Things to Do in Greece - page 4
Tucked away from the buzzing nightlife of Mykonos Town, Ornos Beach is draped around a sheltered bay whose calm water makes it a popular family swimming spot. A generous selection of seafront restaurants, tavernas, and resorts offer plenty of amenities for a day in the sun or a longer stay on the island’s quieter side.
By day, Paradise Beach is a water sports hot spot, with swimsuit-clad revelers enjoying banana boat rides, Jet Ski jaunts, and scuba diving excursions. Come late afternoon, its legendary party scene gets going as fun-seekers flock to the beach bars and clubs for music, dancing, drinking, and fun.
As befits a city that was under Byzantine rule between the fifth and 13th centuries, Thessaloniki has a rich and priceless supply of Byzantine antiquities that are chronologically displayed in the city’s award-winning contemporary museum. Opened in September 1994, the Museum of Byzantine Culture was designed by modernist architect Kyriakos Krokos and has spectacular displays of mosaic fragments, icons, stone tablets bearing ancient inscriptions and delicate wall paintings taken from tombs. Although some of the almost 43,000 artifacts in the collection were moved there from the Byzantine and Christian Museum in Athens, most were unearthed locally.
The three permanent exhibitions walk through the centuries of Byzantine rule in Thessaloniki, while the final two rooms display icon collections and religious engravings donated to the museum by Greek philanthropists. Multi-themed temporary exhibitions alternate precious treasures from the museum’s repository, and staff also operate vital conservation and preservation work onsite.
Gazi has reinvented itself in recent years as one of Athens’ coolest nightlife and entertainment districts, and the lively neighborhood makes a worthy addition to any tourist itinerary.
Once Athens’ main industrial area, Gazi’s makeover was kick started when the old gasworks was transformed into the Technopolis cultural center. The center remains the epicenter of Gazi, hosting concerts, art exhibitions and a museum, while the surrounding neighborhood is now crammed with bars, restaurants, live music venues and nightclubs.
Gazi is easy to explore on foot, with the majority of venues clustered around the Technopolis, and the surrounding streets of Iakou, Persephonis, Dekeleon and Voutadon. Bar hopping tours are also a great way to discover the area’s nightlife and get the inside scoop on the hippest bars and clubs.
Most visitors come to Ano Mera, in the interior of Mykonos, to see the Byzantine Panagia Tourliani Monastery, fronted by an ornate bell tower with triple bells. Its interior is perhaps even more impressive, with carved marble and wood, Byzantine frescoes, crystal chandeliers, a gilded pulpit, and a wooden altar screen with scenes from the New Testament.
Aqualand Corfu Water Park is the island’s biggest and most popular water park and offers themed zones catering for all ages, carefully watched over by qualified lifeguards. Stretching over an area of 130,000 sq ft (12,000 sq m) landscaped with lawns and mature maple trees, it is a family paradise of water rides and slides, lazy rivers and 15 swimming pools for a day of fun in the sun.
Toddlers up to the age of four can enjoy shallow bathing pools with water showers, playing splashy games on Fantasy Island and exploring the Caribbean Pirate Adventure Pool. There’s a dedicated family area (kids must be aged eight and over) with giant slides, Jacuzzis, a lazy river and a wave pool. Adrenaline junkies can get their kicks from six extreme water ride ranging from the spiraling Hydrotube to the hair-raising Free Fall Plus, which plunges vertically for 80 ft (24 m) into deep water.
Facilities include plenty of free sunbeds and parasols for shade and lockers to hire for a small charge of €5; there are changing rooms and showers as well as food outlets scattered throughout the park and stores selling sun lotion, rubber rings and pool toys.
Pyrgos(Pyrgos Kallistis) is a picturesque hillside village set on a volcanic crater at the highest point of the Greece’s Santorini, offering panoramic views of the rest of the island. At the top of the village sit the ruins of Kasteli Castle, remnants of the former capitol of the island before it was moved to Fira (where it remains today.)
Pyrgos is as beautiful as the rest of the island, but also has a special historic charm — with traditional white houses, Byzantine churches, Cycladic architecture, and small winding cobblestone lanes and paths. Some of the churches has beautiful old frescoes visible on the walls. The area sees far fewer tourists than the rest of the island, so it keeps a peaceful atmosphere. Though the town has merely 700 inhabitants, there are tavernas and local restaurants. Visiting the village is a way to experience the traditionally preserved culture of the Greek islands.
Each summer, thousands of colorful butterflies congregate in the humid Petaloudes Valley, earning it the nickname Valley of the Butterflies. It’s one of the island’s most remarkable natural attractions, where you’ll find several species of the winged beauties, as well as the only natural Oriental Sweetgum forest in Europe.
Mandraki Harbour has been in use since ancient times and was formerly the military port of Rhodes; it was protected from attack by gigantic chains across its narrow mouth and later by the impregnable bulk of the Fort of St Nicholas, built in 1467 and still watching over the marina. Over the centuries the harbor was also a successful and rich trading port but these days its role in Rhodes life is entirely peaceful; a fetching clutch of billionaires’ super-yachts bob in the marina alongside traditional fishing boats and a multitude of tour boats, which depart every day in summer to visit islands off the coast of Rhodes – including Symi and Nisyros – as well as ferrying visitors to local beaches and on diving trips.
