decide to drive, have a look at this article about driving in Greece .
FAQs about ancient sites in Greece
People visiting Greece often ask questions like these:
What are the best ruins in Greece?
Some of the best ancient sites in Greece include the Acropolis of Athens, Ancient Delphi, the theater of Epidaurus, Ancient Olympia, Mycenae, the Palace of Knossos, and Ancient Delos.
Which Greek island has most ruins?
Crete, which is the largest island in Greece, has the most ruins. You can visit Knossos, Phaistos, Gortyna, Aptera, Zakros, Malia, and many more.
Where in Greece has the best history?
Some of the best places in Greece for history include Athens, Crete, the Peloponnese, the Cyclades and Northern Greece. In fact, everywhere in Greece is full of history!
How many archaeological sites are in Greece?
There are well over 500 ancient and historical sites scattered all around Greece.
Is Acropolis and Parthenon the same thing?
No, the Acropolis and the Parthenon are not the same thing. The Acropolis is a whole ancient citadel, located on a hill in Athens. The Parthenon is a majestic temple built at the top of the Acropolis, to honor the Greek goddess Athena.
Since you are here, have a look at this article with a few useful words and phrases in Greek .
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- Travel Guides
10 incredible Greek ruins that bring the ancient world to life
Roxanne de Bruyn
- Ancient Greek ruins worth the trip
When you visit Greece , its long history and culture are immediately obvious. Ancient Greece was the cornerstone of Western civilization and the remnants of the country’s history can be seen scattered in between modern cities and hidden in the countryside.
The scale of some of the archaeological sites is truly immense and there are many ancient Greek ruins that can only really be appreciated when you visit them yourself. No matter where you are in Greece (and the eastern coast of Turkey ), the remnants of an ancient city, temple or sanctuary won't be far away.
While any Greek ruin is worth seeing, below are several of the most impressive sites. I’ve chosen these for their scale, diversity and the extent of their preservation... and because I just happen to really like them. If you find yourself in the vicinity of any of these places, take the time to see them for yourself – these ancient sites are definitely worth the trip.
1. The Parthenon and the Acropolis in Athens
The best-known archaeological site in Greece, the Acropolis dominates the skyline of Athens , the Parthenon perched on its summit. The ancient temple is an eternal process of restoration and its white marble and Doric columns embodies many peoples’ mental image of ancient Greece.
Built in the 5th Century BCE, the Parthenon famously has no straight lines and no right angles and is an impressive example of classical architecture. Probably the most famous ancient Greek temple, the Parthenon was dedicated to the goddess Athena, the patron of Athens. For the best views of the Parthenon from a distance, head to Philopappou Hill, which is directly across from the Acropolis.
Along with sweeping views of the city, there are a number of other sites to see on the Acropolis. The Erechtheion stands next to the Parthenon, marking what was believed to be the tomb of the mythical king Kekrops. The Porch of the Caryatids is held up by statues of women with the originals on display at the nearby Acropolis Museum (be sure to add this one to your Athens itinerary – it’s one of the best museums in the city).
Other landmarks worth seeing on the Acropolis include the impressive Odeon of Herodes Atticus, a second-century theatre, the beautifully preserved Temple of Athena Nike and the Theatre of Dionysus, first built over 2,500 years ago.
The Acropolis is best visited when it opens or later in the afternoon. It can become crowded in the middle of the day in peak seasons and is also very hot in summer. You can buy tickets for the Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum in advance to skip the lines. While you’re in Athens , also explore the ancient Agora and the Kerameikos, the cemetery of the potters which also marked the start of the Sacred Way to Eleusis.
Book in advance and skip the queue: entry tickets for the Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum
2. Sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi
The ancient home of the sanctuary of Apollo and his renowned oracle, Delphi was one of the most sacred sites in mainland Greece . Believed to be the navel of the world, many pilgrims made the long trip to Delphi to seek Apollo’s wisdom and guidance. Visiting Delphi now, it’s possible to follow the same path, the Sacred Way, through the site, with the remains of treasure houses and ancient Greek temples strewn alongside the path.
Highlights include the Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia, the columns of the Temple of Apollo and the stadium of Delphi, high above the site. It’s also worth spending some time in the Archaeological Museum of Delphi where you can see the facades of the Temple of Apollo, the Charioteer of Delphi and the frieze of the Siphnian Treasury.
To get the most out of your visit, stay in the nearby town of Arachova and visit the sanctuary early in the day to avoid the crowds. If you’re short on time it’s also possible to visit Delphi as a day trip from Athens or Thessaloniki, although it is a long day.
Staying in Athens? Book a day trip to Delphi
3. Minoan Palace of Knossos, Crete
The ancient home to the legendary king Minos and his minotaur, Knossos , Crete's famous Bronze Age archaeological site has been called Europe's oldest city. The centre of the Minoan civilization which dominated the Aegean between around 1600 and 1400 BCE, the site includes the ruins of a large palace and surrounding buildings.
A precursor to the Mycenean civilization on the mainland (see the next item on this list), the Minoans replaced their hieroglyphic writing with a linear script, Linear A, which has yet to be deciphered.
The remains of the palace at Knossos are vast, with a number of the pillars and frescoes reconstructed in the early 20th Century to give visitors an indication of what the site would have looked like.
These restorations are quite controversial as the archaeological work wasn't complete, some details may have been imagined, and the methods used hinder the illumination of light in the palace (one of its major features). That said, the entrance to the palace definitely brings a labyrinth to mind, and it's easy to imagine the myths of the minotaur and Ariadne taking place here.
