Greece tourist attractions – Places to visit in Greece

Greece is a small country, but there are many places worth visiting. This is probably why many people return! This article lists the main sightseeing attractions in Greece, and will help you plan your first couple of trips in the beautiful Mediterranean country.

Tourist attractions in Greece

There is no doubt that Greece is a popular destination. The combination of UNESCO World Heritage sites, quaint towns and villages, beautiful beaches and delicious cuisine attracts several millions of tourists every year.

Most people have heard of the capital and biggest city in Greece, Athens. The black volcanic sand beaches of Santorini and the cosmopolitan Mykonos town are also well-known.

However, there are dozens more places you should visit in Greece. Some of them include Meteora, Ancient Mycenae, Ancient Epidaurus, Milos island, Cape Sounion and Thessaloniki.

Greece attractions - The Acropolis in Athens

All of these places (and hundreds more!) are often just as interesting, if not more so, than the “big name” destinations. In this guide, I’ll introduce you to a few popular places as well as some lesser known attractions in Athens and Greece.

The archaeological sites of Acropolis and Ancient Agora in Athens

Athens, the vibrant Greek capital, is a must-see destination for anyone interested in Greek history. There are seven ancient sites, which you can visit on the combined ticket to all the archaeological sites in Athens.

Athens attractions - The Acropolis

The Athens Acropolis is a world-famous UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is an ancient citadel up on a hill, including the remains of several temples and other buildings.

The most famous temple in the Acropolis is the Parthenon, which was built in the 5th century BC, to honour the goddess Athena. Here’s a cool story in Greek mythology about how Athens took its name.

Close to the Acropolis, you will find the large archaeological site of the Ancient Agora. In ancient times, the Agora was the centre of political, social, commercial and financial life.

The temple of Hephaestus in the Ancient Agora in Athens

Visitors can see plenty of ancient ruins, including the exceptionally well-preserved temple of Hephaestus. The renovated Stoa of Attalos hosts the excellent archaeological museum.

You can visit these historical sites with a licensed guide, who will explain life 2,500 years ago.

The Athens Acropolis Museum

Another Athens tourist attraction is the Acropolis museum, which is located very close to the Acropolis. Exhibits include the Caryatids and other statues, sanctuaries, everyday items used by ancient Athenians, and many other artefacts.

The Acropolis Museum is one of the best attractions in Athens Greece

There are many more museums in Athens though. Anybody with an interest in Ancient Greece can easily spend a few weeks in Athens if they want to visit all the museums.

Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion

If you get tired of the busy Athens centre, you can easily escape to the coast. Many people visit the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion on a half-day trip.

Sounio sunset - Attractions in Greece

This impressive ancient temple was built a few years after the Acropolis. The location, overlooking the Aegean Sea, is simply spectacular. Visit at sunset, to enjoy the awesome views.

Modern Athens

While the main attractions in Athens are connected with our capital’s long history, the lively, modern city has a lot more to offer.

Some of my favourite things about Athens are the vibrant markets, the impressive street art, the amazing food, the Greek coffee culture and the everyday life.

Attractions in Greece - Areopagitou street

I also really enjoy walking on the numerous romantic pedestrian only streets, like Dionysiou Areopagitou. This guide explains how to see Ancient Athens for free

If you are interested in seeing an alternative side of Athens that not many visitors fully experience, feel free to ask me about walking tours in Athens.

The volcanic island of Santorini

People come from all over the world to see this little gem of an island, Santorini. The iconic white-and-blue houses and the incredible views to the volcano are really unique.

Santorini and the blue sea filled caldera are one of the best attractions in Greece

You can’t run out of things to do in Santorini. To begin with, there are plenty of tours that will help you discover the island, such as sailing trips or winery tours.

Another popular activity are guided visits to the ancient site of Akrotiri, on the island’s south coast. You will discover an ancient Minoan settlement, buried under tons of debris and dirt, discovered by archaeologists only 150 years ago.

Activities you can do on your own include hiking from Fira to Oia, exploring the photogenic beaches, and relaxing at a café with a view to the caldera, sipping on a glass of local wine.

When to visit Santorini

Some people will find my suggestion to visit Santorini off-season rather strange. However, if you are not a huge fan of crowds, inflated prices and lots of pre-planning, winter might be the best time to visit Santorini.

You probably won’t be able to swim, but you might have the entire Oia to yourself, like we did when we visited in late November.

If you visit in summer, prepare yourself for crowds. This tiny island, with a population of less than 20,000 permanent residents, receives around 2 million visitors a year!