The harbor mouth, reputedly bridged by the Colossus of Rhodes in classical times, is now guarded by bronze statues of Elafos and Elafina – the deer that symbolize the island – atop slender stone columns; little remains of Mandraki’s commercial past except three corn mills lined up along the breakwater, where merchant ships once offloaded grain. Nowadays the quays are packed with late-night bars and cafés and floating restaurants have taken the place of cargo ships; a new addition to the Mandraki landscape is the Nea Agora (New Market), built in ornate style by the Italians in the 1930s.
Hailed as one of Greece’s prettiest islands, Symi is characterized by pastel-colored town houses and a quaint harbor full of wooden fishing boats. Restaurants serving fresh seafood and Greek delicacies line the seafront, while the heavily forested inland offers an abundance of walking and cycling trails.
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Erected in honor of the Roman Emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century AD, the monumental gateway of Hadrian’s Arch remains one of the most striking remnants of ancient Athens. The remarkably preserved 60-foot (18-meter) Roman-style arch on the ancient road between the Agora and the Olympieion is a must-see for ancient history buffs.
The Temple of Hephaestus was built just two years before the Parthenon. It is located in the ancient agora, not too far from the Acropolis. Sometimes it is referred to as the Temple of Thission based on some opinions that the temple may have been dedicated to Theseus. It was built in 450 B.C., most likely by the same architect who built the Parthenon. The temple was designed in a Doric style with six columns on each end and 13 columns on each side.
Hephaestus is the Greek god of volcanoes and metalworking, and he was the only one of the Olympic gods who was not physically perfect and had to perform manual labor. He was the god responsible for crafting the armor with the fatal weakness that was worn by Achilles in The Iliad. Statues of Hephaestus can be found in the temple, as well as statues of Athena and several friezes depicting scenes with other gods.
With its sawtooth walls and square crenellated towers at each corner, the well-preserved Venetian castle of Frangokastello is straight from the pages of a medieval fairytale. The Venetians built the castle fort in the 1370s, when their empire ruled the seas and the island of Crete. You can still make out the carving of the winged lion of the Venetian Republic, above the entrance to the castle.
The imposing structure lies on the coastal plain, strategically positioned to ward off pirates and protect the Venetian nobles who called the island home. It was originally called the Castle of St. Nikitas, but eventually took on the name given to it by unhappy locals: Castle of the Franks (as in foreigners). The battlements and buildings within the wall date from the island’s Ottoman occupation.
Nearby, Frangokastello’s beaches are a modern-day draw and the small town offers remote seaside accommodation
A minuscule cove wrapped in protective cliffs, St. Paul’s Bay is reputedly the spot where the Apostle Paul first set foot on Rhodes to preach to the locals in AD 51. It is one of three beaches local to the whitewashed sugar-cube houses of Lindos; this most charming of Rhodes’ east coast resorts is overlooked by an ancient acropolis and has an atmospheric tangle of steep medieval streets. The bay’s minuscule strip of sand and azure waters are almost completely enclosed by craggy cliffs and backed by bougainvillea; a tiny, whitewashed chapel sits at one corner of the cove and this romantic little place is one of the town’s favorite wedding venues. The crystal-blue Mediterranean Sea is warm enough to swim in until October and the bay is both shallow and protected from winds, making it perfect for children to splash around in. Sun-loungers and parasols are available for hire and there are showers and a tiny beach bar but space on this lovely beach is at a premium.
The beautifully preserved walled old town, the historic core of Rhodes, is the oldest continuously inhabited medieval city in Europe and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The medieval center is still encircled by its original fourteenth century fortification walls, which took more than 200 years to construct.
With nearly 40 acres of well-kept gardens, sky-high forests and ancient ruins the National Gardens of Athens (Ethnikos Kipos) offers travelers a natural escape unlike any other. Commissioned by Queen Amalia in 1838, this unique destination is home to more than 500 species of plants and animals and a vast landscape dotted with the busts of Greek poets, gods and political figures.
Travelers can wander the grounds, which offer a scenic escape from the chaos of Athens, and sip hot coffees at the small outdoor café after combing through the Botanical Museum or the garden’s small zoo. Close proximity to the Olympic stadium makes it a perfect stop for those on a tour of Athen's most famous historical sites.
Standing at 2,619 feet (798 meters), the pine-clad peak of Profitis Ilias is the second-highest mountain on Rhodes and offers wonderful views over the island's Aegean coastline. During their occupation of Greece in the late 1920s, the Italians built two resort hotels on the mountain for their top brass to enjoy weekends of hunting and partying. These were designed in an incongruous Swiss alpine-chalet style with sloping roofs and decorative wooden balconies and were abandoned after World War II; the Elafos Hotel reopened in 2006 after significant renovation and the Elafina is currently under restoration, while a traditional kafeneio (coffee and ouzo house) serves the walkers and bikers who traipse the forest tracks of Profitis Ilias.