Many of the treasures of Knossos are displayed at the Heraklion Archaeological Museum, including the Bull’s Head discovered at the temple repository, so be sure to visit the museum while you're in town. Knossos is located just outside the port city of Heraklion in Crete and you can buy a combined ticket to the site and museum. The site is open every day with extended hours in the summer.
Book a combined ticket to Knossos and the Heraklion Archaeological Museum
4. Archaeological Site of Olympia
Founded in the 8th Century BCE, Olympia is the sacred site that hosted the first Olympic Games. Olympia is located in the western Peloponnese and is easily accessible from Athens. The site was always associated with Zeus and the games were held in his honour, with all Greek city-states sending representatives to compete in them. The games were held every four years and the practice continued for over thousand years, before the games were outlawed in 373 CE.
Visiting the site now, there are a number of interesting places to explore and it’s easy to wander through the ruins, although having a guide does help if you don't have much background to the site. Highlights include the Ancient Stadium (essentially a field with line markings, the remains of the temples of Zeus and Hera, the palaestra and the workshop of Phidias. Phidias was the sculptor who created the statue of Greece at Olympia, one of the wonders of the ancient world, as well as the sculptures of Athena on the acropolis in Athens (see above).
There are three museums on site. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I find the archaeological museum the most interesting with finds from the ancient site displayed including the Hermes of Praxiteles statue and the pediments from the Temple of Zeus. The other museums are the Museum of the History of the Olympic Games and the Modern Olympic Games Museum.
You can visit Olympia as a day trip from Athens or as part of your travels through the Peloponnese. This is one of those places it’s best to visit when it first opens or in the late afternoon as it can get busy between 10am and 2pm. There is also a virtual reality experience available, if you want to get an idea a better what the site would have looked like in ancient times.
Book a guided tour of Olympia
5. Sanctuary of Asclepius in Epidaurus
Asclepius, the god of medicine, was the patron god of Epidaurus and his shrine there dates from the 6th Century BCE or earlier. It’s a relatively large complex, built into the valley and with temples dedicated to the various healing gods. Most of the most impressive buildings were born in the classical period, including the temple of Asclepios, the Tholos (round building) and the Theatre.
The Theatre of Epidaurus is probably the most famous attraction at the sanctuary. It is considered one of the masterpieces of Greek architecture and is remarkably well preserved, with perfect proportions and acoustics. Visitors to the theatre have the opportunity to demonstrate the acoustics and performances are held there during the summer.
The Sanctuary of Asclepius is the most complete example of a medical facility from ancient times and shows the transition from belief in divine healing to the science of medicine. It’s a fascinating site to visit with examples of buildings from all aspects of the Sanctuary, including the hospital, healing cults and rituals, a library, baths, sports, accommodation and the theatre.
You can visit the Sanctuary of Asclepius as a day trip from Athens if you’re short of time. If you’re spending some time in the Peloponnese, the Sanctuary is only a 30-minute drive from the beautiful seaside town of Nafplio, which is a lovely place to spend a couple of days.
Staying in Athens? Book a day trip to the Sanctuary of Asclepius
6. Archaeological site of Mycenae
Tucked away in the north-eastern Peloponnese (about a half hour drive from Nafplio) is the ancient site of Mycenae. Dating from approximately 1350-1200 BCE, Mycenae was the centre of the Bronze-Age Mycenaean civilization that was spread across mainland Greece, the Aegean islands and a small amount of the eastern coast of modern Turkey. The site in Mycenae brings to mind some of the best known Greek legends of all - it was named by Homer as the home of Agamemnon, one of the great kings from the Trojan War.
Some of the significant ruins at Mycenae are the Lion Gate, the imposing entrance to the fortress crowned with twin lions, the remains of the palace itself and the Treasury of Atreus (also known as the Tomb of Agamemnon). There also a range of tombs and the brickwork and masonry is astounding. While the buildings themselves are quite plain and austere, many of the funerary items are made from precious metals and gems. The sheer size of the buildings is very impressive, with imposing arches, columns and fountains, and it seems amazing that they were buried and undiscovered for so many centuries.
The records of the Mycenaeans portray a vast and relatively sophisticated civilization with trade and economic influence across the region. The fall of the Mycenaeans heralded the start of Greece’s Dark Ages which saw little progress and a loss of literacy for the next 300 years.
Once again, it's possible to do a day trip to Mycenae from Athens, if you aren't spending time in the area. If you take an organised day tour , you can expect to stop at Epidaurus and Nafplio as well as Mycenae.
Staying in Athens? Book a day trip to Mycenae
7. Archaeological site of Delos
Probably my favourite ancient site, Delos is the legendary birthplace of Apollo and Athena. Since the 6th Century BCE, no one was permitted to give birth or die on the island and all bodies were exhumed and moved in an attempt to purify the island as a sanctuary. Situated in the Cyclades group of islands, Delos was also the meeting place of the Delian League, a collection of Greek states committed to fighting the Persian War during classical times.
There are a number of archaeological sites on the island and there is still a huge amount of work to do. Aside from the mythical and historical significance of the site, the scale is extraordinary, especially for a relatively small island. Highlights in Delos include seeing the sacred lake (now empty), the Temple of Isis and the residential precinct.
Climbing to the top of Mt Kynthos is also a worthwhile activity – there are panoramic views at the top and the route up follows an ancient path and steps. Temples to Athena and Zeus once stood at the summit. There is a small museum on the island, but many of the artworks were taken to the National Archaeological Museum and the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens (both worth a visit).
