Philosophy, mathematics, astronomy, medicine, and architecture are just a few things that Ancient Greece helped to pioneer. Today, many historic sites – from villas and mausoleums to amphitheatres and temples – are testament to the highly sophisticated culture that shaped much of classical antiquity, and continues to shape the way we live our lives today.
Greece is an essential destination for anyone with an interest in classics, history, languages, and architecture. Wander among its beautiful landscape and lush seas and lose yourself in our pick of 10 of the best ancient sites in Greece.
What are the top ancient Greek sites in Greece?
1. The Acropolis
The Acropolis is one of the most recognisable historic sites in the world and remains an inspirational monument to the achievements of Ancient Greek civilisation. Standing tall above the Greek city of Athens, the Acropolis contains a number of buildings and monuments from Greek Antiquity, including the Parthenon, the Erechtheion, the Propylaia and the temple of Athena Nike.
Today, the Acropolis is an extremely popular historic site and caters for a multitude of tourists every year. The recently opened Acropolis Museum, which lies nearby, contains an amazing array of displays and artefacts from the Acropolis itself.
2. Temple of Poseidon - Sounio
The Temple of Poseidon is a picturesque ruin of a fifth century BC Greek temple dedicated to the deity of the sea. For truly spectacular views this partially-ruined Greek temple is hard to beat. If you can catch it at sunset, then the scene will be complete.
Dramatically perched on a cliff overlooking the ocean, the Temple of Poseidon is now made up of a rectangle of restored large Doric columns. It’s roughly an hour out from Athens and there are several tour operators offering half-day trips.
Delphi is an archaeological site in mainland Greece comprised of the well-preserved ruins of one of the most important cities in Ancient Greece. Many of the sites at Delphi date back to the fifth century BC, although many have been reconstructed and some altered by the Romans.
Among the ruins are the Temple of Apollo and the fifth century Doric building of the Treasury of the Athenians, which is located along The Sacred Way, a central road of the religious area of the city. Yet perhaps Delphi’s most iconic site is the Tholos. Constructed in around 380 BC, this once circular building had six Doric columns, three of which stand today. The nearby Delphi Museum explores the history of the archaeological site and houses many finds from its excavation. This famous site also features as one of our Top 10 tourist attractions in Greece.
Mycenae is an important archaeological site in Greece which was once the city at the centre of the Mycenaean civilisation of between 1600BC and 1100BC. The remains of Mycenae contain several well-preserved sites, including the Lion’s Gate and the North Gate, which form parts of its fortified walls and which once stood 18 metres high and 6 to 8 metres thick.
A few other dwellings can also be seen at Mycenae, together with a granary and some guard rooms. Other important structures include Mycenae’s Terraced Palace, the religious structures which comprise several shrines and temples and the grave sites, which date back throughout Mycenae’s history. Arguably the most remarkable of Mycenae’s sites is the Tomb of Agamemnon. This once elaborate thirteenth century tomb is carved into Mycenae’s hills.
Eleusis contains a range of impressive Greco-Roman ruins, steeped in the richness of Greek mythology. Surrounded on all sides by a thriving modern industrial town, the site of Eleusis is renowned as the home of the Eleusinian Mysteries, a series of annual initiation ceremonies for the cult of Demeter and Persephone which ranked among the most sacred religious rites of ancient Greece.
Today, the Eleusis archaeological site houses a number of important ruins including the Sacred Court, a Roman reproduction of Hadrian’s Arch in Athens and the Kallichoron Well, according to the Homeric Hymn, the resting place of Demeter. There is also a museum located on site which gives more detail on the history of Eleusis and provides further explanation on the myths associated with the site.
Olympia was a vibrant Ancient Greek city where, in 776 BC, the first Olympic Games were held. The ruins of this famous city include sites such as the Treasuries, the Temple of Hera and the remains of the ancient stadium.
Olympia reached its peak during the classical period and it was at this time that many of the other sites which can be seen there now were built, most notably the Temple of Zeus. Other impressive sites at Olympia were built later during the Hellenistic Period. These include the remains of the fourth century BC Philippeion memorial to the family of Alexander the Great and the Leonidaion. There are also several other impressive sites, many of them built during the Roman period.
Sparta was one of the most famous city-states of the ancient world and left not only a mark in our historic records, but its very culture at the heart of modern language – the English word ‘Spartan’ reflecting their very way of life – simple, basic, severe.
Today, the ruins of ancient Sparta exist on the outskirts of the modern city of Sparti – founded by King Otto of Greece in 1834. A good proportion of the remains you see today are actually from the Roman period and few are well preserved. Unlike Athens, Spartan culture never led to grand building projects and consequently few historic structures remain. Visitors to Sparta can see the remains of the ancient theatre of Sparta, the nearby Roman shops, the partially-preserved sanctuary of Artemis Orthia, and the site that is said to be the tomb of Spartan King Leonidas.
8. Temple of Hephaestus
The Temple of Hephaestus is an imposing ancient Greek temple in the Athenian Agora and site of worship of the Greek deity of fire, blacksmiths and sculpture.
Built in the fifth century BC, the Temple of Hephaestus was later incorporated into the Church of Agios Georgios, this accounting for its excellent state of preservation.
9. Ancient Agora of Athens
The Ancient Agora of Athens was a market, a meeting place and the social, political and commercial hub of the ancient city.
The Agora houses several fascinating sites, including the stunning fifth century BC Temple of Hephaestus. It is also home to the remains of several covered walkways or “stoas” such as the famous Stoa of Zeus where Socrates is said to have debated and met with other philosophers. A good way to get your bearings within the Ancient Agora of Athens is to start by visiting the Agora Museum, which offers more information on the site.
10. Delphi Archaeological Museum
Delphi Archaeological Museum is an historical museum dedicated to exploring the history and exhibiting artifacts from the nearby archeological site of ancient Delphi.
Delphi was a major city of Ancient Greece and its sites are themselves popular tourist attractions. Amongst its displays, Delphi Archaeological Museum exhibits statues, sculptures and everyday items excavated from Delphi as well as exploring the site’s history.