Ruins of the ancient site of Olympia, specifically the Philippeion in the Altis of Olympia, which was an Ionic circular memorial of ivory and gold. The Olympic games originate from there.

©f8grapher/Getty Images

Olympia Archaeological Museum

Top choice in Peloponnese

This superb museum features finds from the adjacent archaeological site of Olympia. Visiting it in conjunction with the ruins helps to put the ancient site into perspective. The museum's exhibits span the Olympic sanctuary's past, from the prehistoric to the Roman periods. Artefacts include increasingly sophisticated ceramics, votive offerings to Zeus and Hera, sacrificial cauldron adornments and statuary from the Temple of Hera.

The main hall dramatically displays the biggest highlight: reassembled pediments and metopes from the Temple of Zeus.

The quality of finds is remarkable, with far more bronze artefacts recovered than at other ancient sites. Numerous votive offerings – ceramic and bronze animals, cauldrons, statues – display remarkable craftsmanship, while the terracotta decoration that survives from the various treasury buildings is a reminder that most of the buildings would have been quite brightly coloured.

The eastern pediment of the Temple of Zeus depicts the chariot race between Pelops and Oinomaos, while the western pediment shows the fight between the centaurs and Lapiths at the wedding feast of Pirithous (the centaurs got drunk and tried to abduct the women; the story can be seen as an allegory for Classical Greek values and victories over 'barbarians'). The metopes depict the Twelve Labours of Hercules; half the fun is trying to work out which is which from the remains alone.

Another highlight, in a room of its own, is the majestic 4th-century Parian marble statue of Hermes carrying baby Dionysus, carved by Praxiteles. The imposing Nike by Paionios (around 420 BC) is another stunner.

Information panels are in Greek, English, French and German.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Peloponnese attractions

1. Kotsanas Museum

0.26 MILES

This extraordinary private collection gets into the literal nuts and bolts behind the technological achievements of the Ancient Greeks. Marvel at the…

3. Ancient Olympia

0.31 MILES

This is where the Olympic Games took place every four years for over 1100 years, until their abolition by Emperor Theodosius I in AD 393. The Olympic…

4. Mercouri Estate

17.68 MILES

This handsome estate, bristling with peacocks, produces a range of wines, including its delicious flagship red Domaine Mercouri. Unless you book a visit…

5. Nikolopoulos Andritsena Library

18.88 MILES

In 1838 Konstantinos Nikopoulos, a composer, bibliophile and member of the movement looking to liberate Greece from the Turks, donated 4000 rare books to…

6. Temple of Epicurean Apollo

20.94 MILES

Situated on a wild, isolated spot overlooking rugged mountains and hills, this World Heritage–listed temple is one of Greece’s most atmospheric…

7. Open Air Water-Power Museum

23.29 MILES

This excellent little museum is an entertaining romp through the region’s pre-industrial past. It occupies a complex 1.6km south of town (signposted),…

8. Filosofou Monasteries

23.64 MILES

This pair of monasteries is perched on the west side of the Lousios Gorge. The 'new' monastery dates from the 17th century and its atmospheric, incense…