If you can, include Delos in your Greek island itinerary . While you cannot stay on Delos, you can visit by boat from Mykonos or Naxos. Guided tours usually spend at least three hours on the island, which gives you just enough time to see the sites, although perhaps not enough to climb Mt Kynthos. Booking your boat transfers independently (easier to find from Mykonos rather than Naxos), give you time to explore the island at your leisure. Keep in mind that it can be very hot and windy on Delos and there isn’t much shelter.
Staying on Mykonos? Book a boat transfer to Delos .
8. Acropolis of Lindos, Rhodes
The Acropolis of Lindos, perched high on a hill overlooking the village of Lindos and the sparkling Aegean Sea, is one of the most impressive archaeological sites in Rhodes . It dates back to the 10th century BCE and embodies several significant periods in the island's history.
As you make your way to the top, the first thing you'll notice is the well-preserved medieval fortifications built by the Knights of Saint John, who ruled the island from 1309 to 1522. The knights realized the strategic importance of the acropolis and added their fortifications to the existing structures.
Within these fortifications lies an older Byzantine chapel dedicated to Saint John, adorned with 15th-century frescoes. Beyond the chapel, you'll find the remnants of the ancient city of Lindos, including a Roman-era marketplace, Hellenistic stoa, and other smaller buildings.
But the crown jewel of the Acropolis of Lindos is undoubtedly the Doric Temple of Athena Lindia, dating from around 300 BC. Despite the passing centuries, some columns and walls of the temple remain standing, and the site is a spectacular viewpoint over the surrounding landscapes and seascape.
The Acropolis is easily accessible from Lindos village. Remember to wear comfortable shoes and bring plenty of water, as the climb can be challenging during the hot summer months.
Book in advance and skip the queue: entry tickets for Lindos Acropolis and the Temple of Athena
9. Ancient Philippi
Near the lovely coastal city of Kavala in Northern Greece lie the ancient ruins of the Macedonian city of Philippi. This UNESCO World Heritage site was originally founded in the 4th Century BCE, then known as Krenides (meaning "springs") before being conquered by Philip II of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great.
Philippi is a very important historical site in Greece and pops up again and again in both history and Christian mythology. This is where Mark Anthony and Octavian won the battle against the Julius Caesar's assassins, Brutus and Cassius in 42 BCE. According to the New Testament, this was where the apostle Paul first preached in Europe, and the woman he baptised in the river became the first European Christian.
It's a large and sprawling site, with archaeological works still continuing. A recently discovered tomb there is thought to belong to Alexander's mother Olympia or wife, Roxane. There are some beautiful preserved buildings in the ancient city including remains of the original city walls, a theatre and a funerary heroön (temple). From Roman times, you can also see the marble baths and forum.
Base yourself in Kavala for a couple of days to explore the region and visit Philippi while you're there as its only 13km from the city. Otherwise, you can also visit the ruins as a day trip from Thessaloniki . This ancient site also makes a good stop on a northern Greece road trip.
Staying in Thessaloniki? Book a day tour to Philippi and Kavala .
10. Valley of the Temples in Agrigento
Further afield, on the island of Sicily in Italy, you can visit some of the world's best-preserved ancient Greek temples. Perhaps urprisingly, these remnants of Akragas, a once-mighty city established by the Greeks in the 6th-century BCE., are even more intact than many of their counterparts in Greece itself.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Valley of the Temples also has the remnants of the Roman quarter, which thrived from the 4th century BCE to the 5th century CE. However, it's the Greek structures stand out among the ruins with their timeless beauty.
A highlight is the Temple of Concord, dating back to the 5th century BCE. Once a majestic Greek temple, it was later transformed into a Christian basilica in the 6th century. Its enduring elegance makes it one of the best-preserved Greek temples globally. Equally captivating is the Temple of Juno from the 5th century BCE
While the Temple of Olympian Zeus may have succumbed to the ravages of time, an impressive fragment remains: a Telamon, a colossal stone figure that once supported the temple. You can see a replica on-site, but the original, along with a rich collection of mosaics, statues, and pottery, can be admired at the local Archaeological Museum.
The Valley of the Temples is only a 4-minute drive from Agrigento on Sicily's southern coast. Otherwise, it's a two-hour drive from either Palermo or Catania.
Book ahead to skip the line with a guided tour in peak season.
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Author - Roxanne de Bruyn
Roxanne is the founder and editor of Faraway Worlds. She is a freelance writer and guidebook author and has written for several travel publications, including Lonely Planet and The Culture Trip. With a background in communications, she has studied ancient history, comparative religion and international development, and has a particular interest in sustainable tourism.
Originally from South Africa, Roxanne has travelled widely and loves learning the stories of the places she visits. She enjoys cooking, dance and yoga, and usually travels with her husband and young son. She is based in New Zealand.
Last Updated 21 August 2023
Lonely Planet's guide to Athens
Nov 11, 2023 • 8 min read
Here are things a traveler should know on their first trip to Athens, one of the world's most storied cities © Lisa Schaetzle / Getty Images
Founded in 508 BCE, Athens is one of the oldest cities in the world and it's regularly touted as one of the Mediterranean’s best capital cities to visit. From the iconic Parthenon and the unique street art rivaling that of Berlin to the city's glittering coastline, there’s so much to see and do in this ancient capital.
One thing’s for sure: whether you’re into architecture, mythology, ancient sites, modern art or simply relaxing by the beach, Athens has something for everyone.
When should I go to Athens?
