Travelers to Greece have always been spoiled for choice. This is a land where ancient sites, old Medieval and Venetian towns, and religious Byzantine treasures blend gloriously with contemporary city life. World-class beaches, stylishly relaxing hidden gems, and unique opportunities for leisure all make anyone’s journey, whatever they’re after, the experience of a lifetime... until their next visit, of course.

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In Athens, the Theater Of Herodes Atticus sits below the Acropolis, showing off two important eras in Greek history. ©Scott E Barbour/Getty Images

History at every turn

Athens, Greece’s capital, is home to a few of the world’s finest museums, housing the city’s rich and eventful past from prehistoric to modern times. Outside the museums, history is omnipresent and casts its shadow across the city, from the Acropolis rock and its surrounding area to ancient ruins emerging in every neighborhood - even in metro stations.

The whole country’s rich heritage guarantees that a visitor is a short way from a piece of palpable history anywhere in Greece. Whether it’s sun-bleached antiquities, awe-inspiring ancient theatres, excavation sites in progress, or remains of beautiful, centuries-old churches, the feeling of walking on the very soil where events that shaped humanity took place over the millennia is intense and all-pervading.

Learn about King Agamemnon in Mycenae, feel the history of the Olympic Games in Olympia, marvel at the center of Minoan civilization in Knossos, stand at the core of the Ancient Greek world in Delphi, explore the cradle of the Macedonian empire in Vergina, or journey to the sacred museum-island of Delos. These are all unforgettable experiences that make for incredible memories.

Stylish strolls and unwinding in Syros, Hydra, and Spetses

Ermoupoli, the capital of the island of Syros and the Cyclades island group, is a charming town built on two hills, topped with a Catholic and an Orthodox church each. A fusion of beautiful neoclassical, western, and Cycladic architecture highlights the town’s thriving and prosperous past. The magnificent central square features an impressive neoclassical town hall, the graceful Apollon Theatre (a miniature of the Teatro alla Scala in Milan), and elegant mansions and marble statues, all of which add to the cosmopolitan air of the town and provide a perfect setting for an exceptional Cycladic stay.

Hydra is a gorgeous car-and-bike-free island just an hour and a half from Piraeus in the Argosaronic Gulf. It’s notable for its unique architecture, thanks to strict building restrictions that have ensured that the town remains one of the best-preserved and prettiest in the country. Admire the stone mansions that once belonged to historic naval families (some of them have even been turned into museums), then climb the labyrinthine cobblestone paths leading up the imposing hills above the little harbor to view the permanently docked sailboats and throngs of mules patiently waiting to fulfill the transportation needs of the island. Hydra boasts many views that could compose a postcard, and they all make great spots to luxuriate, indulge and rest body and mind.

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Hydra Port is the main town on the island of Hydra. ©Freeartist/Getty Images

Spetses, like Hydra, is an island in the Argosaronic Gulf. Septses is covered in shady pine trees, and many of its lovely beaches are accessible by boat. The charming town features houses with red-tile roofs and colorful flowers emerging from their courtyards. Bicycles and carriages are the primary means of transportation, which adds to the attraction of the setting. Dapia Square, the center of the island’s social life, extends along the seafront, with plenty of boutiques, inviting oceanside restaurants (some of them top-class!), and atmospheric bars to round off the night in style. 

Urban fun in Thessaloniki 

Greece’s second-largest city, Thessaloniki, provides a vibrant and laid-back atmosphere in northern Greece. The size is small enough to include visitors and make them feel comfortable and welcome, but big enough to offer them the entertainment, leisure, and pleasure of a lively metropolis.

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Ano Poli, Thessaloniki's old town neighborhood, is known for its historical architecture. ©trabantos/Shutterstock

Visitors in search of relaxation can enjoy long, refreshing walks along the vast waterfront, endless hours of alfresco coffees and cocktails, and delicious mezedes washed down with appetizing tsipouro or local wine in the dozens of lively little restaurants. These trademark pastimes for the locals are irresistible to many travelers.

After unwinding at a café, take in the rest of the city, which is bustling with students and young, fashionable crowds. The nightlife, whether outdoors or in one of the scores of little bars throbbing with life, can lure even the most modest party-goers into the late hours of the night.

A few other landmarks in Thessaloniki include the buzzing Modiano market, majestic Aristotelous Square, the famed recognized White Tower, and the city’s various districts, each full of character and charm. The shopping is abundant, history emerges around every corner of the city, and the stunning beaches of Halkidiki are only a short drive down the road, to boot. 

Romantic time-travel in the old towns of Corfu and Rhodes

Greek old towns combine medieval grandiosity, neoclassical allure, Venetian grace, and Ottoman flourishes, preserving the patina of time and many cultural influences.

Corfu’s old town, with its imposing fortresses and network of tapered alleys, has a distinct Venetian flavor. Spianada Park and Liston Square are lined with romantic cafes and restaurants, and are very often filled with the melodies of a passing philharmonic orchestra – there are eighteen orchestras based on this music-loving Ionian island.

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The city of Corfu is known as a Kastropolis, or castle city, as it's home to two Medieval castles. ©Oleg Voronische/Shutterstock

In the Dodecanese islands, Rhodes boasts an old town (a UNESCO world heritage site, just like Corfu’s) that is surrounded by a wall with seven gates. The maze of narrow streets transports visitors to Medieval and Byzantine times. Though the famed Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, no longer stands here, the island’s vast Palace of the Grandmaster is one of the top sights in the Mediterranean.

Spiritual retreats in Mount Athos and Patmos

The Greek Orthodox church is interwoven with the traditions and the whole existence of the country and the nation. Although its presence can be sensed across the country, there are a few places where the magnitude of the spirituality is overwhelming. 

Mount Athos (Agion Oros) is an autonomous monastic community located on a mountain peninsula in the country’s northeast. It’s considered the second most important site after Jerusalem for the Christian Orthodox community. A visit to the beautiful area and its 20 monasteries is an unforgettable experience, regardless of the personal beliefs of the visitor. 

In the Dodecanese islands of the Aegean, Patmos, where St. John wrote the book of Revelations, has hundreds of little churches as well as a monastery in the gorgeous Hora. The low-key atmosphere of the island and the lack of mass tourism make it a perfect choice for a peaceful stay.

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