Consider staying outside Fira and Oia, so that you can have some peace and quiet in the evenings. You may find my article on things to avoid in Santorini helpful.

A church in Santorini Greece

How many days to spend in Santorini is also an often asked question. For us, four days / three nights were just the perfect time in Santorini when we visited in November. If you are going in summer you could add an extra day, which you could spend on the beach.

The nightlife in Mykonos Town

Mykonos was a popular Greek destination long before Santorini came into the picture. Since the 1960s, international jet-setters and many Greeks visited the cosmopolitan destination to see and be seen.

The island quickly developed a reputation for wild parties, crazy clubbing and a gay-friendly scene, at a time when the rest of Greece was still fairly conservative. Its main attractions were the numerous sandy beaches and narrow streets in the car-free old town.

Greece highlights - Mykonos

These days, Mykonos is included in many people’s Greece itinerary, often combined with Athens and Santorini. Getting from Santorini to Mykonos is very straightforward – you just need to hop on a ferry.

Is Mykonos worth it?

I encourage you to do some research before you decide if Mykonos appeals to you.

If you are thinking to island hop in Greece on a budget, it’s probably best to leave Mykonos out of your itinerary. Anything on the island is expensive, from luxury hotels and restaurants to renting a car, or umbrellas and loungers on the beaches.

Attractions in Greece - Mykonos nightlife

Many visitors have mentioned that Mykonos was their least favourite island in Greece. They said that the landscapes weren’t as unique as in Santorini, while it was also very crowded.

That said, I know people who visit Mykonos on an annual basis and love it. All these people can’t be wrong!

I was super lucky to visit Mykonos with no other tourists, in summer 2020, and had a blast with the splendid beaches – but obviously this was an extremely rare occurrence. I also did a superb kayak trip that was one of the highlights of my trip! 

UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ancient Delos

If you decide to go to Mykonos, by all means take a half day trip to the nearby archaeological site of Delos, where you can explore the impressive ruins of several Roman monuments. 

Greece archaeological site of Delos

This dry, uninhabited island used to be the commercial hub of the Cyclades during the ancient times. Today, it is one of the most important archaeological sites in Greece.

More info here: Archaeological site of Delos

The landscapes in Milos island

Close to Santorini and Mykonos, you will find Milos. This Greek island has been gaining popularity within the last few years. It is ideal for people who want to relax, but are also keen on exploring different beaches and authentic villages.

Milos has amazing beaches, dramatic landscapes, quaint villages, lovely hiking paths, beautiful views and a wild side which is very different from most other Greek islands.

Milos is one of Greece's highlights

The lovely coastal villages of Klima and Pollonia should definitely be on your Milos itinerary. And don’t miss out on the inland villages, like Plaka and Tripiti.

Milos has a long history of a thriving mining industry. My advice is to rent a 4WD for a day or two, and get off the beaten track. Make sure you visit the excellent mining museum, which will help you put things into context.

Even better, book a Milos tour and learn the exciting history of some of the island’s deserted and functioning mines. 

One of the highlights in Milos is the sailing trip around the island. This is often the only way to explore the amazing rocky coves, such as the famous Kleftiko. (In fact, there’s a hiking path to Kleftiko, but it’s not for everyone).

The boat will also drop you off some of the island’s best beaches, where you can swim and snorkel without the crowds.

Attractions in Greece - The beaches in Milos

I absolutely recommend visiting Milos – I have been there twice and would definitely go back! Go there before it gets too popular – and try to ignore the paradox in this suggestion.

Here are a few more guides about Milos:

Chania town and the Palace of Knossos in Crete

Crete is Greece’s largest island. It could easily be an independent country, as it’s 26 times the size of Malta. In fact, if you visit a few times, you will start thinking it’s an independent country indeed!

Balos beach in Crete

Crete has some tourist attractions that are very popular with visitors. You will find magnificent archaeological sites, lovely coastal towns, gorgeous beaches, wild gorges, delicious food, and lots of soul.

The picturesque coastal town of Chania and the archaeological site of Ancient Knossos attract travellers from all over the world.

Crete highlights and attractions - Palace of Knossos

Along with the beaches of Balos and Elafonissi, the archaeological museum of Heraklion, and the Samaria National Park, they are the top tourist attractions in Crete.

What makes Crete so special?

If you want to dive deeper into the real Greek culture, consider staying in Crete for a few more days. The soul of the island will slowly unfold, and more so if you share the favourite local alcoholic drink, raki.

