World Heritage Day – International Day for Monuments and Sites in Greece

On April 18, it’s the World Heritage Day, or International Day for Monuments and Sites. Greece offers free entrance to all archaeological sites and public museums. Here’s all you need to know for this important day.

World Heritage Day in Greece

The World Heritage Day is celebrated all around the world. Every year, on the 18th April, countries around the world offer free entrance to their sites and monuments.

Meteora rocks - A UNESCO World Heritage Site

On 18 April, all Ancient Greek sites, monuments and public museums are free to visit. Locals and visitors can enjoy sites like the Acropolis and Ancient Agora in Athens, Mycenae and Olympia in the Peloponnese, Delphi and many more.

In addition, museums like the National Archaeological Museum in Athens or the Museum of Byzantine Culture in Thessaloniki have free entrance. Unfortunately, Greek museums will remain closed for World Heritage Day 2021.

But what exactly is the World Heritage Day? Let’s dive into how and when it was established.

What is World Heritage Day?

You will have heard of UNESCO, which stands for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. This UN agency was created in 1945. It aims to promote peace and safety around the world by means of education, science and culture.

The Roman Agora in Athens

In 1972, UNESCO established the World Heritage Convention. This document aspires to connect two universal aims: the preservation of culture, and the conservation of nature.

The Convention acknowledges the sensitive balance between culture, nature and man’s impact on both. Every country has responsibility to protect its World Heritage Sites, which constitute its cultural and natural heritage.

In addition, the Convention defines the types of cultural and natural sites which can be considered for inscription on the World Heritage List. Some examples are archaeological sites and monuments, architectural works, cave dwellings, geological formations and unique natural sites.

In 1983, UNESCO set the 18th April as the International Day for Monuments and Sites. This annual anniversary extends to all important cultural monuments and natural sites in the world. Its purpose is to educate the public on the world’s heritage, and the work needed to maintain it for future generations.

International Day for Monuments and Sites in Greece

All the Ancient Greek sites are free to visit on the World Heritage Day. There are dozens of them, all around the country. Here are some of the most popular sites in Greece that you can explore on the International Day for Monuments and Sites.

The Acropolis in Athens

Unsurprisingly, the Acropolis of Athens features first in this list. The magnificent UNESCO site is one of the top-rated ancient sites in the world.

World Heritage Day - Visit the Acropolis

The Acropolis of Athens is in fact a whole complex up on a hill. Once inside, you will see the remains of several temples, walls and other constructions.

The most important temple is the Parthenon, which was built in the second half of the 5th century BC. It was dedicated to the Goddess Athena, the protectress of the city. Here’s a cool story about how Athens got its name.

The World Heritage Day is a great opportunity to visit the Acropolis. The weather is mild, in contrast to our high summer temperatures. In addition, the surrounding areas are full with spring flowers! Regardless, bring a bottle of water with you, and allow for at least an hour and a half up on the Acropolis.

Here’s a little more informati0n about the Acropolis and other ancient sites in Athens.

The Ancient Agora in Athens

While the Acropolis is the most famous site in Athens, I find the Ancient Agora absolutely intriguing. This was the area where everything happened in the city, the place where everyone gathered. The Agora was where people met to socialize, shop, exercise, discuss and exchange ideas.

Inside the Agora, you will see the temple of Hephaestus, the best preserved temple in Greece, and many ancient ruins. You can also visit the Stoa of Attalos, which was originally a shopping area. Today, it hosts the Museum of the Ancient Agora {which will remain closed for World Heritage Day 2021}.

World Heritage Day - Byzantine church in Athens Greece

As you walk around, you will also see the Church of the Holy Apostles, a superb 10th century Byzantine church.

I love walking around the Ancient Agora on World Heritage Day, with all the blooming trees and flowers! Athens may not feature among the greenest cities in Europe. However, if you are here in spring, you may change your mind.

Here is some more information on the Ancient Agora of Athens.

Temple of Poseidon in Sounion

Visiting the Temple of Poseidon in Cape Sounion on a World Heritage Day is a great option for Athenians.

World Heritage Site Temple of Poseidon in Athens

This beautiful temple was built out of marble between 444 and 440 BC, and was dedicated to God Poseidon. The location is a really good fit for the God of the Sea, as the views over the Aegean are simply stunning.

