10 Must-See Ancient Ruins in Greece
From the Acropolis to the Temple of Apollo, dive into this country’s rich past and discover the world of the Ancient Greeks…
The Ancient Greeks were an incredibly influential civilization, pioneering artistic, intellectual, and scientific achievements that continue to have an impact on Western society to this day.
Ancient Ruins in Greece
Their legacy is plain to see through the wealth of preserved ruins and remains dotted around Greece. From the iconic to the every day, there is an abundance of ruins in Greece dating back to ancient times. Alongside historical highlights, Greece offers delicious food, idyllic beaches, and a warm, vibrant culture, making it the perfect destination for learning about the past while enjoying the present.
Why Are Ancient Ruins in Greece Worth Visiting?
While there’s no shortage of guidebooks and blogs explaining the importance of the ancient ruins in Greece, actually visiting them for yourself can be a truly worthwhile and memorable experience.
Exploring famous ruins in Greece and important cultural sites gives you the chance to learn how the Ancient Greeks worked, worshipped, and relaxed. Whether you’re travelling with kids or heading on a romantic honeymoon, visiting these sites in person lets you connect with the cultures of the past and understand how they lived.
There are a wealth of ruins to view across the country, giving you the freedom to explore Greece and its islands however you’d like. Many regard Athens as the best city in Greece for ruins, but islands like Crete and Santorini also offer plenty of opportunities to see remnants of the ancient world and learn about the Ancient Greeks.
In fact, as our Greece Expert and Travel Specialist Milly Darnell notes:
“There are ruins and ancient sites at every corner you turn. Of course, the Acropolis is the most iconic, but do not miss the Temple of Apollo, Temple of Poseidon, and the Akrotiri of Thera in Santorini.”
Wherever you’d like to travel, our travel experts are on hand to help you plan your perfect Greek holiday, taking in all the best ruins along the way.
The Best Ancient Ruins in Greece
From the most famous sites to the real hidden gems, here is our list of must-visit ancient ruins in Greece.
1. Acropolis, Athens
Located in central Athens, the Acropolis is one of the most famous ancient ruins in Athens and Greece. The iconic location is home to four separate ruins, and after a short hike to the summit, you’ll see some of the most well-known and best-preserved ruins in all of Greece, dating back to the 5th century BC: the Parthenon, the Propylaea (the gateway to the Acropolis), the Erechtheion, and the temple of Athena Nike.
Whether you’re admiring the bright marble remains or learning more about the area’s rich history at the Acropolis Museum, this is a must-see spot. Plus, as the highest point of the city, this hilltop grants stunning views and provides the perfect backdrop for photos. To get the most out of this iconic site, we’d also recommend visiting the Greek ruins in the Acropolis with a local guide who can answer any questions you may have.
2. Ancient Agora of Athens, Athens
If you’re looking for more ruins to visit while in Athens or southern Greece, just a 15-minute walk from the base of the Acropolis is the Ancient Agora of Athens. In modern Greek, the word ‘agora’ means ‘marketplace’, a nod to this ancient site’s origins as a commercial and residential meeting place.
Some of the ruins on this site date back as early as the 5th century BC, and while the archaeological site is smaller than some of the other ruins on this list, the agora does feature an on-site museum. Here you’ll find a range of artefacts that bring the area’s history to life for children and adults alike.
3. Panathenaic Stadium, Athens
Before you leave Athens, another one of the top ancient ruins in Greece you should visit is the Panathenaic Stadium. This impressive stadium was originally built in 330 BC but was rebuilt in 144 AD, becoming the only stadium in the world fully constructed out of marble - truly a memorable sight.
After years of neglect, the stadium was excavated and used to host the first modern Olympic games in 1896, paying homage to its athletic and community roots.
4. Archaeological Site of Olympia, Peloponnese
West of Athens, the hilltop villages of the Peloponnese are also steeped in history, and nowhere is this more evident than at the archaeological site of Olympia.
Olympia played a pivotal role in ancient Greek society as a key religious site, not to mention its roots as the birthplace of the Olympic games in 776 BC. Nowadays, visitors can wander through ruins like the Ancient Stadium or the Temple of Zeus, getting a glimpse of how the ancient Greeks used to live. Be sure to set aside time to explore the three on-site museums, especially those dedicated to the modern and ancient Olympic games.
