- 1 30 Famous Landmarks In Greece
- 2 Famous Landmarks In Greece – Santorini
- 3 Famous Landmarks in Greece – Crete
- 4 Famous Landmarks In Greece – Athens
- 4.1 Parthenon
- 4.2 Acropolis of Athens
- 4.3 Panathenaic Stadium Athens
- 4.4 Greek Parliament, Syntagma Square
- 4.5 Famous Landmarks In Greece – Mainland Greece
- 4.6 Temple of Apollo, Delphi
- 4.7 Monasteries of Meteora
- 4.8 Vikos Gorge, Epirus
- 4.9 Mount Olympus
- 4.10 Battle of Thermopylae Site and Leonidas Statue
- 4.11 Thessaloniki Seafront and White Tower
- 4.12 Corinth Canal
- 5 Famous Landmarks In Greece – Other Greek Islands
30 Famous Landmarks In Greece
Greece is a country of extraordinary beauty, and one of the most evocative countries to visit in Europe. You’ll find ancient cities and temples to the gods, mountains, whitewashed villages, crystal-clear seas, and some of the most breathtaking beaches on the planet. Not to mention 6,000 islands. Start out by finding your bearings with our selection of the most famous landmarks in Greece.
We begin with what’s possibly the most famous island in Greece, Santorini, before hopping over to thecapital Athens, and back to its largest island Crete. After returning to the mainland we’ll continue our virtual island-hop around the Aegean and Ionian Seas.
Famous Landmarks In Greece – Santorini
Three Bells of Fira, Santorini
This simple whitewashed Catholic church with its blue dome is one of the most famous buildings in Greece. Its name is Agioi Theodori, but it’s more widely known as the Three Bells of Fira, after its triple bellcote in front of its dome. It’s one of the best places to watch a Santorini sunset, its distinctive outline silhouetted against the oranges and pinks of the sky reflected in the water. Confusingly, the church isn’t in Fira, but Firostefani, a 20-minute walk to the north of the centre of town.
See Also: The Best Churches In Santorini
Oia (pronounced ‘EE-ah’) is one of the two or three best villages in Santorini to explore. It’s located on the northern rim of the caldera, its whitewashed Cycladic buildings and blue-domed churches an astonishing sight at any time of day, but especially at sunset when crowds gather at the Byzantine Castle to witness the amazing spectacle. It’s one of the most famous places to visit in Greece, and when you see it in the flesh, no matter how many thousands of images you’ve seen of it, it’ll almost certainly blow you right away.
And then there is the caldera of Santorini, one of the most spectacular landscapes in Europe. Most of the caldera – a vast volcanic crater – is submerged beneath the Aegean Sea. The sheer cliffs of Santorini island are up to 300 metres high, and there are also several other islands in the group – Thirassia, the lava islands of Nea Kameni (still an active volcano) and Palea Kameni, famous for its hot springs. There is only one beach on the caldera itself, at the southern end below the village of Akrotiri, which, funnily enough, is called Caldera Beach, though you can also bathe at the other end of the caldera at Ammoudi Bay, on the shore below Oia.
One of the most fascinating things to do in Santorini is to visit the two volcanic islands on a Santorini Volcano Tour, which also takes in the amazing island of Thirassia. Another way of experiencing the caldera in Santorini is a catamaran dinner and sunset cruise, which also gives you time on the two volcanic islands.
Red Beach Santorini
Santorini Red Beach is an extraordinary sight, a curve of deep burgundy red sand beneath a cliff of the same colour, washed by the turquoise waters of the Aegean Sea. I’d say it’s the most spectacular Santorini beach but it’s one to admire from a distance rather than to sunbathe on. The access path from close to the Akrotiri archaeological site is safe, and gives you the view I shot above, but the beach is considered unsafe because of rock falls from the cliffs. Get your photo, it’ll look fantastic, but Vlychada beach or Perissa beach are much, much safer.
See Also: The 7 Best Beaches In Santorini
Famous Landmarks in Greece – Crete
Palace of Knossos, Heraklion
The Minoan Palace of Knossos, just outside the Crete capital Heraklion, was the centre of a civilization that preceded Classical Greece by over a thousand years. The vast site was probably begun around 2000 BC, and the remains we see today are believed to date from before 1400 BC. The Palace was believed to be the lair of the legendary Minotaur, a half-man, half-bull creature widely known in Ancient Greece. The highlights of the site are the north gate and throne room, both of which are decorated with vivid restored frescoes.
