When you mention famous landmarks in Greece, the first thing that comes to mind is probably the Acropolis of Athens. There is possibly also a selection of famous places that you have seen photographed in travel guidebooks for years but you are not quite sure where they are.
Whether you are travelling to Greece for an island hopping adventure, or to immerse yourself in the country’s history and culture, its worth adding the below landmarks in Greece to your radar.
- 1 The Acropolis of Athens
- 2 Mount Athos Monasteries, Halkidiki
- 3 The White Tower of Thessaloniki
- 4 Agios Ioannis Kastri, Skopelos
- 5 The Panathenaic Stadium, Athens
- 6 Meteora Monasteries
- 7 Lake Pamvotida, Ioannina
- 8 Mount Lycabettus, Athens
- 9 The Temple of Poseidon, Sounion
- 10 Syntagma Square, Athens
- 11 Delos, The Cyclades
- 12 Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens
- 13 Cape Amarandos, Skopelos
- 14 Ancient Agora, Athens
- 15 Delphi
- 16 Vikos Gorge, Northern Greece
- 17 The Samaria Gorge, Crete
- 18 Corinth Canal
- 19 Spinalonga Island, Crete
- 20 Mystras
- 21 Navagio “Shipwreck Beach”, Zakynthos
- 22 The Epidaurus Theatre
- 23 Ancient Olympia
- 24 Knossos Palace, Crete
- 25 Bourtzi Fortress, Nafplio
- 26 Parting Words
- 27 Melissa Douglas
The Acropolis of Athens
The Acropolis of Athens is the iconic image of Greece for most people. The sun bleached ruins of the ancient Parthenon sit atop a hill, watching protectively over the Greek capital as they have done for centuries.
Once upon a time, every city in Greece had an Acropolis. Most of these sites were constructed for defensive purposes. However, the Acropolis in Athens was purely spiritual.
The Athenian Acropolis was dedicated to the Goddess Athena. The site is more comprehensive than first meets the eye.
Various temples and religious structures are scattered around Acropolis Hill. A visit here is a highlight of any Athens itinerary.
Mount Athos Monasteries, Halkidiki
The Monasteries at Meteora are among the most famous religious buildings in Greece. However, unbeknown to a lot of people, they are not the largest monastic community in the country.
Mount Athos is the holy “leg” of the Halkidiki peninsula. Legend has it that the Virgin Mary herself once wandered along these shores and claimed Athos as her own.
This autonomous region consists of 20 monasteries and more than 2,000 monks. Each monastery is Orthodox, yet they are all very different aesthetically. The Russian Monastery of Saint Panteleimon is particularly breathtaking.
Unfortunately, female travellers are not permitted to enter this holy land. Male travellers too, will find it tricky to reach Athos as they require a permit which must be acquired in advance. Numerous tour companies offer boat tours that sail around the area from Ouranoupoli.
The White Tower of Thessaloniki
The White Tower of Thessaloniki is one of the most famous landmarks in Greece. It dates back to the 15th century. At this time, it was constructed on top of an old Byzantine fortification.
The tower has not always been white. At some points, it has had a rather sinister air about it.
At one point, the tower was used as a garrison. At another, it was a prison. Various tortures and executions took place at the White Tower during the Ottoman Era gaining it the nickname “the tower of blood”.
Agios Ioannis Kastri, Skopelos
Agios Ioannis Kastri is a tiny, picturesque white-washed church that is perched precariously on top of a rocky cliff in Northern Skopelos. The church was made famous for appearing in the movie “Mamma Mia”.
Ascending the 200 or so steps to the church is not for the faint-hearted. The steep stone staircase has been weathered by time and the elements. Hold onto the handrails and tread carefully as the sea waves lap violently against the cliff.
The name “Agios Ioannis Kastri” means “St John on the Castle”. It is believed that a castle may have once stood here. This clifftop location would be a perfect location for a defensive structure to ward off pirates and invaders.
The Panathenaic Stadium, Athens
The Panathenaic Stadium is a sprawling 50,000 seater stadium that dates back to 330BC. This is the only stadium in the world that has been built entirely out of marble.
The very first Olympic Games were held here back in 1896. Occasionally, concerts, and sporting and musical events are still hosted here.
The Meteora Monasteries are one of the most picture-perfect landmarks in Greece. The name “Meteora” means “suspended in the air”. This is a fitting title for a collection of monasteries that are seemingly balanced on cliff tops.
The first hermetic monks arrived at Meteora during the 9th and 10th centuries. They sought solitude and lived in the caves around the cliffs.
It was not until the 14th century that the first monastery, the Great Meteoron was built here. It was founded by monk Athanasios.