Greece generally attracts most people during the summer months (June to August) and Athens is no different, but we recommend visiting in the spring and autumn to avoid the heat. These shoulder seasons – March to May and September to October – offer cooler temperatures and a more comfortable travel experience overall. It’s also worth remembering that Athens is a humid place thanks to its coastline, which creates humid heat in the summer and gives the winter cold an extra chill. Consider this when packing and bring layers for all seasons.
Greek Orthodox Easter usually falls in April or May and the run-up to it, plus the event itself, is a huge celebration in the Greek calendar – even more so than Christmas. Expect street carnivals to mark the end of Lent and street processions to the various neighborhood churches on the Easter weekend, culminating in Mass and a huge meal on the Easter Sunday with a lamb on the spit.
Restaurant prices won’t change much throughout the year, but accommodation prices do vary. The same four-star hotel located near the Acropolis could be €140 per night in March and jump up to €320 in June for a weekend date, with Easter time seeing similar price rises. It’s often cheaper to book directly, and hotels generally only publish their prices about two to three months in advance.
How much time should I spend in Athens?
Many Europeans come to Athens for a weekend break, and long-haul travelers often use the city as as a stopover on the way to the Greek islands.
You can get an initial taste of the city in two days, but we recommend a longer stay to truly understand the essence of this ancient capital. With four days, you can spend a day and a half at the capital’s famous sights, spend an afternoon wandering its neighborhoods , and still have time time to explore the beaches and ancient ruins of the Athenian coastline for a day or two.
Is it easy to get in and around Athens?
Located at the crossroads between Europe and the Middle East, Greece (and Athens in particular) attracts many tourists, which means the travel infrastructure is well developed and easy to use. Athens International Airport is 33km (21 miles) and a 30- to 45-minute drive – or a 45-minute metro ride – from the city center. There are also good ferry connections to Greece from Italy, with coach or rail services to and from Athens.
Island hoppers will set out from the port of Piraeus , which is 45km (28 miles) from the airport and 10km (6 miles) from the city center. Piraeus is well linked to both the center (20 minutes by metro) and airport (a 24-hour bus service that takes about 90 minutes).
Public transport around Athens itself is easy, accessible and affordable, with a single ticket valid for a 90-minute journey and costing a mere €1.20. There is also a range of ticket deals, including tourist passes lasting three and five days.
The four modes of transport in Athens are:
- the very clean metro system . Note: no food is allowed.
- the overground train that connects the center to Piraeus port and other mainland destinations.
- an extensive network of buses and electric trolleys . These primarily run to urban neighborhoods beyond the touristic center.
- a tram service that connects the city center to the Athens coast and its beaches in about an hour.
After you’ve gotten yourself from the airport to the city center, most of Athens’s popular sights sit within a compact, walkable area. Just be aware of the traffic – cars don’t always immediately stop at red lights, and motorbikes occasionally mount the sidewalk to park.
Top things to do in Athens
Naturally, many visitors head straight to the Acropolis and the Parthenon , Athens' most notable sights. The Acropolis has a daily visitor’s cap to avoid overcrowding and to preserve the ancient monument, so be sure to book your tickets in advance. It’s not really necessary to have a guide for the Acropolis – which can be booked on site – unless you’re very interested in dates and knowing the intricacies of ancient Greek history.
At the foot of the Acropolis lies the impressive Acropolis Museum , which showcases treasures from the Archaic to Roman periods, plus a stunning glass floor that reveals the excavated ruins underneath it. There’s also a terraced restaurant on the top floor with gorgeous views across to the monument.
Ancient artifacts crop up all over the city in random places, too; the metro stations of Monastiraki, Akropoli and Syntagma are like mini museums in their own right, and there's even ruins of a Roman tomb in a glassed-off area of the Zara clothing store on the shopping street of Ermou.
If it’s shopping you’re into, pedestrianized Ermou St is the place to go. It runs for nearly a mile from the Acropolis area up to Parliament in Syntagma Square, and features tons of fashion brands such as Mac, Desigual and the aforementioned Zara, plus a huge H&M. Greece’s main department store, Attica, is also here, and it's a great place to stock up with your holiday essentials.
Looking for free and low-cost things to do in Athens ? Meander along the streets of Monastiraki flea market on a Sunday to peruse all the random wares for sale (everything from old drachma coins to shop mannequins), or take a stroll through the National Garden next to the Parliament building, with its many species of plants and parrots flying freely. Witness the changing of the evzones (presidential guards) on the hour outside the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier , or make your way to Filopappou Hill /Hill of the Muses with its pine forest – a great destination on a hot day thanks to its abundant shade. Be sure to head up here at sunset for views across to the Saronic Gulf.
My favorite thing to do in Athens
As an aficionado of street art, I love exploring the burgeoning street art scene here and getting to know the various neighborhoods where it proliferates. Take in the famous Praying Hands Mural just off Omonia Sq, for example, which depicts Jesus praying for the people down on Earth – a play on Albrecht Dürer’s Praying Hands (1508).
I also love wandering around the hidden village of Anafiotika , which sits beneath the northeast side of the Acropolis. A sub-district of Plaka, it was built in the mid-1800s when King Otto brought in workers from the Greek island of Anafi to construct his palace. Homesick, the workers set about making their neighborhood a replica of their homeland, building white, sugar-cubed houses with flat stone roofs and brightly painted wooden doors and shutters, like those found in the Cyclades. Pink and white bougainvilleas wind their way up these buildings, several of which have roof gardens.
