Apart from mainland Greece, hundreds of islands are spread throughout the Ionian and Aegean seas. Some visitors flock to the country to enjoy the long hot summer days relaxing on the beach and emerald-blue crystal clear waters. Others are keen to discover the history of the country. Greece is thought to be the birthplace of Western civilisation and there are many archaeological sites to discover.
Even if you are a beach lover, you should visit one or two of Greece’s cities. Many cities have both an old and a new town, giving you an insight into the past and the present. The old towns offer a taste of the past, with windy cobbled streets, traditional tavernas and delightful shops selling handmade goods. You will find nightlife, modern shops and fine dining in the new town. And if you are a history buff, you’ll love discovering archaeological sites inside or within driving distance of the cities. There are museums and art galleries aplenty in most cities in Greece, and the classical structures will envelop you in the spirit of the ancient Greeks.
Knowing where to start your journey can be daunting if you have never been to Greece. You would need to come back time and time again to experience just a fraction of the delights Greece has to offer. So grab a cup of tea and find out which cities in Greece are worth considering when planning your trip.
Cities in Greece
- Athens Acropolis and 6 Archaeological Sites Combo Ticket – get your fill of historical sites with one ticket and save $$.
- Thessaloniki Hop on Hop Off Bus Tour – explore in your own time.
- Corfu Hop Off on Hop Off-City Sightseeing Bus Tour – the best way to see the sights of Corfu.
20 Best Cities In Greece To Visit
Start with Athens, the capital city of Greece, which is on the mainland in the south of the country and a bustling city that merges the past with the present.
Towering over the city is the Acropolis, an ancient citadel built around 525 BC.
It houses the Parthenon, a temple dedicated to the mythological goddess Athena.
The Acropolis is a symbol of the beginning of Western civilisation and is a must-visit if you are in Athens.
Visit the Acropolis Museum to gain an insight into what life was like in Athens thousands of years ago. This combo ticket offers entrance to the Acropolis and six other archaeological sites.
The view from the Acropolis towards Athens and the mountains is stunning and if you have the chance, get there at sunset as it is spectacular.
If you are interested in history, there are plenty of other museums in Athens.
If time is limited, choose the Archaeological Museum, Greece’s largest museum.
It houses artefacts from all over Greece going back thousands of years. It shows the country’s historical, cultural and artistic qualities and hosts permanent and temporary exhibitions.
If you are a foodie, you will be in your element and will find both fine dining and traditional tavernas, cafes, bars, and nightclubs to whet your appetite.
The city doesn’t sleep, so you won’t be disappointed if you love the nightlife.
Shopaholics will love Kolonaki for high-end fashion. However, you will also find many traditional shops selling exotic spirits, handmade jewellery, and traditional crafts in other parts of the city.
For beach life, the Athenian riviera is only 16 km (9.9 miles) away.
The Acropolis is at Dionysiou Areopagitou, Athens 11851. The Archaeological Museum is at 1 Tositsa, Athens 10682
2 – Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki is the second-largest city in Greece.
It is in Macedonia and considered the cultural capital of Greece and the party city.
It has a vibrant nightlife that lasts all night, even out of season.
The city was founded 3000 years ago, although most of the ruins you will see stretch back to the 4th century AD onwards.
Some Roman ruins, Ottoman buildings and Byzantine churches are filled with beautiful frescoes.
It is worth climbing the Byzantine wall surrounding the city at sunset as you will be rewarded with a magnificent array of colours in the sky and a view of the whole city.
The waterfront has been revamped and is worth walking along or taking advantage of the plush bars and cafes.
The highlight of the waterfront is the 15th-century White Tower which has a lovely view out to sea.
If you enjoy shopping, head to Egnatia Street, where famous retailers and designers are based.
The Arch of Galerius, a spectacular 4th-century AD monument, overlooks the street.
Thessaloniki is a cosmopolitan city with many musicians, artists, poets, and philosophers who have made it their home.
With a large student body, it has become multicultural, with young people from all over the world heading to the city,
If you want a day to relax away from the hectic atmosphere, head to one of the beaches of Peraia. A ticket on the hop-on hop-off bus will get you to most places.
