Top 7 Ancient Historical Sites to See in Greece

Original post was written by Drew C., a writer for an insurance website. It’s a great place to look if you need family care travel insurance. When he isn’t working, Drew loves to read, travel with friends, play soccer and spend time with his family. Post updated Nov 2015 by FlipKey.

Greece is a country rich in ancient history. Visiting Greece can be overwhelming if you don’t know where to start. The culture, food, annual events, and landscapes of Greece consistently draw in visitors from around the world. There are numerous historical sites to visit, but these are the top seven that will make your trip memorable.

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The Acropolis in Athens, Greece with the Parthenon temple.

The Acropolis in Athens, Greece with the Parthenon temple.

Athens

Athens is a major historical site with an urban vibe. All of the top tourist spots are located in Athens.

In this city travelers can find:

-The Acropolis
-The Parthenon
-The Agora
-National Archeological Museum
-Syntagma Square
-The Plaka
-Cape Souniou
-The Temple of Poseidon

The Acropolis of Athens is an ancient citadel located on a high rocky outcrop above the city of Athens and contains the remains of several ancient buildings of great architectural and historic significance, the most famous being the Parthenon. The Parthenon is the one of the most significant structures in the world. Built in 440 BC, the architectural features and size of this ancient temple is a must-see. The Agora was the open-air market of Athens, and remains of the most visited sites in Greece today. In addition to being a place where people gathered to buy and sell goods, it was also a place where people assembled to discuss important topics: business, politics, current events, or the nature of the universe and the divine. Syntagma Square (also known as Constitution Square) is the city center of Athens and all areas meet back at this central location. It has a long and storied history through war, rebuilds, and democracy. Pláka is the old historical neighborhood of Athens, situated around the slopes of the Acropolis, and features labyrinthine streets and neoclassical architecture. Cape Sounion is noted as the site of ruins of an ancient Greek temple of Poseidon, the ‘god of the sea’ in classical mythology. The remains are perched high on a hill, surrounded on three sides by the sea.

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Crypt is the vaulted tunnel leading into the Olympia Stadion, Olympia, Greece.

Crypt is the vaulted tunnel leading into the Olympia Stadion, Olympia, Greece.

Olympia

If the name sounds familiar, that is because the Olympics started here. The archeological sites here are all full of the ancient Greek history. Ilia is home to Mt. Kronion, the most sacred spot in all of Olympia. The Olympics are an important part of world history, and visiting here will allow to see just how it all began. In the 10th century B.C., Olympia became the top place for the worship of Zeus. The Altis (the sanctuary to the gods) has one of the highest concentrations of masterpieces from the ancient Greek world. In addition to temples, there are the ruins of all the stadiums built for the Olympics, which were held in Olympia every four years beginning in 776 B.C. The Temple of Zeus was the largest and most important building at Olympia and was one of the largest Doric temples in Greece.  The statue of Zeus within the temple was by Pheidias (who had worked on the Parthenon and its statue of Athena) and was a solid gold and ivory representation of Zeus seated on a throne. It is was regarded as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

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Panoramic view on Meteora in Trikala, Greece.

Panoramic view on Meteora in Trikala, Greece.

Meteora

Many people come here and claim that being in Meteora is like being on another planet entirely. Rock pillars shoot up into the sky (up to 1200 ft) from the otherwise flat landscape. Monasteries here are perched delicately atop high cliffs where monks and nuns worship. There were originally 24 monasteries, but only six have stood the test of time. The six monasteries are built on natural sandstone rock pillars, at the northwestern edge of the Plain of Thessaly. Access to the monasteries was originally (and deliberately) difficult, requiring either long ladders lashed together or large nets used to haul up both goods and people, but now thousands of tourists visit each year. The rock pillars were formed approximately 60 million years ago by earthquakes and weathering. This is a very popular hiking spot for those who want to see the monasteries while also getting exercise. Architecture here compliments the dramatic landscapes. Meteora is a massive historical site and on the UNESCO list.  The summer months can be brutally hot, while winter months are very cold. Visit here in the early summer, spring or late summer as temperatures drop.

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Scenic view in Rhodes Island, Greece.

Scenic view in Rhodes Island, Greece.

