No other country in the world has an abundance and wealth of ancient sites as Greece. It seems that every island, town or village in Greece has some ancient site or historical and mythological connection. Just driving along the roads you can't help but notice the brown road signs that tell that there is an ancient temple or byzantine monastery so many km up a side road. To be fair some of these sites are disappointing, you walk 2 miles along a dirt track to see a couple of rocks in a field that is supposed to be an ancient Roman bath, but on whole most of the sites are very good and some are just amazing.
The most famous ancient sites of Greece has to be on the Acropolis in Athens, such buildings as the iconic Parthenon that has influenced architecture up until present times. Other famous buildings sit in the shadow of the Parthenon on the Acropolis such as the Erechtheum and Propylaia which are master pieces in their own right.
It is always worth looking around the Acropolis museum just below the Acropolis itself, as this puts flesh on the bones of the Acropolis monuments. This is sound advice when visiting any of the archaeological sites around Greece. National Archaeological Museum in Athens is a must as it has one of the best collections in the world has some of the best finds from all the major archaeological sites in Greece.
Other major sites in Athens are the Ancient Agora which was the centre of ancient Athenian life. The site is very large and very pleasant to stroll around as it is one of the few green spaces in central Athens. Most of the finds from the Ancient Agora are kept in the Stoa of Atalos in the site. Further up from the Ancient Agora is the Roman Agora a lot smaller than its Greek counterpart but does have some very interesting monuments like the tower of the winds.
At the other side of Plaka is the Temple of Zeus and Hadrian's Arch which was constructed by the Romans, impressive just for its sheer size.
The rich history of Greece and its many owners have all left their marks on the country and its many archaeological sites, some sites like the Acropolis have had lots of different civilizations and invaders all add, build or destroy parts of it. The Acropolis we see today is what remains from classical Greece, all the other layers of buildings from the Romans, Franks, Turks have all been stripped away.
There are so many ancient sites in Greece that it is impossible to list and talk about all of them, so I will talk about the major ones. For anyone who is short for time and wants get the most out of their visit to Greece visit the major 5 ancient sites on mainland Greece, all have day trips from Athens - Acropolis, Delphi, Olympia, Epidaurus and Mycenae.
The Acropolis of Athens has to be the number 1 site to visit in Greece we have talked about the Acropolis earlier so we won't dwell on it to long, but for historical importance, grandeur and value for money then the Acropolis is certainly up there. The ticket you buy for the entrance to Acropolis also gives you access to other sites in Athens like the Ancient Agora, the Roman Agora, the Keramiekos, Temple of Zeus and the Acropolis museum - that's value for money.
The ancient religious sanctuary of Delphi is in central Greece on the slopes of mount Parnassus and has probably the most beautiful setting of any of the sites in Greece. Delphi is famous for its oracle and was the ancient Greeks most important religious site. There are lots of day trips from Athens to Delphi, which is a very large and impressive site with lots of treasuries along the sacred way, a theatre, stadium, gymnasium and many other remarkable monuments. Delphi also has its own on site museum.
Olympia is in the western Peloponnese is where the first Olympic games took place in 776 BC. The large site is impressive it sits between a wooded hill and 2 rivers surrounded by the beautiful Peloponnesian countryside. There is plenty to see, temples, monuments and you can even run on the very same track that the ancient Athletes once ran. You can get day trips from Athens to Olympia and from other destinations such as Zakynthos which the island just opposite Olympia.
Epidaurus is in the north East of the Peloponnese and is home to the best preserved theatre of ancient times with such perfect acoustics it can still be used today without any kind of amplifiers. The theatre is 114m (374ft) across and has 35 rows of seats divided into 34 blocks by stairs and walkways, for years it was buried under a hill unknown until the 19th century. Day trips from Athens and other destinations are available.
Other ancient Greek sites worth having a look at are Vergina in Macedonia which was Alexander the great's capital, sounion in Attica (south of Athens), Nemea in the Peloponnese ,the Acropolis of Lindos in Rhodes and Dodoni in Epirus near Ioaninna.
Knossos is on the island of Crete about 5 kilometres from Iraklion and was the major city of the Minoans from the early Bronze age. It was the home of the famous minotaur from mythology and King Minos and believed to be just that, a myth, until the town was excavated by Sir Arthur Evans in the 19th century. Knossos is a one of kind and has some amazing sights including brightly coloured frescoes, it is a must place to visit if you are in Crete.
Akrotiri is an ancient Minoan site on the island of Santorini, it was destroyed by a volcano in about 1600 BC. The volcanic ash covered the site, just like Pompei in Italy, and preserved it so that now you can actually walk around the streets of Akrotiri. There were many frescoes and artefacts found at Akrotiri and can be seen at the Prehistoric museum in Santorini and the National archaeological museum in Athens.
Mycenae in the north west Peloponnese is from the bronze age Mycenaen period (circa 1400 BC), from where we get all the Homeric heroes and stories from, such as Agamemmnon the King of Mycenae. The site was excavated my Heinrich Schliemann in the late 19th century.
Mycenae is most famous for the Lion gate entrance which has an emblem of 2 lions facing each other above the gate. in and around Mycenae there are the Tholos tombs which are huge dome like building buried under hills as burial places for the nobles and royalty of Bronze age Mycenae.
There are many day trips arranged from Athens to visit Mycenae. Mycenae is must for anyone interested in Greek history.
The Ancient city of Corinth was rebuilt by the Romans after they destroyed the city during a rebellion and Corinth became the Roman capital of Greece. The site is few kilometres from modern Corinth and is a fine example of Roman architecture. Looming over Corinth is Acrocorinth which was the original Acropolis of Corinth since then it has been added onto by the Romans, Franks, Venetians and Turks.
Other interesting Roman sites in Greece are the Temple of Zeus and the Odeon of Herodus Atticus both in Athens.
The Venetians were in Greece for hundreds of years and have left forts, castles, towers from the Ionian islands through the Peloponnese and all over Crete and the Cyclades islands. The best site to see this is Corfu town. Corfu town has 2 huge Venetian fortresses, the old and new, but it is the town itself that is so special, walking through the narrow maze like streets between the the very Italian like buildings you could easily imagine you were in Venice - minus the canals of course.
The beautiful town of Nafplio in Argoliod in the Peloponnese was the first capital of modern Greece and like Corfu town is very much influenced by the Venetians, even having an area the town called the Venetian quarter. The two fortresses in Nafplio are Bourtz an island in the bay and the Palamidi which is above the town and is made up of 7 forts with a connecting curtain wall, check out the Lion of St Marks relief on the main gate as you enter the Andrea fort.
Meteora is a UNESCO listed complex of Monasteries built on huge sandstone pillars in the region of Thessalia near the small town of Kalambaka. Meteora literally means suspended in the air in Greek and are some of the most amazing sights you will see, out of the many monasteries that were once all over these sandstone pillars only 6 survive.