Piraeus may not be thought of as one of the best cities in Greece for a vacation but most travellers use the port to get a ferry to the islands of the Saronic Gulf and the Cyclades.
However, the city begs to deceive.
The port areas of MIkrolimaria and Marina Zeas are elegant and sophisticated and ideal places to enjoy cocktails in the evening with a panoramic view out to sea.
Enjoy the tastiest seafood here at one of the traditional tavernas with fish caught that day.
Because most travellers just pass through, you will experience authentic Greek life.
Like most cities in Greece, there is deep history here.
You will see the remains of the stone gates and walls built in 493 BC to protect the city against enemies that stretch for 2.5 km (1.5 miles) around the Piraeus Peninsula.
It’s worth visiting the Archaeological Museum and Hellenic Maritime Museum to view artefacts from Greece’s past.
If you enjoy shopping for local products, there is a flea market where you can haggle for local products.
The Archaeological Museum is at 31 Trikoupi Charilaou, Piraeus 18536. The Hellenic Maritime Museum is at Akti Themistokleous, Piraeus 18536. From Athens, you can explore Piraeus with a ticket on the hop-on hop-off bus.
4 – Kalambaka
You will be blown away when you arrive at Kalambaka in the central Greece region of Thessaly.
The setting is spectacular.
The city is at the bottom of giant rocks known as the Meteora and right at the top of these rocks are monasteries which you can visit.
Some are as old as 600 years.
You will need to devote a day touring these monasteries and there are tours from Athens by train and by bus.
While many travellers will only visit Kalambaka for the monasteries, the city has attractions worth investigating.
The Museum of Hellenic Culture displays centuries-old books such as a 1567 edition of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey.
For something different, go to the Museum of History and Mushrooms.
I don’t know of a museum anywhere else that teaches you so much about mushrooms.
At the highest point in Kalambaka, you will find the Church of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary, which houses spectacular 14th-century Byzantine frescoes.
Travel to the Theopetra Cave 3 km (2 miles) from Kalambaka if you have time, where five human skeletons dating back to the Palaeolithic Period were discovered.
The bones date the cave from 14990 to 14060 BC, which is amazing.
The Museum of Hellenic Culture is at Chatzipetrou, Kalambaka 42200. The Museum of History and Mushrooms is at 20 Pindou, Kalambaka 42200.
5 – Kalamata
Kalamata is in southern Greece and is the second-most populous city in the Peloponnese.
You may have heard the name Kalamata as it is famous worldwide for producing olives. You can explore the olive oil route while in the region.
Close to the city is the 13th-century fort which survived the 1986 earthquake which destroyed most of Kalamata.
At the base of the fort lies an old town with cobbled streets and churches dating back to between the 13th and 18th centuries.
There are a couple of museums in town worth visiting, such as the Archaeological Museum, which is child-friendly and the exhibits date back to the Bronze Age and the Byzantine Period.
There’s also a museum that exhibits folk dresses from the 18th to 20th centuries that are immaculate and are displayed in beautifully lit exhibits.
The city has a long beach where you can eat, drink, shop and dance the night away.
The Archaeological Museum is at Benaki & Ag. Ioannou, Benaki, Kalamata 24100. The Folk Museum is at 64 Stadiou. Kalamata 24100.
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6 – Kavala
Kavala is in northern Greece and is the main seaport in eastern Macedonia.
From here, you can hop on a ferry to the islands of the Aegean Sea, such as Lemnos, Mykonos and Lesvos.
Kavala is an attractive city and well worth a visit for its charming old town, which has narrow streets, Ottoman architecture and traditional tavernas.
It is centred around the Acropolis of Kavala, built in the 15th century on the ruins of the Byzantine Acropolis, which was destroyed in 1391.
You can go inside the fortress and get a spectacular view of the city of Kavala from the top.
The Archaeological Museum of Kavala is one of the most important museums in Greece and artefacts go back as far as the Neolithic Period, around 10,000 BC.
If you want fine dining, cocktail bars and high-end shopping, head to the new town.
