A great part of Greece’s history comes to life in its streets and the outdoor monuments that are scattered all over the country. From ancient theaters and temples to antiquity’s best-known oracle, these are the 10 most important outdoor archaeological sites in Greece to add to your list this summer. Plus, we’ve included some extra tips that will make your day better. Bring your headphones, wear your sandals and put a lot of sunscreen.
The Ancient Agora of Athens
Located near the Acropolis, the Ancient Agora of Athens was an assembly, a commercial center and a residential area for 5,000 years. There are many spots to visit while at the Ancient Agora. The first of these is the Stoa of Attalos, which now serves as the museum for the Agora called the Museum of Ancient Agora. This was a Hellenistic version of a mall that was restored by the American School of Classical Studies in 1953. Another popular spot is the Temple of Hephaestus, one of the best-preserved temples. During your visit, you’ll be able to walk along the Pantheonic Way and follow in the steps of many prominent ancient Athenians.
Tip: Take a walk around Plaka
While in Athens, you should definitely go for a stroll in Plaka. This area is close to the Acropolis and is known as the best place to go shopping. The scenic district features neoclassical houses and car-free cobblestones streets. If you’re planning to take some photos, now is the right time and place. And if you don’t want to walk alone hit play at Clio Muse’s tour “On the prowl: the cats of Athens’ and find out the story of the neighborhood’s cutest residents.
The Temple of Olympian Zeus
The Temple of Olympian Zeus had a turbulent 700-year history. Commonly known as the Columns of the Olympian Zeus, this former colossal temple consists of sixteen 55-feet-high columns (17 meters). If you want to learn what happened to the rest 93 columns that originally composed the temple hit play on Clio Muse tour “Temple of Olympian Zeus: The great debt” and listen to the story about the divine wrath that fell upon humankind on one day that Zeus felt stormy. Before you leave make a stop at the Temple of Apollo Delphinus and the Roman baths.
Tip: Visit the Acropolis Museum
If you want to see significant artifacts that date to Ancient Greece, add a couple of museums to your list including, of course, the Acropolis Museum and the National Archaeological Museum. Avoid waiting in long queues with Clio Muse Tours’ skip-the-line tickets and audio tour packages. Once you’ve completed your museum tour, walk around the city center and see some of the famous marketplaces and trendy neighborhoods scattered throughout Athens.
The Acropolis Hill
Being the country’s most famous landmark, the Acropolis Hill couldn’t be missing from a rundown with the best outdoor archaeological sites in Greece. When you get to the top of the hill, you enter the ancient citadel through the Propylaea. One of the most famous sites on the Acropolis is the Parthenon. Initially built to serve as a temple, the impressive building was housing a gold and ivory statue of the goddess Athena. The Temple of Athena Nike, one of the most elegant structures adorning the Acropolis Hill was originally a place of worship to the deities associated with war and it’s accessible to visitors until nowadays. For a quick glimpse of the birthplace of Greek drama make sure to make a stop at the Theatre of Dionysus, on the south slope of the Acropolis.
Extra Tip: The best hills to see Athens from above
Around the Acropolis and in other areas in the city center there are several hills that offer an excellent view. The Areopagus Hill will give you some of the best and iconic photo opportunities of the Acropolis. You should go here before or after your tour of the ancient citadel. Philopappos Hill has excellent walking trails and views of the Acropolis. This spot is located just southwest of the Acropolis. For a panoramic view of Athens, go slightly out of town to Mount Lycabettus. This spot gives you a breathtaking view of the whole city.
Delphi, at the foot of Mount Parnassos, is one of the most significant outdoor archaeological sites in Greece. Known for being home to the most famous oracle in Greece One, Delphi, were a popular destination already since antiquity. Follow the Sacred Way, which takes you to the Temple of Apollo and discover the place that the ancient Greeks were visiting when they had to take a lifetime decision. See the Castalian Fountain where travelers used to stop to quench their thirst and wash before entering the temple.