Anafiotika is a bit difficult to find, but worth the effort. Start at the Acropolis main entrance, and walk to your left along the path; keep the monument to your right until you reach the Church of Metamorphosis. Continue straight past the church and follow the wider path up a steep hill. The path turns right and runs into stairs – this is the start of the island village.
How much money do I need for Athens?
Athens isn’t an expensive place to visit compared to other European destinations, especially outside of the high summer season when prices rise significantly.
- Hostel dorm room: approx. €26 per night
- Basic room for two: €36–128, depending of style of hotel and location
- Self-catering apartment: €65 per day
- Public transport ticket: €1.20 for a 90-minute journey, €10 from the airport, €4.10 for a day pass, €20 for a three-day pass including one airport journey, €8.10 for a five-day pass (not including airport)
- Coffee: €2–2.50
- Typical Greek gyros with salad and fries: €2–3
- Dinner for two: €30 (add €2.50 for beer or wine)
- Beer at a pub: €2.50+
What do I need to know before going to Athens?
Bring layers, no matter the season
As Athens is located on the coast, it’s sticky in the summer and quite chilly in the spring, fall and winter evenings. Layers are always a good idea: think T-shirts, light sweaters and a jacket for the cooler months. For the really hot summer months, bring a sports cooling towel to wrap around your neck to cool off as you explore.
Be aware of your belongings on the metro
As with any capital or big city, pickpockets can take advantage of large tourist crowds, especially on crowded public transport. Avoid hanging large cameras around your neck and keep your backpack in front of you. You may also want to invest in a hanging cord for your cell phone to loop across your body so it can’t be snatched from your hands.
No flushing toilet paper!
The plumbing in Athens is antiquated and the pipes tend to be very narrow. Flushing paper down the toilet will clog things up, so you’ll always find a bin with bag inside it in the bathroom for you to place toilet paper inside. This is removed daily by housekeeping.
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5 Places to See Ancient Ruins in Greece (Other than Athens)
Greek is full of ancient ruins, and there are plenty of amazing places to see them outside of Athens!
If you’ve seen the Acropolis and its museums and ambled through the Agora, you might be getting burned out on the hustle and bustle of Athens.
When you’re itching to see ancient ruins and want to take the show on the road, here are five unforgettable ancient ruins outside of Athens that you won’t want to miss while in Greece.
1. The Temple of Poseidon at Sounio
For a beautiful day trip outside of Athens, consider making the drive or taking a bus to Cape Sounion, where the ruins of a 5 th century Doric temple stand overlooking the Aegean.
Located on the southernmost tip of Attica, the Temple of Poseidon was one of the many places where Hellenophile and writer Lord Byron ventured. You can still find his name carved onto one of the columns.
The Temple is a perfect place to watch the sunset if you have time, and there are many beaches nearby for some great swimming and lounging.
How to get there from Athens: Many tour companies offer day trips to Sounion, as well as some hostels ( Athens Backpackers has a day trip that goes to the cape and also to a natural spring). The cheapest option is public transport , which takes 1.5–2 hours, depending on traffic.
Take a KTEL bus from Aigyptou Square, near the Archaeological Museum (tickets may be bought on board); it leaves every hour on the half-hour. Last bus leaving from Sounion is at 9 p.m. Be sure to take the Paraliako (Coastal) route, as it goes along the water and has stunning views.
Site hours: 9:30 to sunset, daily
Cost for admission: 4€
Ever wonder where the famous oracle of Delphi hung out and prophesied the fate of Sparta’s 300 or predicted the genius of Socrates? You can take an easy day trip, or spend a night in Delphi, 180 kilometers from Athens and the second most popular site of ruins in Greece.
How to get there from Athens: KTEL buses go from the Athens KTEL Station B on Liossion St. to Delphi (about 3 hours) roughly six times a day, depending on the time of year.
Check the Fokidas KTEL site for up-to-date times, although be warned that the sites aren’t always updated frequently. If you choose to do a day trip from Athens, try to take the 7:30 a.m. bus and return in the evening.
Site hours: Archaeological museum, daily, 9 a.m. to 4p.m. Site, daily, 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Cost for admission: Admission for the museum and the site is 9€. I highly recommend buying a combo ticket to see both.
Note the closing times for the museum, however. If you just see the site, it is 6€.
If you do want to avoid crowds, especially in the summer, I recommend spending a night in Delphi and going to the ruins first thing in the morning. During high season, not only will the site be very crowded, but it gets hot.
Delphi has a ton of budget hotel options, and it’s a quaint little town to explore for an evening before seeing the archaeological site in the morning.
3. Ancient Olympia
If the modern Olympics inspire you, see where it all began and head west to Olympia. You can see where the first Olympians trained, run in the original Olympic stadium, and wander through their version of the Olympic Village.
Although definitely too long for a day-trip from Athens (about 6.5 hours by bus), it would be easy to create an itinerary returning to Athens through the Peloponnese featuring stops in towns like Kalamata (home of the famous olive) and Nafplio. If you’ve rented a car, even better.
How to get there from Athens: Leaving from KTEL station A, there are usually two buses leaving for Olympia — in the morning, around 9 a.m., and in the afternoon, around 1 p.m. Stay overnight and see the ruins the next day, giving yourself time also to see the museum on the grounds.
Site hours: Monday–Saturday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Museum open Tuesday–Saturday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday and Monday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. until November 30 th , at which point winter hours start. Check online for details traveling in winter.
Cost for admission: Admission for the museum and the site is 9€, just like at Delphi. The museum at Olympia is absolutely worth a trip, as it houses the sculpture from the Temple of Zeus and a Hermes by Praxiteles. Cost for the site alone is 6€.