The Archaeological Museum is at Agiou Pavlou, Kavala 65302
7 – Nafplio
Nafplio is by the sea and is a two-hour drive from Athens towards the country’s southwest.
It has a pretty old town with a mediaeval atmosphere. In the 19th century, it was the capital of Greece.
Above Nafplio, the fortress of Palamidi towers over the city, offering a wonderful view of the town and sea.
The two interesting museums to visit for history buffs are the Archaeological Museum and the Peloponnesian Folklore Museum Foundation.
Make sure you book a hotel in high season as the city gets busy with locals from Athens who enjoy the lovely beaches in the area, the tavernas serving excellent food, and the up-market boutiques.
The Archaeological Museum is at Syntagma Square Nafplio, Epidavrou. Nafplio 21100. The Peloponnesian Folklore Museum Foundation is at 1 Vasileos Alexandrou, Nafplio 21100.
8 – Kastoria
If you want a taste of real Greece, head to Kastoria, which isn’t frequented much by tourists.
The city is in a beautiful setting by Lake Orestiada, framed by the two mountains, Grammos and Vitsi, and a dream for photographers.
Drive, walk or cycle around the lake, and there are hiking trails in the city’s forests. You will see some spectacular mansions on the shores of the lake.
Inside the city, there are 60 Byzantine churches to discover, while just outside the city, the Panagia Monastery has unique paintings both on the outside and inside.
Dragon’s Cave is beautifully decorated by stalactites and stalagmites near the monastery.
Be prepared for high humidity and a drop in temperature.
The city is well-known for fur-making, so you will find many shops selling fur there.
9 – Ioannina
Ioannina is another city next to a lake on the western shore of Lake Pamvotis in northwestern Greece.
The lake is a photographer’s paradise at sunset.
The city is the silverwork capital of Greece, and you will find many shops selling handmade silver jewellery and bronzeware.
There is a museum dedicated to silversmithing which is well worth a visit.
When the Ottoman Empire ruled Greece, the ferocious leader Ali Pasha ruled Ioannina and the Greeks suffered greatly under his rule.
Throughout the city, you will see ruins of buildings. Visit the mosques of Fettuye and Asian Pasha to get a taste of the Ottoman Empire.
In the spring, go to Moni Filanthropinon to admire the beautiful flowers Greece is known for at this time of the year.
15 km (9.3 miles) southwest of Ioannina is the impressive archaeological site of Dodoni, which dates from 2000 BC was first dedicated to the mythological Greek god, Zeus. Join this cultural walking tour.
Sparta is where the mythological 10-year war happened between the Spartans and the Trojans.
You may remember seeing the film, ‘300’, which is based on this event. This is reason enough to visit the city, but it is so much more.
Sparta is in the southeastern area of the Peloponnese.
Around 650 BC, it became the dominant land power in ancient Greece.
Here you can visit the ruins of Ancient Sparta and the sanctuary of Artemis, the goddess of hunting.
If you’re a museum lover, you will be in your element in Sparta.
The Archaeological Museum of Sparta houses artefacts from the Neolithic Period to the late Roman age.
Greece has an excellent reputation for producing olive oil, so pay a visit to the Museum of the Olive and Greek Olive Oil.
In the Kournantarios Art Gallery, you will find paintings from famous European artists from the 16th to the 20th centuries.
The Archaeological Museum is at 71 Agiou Nikonos between Dofriou & Evangelistria, Sparta 23100. The Olive and Greek Olive Oil Museum is at Othonos ke Amalias 129, Sparta 23100. The Kourmantarios Art Gallery is at 123 Palaiologou, Sparta 23100. This private walking tour of Sparta is a good way to get started.
In the centre of mainland Greece, Volos is one of the loveliest cities in Greece.
Take advantage of visiting the seafront, where many friendly tavernas serve fresh fish, coffee shops, and tsipouradiko, where you can try the Greek ‘fire water’, tsipouro, which is said to cure all ills.
It is a spirit made from grapes, and if you order a carafe, it will probably come with a small meze plate.
The Greeks believe that you shouldn’t drink alcohol without something to eat.
There is plenty of street food in Volos, which is slightly unusual for Greece, such as peinrilli, a type of stuffed pizza.