5. Ancient Mycenae, Peloponnese
Ancient Mycenae is one of the oldest and biggest ruins in Greece and should be at the top of any keen historian’s list. Potentially dating as far back as the 7th century BC, this fortified city plays an important role in Greek mythology and history, appearing in Homer’s epics, The Odyssey and The Iliad, and acting as the base for mainland Europe's first Bronze Age society.
Today, a guided tour of the city’s ruins is the best way to explore this hub of Ancient Greek and Bronze Age civilization, marvelling at remains like the imposing Lion Gate and the Treasury of Atreus. Its hilltop position also affords spectacular views of the Greek countryside and the sparkling Argolic Gulf.
6. Theatre of Epidaurus, Argolis
Built into the verdant hillside of Argolis in the Peloponnese during the 4th century BC, the Theatre of Epidaurus is one of the best-preserved ancient ruins in Greece. Seating 16,000 people, this impressive structure was lauded in the ancient world and would have been used for a variety of plays and musical performances. It still hosts an annual arts festival to this day, taking place between June and August.
To experience the extraordinary acoustics of this space for yourself, you can send a travel companion into the auditorium while you stay on stage. Whisper something and if there aren’t too many other visitors around, they’ll hear you all the way from the back seats!
7. Temple of Poseidon, Sounio
Just an hour’s drive from Athens, Sounio is the perfect day trip destination, especially for those searching for ancient ruins to visit. From idyllic swimming spots to authentic restaurants, there’s plenty to draw visitors to Sounio. The main attraction is undisputedly the hilltop Temple of Poseidon, with its towering columns and stunning views of the surrounding landscape.
Dating from around 400 BC, this temple also makes up part of the Sacred Triangle of Greece, a trio of temples (including the Parthenon and the Temple of Aphaia in Aegina) which align on a map to form a triangle. While there are many guesses behind the temple’s triangular arrangement, what we know for sure is, this layout means you can easily visit all three without having to travel too far.
8. Temple of Apollo, Delphi
Another one of the most famous ancient ruins in Greece, the remains of the Temple of Apollo can be found just two hours northwest of Athens in Delphi. Built in the 5th century BC and set atop the slopes of Mount Parnassos, the Temple of Apollo was a primary location for worshipping the Greek god of the sun. People from across ancient Greece would travel to Delphi to pray at the temple and meet the renowned oracle of Delphi, who would impart wisdom and advice from Apollo himself.
Once an important historical location, nowadays, Delphi is home to both a small, modern town and a major archaeological site featuring numerous ruins like the Temple of Apollo, perfect for a day trip. It’s also home to the remains of a 5,000-seat amphitheatre which hosted the Pythian Games - a celebrated series of sports and art competitions.
9. Minoan Palace of Knossos, Crete
Interested in learning more about the country’s rich and varied ancient cultures? Knossos is one of our favourite ancient ruins in Crete, Greece, full of remnants from the Minoan civilization. Known for their impressive cities and palaces, extensive trading, and sophisticated art forms, the Minoans brought the Bronze Age to the island of Crete.
You can see this legacy today in the ruins that remain in Knossos, especially the Minoan Palace with its maze of rooms, vibrant frescoes, and striking red walls. This labyrinth-like structure supposedly inspired the myth of the Minotaur, a fierce beast that was defeated by the legendary hero, Theseus.
10. Akrotiri of Thera, Santorini
Santorini is a beautiful island known for its stunning beaches, picturesque caldera, and iconic blue-domed buildings, but did you know it’s also home to an archaeological wonder?
Similarly to Pompeii in Italy, the ancient city of Akrotiri was destroyed by a volcanic eruption in 1450 BC, leaving behind some of the best-preserved ancient ruins in Greece. This volcanic eruption is also what created Santorini’s breathtaking caldera.
Wander through the ruins to see streets, murals, and furniture that capture a snapshot of daily life in this busy urban hub, all beautifully preserved by volcanic ash. Visit with a local guide to learn more about the Minoan civilization that once called this city home.
Book Your Luxury Holiday Today
Ready to start planning your holiday and visit the top ancient ruins in Greece? Our travel experts are on hand to help. Whether you’re looking for standalone activities and things to do or complete tours of Greece that showcase the best of this amazing country, our luxury travel specialists will help you plan the perfect itinerary.
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