Agios Pavlos Church and Beach
This beautiful Byzantine church might not strictly be a famous Greek landmark, but it should be. If it was close to a main town like Chania it definitely would be. However, it happens to be on one of the more remote stretches of the south Crete coast, a 90-minute walk along the E4 trail from Agia Roumeli.
The simple, weathered ancient church is believed to date from the 11th century, is dedicated to St Paul, who is believed to have stopped in Crete – perhaps at this very spot – on his journey to Rome in the 1st century AD. It looks over a gorgeous pebble beach with sublime views to the mountains. You can get there a little quicker by getting someone to take you by boat from Agia Roumeli.
See Also: Agios Pavlos Beach Crete
The magnificent White Mountains (Lefka Ora) dominate the west Crete landscape, and are the destination for one of the best walks in Greece, the famous Samaria Gorge walk. This 10-mile descent through the Gorge finishes at the tiny village of Agia Roumeli, from where you catch a ferry towards your base in Crete. The best view of the White Mountains is from the sea – the Agia Roumeli ferry approaches form Paleochora to the west, rounding the corner to reveal one of the most awe-inspiring sights in Greece.
The pink sand beach at Elafonissi is one of the best natural landmarks in Greece, a slice of paradise surrounded by pristine turquoise water, candy-coated with pink sand made up from fragments of millions of shells. Elafonissi beach has a shallow lagoon on one side and the Mediterranean Sea on the other, and it’s an easy walk across the sand to Elafonissi island, which has even more beaches, considerably more secluded that the main beach. Elafonissi is remote, in the south-western corner of Crete, so by far the easiest way to reach it is on a day tour from Chania, Rethymno or other locations along the route there.
Balos is one of the best beaches in Crete, and one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe. It’s hidden away in the remote north-west corner of Crete, with mountains on one side and a lagoon and headland on the other. It’s great for families, with the shallow water of the lagoon ideal for paddling. The vast majority of visitors to Balos Beach arrive by ferry from nearby Kissamos, and you normally get to visit gorgeous Gramvousa beach on the way. The best time to visit is early (May) or late (October) in the season, when the beach and ferry are much less crowded.
Chania Lighthouse guards the entrance to the ancient harbour of Chania Old Town, and has become one of the symbols of this stunning ancient city. It was originally built by the Venetians in the 16th century, and remodelled by Egyptians loyal to the occupying Ottoman Empire between 1832-1834 – it was turned into a minaret for some years. You can’t climb the lighthouse, but it is absolutely worth the walk along the breakwater to take in the view back the city with the awesome White Mountains looming to the south.
See Also: Things To Do In Chania, Crete
Arkadi Monastery is of enormous significance to Cretans and all other Greeks, as it’s the site of a tragic last stand against overwhelming numbers and odds against the occupying Ottoman forces during the 1866 Cretan Revolt.
Rather than face the ignominy of defeat and continued subjugation, the 259 soldiers and around 70 women and children inside the fortified monastery blew themselves up with gunpowder. News of the tragedy was quickly disseminated worldwide by the recently invented telegraph. The church in the monastery dates from the 16th century, built in Venetian style from local golden honey-coloured stone.
See Also: Arkadi Monastery Crete Guide
Georgioupolis Chapel In The Sea
Georgioupolis is home to the longest beach in Crete, a 10 km (6 mile) sweep of golden sand close to the road between Chania and Rethymno. It’s a terrific beach, split into several sections by name, and at the Georgioupolis (western) end you could be forgiven for thinking there’s a small white church floating on the water.
The simple white chapel was built by a sailor and dedicated to Agios Nikolaos (St Nicholas), and can be reached along a rocky causeway. Don’t walk out to it if the sea is rough.
See Also: Georgioupolis Crete Guide
Famous Landmarks In Greece – Athens
The Parthenon, the vast temple dedicated to the city’s patron goddess Athena, is probably the most famous landmark in Greece. Indeed it transcends this – it’s also a symbol of Western civilization and democracy, which originated in Ancient Greece. It was built by the Athenian leader Pericles in the 5th century BC and – with the help of ongoing restoration – remain exceptionally well-preserved.