Elsewhere amid the pine forests of Profitis Ilias are the ruins of the Villa de Vecchi, built for Mussolini as a luxury retirement home. Obviously these plans went awry and it has stood empty for years; recent rumor whispers that it may be turned into a tourist attraction in the same way that Hitler’s mountain retreat at Berchtesgaden near Salzburg, which brings in thousands of visitors per year. Around eight km (five miles) from Profitis Ilias is the village of Campochiaro, also built by the Italians, who shipped farming families over from the alpine north of Italy to work the land. Other pretty villages flanking Profitis Ilias include rustic Platania and Eleousa.
The Firkas Fortress at the entrance to Chania harbor was built during the Venetian occupation of Crete between 1204 and 1669; it was originally used as a barracks and prison. Since 1973, it has housed the Maritime Museum of Crete (sometimes translated as the Nautical Museum of Crete).
Spread over two floors of the Maritime Museum are 13 chronological displays starting with models of ships from Prehistoric times, passing through ancient navigational equipment, and ending with models of destroyers and landing craft from Greece’s modern-day naval fleet. Highlights along the way include plunder from ancient shipwrecks, such as amphorae and cooking utensils; reproductions of Minoan galleys; a Bronze Age trireme; and a model bridge from a World War II torpedo boat. A section is also given over to the German invasion of Crete in 1941, illustrated with photographs and personal testimonies.
The museum offers a small exhibition of shells showcasing the diversity of Mediterranean sea life and a well-stocked library of maritime books. A visit to the museum is easily combined with a walk around Chania’s Venetian Harbour or can be visited as part of an electric Trikke tour of its Old Town.
A vast canyon burrowing between the Kouroupis and Xiro Oros mountains, the Kourtaliotiko Gorge is among Crete’s most dramatic natural attractions – running for almost 3 km along the Kourtaliotiko River. Starting out from the village of Koxare, the scenic canyon winds through the cliffs to join the Libyan Sea coast, where it forms a glistening lagoon fringed by the sandy beaches and verdant palm forests of the Preveli Palm Beach.
Most visitors choose to follow the road along the top of the canyon, enjoying the views over Kourtaliotiko Gorge and stopping to clamber down into the gorge and explore the many caves, streams and waterfalls, as well as the historic Church of St. Nicholas, perched on the hillside.
The monastery of Mount Profitis Ilias (Moni Profitou Iliou) is perched on the mountain of the same name, the highest point on Santorini at 1,853 ft (565 m) above the Aegean Sea in the south of the island. Built in the early 18th century out of sizeable stone and resembling a fortress, the monastery was dedicated to the prophet Elijah and initially enjoyed great wealth. It once also functioned as a secret school of Greek culture during the dark days of Turkish occupation of the country, but its power began to decline in 1860 and it was badly damaged by the earthquake in 1956. Today Profitis Ilias is successful once more; its three domed church has become a museum hosting an exceptional and significant collection of Greek Orthodox icons, early, hand printed books and bibles, wrought-iron artwork, wooden carvings and elaborately embroidered clerics’ robes. The resident monks put on displays of traditional carpentry, shoemaking, local cooking and wine making as well.
The monastery courtyard and gardens are a popular spot to watch Santorini’s fabled sunsets and it is possible to see right to the hilltop village of Oia from the top of Profitis Ilias. Panoramas also take in the patchwork of plains and vineyards sit in the mountain’s lee, sheltering the young vines from hot winds blowing in from North Africa.
Though originally constructed in the 14th century by the Knights of St. John, the current Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes is a Mussolini-era reconstruction built after the original was destroyed by a 19th-century explosion. The lavish palace now serves as a museum displaying furniture, statues, and ancient mosaics.
Situated on the outskirts of Athens, Vouliagmeni Lake (Limni Vouliagmenis) is a brackish body of water fed by both the sea and underground springs. The water is said to have curative properties, and many people come here to treat various physical ailments and partake in spa activities such as yoga and Pilates, in addition to swimming.
The capital of the Greek island of Corfu, Corfu Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Twin fortresses, known as the Old Fortress and the New Fortress, stand atop two hills overlooking the old town, where you’ll find cobbled lanes strung with clotheslines, squares, museums, and an astonishing number of churches for a city of its size.
Established in 1829, Athens’ National Archaeological Museum (Ethniko Arxaiologiko Mouseio) houses treasures unearthed from the many archaeological sites scattered throughout Greece, dating from prehistory to the late classical period. The expansive neoclassical building holds sculptures, bronzes, ceramics, and jewelry from Mycenae, Santorini, ancient Egypt, and beyond.
- Things to do in Athens
- Things to do in Santorini
- Things to do in Rhodes
- Things to do in Mykonos
- Things to do in Heraklion
- Things to do in Katakolo
- Things to do in Kos
- Things to do in Thessaloniki
- Things to do in Olympia
- Things to do in Chania
- Things to do in Albania
- Things to do in Macedonia
- Things to do in Peloponnese
- Things to do in Cyclades Islands
- Things to do in Macedonia