At night, head for the piazza surrounding Agios Nikolaos Church, where you will find plenty of chic cocktail bars.
The piazza often buzzes with a trendy party crowd.
If you enjoy beach life, there are some pristine beaches in Volos.
Volos has a port, and from here, the ferries go to the Sporades islands of Skiathos, Skopelos and Alonissos. You can also try this full-day sailboat experience.
12 – Nafpaktos
If you like to discover places off the beaten track, with few tourists, go to Nafpaktos and experience authentic Greek life.
Have a coffee in a kafenio and watch the locals play backgammon, the national game of Greece.
Nafpaktos is in western Greece and is a beautiful mediaeval town.
It was ruled at different times by the Venetians and the Ottoman Empire, and you will see architecture representing both eras.
There is a breathtaking Venetian castle with a small fortified harbour worth visiting for the fantastic views of the city and the Bay of Patras.
There are two Blue Flag beaches close to the port, where you will be assured of cleanliness and plenty of fish taverns close to the beaches so you can sample the day’s fresh catch.
13 – Patras
Patras is the third-largest city in Greece and is a port on the western coast with ferries to the Ionian islands and Italy.
It is a lively city, and because there is a university, you will see many young people in the cafes and bars.
If you are in Patras on the Sunday before Greek Orthodox Lent, you can watch the carnival, which is the best in Greece.
An incredible costume parade travels through the city, inviting onlookers to dance and participate.
Most Greek children dress up, even if they’re not in the parade.
It’s a vibrant and colourful day filled with excitement and laughter you won’t forget.
There are plenty of historical sights to enjoy in Patras, such as the Mediaeval castle and the Roman Odeon, where you can catch a performance.
The Archaeological Museum has Roman mosaics and displays of partially restored Roman houses.
If you want to relax, head to the beach promenade and have a coffee or cocktail at one of the many cafes and bars while gazing at a lovely view out to sea.
The Archaeological Museum is at 38 Athinon, Patras 26441. The Roman Odeon is at Paleon Patron Germanou, Patras 26225
14 – Chania
If you visit the island of Crete, the largest of the Greek islands and the furthest south, you must go to Chania.
It is on the northwest coast and has one of Greece’s most beautiful harbours.
It was built during Venetian rule and now has many cafes, bars, tavernas, and fine-dining restaurants overlooking the sea and is popular with tourists and Greeks alike.
Behind the harbour is the old town with cobbled streets and small shops selling hand-crafted jewellery.
Close to the old town is Leather Street, where you can buy leather shoes, bags, belts and other quality leather goods at a reasonable price.
Also, in the harbour, the Mosque of the Janissaries stands out. It hasn’t been used as a mosque since 1923 and now hosts art exhibitions.
There is a new Archaeological Museum in Chania which is worth visiting, as is the Maritime Museum at the western end of the harbour.
If you want to explore the surrounding area, head to Aptera, 14.6 km (9.1 miles) west of the city, where you will find ruins of a Roman settlement built in the third century BC.
There are a couple of traditional tavernas close by which always have Greeks in them, so you know that they must be good.
Perhaps you have never thought about Greece producing wine, but they have some excellent varieties.
While in Chania, take a trip to one of the nearby wineries for a wine tasting.
The Maritime Museum is at Coast Kountourioti, Aki Kountourioti, Chania Town 73100. Outdoorsy types will love this full-day Samaria Gorge trek.
15 – Heraklion
Heraklion is the capital of Crete and is on the northeast coast.
It is a lively city with both an old and a new town.
There is plenty of nightlife here as well as cafes, bars, and restaurants. You have the choice between traditional tavernas and fine dining.
Satisfy your curiosity about the history of Crete by visiting the Archaeological Museum, which has artefacts going as far back as 5500 years.
While staying in Heraklion, you should visit the Palace of Knossos, which is 4.8 km (3 miles) from the centre of Heraklion.
It was the centre of the Minoan civilisation, which flourished from 3000 BC to 1100 BC.
The Palace shows how advanced the Minoans were as, for example, it had the first flushing toilet in history.