It was severely damaged in 1687 when it was used as an ammunition dump and garrison by the Ottoman Turks, and suffered a direct hit from Venetian mortar shell, destroying the roof and most of the walls. It belongs on any European bucket list, one of the greatest landmarks in the world.
Acropolis of Athens
The Acropolis – which means ‘top of the city’ – is the rocky hill above Athens on which the Parthenon and several other ancient Athenian buildings, including the Propylaea monumental gateway, the Erechtheion, a temple dedicated to Athena and Poseidon, and the Temple of Athena Nike.
The Erechtheion is the most impressive of these, with its magnificent Porch of the Caryatids (also called the Porch of the Maidens), one of the most famous monuments in Greece, a small side section of the building where six exquisitely carved figures are used as pillars to support the roof.
Panathenaic Stadium Athens
The Panathenaic Stadium was originally built in the 4th century BC and rebuilt entirely in marble by Herodes Atticus in the 2nd century AD, when it held 50,000 spectators. One of the most famous landmarks of Athens, it was built to host the Panathenaic Games, which were held every four years. It had fallen into ruin by the 5th century AD, and it wasn’t until the 19th century and Greek independence that it was finally excavated. It was restored and hosted the opening and closing ceremonies of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. It was subsequently used again during the 2004 Athens Olympics.
Greek Parliament, Syntagma Square
Modern Greek democracy is enacted at the Hellenic Parliament Building on Syntagma Square. Another of the most famous Athens landmarks, it was originally built in 1843 as a royal palace, and it remained thus until the abolition of the Greek monarchy in 1924. In 1929 it was chosen as the new site for the Hellenic Parliament.
It overlooks Syntagma Square, a popular gathering place named after the first Greek Constitution which was granted by King Otto in 1843. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, on the side of the Palace facing the Square, is protected by the goose-stepping Presidential Guard, one of the most popular Athens sights with the touris
Famous Landmarks In Greece – Mainland Greece
Temple of Apollo, Delphi
The Temple of Apollo at Delphi was one of the most famous temples in Greece in Classical times, as it was the home of the Oracle of Delphi. The Oracle was widely consulted on matters of great importance, from state policies to whether or not a course of action might offend certain gods.
Very little is known about the Oracle, also known as the Pythia or High Priestess of the Temple of Apollo, but the oracle was believed to have been consulted as late as the 4th century AD. The ruins of the Temple of Apollo, surrounded by dramatic mountains, is one of the most famous landmarks in Ancient Greece.
Monasteries of Meteora
The Meteora monasteries are among the most famous landmarks of Greece. They are an extraordinary sight, a series of Orthodox monasteries built on vertical outcrops of rock in a valley in Thessaly, in the west of Greece. It’s believed that the Meteora monastic community dates back to the late 11th or early 12th century. For centuries, the only way to reach them was via rope ladders or being hauled up in a net. Access has now improved with flight of stone steps cut into the pillars of rock.
Vikos Gorge, Epirus
The Vikos Gorge in the north-western Epirus region is one of the most beautiful landscapes in Europe, and one of the deepest gorges in the world. The gorge is 12 miles (20 km) long, and at their highest point the walls reach a remarkable height of 490 metres. Several rivers flow into the gorge, combining to create the Voidomatis river. The best view of the Vikos Gorge is from Papigo, and there’s another excellent viewpoint at Oxia.
Mount Olympus isn’t just a mountain, it’s a range of peaks culminating in the 2,917 metre high Mytikas. It has always held a great mystique as it was believed to be the home of the Twelve Olympian Greek Gods. The second highest peak, Stefani, is also called the Throne of Zeus, the king of the gods and god of the sky and thunder. The Mount Olympus massif is about 100 km (60 miles) south-west of Thessaloniki, and takes two days to reach the summit of Mytikas.
Battle of Thermopylae Site and Leonidas Statue
The Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC is one of the most famous events in ancient Greek history, and the site of the battle is one of the most famous places in Greece. The landscape of the site has changed enormously in the ensuing 2,500 years with the sea much further away from the mountain due to sedimental build-up than in 480 BC.
At the time it was a narrow coastal pass with mountains on one side and the sea on the other. A small Greek force of a few thousand soldiers, led by King Leonidas and around 300 Spartans, held out against overwhelming odds for two days against the vast invading Persian forces, but were betrayed by a local shepherd who led them over a mountain track, leading to a rout of the Greek force.
