8 Places You Have to Visit in Greece

Museums, medieval cities, and monasteries: the wonders of Hellas

By Google Arts & Culture

With thousands of years of history and 227 inhabited islands, it’s impossible to cover all of Greece’s wonders in just one feature. The destinations listed below, however, are great stops to get a taste of Greece’s long and complex history.

From royal residence to the people’s parliament

Democracy has been a central part of Athenian identity since ancient times. In the modern Greek republic, the voices of the people can still be heard in the chambers of Hellenic Parliament and nearby Syntagma Square.

Syntagma Square, Brothers Rhomaides, 1895, From the collection of: Benaki Museum of Greek Civilization
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Interestingly, the Hellenic Parliament was initially built as a palace for Greek royalty in the 1800s. After two fires, this abandoned palace served as a hospital and refugee center during World War I. It wasn’t until 1935 that this renovated building opened for parliamentary debate.

Folk fabrics in the Peloponnese

The Peloponnesian Folklore Foundation "V. Papantoniou" (PFF)’s mission is to protect historic artifacts from the Peloponnese region. This small, non-profit museum has more than 45,000 plus pieces in its collection, mainly composed of 19th and 20th century local furniture and fashion.

Old type bridal costume of Kymi, Unknown, 18th century, From the collection of: The Peloponnesian Folklore Foundation "V. Papantoniou"
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The PFF is highly regarded for its collection of locally produced textiles, especially dresses. Traditional Peloponnese embroideries are distinctive for their heavy use of the color green and detailed depictions of nature.

Wedding dress and wedding photograph Wedding dress and wedding photograph, 1959, From the collection of: The Peloponnesian Folklore Foundation "V. Papantoniou"
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Ancient port, modern art

As one of Greece’s richest trading ports, Thessaloniki has always been an important cultural hub. Thanks to its large student population at Aristotle University, this ancient city is now a hot spot for youth culture.

Graffiti Panels at 1st Street Mode Festival, Giannis Efstathiou, 2009/2009, From the collection of: Street Mode Festival
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Today, one of Thessaloniki’s most popular annual arts festivals is the Street Mode Festival. Ever since it was founded in 2009, the goal of this September festival is to celebrate all aspects of street culture. This festival highlights graffiti art by the likes of George Mavrakis, Tzrs, and Koko, and there are also live music shows, parkour challenges, and break dancing.

6th Street Mode Festival, Vaggelis Xafinis, 2014/2014, From the collection of: Street Mode Festival
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The site of St. John’s revelation

The small island of Patmos has had huge reverberations in Christian history. It was here that Saint John wrote his Gospel and The Apocalypse in a cave around 95 AD. To honor St. John’s legacy, Greek Orthodox Church leaders built the castle-like Monastery of St. John on Patmos at the end of the 10th century.

Amazingly, this UNESCO World Heritage Site has suffered minimal damage over the centuries. In addition to its ancient architecture and icons, visitors are most impressed by the intricately carved wooden Iconostasis, a wall of iconic religious paintings that can be found in the monastery’s museum.

The Iconostasis of the Katholikon, Unknown, 1820, From the collection of: Monastery of St. John the Theologian, Patmos, Greece
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The site of the Olympics

In 776 BCE, Ancient Greeks decided to host a religious celebration in the southwestern town of Olympia, mainly because it was home to sculptor Phidias’ huge statue of Zeus, King of the Greek Gods. At this festival, a cook named Koroibos won a competitive race, and thus began the tradition of the Olympic Games.

At these original Olympics, the most important event was the sacrifice of 100 oxen at the Altar of Zeus. From the Olympics’ start until its finish in 393 CE, archaeologists say the ash from these oxen measured 20 feet tall.

1896 Olympic Celebration, Michel Delacroix, 1996, From the collection of: The Olympic Museum
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We owe the modern Olympic Games to French educator Baron Pierre de Coubertin. In 1894, Coubertin proposed hosting a revived Olympics in Paris scheduled for the turn of the century. His reasons for reviving the games were many, among which he wanted to promote a healthy sense of sportsmanship among competing countries and encourage competition among amateur athletes rather than professionals. Leaders from 34 countries were so excited by this proposal that the Olympic games were scheduled to take place every four years, and the commencement was to take place in Athens. Four years later Paris hosted the second modern Olympic games.

A mysterious location

Delphi was best-known in the ancient world for the Pythia (the Oracle of Delphi) in the city’s Temple of Apollo. Between 720 BCE and 395 CE, Greek leaders traveled great distances to consult the Pythia, who was believed to have a special communion with the god Apollo.

Top Euro Greece Delphi 9 Tholos, From the collection of: LIFE Photo Collection
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Before visiting the Temple of Apollo, visitors were required to make offerings at the nearby Temple of Athena. Today, only three columns are still standing from the center of this temple, called a tholos. Nobody’s sure what exactly went on in this tholos, but the main theories are that it was either a meeting place for cults or a treasury.

The palace on top of the Colossus

Rhodes was known for one thing in the Ancient World: the Colossus. One of the seven Wonders of the Ancient World, this 108 foot tall statue of the god Helios was destroyed in an earthquake in 226 BCE.

Medieval City of Rhodes, From the collection of: Namhansanseong World Heritage Center
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Thankfully, Rhodes’ Medieval City, built largely by the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, survives to this day. Interestingly, this fortified city’s 14th century Palace of the Grandmaster might stand where the Colossus of Rhodes once was.

Medieval City of Rhodes, From the collection of: Namhansanseong World Heritage Center
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The ultimate coin collection

Athens’ Numismatic Museum has 500,000 precious coins, medals, and weights from antiquity to the present day. Visitors get to learn all about the symbolism and production of these precious coins from civilizations such as Ancient Rome, Greece, and the Ottoman Empire.

Justin II, solidus, Unknown, 0565/0578, From the collection of: Numismatic Museum
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Even if you’re not a coin expert, you should have no issues spotting a Roman coin in this collection – simply look at each coin’s edges. The Ancient Romans were big on serrated edges so citizens wouldn’t be tempted to shave their coins – a common practice in those days where people would shave a bit of coin off the edges in order to accumulate significant amounts of precious metals to sell later.

Q. Fulius Calenus and P. Mucius Scaevola, denarius, Unknown, -0070, From the collection of: Numismatic Museum
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Wherever you travel in Greece, you’re bound to stumble upon something historic. These eight locations offer a great first glimpse into this nation’s fascinating past and present.

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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