Spend some time in the smaller towns, and the coastal villages on the south, with a view to the Libyan Sea. You will discover a unique side of Greece that few tourists get to experience.

It’s hard to put into words what makes Crete an ideal Greek destination. You have to go and experience it yourself. And yes, I am biased – Crete is one of my favourite places in Greece, if not the world!

The medieval Rhodes town

The island of Rhodes, along with the rest of the Dodecanese, only became part of Greece in 1948. Before that, it was occupied for a few decades by the Italians, while in the past it was home to the Knights Hospitaller and the Ottomans.

The medieval town of Rhodes is a popular attraction in Greece

The Medieval castle in Rhodes town is unlike anything else you have seen in Greece, and it’s deservedly a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Take at least a couple of days to explore this fascinating town, where the past meets the present.

Rhodes is Greece’s fourth biggest island, and there are several lovely beaches all around the island. If you are only going for a couple of days, you can stay in Rhodes Town and go for a swim on the local sandy beach.

If you are staying longer, rent a car and explore the island. Start with the archaeological site of Lindos, swing by the famous Anthony Quinn beach, and perhaps venture out to Prasonissi beach on the south. Or take a kayaking tour in Rhodes to explore the coastline!

During summer, Prasonissi island is connected with Rhodes through a narrow sand path. In winter, the sea covers the path and high tide makes this impossible.

The beaches in Rhodes are popular with tourists

Rhodes island has some of the mildest weather in Greece, and many locals swim all year round. If you are looking for a Greek holiday without too many crowds and you are flexible in terms of when to visit, go in late autumn. You will discover a quieter, more authentic side of the island.

Explore the Peloponnese

Few first-time visitors opt for a visit to the Peloponnese. However, the southernmost region of mainland Greece combines everything – picturesque towns, lovely beaches, and tons of archaeological sites.

Any visit to the Peloponnese will pass by the Corinth Canal, which separates the Peloponnese and mainland Greece. Take some time to appreciate the impressive engineering feat.

The idea for the canal’s construction was first conceived during the time of Ancient Corinth, during the 7th century BC. Numerous attempts took place over the centuries, and the canal was eventually completed in 1893.

In October 2019, a huge passenger boat, MS Braemar, navigated through the canal. Hats off to the captain! Here’s a breathtaking 52-second video

The charming coastal town of Nafplio is a popular day trip from Athens. It was Greece’s first capital after the liberation from the Ottoman Empire, and many of the beautiful neoclassical buildings have been preserved.

Nafplio town is a popular attraction in Greece

Stroll around the town, and take in the pretty buildings and large squares. Don’t forget to go up the Venetian castle for awesome views.

UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Peloponnese

If you are trying to tick off monuments in your UNESCO World Heritage list, the Peloponnese is a fantastic region to explore.

The Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus is world-famous for its excellent acoustics. Despite numerous efforts, noone has managed to reproduce these acoustics, even with modern techniques.

Actors from all around the planet have performed in the theatre. If you are in Greece in summer, you could plan to attend a performance – book your tickets early, as some shows are sold out.

The Ancient theatre of Epidaurus is a well-visited attraction

The massive ancient site of Mycenae is often combined with Epidaurus and Nafplion on a day trip from Athens. The site, known as Agamemnon’s kingdom, was extremely important between 1,600-1,100 BC.

The Mycenaean civilization reached its peak at around 1,350 BC. Most of the crumbling ruins which visitors can see today date from that period.

The site of Ancient Olympia in Greece

Finally, the archaeological site of Ancient Olympia is another fascinating place in Greece. Consider going with a guide, in order to learn more about the origins of the Olympic Games and the customs of the times. 

The amazing Meteora monasteries

The Meteora monasteries are among the most visited tourist attractions in northern Greece. The incredible rocky landscape provides an excellent backdrop for six functioning monasteries that have been built on top of the huge rocks, hundreds of years ago.

Greece attractions - UNESCO World Heritage site of Meteora

The monasteries are open to the public on a rotating basis, and each of them is closed once a week. Make sure that you are dressed appropriately, and cover your shoulders and knees.

In my opinion, the most impressive monasteries are Moni Megalou Meteorou (Great Monastery) and Moni Varlaam, but all six of them are very unique. 

Unless you are going on an organized tour, I would suggest at least one full day in Meteora to better appreciate the area. There are many accommodation options at nearby Kalambaka, where you can get to by direct train from Athens in about 5 hours.

The archaeological site of Delphi

The impressive UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ancient Delphi, the ancient navel of the earth, is the most popular Greece tourist attraction in central Greece.