The most prominent monument on the site is that of the statue of King Leonidas holding a spear, and there is also a memorial to the 700 soldiers of Thespiae who also perished on the battlefield.
Thessaloniki Seafront and White Tower
Thessaloniki -also occasionally called Salonica – is Greece’s second city, situated on the north coast of the country, on a fine natural harbour just o the north of the Chalkidiki peninsula. The White Tower, a fortified 15th century tower built by the Ottoman Turks, is the city’s most famous landmark, and guards the eastern side of the harbour. This is a great area to stroll at sunset, with the iconic Umbrellas sculpture by Zongolopoulos a five-minute stroll along the promenade from there
One of few modern Greece landmarks in this article, the 4-mile (6 km) long Corinth Canal was built in the late 19th century to connect the Ionian Sea with the Saronic Gulf, cutting out the need to sail around the Peloponnese. Visually it’s quite an impressive feat, a long narrow channel cut through the rock. However it’s something of a white elephant, and never generated the income that was hoped for as it’s nowhere near wide enough for commercial shipping, and it’s prone to landslides. At least it’s a popular tourist attraction!
Famous Landmarks In Greece – Other Greek Islands
St Spyridon Church Corfu Town
St Spyridon’s Church, part of the Kerkyra Old Town UNESCO World Heritage Site, has the tallest belltower in the Ionian Islands, the distinctive yellow and red tower is one of the most recognizable Corfu landmarks. The church was built to house the relics of St Spyridon (sometimes spelt Spiridon), a 4th century AD bishop from Cyprus whose relics were brought from Constantinople when it fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. Corfu Old Town is one of the most beautiful cities in Greece, and a guided walking tour is a great way to experience and appreciate it.
Cape Drastis Corfu
Cape Drastis is a wondrous headland on the north Corfu coast, a couple of miles west of the resort of Sidari. This section of coast has been eroded into all kinds of unusual shapes by the wind and Ionian Sea. The near-white cliffs make a striking sight in contrast with the surrounding clear turquoise seawater, and the outcrops of rock around the Cape have been sculpted by nature to resemble – for me – a family of dragons basking in the sea. The coast around nearby Sidari is similarly impressive, especially the rocky inlet and tiny beach known as the Canal d’Amour – the Canal of Love.
Sarakiniko Beach, Milos
Sarakiniko beach is one of the most famous beaches in Greece, quite a feat but no great surprise when you first see it. It’s as if someone dug up a chunk of the moon and left it in the turquoise water of the Aegean Sea. It’s a remarkable place, with white volcanic rock fashioned into undulating wave-like shapes, with sea arches, caves and sea stacks completing the almost other-worldly scene. In the summer peak season up to five buses make the short journey from Adamas, the island’s main transport hub.
The windmills of Mykonos are the first thing you see as you approach the island on the ferry. Seven whitewashed windmills – powered by the northern meltemi winds – line the hillside above Mykonos village (also known as Chora). The oldest of them were built by the Venetians in the 16th century, and used to grind wheat. The seven mills above Chora are no longer in use, but one is open as a small museum.
The Portara, a single square arch on a headland overlooking the port of Naxos, is all that remains – and quite possibly all that was ever completed – of a Temple, possibly dedicated to Apollo – in the 6th century BC. Nonetheless, it’s still one of the great landmarks of Ancient Greece, and visitors often climb the hill to see it at sunset, the sky glowing red behind the hills of neighbouring Paros. The view back down the causeway is also pretty magnificent.
The island of Tinos, located in the northern Cyclades to the north-west of the more famous Mykonos, is one of the most fertile island in Greece – largely because of pigeon poop. It is collected in several hundred intricately designed, fortress-like dovecotes around the island. They were originally built by Venetian noblemen who bred the pigeons for their meat, and after they left the practice continued. Many are disused but well-preserved – the best places to see them are around Komi and Kardiani in the centre of the island.
Officially known as the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes, this impressive fortress was built on the possible site of the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It was first built in the Byzantine period (8th century AD), then rebuilt in its present Gothic style (very rare in Greece) in the 14th century. It was the headquarters of the Knights Hospitaller, a military Order also known as the Order of St John or the Knights of Malta.