Some of the major tourist attractions in Greece include the Acropolis, Santorini, Ancient Delphi, the medieval town of Rhodes, and the majestic Meteora Monasteries.
Best Greek tourist attractions
There are many popular tourist attractions in Greece. The combination of UNESCO World Heritage sites, beautiful islands, quaint towns and villages, and spectacular beaches, attracts several millions of visitors every year.
However, Greece can be a very confusing country for people who haven’t visited before! Which is why I’ve put this list together – I’m Greek, and have traveled extensively around my country, including over 60 of the Greek islands.
Most people have heard of the capital and biggest city in Greece, Athens, the volcanic island of Santorini and the cosmopolitan Mykonos town. However, there are dozens more places you should visit in Greece, such as Cape Sounion, Ancient Delphi, Meteora, Ancient Mycenae, Ancient Epidaurus, Milos island and Thessaloniki.
All of these places (and hundreds more!) are often just as interesting, if not more so, than the “big name” destinations. So, here are a few popular places and some lesser known attractions in Athens and Greece.
The UNESCO site of the Acropolis in Athens
The Athens Acropolis is the most visited ancient site in Greece. In 2022, about 3 million people visited this UNESCO World Heritage Site!
The Acropolis is a whole ancient citadel built up on a hill. Visitors will see the remains of several temples and other buildings, such as the Ancient theatre of Dionysus and the Odeon of Herodes Atticus.
The most famous temple in the Acropolis is the Parthenon, which was built in the 5th century BC, to honour the goddess Athena. Other temples include the Erectheion, and the temple of Athena Nike.
You can easily visit the Acropolis on your own – just be prepared for some steps. However, I recommend taking a guided tour if you get the chance, in order to find out more about life in Ancient Athens. I’ve taken a few guided tours over the years and I always learn something new!
Here’s how to book an Acropolis guided tour.
Apart from the Acropolis, there are six more ancient sites in Athens. You can visit all of them on the combined ticket to all the archaeological sites in Athens.
The Ancient Agora in Athens
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.
I personally find it fascinating to walk around the Agora and imagine life 2,500 years ago!!
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, where you can read a lot of information about life in Ancient Athens.
Speaking of which, here’s a cool story in Greek mythology about how Athens took its name.
The Athens Acropolis Museum
Another famous tourist attraction in Athens 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 has a separate ticket, and it can’t be combined with the Acropolis or any other attractions in Athens. There is also a great cafe with a view to the Acropolis.
As you would expect, there are dozens more museums in Athens, which will appeal to anyone with an interest in Ancient Greece, the Byzantine Empire or contemporary art. If you wanted to visit all of them, you could easily spend a couple of weeks in the Greek capital.
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 Athens coastline, known as the Athens Riviera. Others take a half-day trip from Athens to the amazing Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion.
This impressive ancient temple was built a few years after the Acropolis. The location, overlooking the Aegean Sea, is simply spectacular. The best time to visit is at sunset, to enjoy the awesome views.
Here is some more information: Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion.
While the main attractions in Athens are connected with our capital’s long history, the lively, modern city has a lot more to offer.
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!
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.
Another popular activity are guided visits to the ancient site of Akrotiri, on the island’s south coast. This is an ancient Minoan settlement, which was buried under tons of debris and dirt in the 17th century BC. It was only discovered by archaeologists 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.
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.
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. First of all, here’s a quick guide on where is Mykonos.
If you are thinking to island hop in Greece on a budget, it’s best to leave Mykonos out of your itinerary. Everything on the island is expensive, from luxury hotels and restaurants to hiring a car, or umbrellas and loungers on the beaches.
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.
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 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.
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!
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.
Along with the beaches of Balos and Elafonissi, the archaeological museum of Heraklion, and the Samaria National Park, they are the top 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 enjoy 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 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. Discover Cars is a good place to compare prices and book a holiday car.
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.
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 experience a quieter, more authentic side of the island.
For more information, check this article on hottest Greek islands in October – Rhodes is one of them.
You will also find this article helpful: How to get around Rhodes
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.
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.
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 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 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.
And let’s not forget the Byzantine site of Mystras. If you are looking for a unique place to stay in that area, have a look at this article on Euphoria Retreat, a luxurious hotel with amazing spa facilities!
The amazing Meteora monasteries
The Meteora monasteries are among the best 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.
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.
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!
This is also the area where, 2,500 years ago, visitors could read the famous quotations known as the Delphic Maxims. Many of them are still relevant today!
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.
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.
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.
Here are all the reasons why Thessaloniki is absolutely worth visiting!
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.
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.
Have a look at this guide explaining where is Corfu, how to get there and what there is to do.
Other popular Ionian islands include Zakynthos, known for the iconic Shipwreck beach, and Kefalonia.
FAQs 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. Also, take a look at this guide on driving in Greece.
Before you go, here are some useful words and phrases in Greek!
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.