With ruins to clamber over and child-geared sights to explore, there is plenty to keep children busy in Athens. From the Acropolis to the Ancient Agora, kids can retrace ancient history. Bring a book of Greek myths to read for bedtime stories, and they will have plenty to enliven the imagination.
Athens’ shady National Gardens has a playground, duck pond and mini zoo, or look for the fountain stocked with swimming turtles in neighbouring Zappeio Gardens. You can escape the heat and entertain the kids with a virtual-reality tour of Ancient Greece at the Hellenic Cosmos or explore the universe at the impressive Planetarium. At the War Museum, kids can climb into the cockpit of a WWII plane and check out other aircraft in the courtyard.
The Museum of Greek Children’s Art has a room set aside where children can let loose their creative energy and learn about Ancient Greece. At the Hellenic Children’s Museum kids can join Greek cooking and craft classes. A bit like a play centre, it has a games room and a number of exhibits for children to explore.
Further afield on the outskirts of the city, the enormous Allou Fun Park & Kidom (allou.gr) is Athens’ biggest amusement-park complex. Attica Zoological Park (atticapark.com) has an expanding collection of big cats, birds, reptiles and other animals, including a monkey forest and Cheetahland.
The sugar-cube island villages, glorious beaches and speedy catamarans linking the Cyclades daily make this island group ideal for families. In fact, when you think ‘Greek island holiday’ you’re probably imagining the iconic Cyclades. Many of the islands also offer outdoor activities and beach-side gear rental. For budding teenage kitesurfers, Paros has some world-class sandy beaches with ideal conditions for kitesurfing. Wee coastal explorers will enjoy Milos with its multihued volcanic beaches. Naxos offers both beach life and striking temples, plus interior mountains so you can mix water play with relaxed local culture. You can easily set up on one island for your whole holiday, or jump between several.
From the ancient theatre at Epidavros where you can hear a pin drop a hundred meters away, to Ancient Olympia, the site of the original Olympic Games, the Peloponnese is a playground of splendid kid-friendly historical sites. It also has the wonderful, walkable Venetian city of Nafplio. You could easily spend your whole holiday criss-crossing the villages and ruins of the Peloponnese, where the way of life remains refreshingly non-touristy.
You can let the kids loose on Crete’s long and sandy beaches, particularly on the north coast, or the swirling pink sands of Elafonisi and Falasarna, on the west coast. The island is also ideal for active family holidays, offering everything from hikes on short, easier sections of gorges like Zakros, boat trips to deserted beaches along Hania’s south coast, or exploring caves such as the Dikteon Cave on the Lasithi Plateau.
Iraklio has the best museums on the island, with sections that will fascinate children of all ages. A favourite is the Natural History Museum, where the Discovery Centre is aimed entirely at kids and is crammed with interactive features. At the absorbing Cretaquarium (cretaquarium.gr) kids love the shark tank, the jellyfish tank and the hands-on pool. They’ll also enjoy the Water City (watercity.gr) fun park at Anapoli, southeast of Iraklio.
In Rethymno children can recreate history at the Venetian fortress and romp along the lovely promenade. Hania charms youngsters with its quaint old town and buzzing market streets, and is the place to join the evening parade of families along the Venetian harbour. Crete is also perfect for kids because you can explore from a single base, without the need to pack up and move around.
The mainland offers slightly lower summer temperatures, and Halkidiki’s beaches and Ottoman-influenced patisseries will keep the kids happy. In the northwest, laid-back Ioannina makes a great base with its picturesque central lake, or explore into the mountain villages of the Zagorohoria. Parga is popular with families, too.
Acropolis Athens’ iconic hilltop ruin is perfect to explore early in the day. Its associated Acropolis Museum also has a movie explaining the site’s history. From there you can wander central Athens’ bustling shopping streets and surrounding ancient sights.
Knossos Young imaginations will go into overdrive when let loose on these Cretan ruins, thought to top a mythic labyrinth. Be sure to pair it with a visit to the excellent Iraklio Archaeological Museum, where all the treasures are housed.
Hydra If time is short and you’d like to take the kids to just one island, go to this small, car-less island in the Saronic Gulf, just an hour and 40 minutes from Athens. Taxi boats zip between beaches, and though the coast is stony rather than sandy, kids and parents alike thrive in this environment where instead of dodging cars and scooters, you stroll the petite waterfront and watch donkeys carrying their loads.
Beach time Jump waves, build sandcastles and snorkel. Older kids can join the windsurfers in Lefkada or kiteboarders in Paros. Alternatively, the kids can splash around water parks at some of the larger and more popular locations such as Rhodes, Crete and Athens.
Boat trips Zip over the sea in a catamaran, bob up and down in a fishing boat or sail to a secluded bay on a day trip. Or pick a kayak to paddle alongside dolphins and visit pirate coves in places like Kefallonia.
Cycling Use pedal-power along the flat, bike-friendly roads of islands such as Kos.
Evening promenade On hot summer nights you’ll find Greek life is in the squares and harbours. Have your kids take afternoon naps (like the Greeks), so they can join the nighttime fun with you.