We can’t blame you if you’re visiting Greece just to enjoy its stunning beaches and delicious food. But the so-called land of light was once home to a great ancient civilization that has left behind incredible monuments and stories behind. For those of you who want to discover them, here are the top eight historical places you should make sure to check out when visiting Greece.
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8 Fascinating Historical Places You Have to Check Out in Greece
Acropolis, translated as 'the highest point of the city,' is a citadel located on a high hill towering above Athens. It's mostly known for the Parthenon, a stunning ancient temple dedicated to Athena, the patron goddess of Athens. Parthenon was built in the 5th century BC and was considered one of the finest Doric temples ever built. Other important monuments on Acropolis are the temple of Athena Nike, Erechtheion, and Propylaia – all of great architectural and historical value.
The ticket for the Acropolis costs 30 euros and is valid for five consecutive days, giving you access to several beautiful nearby historical sites like the ancient Agora and the temple of Olympian Zeus. Since you’ll be around the area, don’t forget to visit the new Acropolis museum, apart from numerous exhibitions it also houses an elegant restaurant with a view out to Acropolis.
Temple of Poseidon
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The temple of Poseidon is in Cape Sounion, the southernmost tip of Attica, and it’s a 90-minute drive from Athens. This finely preserved temple is located 73 meters above the sea, offering amazing views and a glorious sunset. Make a day of this visit by swimming in one of the nearby beaches and dining in a local seafood restaurant.
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Olympia is a beautiful sanctuary in the western Peloponnese dedicated to the father of gods, Zeus. The world-famous Olympic Games were born here to honor Zeus. They took place in the ancient stadium of Olympia, which you’ll also get to see. There are also two museums and several monuments including the remains of the colossal temple of Zeus and the temple of Hera, as well as the ancient gymnasium and the palestra where several sports were practiced.
If you happen to be around in July or August, make sure to attend the ancient Olympia festival to enjoy concerts and other entertaining festivities.
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The center of the Minoan civilization, Knossos is an ancient city located in Heraklion, Crete. The immense size and the complex architecture of the Knossos palace have inspired the myth of the Labyrinth, which was built at the orders of King Minos to detain his son Minotaur – a half-human, half-bull beast. Apart from the Knossos palace, the Little Palace, the House of the Frescoes and the Temple Tomb are some of the monuments that await you. You’ll also discover amazing remains like basins, crypts, and mosaics.
For those who want to see more findings from the Knossos palace, like pottery and original wall paintings, you can visit the Heraklion museum.
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Mycenae was another prominent ancient Greek city in Peloponnese, and also the center of the Mycenean civilization. The lavish, gold-rich Mycenae, as Homer called them, are enshrouded in several myths, starting with the myth that Perseus, son of Zeus, founded them.
The first thing you’ll see is the Cyclopean Walls surrounding the citadel, which still stand proudly today. The main entrance, the Lion Gate, decorated with the relief sculpture of two lionesses, is a beautiful masterpiece of a sculpture. You’ll also get to admire the treasury of Atreus, also known as the tomb of Agamemnon, an impressive vaulted tomb. To find out more about the Mycenean civilization, make sure to pay a visit the Archaeological Museum.
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This incredible UNESCO World Heritage Site is located in Central Greece, it takes only one look to understand why it's so popular. Prepare to feel awe at the sight of the majestic rock complex that has been home to Orthodox monks since the 14th century. The masterfully built monasteries standing on the tip of the rocky mountains blend in beautifully with the stone as if they've been carved in naturally.
Sports lovers can try one of the rock-climbing routes to enjoy this location to the max. At the base of the rocks lies the picturesque village of Kastraki, the perfect place for basing yourself and trying some of the local cuisine.
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Another of Central Greece's spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Sites. A Greek myth says that when Zeus sent out two eagles – one from the west and another one from the east – to discover the center of the world, Delphi is where they met.
Walk up the Sacred Way to reach the Temple of Apollon, the sanctuary where Pythia delivered her prophecies and priests interpreted them. The view over the mountains and the vibe of this sacred place will surely overwhelm you. Make sure to visit the ancient theater and the stadium of Delphi, as well as the Kastalia spring – a place of bewildering beauty located inside the ravine separating the two Phaedriades cliffs.
Sanctuary of Asclepius
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The sanctuary of Asclepius, the god of medicine, is a healing center of the antiquity of such fame that it became known as the birthplace of medicine. This UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Epidaurus, Peloponnese, amazes onlookers with its serene natural surroundings and the beauty of its surviving ruins.
Proof of the holistic medicine practice is also the ancient theater of Epidaurus, which was built to entertain the patients. It’s a place of perfect acoustics and impressive aesthetics that remains in excellent condition and operation. In fact, performing in the ancient theater of Epidaurus is a great honor for an actor and a lifelong dream for many.
A visit to any of these historical places in Greece will make you feel like you've traveled back in time, to a place where the line between reality and myth is blurred. It sounds magical and you'll quickly discover it really is.