4. Ancient Mycenae
If the names Agamemnon, Helen or Paris don’t ring a bell, either you paid no attention in high school history classes or haven’t seen Troy.
In either case, ancient Mycenae was supposedly founded by Perseus (you know, the Medusa slayer) and the generations that followed there started as long ago as 2000 BCE to develop an entire civilization that dominated Southern Greece for many years. Remaining today is the famous Lion Gate, as well as remnants of the palace, fortress and more.
How to get there from Athens: Buses run from Athens to Mycenae via Nafplio or Argos a few times a day. If you want to do a day trip, go from Athens to Argos (a couple hours) and switch buses to Mycenae (Mikines), which is a bit less than an hour.
Site hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. until October 31 st . Winter hours usually are from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. but check online. Museum open Tuesday–Sunday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday, noon to 7 p.m.
Cost for admission: 8€ for the site, the Treasury of Atreus (located within walking distance down the road) and the museum.
While Epidaurus was known as a center of healing in the ancient world, one of the most impressive relics is the Theatre at Epidaurus, which could hold 15,000 people.
You can try out the amazing acoustics of the theatre or see where ill folks would sleep in the hopes that the god Asclepius would give them medical advice in their dreams.
How to get there from Athens: Buses run from Athens to Epidaurus also via Nafplio. Be sure to specify when you’re looking for tickets that you’re going to the Theatre of Epidaurus, as there are two other stops in the vicinity that won’t quite get you where you need to go.
Site hours: 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily until October 27 th . Winter hours are usually from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., but check online. Museum hours are 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday–Sunday. Mondays it opens at 1:30 p.m. Winter hours follow the site’s.
Cost for admission: 6€ for site and museum
General Tips and Information
My hearty recommendation is to use Nafplio as a home base to see Mycenae and Epidaurus. You’ll be hard-pressed not to fall in love with Nafplio, and you’ll probably be glad for the opportunity to get some beach time in. Be sure to check out the Palimidi Fortress and eat some good gelato !
Be sure to drink lots of water and wear sun protection while visiting these sites; many have little shade, and Greek summers can be sweltering. If you are able, travel to these places during the off-season and you’ll find that they’re much less crowded and the temperatures are a lot more tolerable.
When checking for KTEL times, keep in mind that the websites are organized by region. You won’t find schedules from Athens to Delphi on the same site as Athens to Nafplio. For more thorough information on transportation in Greece, visit Living in Greece’s Travel page .
A super useful website for current visiting hours and information on all the sites in Greece is that of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture .
Can you recommend any other ruins in Greece?
Sara learned the value of travel at an early age, on annual family trips in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Not to be relegated to the North American continent, she made her first trip overseas at the age of 13 and has been finding ways to travel ever since. She has explored Etruscan tombs in Italy, made hostel beds in Ireland, and hiked volcanoes in Costa Rica. Follow her travels near and far at www.saramelanie.com
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Hey there, Do you know what the picture is at the top of the article? I have tried searching endlessly for that image online, but can’t find any other photos of that particular temple.
Hey! Not sure which temple, there’s so many! This post was written in 2012 so it’s a while back, we’ll try to search for it too or come across it one day.
Poseidon’s Fury attraction at Universal Islands of Adventure, Orlando.
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I spent 4 days in Athens, Greece. Here are 10 things that were worth it and 5 I'd skip next time.
- I recently spent four days in Athens, Greece, while traveling around Europe .
- Stumbling upon the National Garden was a great treat, and I loved learning about the Acropolis.
- On the other hand, I'm not sure the Roman Agora or Hadrian's Library are worth a visit .
In October, I traveled to Athens, Greece , for the first time since I was 18 months old.
I spent four days exploring some of the city's amazing landmarks and sites. But even though I didn't pay for all of the attractions — because some are free for EU citizens 25 and under — there are a few I wouldn't spend time on again.
Here's everything that was worth the time and money and the few things I'd skip on my next trip.
I was happy I happened upon Athens National Garden.
I happened upon the National Garden kind of by accident when I was looking for some green space to run in. It's completely free and perfect for a walk, jog, or run.
The space is very peaceful and also has ponds with lots of turtles. I ended up going back a few days later to sit and read in the shade.
The Acropolis is definitely worth it, especially in the morning.
The Acropolis, which I'd consider the main tourist attraction in Athens, is a must-visit.
The citadel contains several ancient buildings, most notably the Parthenon. I was told to start waiting in line around 7:30 a.m. (it opens at 8), and it was well worth the time and effort.
It got busy — and hot — really quickly. I couldn't imagine going any later, and I ended up being able to take a nap afterward anyway.
I wasn't too sure about Mount Lycabettus, but the views won me over.
I planned to go to Mount Lycabettus — the highest point in Athens — for sunset one night. I thought I'd allotted enough time, but everyone seemed to have the same idea since there was a huge line when I got there.
Truthfully, I was a bit disappointed by the tram ride, and when I got to the top, I was overwhelmed by how many people there were. But the view made it worth it.
I ended up staying for dinner and had a delicious meal of Greek salad , moussaka, and white wine for about $16.
I'm so glad I paid to run along the track at Panathenaic Stadium.
The stadium is cool on its own — it dates back to 600 BC and is the only marble stadium in the world. But I went early in the morning, during the designated running hours of 7:30 to 9 a.m., and got to run around the track.
It's only about $10 to enter (I paid the student price of $5), and it was one of my favorite things I did on the trip.