Unfortunately, it was destroyed in 1450 BC by an enormous volcanic eruption on the island of Santorini.
You can find frescoes from the Palace at the Archaeological Museum.
The Archaeological Museum is at 1 Xanthoulidou, Heraklion 71702
16 – Rethymno
Rethymno is Crete’s third-largest city and is in the middle of the island’s north coast.
It has a lovely harbour and a quaint old town where you can find the Archaeological Museum.
Visit the Venetian Fortezza in the centre of the old town, which was built in the 16th century and has panoramic views out to sea and the city.
Along the coast, you will find many restaurants, tavernas, cafes, and bars where you can while away the hours with a splendid view out to sea.
Take a day trip from Rethymno to the Arkadi Monastery 25 km (15.5 miles) to the island’s east.
It symbolises Cretan liberation from Turkish rule and is an important part of Cretan history.
The Archaeological Museum is at Pireas, Rethymno 74100. The Venetian Fortezza is at Makedonias 32, Rethymno 74100. For a break from history, this quad safari is a lot of fun.
17- Rhodes Town
Rhodes Town is the capital of the island of Rhodes in the Dodecanese.
The old city is beautiful and one of Europe’s best-preserved mediaeval towns.
In 1988, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.
There are strong walls surrounding the old town where you can find winding streets and many Venetian buildings.
There are plenty of shops in the old town to whet your appetite if you are a shopaholic.
Apart from souvenir shops, there are shops selling art and handmade jewellery.
Visit a bakery to try a delicious Greek pastry. In the new town, you will find modern shops.
The port is a lovely place to while away the long hot summer days and there are plenty of bars, cafes, and tavernas to choose from.
History buffs will want to visit the Archaeological Museum, the Modern Art Museum and the Municipal Art Gallery.
Climb the Roloi Clock Tower and enjoy the view out to sea.
The Archaeological Museum is at the Hospital of the Knights, Rhodes Town 85100. The Modern Art Museum is at Paola Nestoridou Street, Rhodes Town 85100. The Municipal Art Gallery is at sSmis 2, Rhodes Town 85101. From Rhodes, you can take a boat trip to Symi Island and St George Bay.
18 – Corfu Town
Corfu Town is the capital of Corfu island and is on the east coast, about halfway down the island.
The Venetians occupied it for centuries and many buildings reflect their architecture.
Corfu Town is between two hills, both of which have a fortress.
These were built to repel the onslaught of the Ottomans and it’s a spectacular setting.
The old town is beautiful, as are most old towns in Greece.
It’s packed with traditional tavernas, fine-dining restaurants, cafes and bars.
Here you can shop for traditional goods, visit museums and admire the 39 churches.
Corfu is known for unusual dishes, different to the traditional food served in Greece, such as moussaka and stifado.
Try pastitsada, a veal casserole with pasta, chilli peppers, tomatoes, wine, and herbs. The hop-on hop-off bus is the easiest way to get around.
19 – Mytilene
Mytilene is the capital city of Lesvos, which is in the north Aegean Sea.
Founded in the 11th century BC, it is situated between seven hills and has a port where you can have a beautiful view towards the sea while sipping ouzo at one of the many cafes.
Lesvos is well-known for producing ouzo, a popular Greek anise-flavoured spirit.
The Medieval Castle is worth visiting, as is the Archaeological Museum, where you can see Roman mosaics and artwork.
Wandering around the old town, you will see many monuments representing the island’s history.
The Archaeological Museum is at 8th Noemvriou, Mytilene.
20 – Oia
Oia is on the volcanic island of Santorini.
It isn’t the capital but the most visited city on the island.
It is situated on a cliff that looks towards the volcano. Here, the sunset is beautiful.
Oia was built in the 15th century AD, and you can see the ruins of a Venetian castle.
If you have seen postcards from Greece, you may remember whitewashed buildings and winding cobbled streets.
This is Oia to a tee.
What is interesting is that many of the buildings here have been carved into volcanic rock.
If you enjoy walking, you can hike from Oia to Fira, the capital of Santorini, through impressive volcanic scenery or cruise around the islands on this tour.
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