Tip: Visit the nearby cities
While in Delphi, make sure to visit some of the surrounding towns. Two of the best cities to visit are Amifissa and Itea. Itea is a great place to see Delphi from afar while drinking a cup of coffee. If you want to gain more insight into the history of Delphi, Pythia and the oracle “Delphi Self-Guided Audio Walking Tour: The Google of The Ancient world”
Another great and worldwide known archaeological site in Greece is Mycenae. The Lions Gate marks the entrance into the fortified city. The lions on top of this gate symbolize the king’s power. One of the most interesting things to see here is the imposing Cyclopean Walls, that Ancient Greeks said that they were built by one-eyed giants. Finish your tour at the imposing beehive tomb, once believed to be the burial site of King Agamemnon.
Tip: Do some souvenir shopping
If you enjoy art, a trip to the Silo Art Factory is a must.
Olympia is known as the birthplace of the first Olympic games. Whether you are a sports enthusiast or culture buff, this site will do the trick. Visit the ancient gymnasium were athletes used to train and The Pruthaneon Temple where victory meals, songs, and celebrations were sung in honor of the Olympian victors. One of the oldest monuments at the site is the Temple of Hera. In every Olympic games, the Olympic flame is lit here and carried all around the world. Women had their own games, called the Heraria Games. These were also held every four years in Olympia at the ancient stadium, which was considered to be a holy place.
Tip: Learn about ancient Greeks’ training habits
Learn more about the history of the Olympic Games and Greeks’ attitude toward health and well being in ancient times with the Clio Muse tour of Olympia.
Home to a historic ancient theater, Epidaurus attracts thousands of locals and tourists every year especially during summertime when Epidaurus Festival takes place. One of the most complete sites for the healing cults of the ancient world is the Sanctuary of Asklepios. It was a site of ceremonial healing practices and bears witness to the emergence of the scientific community. The nude athletic games were held every four years at the Ancient Stadium. It is a must-see when visiting the town.
Tip: Visit Kalamaki Beach
While visiting Epidaurus, take a break from sightseeing and head to Kalamaki Beach. This beach is peaceful and a great place to swim.
Vergina is a small city in northern Greece, famous for being the first capital of the Kingdom of Macedonia and home to the tombs of Philip II, the father of Alexander the Great. Visit the Palace and admire the elegant mosaics and painted stuccoes and make sure to pass by the Museum of the Royal Tombs. Here you’ll witness three of the Royal Tombs including the Great Tumulus which is the tomb of Philip II.
The Temple of Poseidon
Located in Sounio, the Temple of Poseidon is the perfect archaeological site to visit during a one-day trip from Athens. Here sailors and the general population came to offer gifts and animal sacrifices to appease Poseidon. Depicting popular themes including gigantomachy, amazonomachy (a battle between lapiths and centaurs), and the deed of Theseus, the temple’s friezes are nothing less than spectacular. Perched on top of a hill, the awe-inspiring temple offers a panoramic view over the Saronic Gulf and according to Greek mythology, it’s from this cliff that King Aegeus jumped off and killed himself.
Tip: Soak up the sun in the beaches around Sounio
If you’re visiting Sounio in the summertime, make sure to spend the day at one of its pretty beaches. This place is definitely worth the trip. Head here in the evening to enjoy the spectacular sunset.
Knossos is famous for its palace which is connected to several myths including the labyrinth and the Minotaur. Each room has its own unique story and myths. The Throne Room is the most famous of these sites. Some historians believe that this room had a religious connotation. Historians also believe that a woman would have sat on the throne present in the room. The second most famous room from the palace is the room containing the Tripartite Shrines. The shrines were dedicated to a snake goddess. These snake goddesses emphasized femininity and sexuality. Outside of the palace are three cylindrical pits called Kouloures. The exact reason these existed is unknown.
Tip: Explore Crete’s sugar coated beaches
Crete is one of the most beautiful Greek islands offering plenty of opportunities for things to do and see. Visit Crete’s mesmerizing beaches, taste the traditional cuisine and do some shopping. If museums are your thing, Crete won’t disappoint you. From the East to the West, you’ll come across several indoor and outdoor attractions showcasing the Minoan Civilization.