Kerameikos Archaeological Site is one of the coolest cemeteries I've ever seen.
I had pretty low expectations going in — having seen my fair share of cemeteries — but I was pleasantly surprised by this one.
The tombstones were pillar-shaped, and there were great views of the Parthenon.
If you're doing the Acropolis, make sure to swing through Plaka afterward.
It's worth walking around the neighborhood surrounding the Acropolis.
There are great taverns with traditional Greek food and places to buy all the souvenirs your heart desires. I really enjoyed wandering around and exploring some of the picturesque side streets.
Even after seeing the real deal, I got a lot out of the Acropolis Museum.
I'm not usually a big museum person, but the Acropolis Museum is definitely worth a visit.
I went after I'd already seen the landmark, and it gave me good context. It houses many artifacts that were excavated from the site, and beneath the museum is an in-progress excavation of ancient Athens.
Areopagus Hill provided stunning views for free.
Behind the Acropolis is a prominent rock outcropping. It can be a slippery and steep walk up, but the views of the Acropolis and the surrounding area are breathtaking.
Entrance to the hill, and its surrounding park, is also completely free.
I could feel the history at the Ancient Agora of Athens.
The Athenian Agora is one of the best-known examples of a traditional Greek meeting place. It had great views of the Acropolis and was beautifully adorned with trees and other ruins.
I was especially impressed by how well the Temple of Hephaestus was preserved. There's also a museum, and the second floor has a nice balcony where you can look out over the agora
I'm glad I swung by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Many of the attractions in Athens date back centuries, but the tomb is much more contemporary.
Dedicated to Greek soldiers killed in war, the tomb itself is visually quite simple. But there are guards that stand in traditional garb, which reminded me of Buckingham Palace .
It's also pretty central — right next to the National Garden — so I didn't have to go out of the way to see it.
Next time, I'd skip Monastiraki Flea Market and shop in Plaka instead.
I was excited to go to a flea market but was quite disappointed to find that this one didn't sell anything much different than the rows of stores in Plaka.
I will say that the square near the market had good views of the Parthenon, but I was able to see similar angles from other places in the city.
After seeing the Athenian Agora, I'd skip the Roman Agora on future trips.
In contrast to the Athenian Agora, the Roman version wasn't much to write home about.
The gate at the front is kind of cool, but I think could just look from the outside instead of wasting time going in.
Hadrian's Library didn't wow me.
I didn't find the "library" all that special.
The ruin isn't really a building, just pillars. And like the Roman Agora, you could easily just peek through the gates to get a good sense of the place.
I wanted to love the Temple of Zeus, but I was a little underwhelmed.
I was excited to see a temple devoted to the King of the Gods, but it was kind of disappointing.
To be fair, the temple was under construction when I went. But I felt that there wasn't a ton to look at regardless.
The Lyceum of Aristotle isn't all that exciting and it's far from everything else.
The original lyceum was destroyed. All that's left of it is a few ruins that were discovered about 30 years ago.
It's relatively new since it wasn't opened to the public until 2009, but I felt like it wasn't worth the walk since it was far from most of the other landmarks .
Photo Credit: Photo credit: Constantinos Kollias
Archaeologists Unearth Ancient Building, Treasures From Sunken City In Greece
In a groundbreaking exploration off the coast of Greece, marine archaeologists have unveiled a treasure trove of historical significance beneath the waves of Salamis, a small island near Athens . As CBS News reported this month, the Greek Ministry of Culture shared exciting findings from an extensive underwater excavation project. The research revealed a submerged public building and a collection of marble artifacts dating back to the 4th century B.C.
A team of twelve marine archaeologists discovered a massive public building integral to the ancient city of Salamis. The uncovered remains, showcased on social media by officials, offer a glimpse into the island’s newfound history. These findings are not related to the ruins of another ancient city named Salamis, located in eastern Cyprus.
The underwater exploration in 2022 focused on Ampelaki Bay. The bay is located on the eastern shore of the strait between Salamis and mainland Greece. The region holds historical significance. It was the region where the Battle of Salamis occurred during the Greco-Persian Wars around 480 B.C. The conflict marked a pivotal victory for the Greeks.
Greece’s Ancient Fortification
The archaeological team initially discovered a seawall believed to be part of an ancient fortification surrounding the classical city of Salamis. Subsequent investigations led to the identification of a stoa. Stoa is a freestanding covered walkway in Greek architecture, around 20 feet wide and 105 feet long. The stoa, a crucial element in understanding the city’s topography, likely marked the eastern boundary of the Agora area. The region is a communal meeting space in ancient Greek cities.
The stoa’s remains, consisting of six or seven rooms, reveal the structure’s purpose as a possible marketplace or public promenade. While only one room, measuring slightly more than 15 square feet, has been explored in-depth, it housed a significant storage area. It contains nearly two dozen bronze coins, marble fragments, vases, and ceramic pieces dating back to the Classical-Hellenistic period.
Among the noteworthy artifacts is a fragment of a column with a partial inscription in 2-3 verses. Researchers also found an ornate fragment depicting a large man. This man, possibly a hero, places a crown on a bearded man. These discoveries provide invaluable insights into the island’s cultural and architectural history, offering a captivating narrative that adds to the ongoing story of Greece’s storied past.
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10 of the Best Greek Temples
The ultimate guide to the very best greek temples in the world, from agrigento to paestum and more, includes an interactive map surviving temples from ancient greece..
24 nov 2020.
