Greece: Main Sights
The Cradle of Western Civilization
With a history that dates back thousands of years, Greece has turned into an archaeological paradise. Such is the extent of historical monuments and sites, that a single city in Greece can keep you occupied for two weeks with sightseeing and exploring!
The Acropolis of Athens
The Acropolis of Athens is the most popular acropolis in the world and one historical sight that you cannot afford to miss. The acropolis is made up of the Parthenon located on top of the acropolis as well as a number of smaller buildings that are of significant interest, designed by Iktinos in the Pericles Era (The Golden Years of Athens) in the 5th Century BC. The Temple of Athena Nike, the Erechtheio and the Acropolis Museum are of great significance. The Acropolis Museum is home to an impressive collection of artifacts from Acropolis and the Parthenon. The Acropolis is open from 8:00am to 6:30pm daily. The timings may change according to the season, and during the summer months it is open for longer during full moon evenings. The entrance fee to The Acropolis is €12 and includes other sites in the area such as the ancient Agora, the Theatre of Dionysos, Kerameikos, Roman Agora, Tower of the Winds and the Temple of Olympian Zeus. Your entrance ticket is valid for a week. Individual tickets to other sites are also available. The Acropolis is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
National Archaeological Museum of Greece
Housed in a spectacular neo-classical building that alone commands awe, the National Archaeological Museum in Athens is definitely worth a visit. The museum, the biggest in Greece, has over 20,000 exhibits from the country’s top archaeological sites. Exhibits in this museum lay evidence to the reference of Greece as the cradle of modern civilization. The exhibits follow a chronological order dating from 7000 BC to 500 BC. There are 5 permanent collections in the museum- the prehistoric collection, the Sculptures collection, the Vase and Minor Objects collection, the Stathatos Collection, and the Metallurgy collection.
The museum is also home to an impressive library on archaeology and the richest collection of rare books that’s over 118 years old. The Epigraphic Museum has the largest collection of Greek inscriptions in the world.
The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 8:00am to 7:30pm and on Mondays from 12:30pm to 7:00pm. The entrance fee is €7.
The Benaki Museum
The Benaki Museum was founded in 1930 by Antonis Benaki who belonged to a highly cultural, political and social family. The family donated much of their collection to the Greek state, which was housed in Antonis Benaki’s paternal home, now the Benaki Museum. The museum is one of the most outstanding neo-classical structures in the city of Athens. The museum houses artifacts of the historic and cultural development of Hellenism. Exhibits span the Neolithic age to the 20th century. Paleolithic and Neolithic finds from Greece and Cyprus, jewels from Greece and Ionia, sculptures from Cyprus, Naxos and Attica, ceramic displays from Attica, Boeotia and Corinth, pottery and sculptures from the 5th and 4th centuries BC, works from the ancient and Byzantine eras among hoards of other artifacts are displayed at the museum. The museum also houses collections of religious and secular art from the 15th to the 19th century. The Museum of Islamic Art is part of the Benaki Museum located a distance away from it.
The Museum has a temporary exhibition gallery which hosts exhibitions and other art events.
The Main Exhibition Building of the Benaki Museum is open on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday from 9:00am to 5:00pm, on Thursday from 9:00am to midnight and on Sunday from 9:00am to 3:00pm. The museum remains closed on Tuesdays. The entrance fee is €6.
The Palace of Knossos
The largest Bronze Age archaeological site which served as the political and cultural centre for the Minoan civilization, the Palace of Knossos is a treat for the historical traveler. Located 5 km from the town centre of Heraklion in Crete; the palace is built on the hill ‘Kefala’ next to the river ‘Kairatos’. The Palace of Knossos is a multi-storied building built on 6 acres of land built roughly between 1700 BC and 1400 BC. The palace housed a theatre and extensive storerooms in addition to the 1300 rooms of the palace. In spite of being heavily damaged twice due to a fire and an earthquake, the palace has stood the test of time.
The Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki
The Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki was built in 1962 and houses collections of archaic to late Roman sculptures from Thessaloniki and Macedonia. These collections display the history of Thessaloniki from pre historic times to late antiquity. Artifacts from the Ionic Temples of the 6th century, excavations from the palace complex built in the Thessaloniki city centre, sculptures spanning the different ages from Macedonia are a few of the exhibits on display at the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki. Apart from the permanent displays at the museum holds thematic exhibitions regularly.
The museum is located at 6 Manolis Andronikos Street, Thessaloniki. In the summer the museum is on Mondays at 12:30pm to 7:00pm, from Tuesday to Friday at 8:00am to 7:00pm, Saturday and Sunday at 8:30am to 3:00pm. In winter, the timings are from 10:30 am to 5:00pm on Monday, 8:00am to 7:00pm from Tuesday to Friday and 8:30am to 3:00pm on weekends. A full admission ticket to the museum cost €6.
Cape Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon
The Temple of Poseidon with its magnificent view of the Aegean Sea is located at Cape Sounion, one of the most picturesque places in the Attica. Cape Sounion is famed not only for the remnants of the temple of Poseidon but also for the numerous beaches that dot this route from Athens, and for the breathtaking sunsets on the Saronic Gulf. Ancient Greek people relied heavily on the sea for spiritual and commercial purposes; hence the temple of Poseidon was built for the Greek God of the sea Poseidon to act as a sea watcher. Near the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion there are the remains of a sanctuary that was built to honor Athena. The best time to visit the temple is early in the morning or in the evening at sunset.
Cape Sounion is located 69 km southeast of Athens and is at the southern most tip of the Attica. The ride from Athens to Sounion is scenic and you will pass a number of beaches along the way.
The Monasteries at Meteora
The Monasteries of Meteora represent a unique architectural achievement of being built suspended in the air. The six Greek monasteries are built on natural rock pillars at the edge of the Pindus Mountains in northern Greece. The monasteries were built as places of seclusion for hermits who lived there to seek solitude. Today only 6 of the monasteries remain, most being destroyed by bombings during World War II. The monasteries now serve mainly as museums. The Varlaam Monastery, Agia Triada or Holy Trinity, Monastery of Agios Nikolaos Anapafsas, Roussanou Monastery, Megalo Meteoro or Metamorphisis are the remaining monasteries. The Monasteries of Meteora are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
To enter any of the Monasteries of Meteora a strict dress code is in place. Men must wear long pants and women long skirts. No sleeveless garments are permitted. The entrance fee for each monastery is € 1.50.
The Crete Gorges
One of the most popular tourist destinations in Crete are the gorges of West Crete. There are over 50 gorges in the White Mountains with a natural beauty so great and an atmosphere so magical that you will find crowds of people at any given time! Some of the gorges are short with easy terrain but some are rough, and require a high amount of stamina and caution. The gorge of Samaria is one of the most widely visited locations in Crete. The gorge of Samaria is 16km long, starting at an altitude of 1250m and will take you all the way down to the shores of the Libyan Sea. The gorge is situated in the Samaria National Park. The entire 16km walk through the gorge takes roughly 5 hours at a brisk pace. The walk is not very difficult but you should be fit enough before you embark on this walk. The terrain is full of stones so make sure you have footwear with a good grip.
The Samaria National Park is open from May to the end of October during the day time. The park remains closed on rainy days. An entrance fee of €5 is charged.