You are perhaps interested to see some of the best ruins in Greece if you are setting out on your first trip to the country. Greece has a rich and fascinating history and various civilizations have occupied this land for more than 2,500 years.
Many of the archeological sites found here are not only some of the most important in Europe but some of the most important in the entire world. The Acropolis of Athens for instance, was a contender for being one of the “new” seven wonders of the world in 2017.
Many of the most notable ruins in the country are found around Athens which is great if the Greek capital is going to be the starting point of your trip. The northern part of the country and the Macedonia region is largely untapped and provide great insight into the life of Alexander the Great.
This article has been written by a British Travel Writer based in Athens (me!) I have visited every site on this list, and virtually all archeological sites in Greece.
These are the ones that I would recommend as being the most important spots to prioritise if you are passing through the country with a limited amount of time.
19 of the Best Ruins in Greece to Visit in 2023
The Acropolis of Athens needs no introduction. This famous historic site is the entire raison d’etre that many people plan a trip to Athens in the first place.
The Acropolis complex with its magnificent Parthenon sits on top of a rocky bluff high above downtown Athens. Centuries ago, most Greek cities had an acropolis at their center.
However while most acropolises were built for defensive purposes, the Athens Acropolis was built for spiritual reasons. The Parthenon is a temple that was created in honor of the Goddess Athena, the Patron god of the city of Athens.
It was largely built under the rule of Pericles between 460 and 430 BC. Its impressive columns and foundations have been ornately crafted using fine Pentelic marble quarried from nearby Mount Pentelikon.
The Acropolis complex is more expansive than initially meets the eye. You should dedicate at least 3 hours to exploring the area, with another 30 minutes spent exploring the nearby Acropolis museum.
(Admission to the museum is included in the cost of your Acropolis entrance ticket). Other notable sites to look out for within the complex are the Propylaea (the old ceremonial gateway to the site), the Temple of Athena Nike, and the old Temple of Athena.
Recommended Acropolis tours
You might want to reserve a spot on an Acropolis of Athens tour during your time in the Greek capital. You can also save money on your visit by buying an Athens combination ticket which includes entrance to the Acropolis, The Ancient Agora and its Museum, Kerameikos, and several other notable sites.
Book your tickets online in advance to avoid disappointment and save having to queue when you get there!
- Acropolis and 6 archeological sites combo ticket
- Athens Acropolis and top attractions with an audio guide
- Acropolis, Parthenon, and Acropolis Museum guided tour
- Athens Acropolis guided tour with entry ticket
The Odeon of Herodes Atticus
The Odeon of Herodes Atticus is a Roman theatre that sits on the southwest slope of the Acropolis of Athens. It was initially built in 161 AD and then renovated in 1950.
The wealthy Roman benefactor Herodes Atticus had it constructed in memory of his beloved late wife Rigilla.
The theatre can seat 5,000 people and is still used for various musical and theatrical performances today, particularly during the annual Epidaurus festival that takes place every summer in Greece.
The Ancient Agora
The Ancient Agora was the civic center of Athens in the days of Ancient Greece. During the classical era, philosophers like Socrates and Plato would walk barefoot along the cobbled promenade of the Agora sharing their wisdom with anybody that would listen.
Ancient orators would give speeches in the old plazas and the agora was a popular rendezvous point among locals. Today, The Ancient Agora is no doubt one of the best ruins in Greece.
It is perhaps second only to the Acropolis and is one of the most impressive sites that you can explore during your Athens itinerary. The Stoa of Attalos here is an old colonnaded marketplace that now houses the Agora museum but was once home to more than 45 stalls selling everything from fruits and veg to weapons and apparel.
The Temple of Hephaestus is immediately on your right after you enter the Agora complex and is the best-preserved Doric temple in Greece today. It was built from Pentelic marble around the same time as the Acropolis (circa 450 BC).
Interestingly, when it was excavated, archeologists mistakenly thought that the temple had been built in honour of Theseus, founder of Athens. But it was actually built in honour of Hephaestus, god of fire, and Athena Ergane, goddess of pottery and crafts.