At one point, there were 24 monasteries in this region. Today, only six monasteries remain. There are a total of approximately 50 monks and nuns living at Meteora today.
Lake Pamvotida, Ioannina
The Epirus capital of Ioannina may well be one of the most underrated travel destinations in Greece. This vibrant, leafy student city encompasses the scenic Lake Pamvotida.
A cobbled pathway lined with trees and contemporary art designs takes you on a journey around the circumference of the lake. This lakeside walk is popular among locals as they embark on their morning jogs or walk their dogs. The path that runs beside Lake Pamvotida takes you all the way from Parko Katsari to Perama and other northern villages.
Today, the lake is peaceful and serene. However that was not always the case.
Lake Pamvotida has an eerie and sinister past. During the Ottoman era and the days of Ali Pasha, traitors and adulteresses would be drowned in the lake, with weights tied to their ankles to prohibit their escape…
Mount Lycabettus, Athens
Mount Lycabettus in Athens sits parallel to Acropolis hill. Visible from virtually all points of the city, the tiny chapel of St George awaits at the top.
The slopes of Lycabettus are filled with dense green woodlands – offering a sense of respite and escapism from the concrete jungle of downtown Athens. On a clear day, you can see all the way out to the port at Piraeus, and the Saronic Islands from the top.
The Temple of Poseidon, Sounion
The Temple of Poseidon was constructed in honour of Poseidon, God of the Sea. It was built in 444 BC – the same year as the Parthenon.
A bustling town once surrounded the temple site. Today, all that remains are the outer walls of a few ruined houses and defensive structures.
In Ancient Greece, this was one of the most important ports in the country. It is said that travelling Merchants would know they were on the approach to home when they saw the pillars of the Temple of Sounion glistening on the horizon.
Syntagma Square, Athens
Syntagma is the central square in Athens. It is the second largest square in the country (the first being Spianada Square in Corfu).
A number of notable historical buildings encircle Syntagma. Most notably, the pale yellow Parliament building where you can watch the Evzones perform their changing of the guards ceremony.
Various festivities and events are hosted in Syntagma throughout the year. At Christmas time, it is here where Athens’ tree is placed.
Delos, The Cyclades
The uninhabited island of Delos is perhaps one of the most mysterious of the Cyclades islands. This was supposedly the birthplace of the God Apollo and the Goddess Artemis.
Since such prominent Greek Gods were born here, the island was rendered sacred and no human was permitted to be born or die on the island. Today, Delos is a UNESCO world heritage site.
You can visit the island of Delos on a day trip from Naxos. The treacherous seas and the rocky boat ride that you need to endure to reach Delos only adds to the air of mystery that enshrouds the island.
The ruins at Delos are well-preserved. Stroll down collonaded walkways as the Ancient Greeks would have done years ago, and marvel at what remains of crumbling old temples.
Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens
The Temple of Olympian Zeus is the remains of a temple built in dedication of Zeus – the chief of the Olympian gods. Construction on the temple began in the 6th century. At this time, Architects Antistates, Callaeschrus, Antimachides, and Porinus were given responsibility for the designs.
The temple was not completed, for reasons unknown. That is, until Emperor Hadrian finalised work on it in 131 AD.
Today, only a few pillars remain. However, it does not take much imagination to envisage the grandeur that this place once held.
The Temple of Olympian Zeus sits opposite the National Gardens. From here it is just a short walk to Dionysiou Areopagitou street, the Acropolis, Koukaki, and Syntagma.
Cape Amarandos, Skopelos
Amarandos Cove is a rocky cape that you see photographed on hundreds of postcards of the Sporades. The cove consists of two curved pine trees that embrace the ocean.
Although Amarandos is not a beach per se, it is one of the best places for swimming on Skopelos island. You can follow a dirt trail from the hamlet of Agnontas down to Cape Amarandos. There are various footpaths that lead you away from the trail towards the sea where you will find hidden rock pools and secret stretches of coastline.
The waters at Cape Amarandos are so clear that the locals label this place “piscina”. It is not a serviced beach, and there are no amenities nearby. This only adds to the castaway/desert island paradise vibes.
Ancient Agora, Athens
The Ancient Agora in Athens is one of the most historically significant landmarks in Greece. Afterall, it was here where the most revered Greek Philosophers Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates once wandered and educated the people of Athens.
“Agora” in Greek translates to meaning “marketplace”. Indeed, this historic marketplace was once a hubbub of local activity and a major rendezvous point for Athenians.
Several notable buildings make up the Agora complex. The temple of Hephaestus is remarkably well preserved. Similarly, look out for the Stoa of Atticus which houses the fascinating Agora museum.