Cape Sounion is located in south Attica, about 70 kms from central Athens. This half-day trip from Athens is very popular in summer. However, driving along the Athenian Riviera in full spring is a fantastic experience. You can also stop for a swim on the way.

Here’s more information on the Temple of Poseidon near Athens, including how to get there.

Ancient Olympia in the Peloponnese

This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of my favourite ancient sites in Greece. It’s a large area, where you can see the remains of temples, buildings and other constructions. This is where the Olympic Games started in 776 BC.

The archaeological site of Ancient Olympia - World Heritage Day

As the Games became more important over the years, the site grew bigger and bigger. More buildings and sports areas were constructed to accommodate all the athletes and visitors that came from far and wide. There was also a large temple dedicated to Zeus, which has sadly not survived.

The World Heritage Day is a lovely time of year to visit Ancient Olympia. There are plenty of trees around the site, and the flowers will be in full bloom!

Allow at least a couple of hours to see the whole site and the excellent museums. {Note that the museums in Ancient Olympia will remain closed for World Heritage Day 2021}.

Here is some more information about the Ancient Olympia in the Peloponnese, in the Regional Unit of Ileia.

The Theatre of Ancient Epidaurus in the Peloponnese

You may have heard of the theatre of Ancient Epidaurus, one of the largest theatres in Ancient Greece. This impressive theatre is inside a large complex, the Sanctuary of Asklepios.

Theatre in Ancient Epidaurus World Heritage Day

Asklepios was the God of Healing and Medicine. His sanctuary was a place to heal body and soul, equivalent to a modern day’s wellness centre. The healers of the time used treatments similar to modern dietary advice, sleeping therapy and art therapy.

The site itself is awesome, and you can spend at least a couple of hours exploring. The location, with a thick forest all around, is amazing.

I still remember the theatre acoustics from the first time I went there with school. As this is over 30 (!) years ago, you can imagine how impressive they are! The theatre is still in use for performances on summer weekends.

Read more about Ancient Epidaurus in the Peloponnese, in the Regional Unit of Argolida.

Archaeological Site of Delphi

The ancient site of Delphi is one of the most famous UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Greece. You can easily visit Delphi on a day trip from Athens.

Archaeological site of Delphi Greece - World Heritage Day

In Ancient Greece, Delphi was the centre of the world. The Sanctuary was dedicated to the God Apollo, whose temple we can still see today. People travelled here from far and wide to take advice from the Oracle, a priestess named Pythia.

The ancient site is up on Mt Parnassus, at an altitude of 632 metres. Climb all the way to the top, and you will see the big stadium. The views from up there are simply incredible, and you may well feel the special energy of the area.

Here is some more information about the Ancient Site of Delphi in the Regional Unit of Fokida.

Top Archaeological sites in Crete for World Heritage Day

The island of Crete is one of the most popular destinations in Crete. This is where the Minoan civilization developed, in the 2nd millennium BC.

There are several ancient sites all around the island, and you would need many days to see them all. Among the most famous ones are Knossos, Phaistos and Gortyna, in the Regional Unit of Heraklion.

World Heritage Day - Palace of Knossos in Crete

The Palace of Knossos is the most famous ancient site in Crete. Knossos was an important commerce centre for several centuries, and the Palace was destroyed and rebuilt several times. After its excavation, heavy restorations took place.

Unlike Knossos, Ancient Phaistos is not as extensively restored, and I personally found it more interesting.  Many of the ancient ruins are still in place, and you can almost imagine the ancient city as i was thousands of years ago.

Close to Phaistos, you can find Ancient Gortyna, a much less visited site. Look out for the astonishing Gortyn Law Code, a famous inscription on a city wall.

It would be a bit of an overkill to visit all three in the same day, but you could try if you are in Heraklion!

Top Ancient Greek Sites for World Heritage Day

This is only a short selection of the dozens of archaeological sites in Greece. I will definitely go back to a couple of sites here in Athens on World Heritage Day!

Hi, I’m Vanessa!

The Acropolis in AthensHi! My name is Vanessa, and I am a travel writer from Athens in Greece. I love exploring my country and our wonderful ancient sites. I also enjoy helping out visitors by sharing my local knowledge and views. Hopefully this article on World Heritage Day and ancient sites in Greece was helpful! You can get in touch through the Real Greek Experiences FB page and FB group.




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