Rhodes Island

This is an island in Greece that is known for it’s beautiful shores that are part of the Aegean Sea. Historically relevant sites are scattered throughout this island including Temple of Apollo, Acropolis of Rhodes, and Acropolis of Lindos. Additionally, Rhodes has a vibrant nightlife with clubs and restaurants. You can museum stroll by day and go clubbing at night. The Colossus of Rhodes was considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. This giant bronze statue was documented as once standing at the harbor. It was completed in 280 BC and destroyed in an earthquake in 224 BC. No trace of the statue remains today. Rhodes Greece is the largest and most popular island of Dodecanese. With 300 days of sunshine per year, Rhodes Island is mostly famous for the romantic Old Town. The Old Town is among the best-preserved Medieval Towns of Europe, with strong walls, an impressive castle, paved paths and elegant stone mansions. The Acropolis of Lindos is overlooking the picturesque village and dates from the Hellenistic period.

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Sculptures outside the Corfu Museum in Greece.

Sculptures outside the Corfu Museum in Greece.

Corfu Museums

Crystal clear azure ocean waters are famous in Corfu. Unique architecture here is a star point of visiting. Much of the architecture takes cues from Venetian-Roman styling. Due to its strong historical connection with Europe, this was among the first Greek islands to open to tourism. Paleokastritsa, Sidari, Kassiopi and Acharavi are nice tourist areas on the northern side of the island, while the inland is dotted with lovely villages and many attractions. Apart from the wonderful beaches, the highlight of the island is the Old Town with a characteristic Venetian style. There are dozens of churches and museums in Corfu which highlight the history of the area with architecture, artifacts, texts, and more. Achilleion is a fairy palace built among cypresses and myrtles by the Empress Elisabeth of Austria, who wished to escape from the Austrian court. In Corfu you can also visit the historically significant City Hall or see Mon Repos palace. Mon Repos Palace is situated on top of Analipsis hill in the area of Kanoni. The remains of the ancient town of Corfu, which have been found opposite to the palace, make archaeologists believe that Mon Repos was built right on the site where the ancient city of Corfu used to be. The palace is surrounded by magnificent park where thousands of tourists visit each year.

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Temple of Apollo in Corinth, Greece.

Temple of Apollo in Corinth, Greece.

Corinth the Ancient City

Visiting the ancient city of Corinth is a short 48 mile trip from Athens. This coastal city was home to the Corinthians, who were some of the best problem solvers in ancient Greece as they solved complicated issues such as population growth, money exchange, and schooling. It was a wealthy locale that controlled sea trade in the area. It holds religious and spiritual significance – Apostle Paul was known to live here. Temples of Apollo, Aphrodite and Octavia are also located in Corinth. The Temple of Apollo, especially, is regarded as a prime example of Doric architecture. The remains of other temples, villas, a theatre, shops, public baths, pottery factories, a gymnasium, a large triumphal arch, and other buildings dot the site, which since 1896 has been extensively excavated. Corinth was also famous for its pottery, and you can see a comprehensive collection of Corinthian pottery showing all stages of development. The Temple of Aphrodite has little remaining, while the Temple of Octavia, dedicated to Emperor Augustus’ sister, has barely a foundation remaining after centuries of earthquakes. The Archaeological Museum of Ancient Corinth contains a number of artifacts of religious interest, including inscriptions of Gallio and Erastus, both mentioned in religious texts.

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A look inside the Cave of the Apocalypse, Patmos, Greece.

A look inside the Cave of the Apocalypse, Patmos, Greece.

Cave of the Apocalypse

This sacred grotto in Patmos, Greece is the ancient place where St. John had visions and is located halfway up the mountain on the island. These visions led to the Book of Revelation. Visit the Cave of the Apocalypse on foot through the historic trail that bridges Skala and Patmos Island. Inside the cave is a sacred site; a foundation of the Christian tradition, the rock is ragged with three small fissures which symbolize the Holy Trinity, and the voice of God was heard and dictated to Saint John the text of the Revelation. The cave entrance is decorated with a mosaic and inside you’ll find a small grotto. There are also writings about the visions in the cave area.

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Visiting Greece is a historical journey through early human history. There are dozens of important sites to see. Spend your time at each one, but be sure to balance your schedule to include as many as possible. A longer vacation may be beneficial to enjoy more of the historical places in Greece.