The site is located up on Parnassos mountain, around three hours away from Athens by bus. It is often combined with Meteora monasteries on a two-day trip from Athens

Ancient Delphi is one of the most important attractions in Greece

Once you walk in the main complex, you will soon see the theatre and the temple of Apollo. This is the area where Pythia, the Oracle, used to give her ambiguous prophecies.

Fun fact – when we were at school we were told that she was smoking bay leaves in order to give more accurate prophecies. For people past the age of primary school, this is probably questionable!

Unless you have walking difficulties, do go up all the way to see the Ancient Stadium, which was constructed in the 4th century BC. This is where the “Pythia” Games used to take place, in honour of Apollo.

This is the best preserved stadium in all of Greece, with a capacity of around 6,500 spectators.

Greece attractions - Delphi museum

After your visit to the archaeological site, spend some time in the well-arranged Delphi museum. Among other artefacts, you will see the famous charioteer, whose gaze seems to follow you all around the room.

Thessaloniki in Northern Greece

Thessaloniki is the second biggest city in Greece, yet, it doesn’t often feature in people’s itineraries. It is located in Northern Greece, a 4-hour train trip from Athens.

The vibrant coastal city was one of the most important cities of the Byzantine Empire, second only to Istanbul. It is known for its historical sites, especially the Roman monuments and UNESCO listed Byzantine churches.

Attraction in Thessaloniki Greece - The White Tower

Visitors will fall in love with the beautiful, 6-km long coastal promenade. It passes by the city’s symbol, the White Tower, which was once a prison and has been transformed into an fascinating museum.

Nearby attractions include the area of Chalkidiki, known for its beautiful beaches, and the magnificent UNESCO archaeological site of Vergina. Here are some of the best day trips from Thessaloniki.

Corfu island and the old town

Corfu island is located to the north west of mainland Greece, in the Ionian Sea. It is a popular, cosmopolitan destination, best known for the UNESCO-listed Corfu town and the fantastic beaches.

The beautiful Ionian island has a long, interesting history. The Old Town of Corfu, modeled after the city of Venice, is one of the most impressive Greek cities.

The magnificent town of Corfu

Visitors can stroll around the cobbled streets and enjoy the numerous historic and architectural landmarks, such as the Venetian castles and neoclassical houses. There are also few museums, where you can find out more about Greek culture over the millennia.

Nature lovers will not be disappointed either. The green, mountainous island offers plenty of opportunities to relax.

The main resort areas have been developed around some of the island’s best beaches, and offer all tourist amenities. If you like exploring, you can also find off-the-beaten-track bays and coves with crystal-clear water.

Other popular Ionian islands include Zakynthos, known for the iconic Shipwreck beach, and Kefalonia.

Frequently asked questions regarding tourist attractions of Greece

Here are some questions visitors ask:

What is Greece’s known for tourist attractions?

Some of the best known attractions in Greece include the Acropolis, the Acropolis museum, the volcanic island of Santorini, the ancient theater of Epidaurus, the ancient site of Knossos in Crete, Meteora monasteries, and dozens of beautiful beaches.

What should you not miss in Greece?

First time visitors to Greece should visit Athens, to learn more about ancient history and the Greek Gods, and at least one Greek island, to enjoy the lovely sandy and pebble beaches.

What is the number one attraction in Greece?

The number one attraction in Greece is the Acropolis of Athens. In August 2019, over half a million tourists visited the ancient monument.

What is Greece famous for?

Greece is known world-wide as the cradle of western civilization, the birthplace of democracy and the place where the Olympic Games first happened. Modern Greece is also known for its natural beauty and hundreds of Greek islands.

Why Greece is so popular?

Greece has been a popular destination for several decades. Its long history, lovely landscapes, pristine beaches, warm weather, delicious food and ease of access are all great reasons to visit Greece.

Main tourist attractions of Greece

I hope this blog post has given you a first idea of the main tourist attractions to visit in Greece. If you have been to Greece already, you must have seen some of them. What did you think? Let me know in the comments.

Vanessa in Chora Mykonos

Hi! I am Vanessa from Athens, and I love helping visitors discover Greece. The above places and attractions are all worth visiting when you are in Greece. If you have been to all of them, check out this article which points to some lesser known sites.


 

2 thoughts on “Greece tourist attractions – Places to visit in Greece”

  1. What a wonderful outline of your beautiful country. My wife and I will be visiting in spring 2022 and this outline allows us to plan for our 3 day stay. Our visit will be developed from your outline. Thankyou.

    Reply

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