It is because of this mistake that the nearby neighbourhood is known as “Thissio”. Perhaps it should be Hepaestusio?
The ruins of Ancient Pella make a great day trip from Thessaloniki. The archeological site is often overlooked in most Greece itineraries which is a shame given its historic significance.
Pella was the birthplace of Alexander the Great. It was the ancient capital of King Archelaus of Macedonia at the end of the 5th century BC and thrived under the control of Philip II.
Sadly, Pella was largely destroyed by an earthquake that rocked Northern Greece in 168 BC. But still, many of the structures, mosaics, and walkways here are still intact.
Most notably, look out for the grand colonnaded courtyard surrounded by ancient columns that are known as The House of Dionysus. The mosaics on the floor here depict scenes of the God Dionysus riding on the back of a panther as well as a lion hunt.
The Archaeological Museum of Pella can be found at the entrance to the site. Its exhibits display artifacts that were excavated in the area and provide valuable context for visiting the archeological site.
Sendoukia Pirate Graveyard in Skopelos
The Sendoukia Pirate Graveyard is a mysterious burial site on the slopes of Mount Delphi on the island of Skopelos in the Sporades archipelago. Here, you can find three large Neolithic stone sarcophagi on a rocky plateau among the trees.
Centuries ago, Skopelos and many other islands in the Mediterranean were tormented by pirates. They built their towns and Skopelos villages inland so as to protect themselves from pirate attacks which were a constant threat.
The Sendoukia pirate graveyards are believed to be the final resting place for some of the most notorious pirates that tormented the locals. There is another theory that one of the pirates buried his treasure in this area.
Nothing has as of yet been found but who knows what trinkets could await beneath the surface.
Among those in the know, the trail from Skopelos town to Sendoukia is one of the best hikes in Skopelos. But the archeological site is largely unknown and forgotten.
Of the countless holidaymakers that travel to Skopelos year after year, very few are even aware of the existence of the site. If you take the time to come here, chances are, you can have it all to yourself.
The views from up here are unparalleled and on a clear day, you can see out across the Aegean to Skiathos and Alonissos.
The Temple of Apollo, Naxos
The Temple of Apollo at Naxos, also known as Portara is what remains of an impressive marble gateway that once marked the entrance of an ancient temple. It is all that remains of an incompleted temple that dates back to 530 BC.
The temple overlooks the sea, with Paros and Antiparos island visible across the water. It is widely considered as being one of the most iconic postcard images of Naxos and is a gorgeous place to watch the sunset.
Island of Delos in the Cyclades
The island of Delos in the Cyclades island group is one of 18 UNESCO world heritage sites in Greece. The entire Island is uninhabited and is one big archaeological site that was dedicated to the ancient Greek gods’ Apollo and Artemis.
The Ancient Greeks believed that Delos was sacred ground and so no human was allowed to live or die on the island. Today, Delos is a popular day trip destination from Santorini and Mykonos.
You can hop on a boat ride across to Delos early in the morning and be back at your hotel for dinner. There are a few notable buildings to look out for here.
The ancient theater of Delos, the temple of Isis, and Cleopatra’s house are some of the most important. The terrace of the lions is a cobbled walkway that is lined with eerie stone lion statues that dates back to 600 BCE.
Sadly, many of the lions have been destroyed or worn away over time, but those that do remain face the Sacred Lake of Delos. Be sure to visit the Delos museum on the island which tells the chronological history of the area and contains many interesting sculptures, tools, and artifacts that have been recovered here.
The Temple of Olympian Zeus
The Temple of Olympian Zeus is a grandiose temple dedicated to Zeus, King of the Greek Gods in Athens. It sits just behind Hadrian’s Arch and is accessible from Leof. Vasilissis Olgas Boulevard.
The temple is interesting because its construction wasn’t completed for 634 years. When it was finally finished, it was used as a place of worship for less than 200 years before being abandoned.
