Top historical sites in Greece
By Martha Hales
As well as enjoying its beguiling scenery, mouth-watering cuisine and wonderful climate, on holiday in Greece you’ll form a deeper understanding of Greek culture and how it has been shaped by events long past.
What makes Greek history so fascinating?
This is a country well known for its history, advanced ancient societies and enduring global influence. At the height of its powers, the Greek Empire stretched from modern day Spain to India. Across the centuries, the Greek territory has been subject to many comings and goings, each successive invasion leaving its imprint on the modern nation.
As well as ancient relics of the classical era, there is a wealth of fascinating architecture to admire, from Venetian to Byzantine and Ottoman, among others.
There are so many amazing historic sites in Greece that visitors with an interest in the classics could spend many happy years exploring all that there is on offer. But if you are limited to just a week or two, here are seven of our favourite Greek historical highlights to whet your appetite.
Crete is synonymous with the Minoan civilisation, and the ruins of Knossos palace give a flavour of the grandeur of the ancient buildings. This sprawling site was excavated and reconstructed at speed with many criticising the methods used, nevertheless this is an impressive site in a lovely setting with some particularly well preserved details and amphorae.
One of the most important sites of the Ancient World is Delphi, a sanctuary dedicated to the god of Apollo, an oracle who the powerful consulted before making major decisions. The evocative remains of the temple, theatre and treasuries are located in the stunning folds of Mount Parnassus, where the views are sublime. Just two hours outside Athens, Delphi is a scenic and serene day trip from the capital.
The Mycenaens were one of Europe’s oldest bronze age societies, and their city is among the oldest of ancient sites in Greece. They were the major rulers in Greece from 1600-1200 BCE, and subject of The Iliad by Homer. A key to their success was the strategic location at the crossroads of land and sea, bringing wealth, including huge stores of gold. The capital is largely ruined, but the impressive Gate of Lions gives an idea of its former grandeur.
The ancient world’s best preserved theatre is located at the Asclepian Sanctuary, a huge 14,000 seater built seamlessly into the landscape in the 4th century BCE. With incredible acoustics every sound from down at stage level can be heard right up on the 54th level of seating. The surrounding archaeological site contains many relics, including evidence of medical functions demonstrating this was a healing resort.
The birthplace of the Olympic games had a dual purpose. During the time of the sporting competition, athletes were brought together to study philosophy and hone their sporting prowess with a variety of contests. But the primary function of the sanctuary of Olympia was religious. Here you can see remains of several temples including the 5th century BCE temple of Zeus, considered the supreme deity in Ancient Greece.
Perched on a lofty bluff overlooking modern Athens, the Acropolis is the ultimate symbol of ancient Greek civilization. Crowned by the imposing Parthenon temple dedicated to the goddess Athena, this complex had a defensive and religious purpose. Constructed around the 5th century BCE, the Acropolis is remarkably well preserved considering its great age.
One of the world’s most spectacular sacred sites consists of monasteries perched on rocky pinnacles in central Greece. These lofty places of worship capture the attention in a variety of contexts - geologically unique, culturally enchanting and of important religious significance. Initially inhabited by hermits who chose a life of self denial in the hollows and fissures of the rocks, the monasteries began to appear in the 11th century as an extension of this tradition.
Make it happen
If you dream of a pilgrimage to see the relics of Ancient Greece, who better to arrange it than knowledgeable local experts? Our local partners specialise in offering tailor-made holidays in Greece with extra insight, ensuring your holiday is unique and memorable. Contact them via our enquiry form - once they have an idea of your requirements they will work with you to create your perfect itinerary. To speak to someone in the TravelLocal office please call +44 (0)117 325 7898.