Greece is the birthplace of western civilization. The alphabet, philosophy, democracy, classical architecture, and the Olympic Games all began in Ancient Greece. Visiting Greece and popular greek landmarks, you have an opportunity to explore the landscape that inspired great thinkers and inventors. You can also admire surviving structures from Greece’s golden age. Let’s have a look at most popular landmarks in Greece, which you should definitely put on your Greece itinerary:
1. The Temple of Apollo in Delphi
In ancient times, the Oracle of Delphi was the most powerful woman in Europe. Kings, Queens, Emperors, and Empresses sought her advice. For Ancient Greeks, Delphi was the center of the world, and the Temple of Apollo their most holy place.
Today, the ruins in Delphi are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can admire the grand buildings and surrounding beautiful landscape on a day trip from Athens. The surviving ruins date to the 4th-century BCE and are still among impressive Greek landmarks today.
The beautiful amphitheater was built to seat 4,500 spectators, and the circular Tholos is a popular attraction. The Archaeological Museum of Delphi is one of the most visited museums in Greece. Inside, you can admire a bronze statue of a charioteer cast in 478 BCE.
2. The Acropolis in Athens
The Parthenon is the most recognizable structure in Greece and one of the most famous landmarks in Europe. Built in 438 BCE, the Parthenon is just one of many temples and other structures found in the Acropolis in Athens. The Acropolis has been in use since 4,000 BCE when it was defended by a wall that still survives in part today.
Most of the surviving buildings in the Acropolis date to the 5th century BCE. Many impressive buildings were erected before this time but destroyed by Persian invaders in 480 BCE. The existing temples include the Temple of Athena Nike, the Brauronion, and the Erechtheion. Alongside these ancient structures stands the modern Acropolis Museum, with its renowned Parthenon Marbles exhibition.
At the foot of the Acropolis stands the Theatre of Dionysus. This is believed to be the world’s oldest theater. It was originally constructed in the 6th century, but the current building dates to the 4th century. This is where the famous Greek tragedies written by Sophocles and Euripides were first performed.
3. The Panathenaic Stadium
This historic stadium located in Pagrati neighbourhood in Athens is the birthplace of the modern Olympic Games Movement. The Panathenaic Stadium hosted the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. This stadium also played an important role in the 2004 Summer Olympics hosted by Athens.
But the Panathenaic Stadium wasn’t built in modern times. It was a venue for the original Ancient Greek Panathenaic Games, which were held once every 4 years. The first stadium built here was erected in 330 BCE. It was rebuilt on a grand scale in marble in 144 CE and designed to hold 50 thousand spectators. Definitely one of the impressive Greek landmarks.
While you’re in Athens, you might also want to enjoy a scenic boat tour of the Athenian Riviera. This will provide you with views of the Acropolis from the Mediterranean Sea and take you past some of the small, idyllic islands found close to the mainland.
4. The Knossos Archaeological Site in Crete
Many historians consider the Minoan city of Knossos to be Europe’s oldest. It was founded in the late Neolithic. At its peak, around 1700 BCE, Knossos is estimated to have boasted a population of 100 thousand. To put this into perspective, London didn’t grow large enough to hold a population of 100 thousand until 1500 CE.
Today, you can wander through the partially reconstructed palace at the center of this ancient city. The palace complex is a maze of passageways and contains frescoes and carvings that indicate bull worship. An ornate Minoan drinking vessel (rhyton) has been recovered in the shape of a bull’s head with long, golden horns.
Many archaeologists believe the ancient legend of Theseus and the Minotaur is an echo of political relations between the Minoan kingdom before its collapse and the earliest emerging Greek states on the mainland. Strong connections between the palace and the labyrinth in the tale have been discovered in the form of carved double ax heads around the palace complex. Greeks called this kind of ax a labrys, and labyrinth may be derived from this.
Once you are in Crete, visit also its beautiful beaches like Balos or Elafonissi.
The Santorini Caldera is a collection of islands formed by the exposed rim around the sunken crater of an active volcano. These islands contain unique archaeological, architectural, and geological features that make Thira (the largest island) one of the most popular Greek islands for sightseeing.
You’ll love the picturesque, whitewashed houses and blue-domed churches. From the capital of Fira, you can admire breathtaking views across the caldera. If you’re feeling adventurous, take a boat trip to the uninhabited islands of Palia Kame and Nea Kameni in the center of the caldera. There you can witness volcanic gas emissions and swim in the hot springs heated by the volcano.
Knossos, along with other Minoan cities in Crete, suffered a catastrophe around 1,600 BCE. Archaeologists believe this was an eruption of the Santorini volcano. That same eruption destroyed the Minoan colony of Akrotiri on the east coast of Thira.
This technologically advanced colony used hot- and cold-water plumbing, flushing toilets, sewers, and multi-story building. Its sudden disappearance following the eruption may have inspired the Atlantis legend. Today, you can visit the Akrotiri Archaeological Site and see buildings, marble figurines, and frescoes preserved by falling ash, just like Pompeii.
It’s surprising Meteora isn’t as well-known as other Greek landmarks. This valley in eastern-central Greece is blessed by a stunning collection of sandstone and conglomerate columns. These lofty pillars loom above lush valleys in this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In medieval times, Christian hermits flocked to Meteora to escape the secular world. Over centuries, they built isolated monasteries atop remote peaks. 6 of these isolated monasteries survive today. You’ll be amazed by how they cling to the peaks, wondering how those hermits were able to climb up and built such precarious structures.
When the monasteries were first built, they could only be reached by climbing ropes or rickety ladders. Now you can use modern stone steps to avoid risking your life. The views from the peaks are breathtaking.
Meteora is also home to a system of caves. Archaeologists have established these caves were first occupied by humans 50 thousand years ago. In one cave, you can see the world’s oldest wall. It has been dated to 21,000 BCE.
The small, uninhabited island of Delos was a thriving port city in Ancient Greece. Today, many visitors stay on the nearby island Mykonos so they can visit this amazing archaeological site on a boat trip. Because Delos was abandoned, many of its structures remain virtually untouched from classical times.
The grand temples here were dedicated to Apollo and Artemis. According to Greek mythology, both gods were born on Delos. Today you can wander amongst well-preserved ancient temples, theaters, and villas.
And while you’re staying in Mykonos, you must visit Chora. The town is famous for its picturesque, 16th-century windmills overlooking the harbor. Also, watch out for the Church of Panagia Paraportiani. Dating to 1425, this strangely shaped, white-washed church is one of the world’s most photographed.
Which of those Greek landmarks would you like to visit?
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