The construction of the temple initially started in 520 BC. After being abandoned and picked up again several times over the centuries, it was eventually the Roman Emperor Hadrian that would finish building the site in 131CE.
Hadrian is widely regarded as being one of the few good Roman emperors. He was affectionately known as “the Little Greek” on account of his Love of All Things Greek. As well as placing several impressive statues of Zeus within the Temple of Olympian Zeus, he also placed several dozen bronze and Stones statues of himself.
Today, some of them can be found inside the Archaeological Museum of Athens. There were once 104 spectacular Corinthian columns here, each of which was 15 meters in height, and decorated with intricate designs.
Today, only 21 of the original columns remain. Access to the Temple of Olympian Zeus is included with the Athens combination ticket.
The Roman Agora is the old Roman marketplace in the centre of Athens. It can be found close to Monastiraki metro station and the historic district of old Plaka.
The marketplace was once home to dozens of stores selling all sorts of household items, meat, and groceries. it was founded by none other than the Roman emperors Julius Caesar and Caesar Augustus.
Admission is just 2 euros (or free with your Athens combination ticket). You can be in and out of the site within less than 30 minutes but it is well worth having a look around.
Hadrian’s Library is one of the most important historic sites that still exists from the Roman occupation of Southern Greece. It is a sprawling 10,000-square-meter cultural complex that was built on Hadrian’s orders in 132 AD.
The three-story building housed tens of thousands of important books, manuscripts, and historic archives. It was far more than “just” a library though.
The complex also featured teaching rooms, reading rooms, and rooms where people could listen to music. There were also porticoes, gardens, and a pond so that scholars and philosophers could take a walk to unwind and reflect.
Admission to Hadrian’s Library is included in your Athens combination ticket. It is right across from the Roman Agora and a selection of excellent coffee shops that sit on the streets of Pandrossou and Aiolou.
The Panathenaic Stadium
The Panathenaic Stadium (“Kallimarmaro”) in Athens was the site where the world’s first modern Olympic games were held. It is also the world’s only stadium that has been built entirely out of marble.
The stadium dates back to 566 BC and according to local legends, Greek philosophers Socrates and Phaedrus would meet here to have philosophical discussions. The original structure eventually fell into disrepair.
However, Herodes Atticus (also credited with founding the nearby Odeon of Herodes Atticus) rebuilt it in 140 AD using fine white marble from the slopes of Mount Penteli. It was expanded and modified into a horseshoe shape stadium as per what was usual for Roman stadiums at that time.
At one point, there was a grand stone entrance, although that has crumbled and been lost over time. The stadium was excavated in 1870 and the first modern Olympic games were held here in 1896.
Today, there is also a small Olympic museum inside the stadium. The exhibits here contain Olympic torches from various Olympic Games around the world, old promotional posters and memorabilia, and interesting facts about the history of the events.
Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion
The Temple of Poseidon is an impressive ancient Greek Doric temple that sits on top of a rocky cliff overlooking the Aegean Sea in the southernmost part of mainland Greece. It is one of the most popular day trips to take from Athens and for good reason.
The temple was built in dedication to Poseidon, the ancient Greek god of the sea. This is one of the best places to watch the sunset in Mainland Greece.
On a windy day, the waters of the Aegean Sea lap ferociously against the cliff’s edge and the sides of the temple. Arguably, there could not be a better location for a temple that was dedicated to the god of the sea!
Numerous reputable tour companies offer trips to Cape Sounion from Athens. While you are in the area, you can also treat yourself to a sumptuous mixed grill at one of the restaurants in the little village of Kalyvia Thorikou, or go hiking through the nearby Sounion National Park.
Recommended Sounion tours
A selection of recommended Cape Sounion tours is detailed below for your consideration. Many of these tours include pick up and drop off from your hotel in central Athens so they take a lot of the stress out of managing the logistics of your trip.
Book your place online in advance to avoid disappointment!