Ancient Greek Temples are some of the most iconic historic sites in the world. Indeed, any ancient Greek temple list would include some of the best known historical places on the planet, from Agrigento and the world famous Parthenon to Paestum, Sounio, Pergamum and Corinth.
There is probably no better example of ancient Greek architecture and civilisation than those Greek temples of the world which have survived through the ages.
Today the number of surviving Greek temples is longer than you may imagine, with Greek temples appearing not just in Greece itself, but throughout the Mediterranean. We’ve put together an experts guide to surviving temples from Ancient Greece, with our top ten places to visit as well as a full list of ancient Greek temples, which shouldn’t be ignored if you have the time.
What are the top Greek Temples in the World?
1. Valley of the Temples
The Valley of the Temples contains the stunningly well-preserved remains of several astonishing temples, representing some of the best preserved Ancient Greek ruins in the world, especially outside Greece. The majority were constructed in the fifth century BC. Of the ten original temples, the remains of nine can now be seen. The best preserved of the ruins is the Temple of Concorde, saved from destruction when it was incorporated into a Christian church. The other temples are dedicated to Juno, Olympian Zeus, Hephaistos, Hera Lacinia and Castor and Pollux.
2. The Parthenon
By far and away the most famous of all Greek temples, the Parthenon in the centre of Athens is a monument to Classical Greek civilisation. Built during the golden age of Pericles – the famous Athenian statesman – the Parthenon was originally constructed to be a temple to the Ancient Greek goddess Athena. Heavily damaged in 1687 during a conflict between the Ottoman Empire and the Venetians, many of the surviving sculptures were removed from the site in the early 19th Century by the Earl of Elgin and are now on display in the British Museum. Today the Parthenon remains on the ‘must-see’ list of most history enthusiasts.
Paestum is a Greco-Roman site located south of Naples which contains the stunning remains of three ancient Greek temples which still stand tall today. Today, visitors can still see the spectacular Temple of Hera, the Temple of Neptune and the Temple of Ceres. The site also contains impressive defensive walls, a Roman forum, the basic remains of a Roman amphitheatre and a number of ancient tombs.
4. Temple of Poseidon - Sounio
A picturesque ruin of a fifth century BC Greek temple, the Temple of Poseidon of Sounio was dedicated to the deity of the sea. Dramatically perched on a cliff overlooking the ocean, the temple is made up of a rectangle of restored large Doric columns. For truly spectacular views this partially-ruined Greek temple is hard to beat. If you can catch it at sunset, then the scene will be complete. It’s roughly an hour out from Athens and there are several tour operators offering half-day trips.
Once a thriving ancient Greek then Roman city, Pergamum’s ruins include famous sites such as its Asclepion temple, theatre and library. The historic ruins are split into three main areas. In the Acropolis, one can find sites such as its library, gymnasium, very steep theatre and arsenal as well as the Roman Temple of Trajan. The other two areas are its lower city and its stunning health centre or Asclepion, where a variety of treatments were offered, such as mud baths.
A major Greek city, the ruins of Corinth include the remains of the 6th century BC Temple of Apollo and the remaining columns of the Temple of Octavia. Inhabited since the Neolithic period, Corinth grew from the eight century BC, developing into a centre of trade and a city of great riches. Today, visitors can see its many ancient sites, including the few remnants of the former Temple of Aphrodite, once a home of Corinth’s sacred prostitutes. Beyond these sacred sites, much of Corinth’s original infrastructure is visible along with many remains from the Roman-era city, including the Theatre and the Peirene Fountain.
7. Temple of Hephaestus
Arguably better preserved than its more famous Athenian neighbour, the Parthenon, the Temple of Hephaestus is an extremely impressive ancient Greek temple and one of the best Greek temples of the world. Located in the Athenian Agora, it was the site of worship of the Greek deity of fire, blacksmiths and sculpture. Built in the fifth century BC, the Temple of Hephaestus was later incorporated into the Church of Agios Georgios, this accounting for its excellent state of preservation.
One of the more famous ancient Greek temples is the 4th century BC Temple of Apollo at Delphi, though little remains of this once-sacred place. Archaeologists have found evidence that Delphi was inhabited as early as the Neolithic period and sites dating back to the Mycenaean Civilisation, but it was the Ancient Greek city which developed in Delphi which has left the biggest mark on the area. Part of what made Delphi such an important city was its mythological and religious status. Possibly the best preserved site in Delphi is the fifth century Doric building of the Treasury of the Athenians, which is located along The Sacred Way, a central road of the religious area of the city.
Priene contains the remains of the Greek Temple of Athena which was funded by Alexander the Great, as well as a number of other fascinating historical remains. It is one of many important ancient sites in the area and is close to both Miletus and Ephesus . However, though smaller than other nearby historical attractions, the real charm of Priene lies in its quiet appeal and off-the-beaten-track atmosphere. Today the ruins of Priene are located next to the modern village of Güllübahçe near the town of Söke. The site remains relatively free of tourists, though several tour companies offer trips from local resorts.
Once one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the remains of the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus are sadly rather poorly preserved. Despite this Ephesus itself is a wonder to explore and contains some of the best Greek and Roman ruins in the Mediterranean. The site is a treasure trove for enthusiasts of history, allowing them to walk through its streets and view its magnificent houses, community buildings, temples and stadiums. Some of the most impressive sites at Ephesus include the Library of Celsus and the Temple of Hadrian. A trip to Ephesus usually takes at least half a day – some tours include other local sites such as Priene and Miletus – but enthusiasts will probably want to enjoy this site for a whole day. There is also a great Ephesus Museum displaying artifacts found in the old city.