The ancient city of Delphi is one of Greece’s eighteen UNESCO protected sites. Furthermore, it is one of the most important landmarks in Greece from a historical and cultural perspective.
According to Greek mythology, Zeus sent two eagles on a mission to find the centre of the universe. The eagles flew to Delphi and thus, the city was born!
There are several points of interest around the Delphi site. You can explore the Temple of Apollo, an old amphitheater, and the local archaeological museum.
Vikos Gorge, Northern Greece
Hiking the entirety of the gorge is said to take about 7 hours in total. However, part of the appeal is to be found in splitting the journey over several days and stopping at quaint stone villages along the way. Many of the villages in the Vikos Gorge area boast picturesque, homely guesthouses and traditional tavernas that serve up hearty classic Greek food.
The Samaria Gorge, Crete
Crete’s Samaria Gorge sits in the province of Chania. This is the longest gorge in Europe, as well as one of the most visually stunning.
Its entire length extends over 16km. There are various hiking trails that twist and turn around the area.
The Corinth Canal is a narrow strait in western Greece that connects the Saronic Gulf to the Gulf of Corinth. The canal is now too narrow for modern ships to sail through, although touristic boats often depart for the area from Piraeus.
Once upon a time however, the Corinth Canal was an important navigational route. It allowed boats to enter the Aegean sea and was of the utmost economic importance for Greece.
Spinalonga Island, Crete
Spinalonga is a craggy islet just off the coast of Crete. It boasts a macabre and tragic history that contributes to the eerie atmosphere that still remains on the island today.
The Venetians built a defensive fortress on the islet in 1579. They still kept control of little Spinalonga, even when nearby Crete had been conquered by the Ottomans.
In more recent history, Spinalonga is known for being the “island of lepers”. In 1904, anyone afflicted with leprosy was exiled to the island. The island was still operational until 1957.
Mystras is a UNESCO world heritage site in the Laconia region of the Peloponnese. The fortified town was one of the most important settlements in Greece during the Byzantine era. Its importance was second only to Constantinople (now Istanbul).
One of the highlights of visiting the area is entering the ornate churches and admiring the vibrant frescoes that adorn their interiors. There is also an archaeological museum in the area that contains many Byzantine and religious artifacts.
Navagio beach is one of the most beloved coastal areas in Zakynthos (Zante). It is renowned for its crystal-clear waters and white-sand beaches.
The beach was originally known as “Agios Georgios”. However the name “Navagio” comes from the shipwreck that washed ashore in 1983. The ruined boat once transported illegal cigarettes around the Mediterranean.
Navagio beach makes an appearance time and again in various publications’ lists of the best beaches in Greece. Various boat tours operate in the area taking you to shipwreck beach, and several hidden coves and caves nearby.
The Epidaurus Theatre
Greece’s ancient Epidaurus theatre is today known for being the location of the country’s annual Epidaurus festival. The ancient site dates back to 330BC.
In its heyday, the theatre held between 13,000 and 14,000 people. It hosted musical performances, and ritual worship of Asclepius.
The Epidaurus festival takes place every year between the months of May and October. It is one of the oldest festivals in Europe and has been occurring for more than 65 years.
As the name suggests, Ancient Olympia was the birthplace of the Olympic Games. Today, this is one of the most important historical sites in Greece.
There are various temples and ruins scattered around Olympia. The ancient stadium is of course the highlight of a visit here. However, equally interesting are the Temple of Zeus, the Temple of Hera, and the workshop of Phedia.
Knossos Palace, Crete
The archeological site at Knossos sits just outside the city limits of Heraklion, Crete. It is arguably the island’s most famous tourist attraction.
The palace sits on the slopes of Kefalas mountain and is one of the best examples of Crete’s Minoan past. It is believed that the mythological labyrinth that once held the terrifying half-man, half-bull minotaur was supposed to be set at Knossos.
Bourtzi Fortress, Nafplio
The tiny islet of Bourtzi floats just off the coast of the city of Nafplio – Greece’s former capital city. The entirety of the islet is occupied by its namesake fortress which gives the appearance of a mysterious, floating structure.
Bourtzi fortress was constructed by Italian Architect Antonio Gambello back in 1471. Its main purpose was to protect the Venetians from pirate attacks. Boats run here frequently from Nafplio port. It is also possible to kayak across the water.
How many of these famous landmarks in Greece have you seen? Do you need any assistance in planning your holiday to Greece?
Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions and queries you may have. I’ve been living in Greece for the last three and a half years now. Feel free to drop me a comment below.
Safe travels! Geia sou! Melissa xo