- Athens: Cape Sounio and Temple of Poseidon trip with audio guide
- Cape Sounion and Temple of Poseidon half-day tour
- Sunset tour of Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon
- From Athens: sea kayak adventure to Cape Sounion
Hadrian’s Arch is an old triumphal Roman arch that sits close to the Temple of Olympian Zeus. It was built of Pentelic marble and dates back to 131 BC when it was built as a gesture of appreciation and thanks to the Roman Emperor Hadrian.
On one side of the arch is the inscription “This is Athens, the city of Theseus”. On the other, it reads “This is the city of Hadrian, not Theseus”.
It is believed that the arch acted as some kind of divider between the two parts of the Greek capital. The arch is free to admire and sits against the backdrop of the insanely busy Leoforos Vasilissis Amalias, close to Syntagma Square in central Athens.
Acropolis of Lindos
The Ancient Acropolis of Lindos is one of the most important historic sites on the Greek island of Rhodes. It awaits in the namesake seaside town of Lindos on the island’s east coast where it sits on top of a 116m tall cliff.
The views from here are unparalleled, especially as the sun sets. On one side, you have the gorgeous bay of St. Paul.
On the other are the powdery golden sands of Lindos Beach. This ancient citadel passed through the hands of various civilisations over the centuries – including the Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines, and the Ottomans
It was home to a Panhellenic sanctuary dedicated to the cult worship of the goddess Athena. The ruins are not directly accessible from the road so you have to go on foot or by donkey to reach them.
Archeological site of Kerameikos
The Archeological site of Kerameikos is one of the most frequently overlooked landmarks in Athens. This site, close to the popular Gazi nightlife district was used as an Ancient Athenian cemetery from the 9th century BC until Roman times.
Kerameikos is well worth exploring, particularly as admission to the site is included in the Athens combination ticket. There are some incredibly ornate crypts and tombstones within the complex, as well as a grand entrance gate and a small museum dedicated to telling the history of the site.
Palace of Knossos, Crete
The Palace of Knossos is one of the best ruins in Greece and one of the most visited sites on the island of Crete. It dates back to the Neolithic period but most of its expansion took place during the Minoan period.
The palace was the main political, financial, and social centre for the Minoans for hundreds of years. In Greek mythology, the palace is said to have been the home of the labyrinth and its resident minotaur – a terrifying half-man, half-bull creature that would feast on Athenians. You can easily visit the Palace of Knossos on a day trip from Heraklion.
It is easy to do so independently or with the aid of a local tour. Many of the structures here have been largely rebuilt or repaired but that doesn’t detract from how impressive they are.
Within the complex, you can scale the ancient walls of Knossos, admire the ornate entrance gates (Dipylon and the Sacred Gate) and check out the impressive throne room.
Recommended Knossos tours
Knossos tours can take a lot of the stress out of figuring out how to get from A to B. Some reputable local tour options are listed below.
- Crete: Palace of Knossos ticket with audio tour
- Heraklion: Knossos skip-the-line walking tour
- Heraklion: Lasithi Plateau, Cave of Zeus and Knossos day trip
- Knossos: Skip-the-line entry and private guided tour
The Ancient City of Delphi
The Ancient city of Delphi is a fascinating archeological site and ancient city on the slopes of Mount Parnassus, central Greece. It received UNESCO world heritage status in 1987 and is of significant importance in Greek history and mythology.
Legend has it that Zeus sent two eagles in opposite directions and tasked them with finding the centre of the earth. They met at Delphi and from there, the city arose.
Delphi dates back to the 8th century BC and it was mostly built for spiritual purposes in honour of the Greek God Apollo. Centuries ago, it was also the home of the Pythian games.
These were the second most important sporting event in Greece after the Olympics.
During your visit, be sure to check out the ruins of the Temple of Apollo and the Delphi Archeological Museum, one of the most important museums in Greece today.
Epidaurus is an important Ancient Greek city in the northeastern Peloponnese. It is perhaps best known for being the home of the annual Epidaurus festival which sees visitors from across the globe pile on board buses from Athens to Epidaurus to see traditional Greek dances and musical and theatrical performances.
It is also home to the UNESCO-protected Sanctuary of Askelopios dedicated to the god of medicine. Centuries ago, people would travel far and wide to request a healing ceremony/ritual to be performed upon them here and heal them of their ailments.
The most notable structures at Epidaurus today are the Askelopios sanctuary, the theatre, and Tholos. They date back to the 6th century BC.
The Filopappou Monument
The Filopappou monument is a white Pentelic marble structure that is found on the top of Filopappou Hill in central Athens. The monument was created in honour of the Greco-Roman Commander Julius Antiochus Filopappos after his death in 115 BC.
There are several scenes depicted on the monument. One image shows Filopappos sitting on his throne.
Another shows him riding his chariot. Sadly, the Filopappou Monument has been vandalised and damaged in recent years.
But it’s well worth coming up here to see the views over the Athens skyline. The Acropolis sits on a separate hill just across from Filopappou so you can get some incredible photos from up here.
FAQs about the Best Ruins in Greece
Do you have any further questions about the best ruins in Greece, how to get to them, or how to plan your trip to Greece in general? The answers to some frequently asked questions are detailed below.
Hopefully, you’ll find the information that you are looking for there. If not, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.
Which Greek island has the best ruins?
The island of Delos in the Cyclades is the best Greek island for ruins overall. The island is one big UNESCO-protected archaeological site that is filled with colonnaded walkways, temples, and shrines.
According to Greek mythology, the island was the home of Apollo and Artemis. Aside from Delos, Naxos, and Rhodes also have interesting historic sites, as do many other Greek islands.
What are the most famous ruins in Greece?
The Ancient Acropolis of Athens with its magnificent Parthenon is arguably the most famous ruin in all of Greece. In 2022, The Greek Ministry of Tourism announced that over 16,000 people visited the site every single day!
What is the oldest ruin in Greece?
The Palace of Knossos near Heraklion in Crete is one of the oldest ruins in Greece. It dates back over 4,000 years.
Where are most Greek ruins?
Greek ruins are scattered all over mainland Greece and the Greek islands. Some are also found in Southern Italy and places like Catania and Siracusa Sicily since the Greeks once ruled these lands.
Within Greece, you will find a lot of ruins in and around Athens. This includes the Acropolis, the Ancient Agora, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the Panathenaic Stadium, and many many more.
Are there underwater Greek ruins?
Yes. There are some underwater Greek ruins that have been submerged beneath the sea over time.
One of the most interesting is Pavlopetri, a pre-historic town off the coast of Lakonia in the Greek Peloponnese. The site is a diver’s dream and features many old, stone buildings, tombs, temples, and ancient promenades that are still intact.
There is another, nameless Bronze Age city off the coast of Kilada Bay in the waters of the Argolic Gulf near the Saronic islands. On Evia Island, you can visit the lesser-known historical site of Archampoli off the Cape of Kafieris.
It is believed that the city was an important trade hub in the past. Among the sun-bleached ruins, you’ll find remnants of houses, stores, and an old Acropolis.
Close to the beach, you can see what remains of the ancient city beneath the surface of the clear blue sea.
Final thoughts on the best ruins in Greece
This article summarises some of the most famous historical and archaeological sites in Greece. However, it barely scratches the surface in terms of everything that this gorgeous Mediterranean country has to offer.
If you only have a limited amount of time to dedicate to your Greece trip, focus on the ruins in Greece that are close to Athens. For instance, the Acropolis, the Ancient and Roman Agoras, the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion, and Epidaurus.
That way, you can cover a lot of ground in a short period of time, see the most famous ruins the country has to offer, and visit places that are easily accessible by Greek public transport.
Which of the Greek ruins on this list most appeals to you? I live in Athens and I am happy to assist if you need any help with anything.
You might also be interested in joining my Greece travel/expat Facebook group: All Greek to Me