“Live your myth in Greece” – the phrase used to be Greece’s motto in some older international tourism campaigns. And that was for a good reason. Imagine stepping at the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis or cliff jumping at the home of the Cabeirian Mysteries. A trip to Greece is not just a seaside vacation but also a time-travelling experience.
If you have subscribed to Helinika’s YouTube channel, there is a great chance you love ancient Greek mythology and history, while also enjoying travelling. Here are seven Greek destinations and sites for people who would love to visit the most mythical places in Greece. Before we get started, make sure to like this video if you love travelling and mythology!
One of the most important Panhellenic religious sanctuaries was situated in a small town in Ilia (Elis), in the Peloponnese. The town was named after the Olympian gods and goddesses, and it is still known as “Olympia”. Not only that but this is where the ancient Olympic Games were held every four years. A modern town with the same name is situated near “Archaea Olympia”, which is the ancient town and archaeological site. In ancient Olympia you will find ancient temples and training grounds that are maintained in a very good condition. Great examples are the “Palaestra”, the training grounds of wrestlers, and the ruins of the Temple of Hera. A trip to Olympia can be compared to a… time-travelling experience.
Samothrace Island, Northern Aegean Sea
Samothrace has been mentioned in many of Helinika’s articles and videos. That is because it is not just one of Greece’s hidden beauties, but also one of the country’s most mysterious sites. The Greek island is located in the northern Aegean Sea and it attracts people who love nature and mythology. Samothrace (also seen as Samothraki) was a major religious site in ancient Greece. It was the place where the ancient Cabeirian Mysteries were held, while it is still the home of the Sanctuary of the Great Gods; a temple complex to a group of enigmatic Greek gods. By visiting Samothrace you can spend your summer vacation by the sea, in close proximity to one of the world’s most mysterious places.
Delos Island, Cyclades
Delos is another mysterious Greek island. Situated at the heart of the Cyclades, Delos is one of the most important mythological, historical, and archaeological sites in Greece. It was also reportedly the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis. Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage site which can only be visited during the day. Overnight stays are not allowed but you can book a day trip from the nearby island of Mykonos.
Eleusina, West Attica
Eleusina (also seen as Eleusis) is a small town in West Attica, in close proximity to the city of Athens. The town is mostly known for its archaeological site – one of the most visited and well-maintained sites in Greece. The town is associated with goddess Demetra and her daughter, Persephone, and it was the place where the enigmatic Eleusinian Mysteries were held. Eleusina is a place every mythology lover should visit at least once in their lifetime.
Most Greek myths and epic poems involve a prophecy and an orator. One of the most trusted ancient Greek oracles was the oracle of Delphi in Phocis, central Greece. You may have heard the name Pytho, who had the role of Pythia. Pythia was the high priestess of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, who would give oracles for the future with the rustling of the leaves. Today, the area is an archaeological site and a UNESCO World Heritage site. A new town with the same name is in close proximity to the archaeological site. Visiting Delphi is truly a magical experience.
Athens is the capital of the Hellenic Republic of Greece and a popular destination for people who love history and mythology. Democracy was born in Athens. In Classical Antiquity, it was the most important cultural, artistic, and philosophical center in the West. The city is named after goddess Athena who, according to an old myth, offered the Athenians the olive tree. The production and export of olive oil reportedly contributed to the city’s financial success. The Greek capital has plenty of archaeological sites and museums, such as the Acropolis and the ancient Agora. Visiting Athens should definitely be on your list.
Mt. Olympus, Pieria
Ancient Greeks believed that Mount Olympus was the home of the twelve gods and goddesses who influenced every aspect of their lives. Zeus, Hera, Aphrodite, and the rest of the Olympians. Olympus is a real mountain located in Pieria in Northern Greece. It is the highest mountain in Greece and a World Biosphere Reserve. Gods and goddesses were thought to reside at 2.917 meters at its highest peak, Mytikas. Many hikers and climbers ascend to Mytikas to see Greece from Zeus’ perspective. If you are not an avid hiker, there are many traditional villages all around Olympus that you can drive to. There are also countless ancient and medieval sites, such as the archaeological park of Dion and the ancient city of Pydna. It goes without saying that Mount Olympus is the number one destination for people who love history, mythology, and nature.
Now, I am curious to hear if you have ever visited any of these places. If you liked this video, you can hit the like button and subscribe to stay connected.
Unfortunately, many visitors don’t get the chance to spend many days in the Greek capital, before traveling to their next destination. If you are in the same situation, the last thing you want to do is spend the entire day in your hotel room. Here is what to do if you stay in Athens for just one day!
You have booked your tickets to visit Greece this summer and now it is time to pack your bags. But your country of residence might have a completely different climate than the one in Greece. Should you pack your winter jacket “just in case”? Do you need to wear tights under your dresses? Should you leave your leather boots at home?
Almost every European city has a citadel – a fortified center that serves as a refuge but also as a repository or even as a religious center. For the ancient city of Athens, that was the Acropolis – the city’s highest point. The Acropolis of Athens is known for the impressive ancient temples dedicated to the Olympian gods and goddesses.
The most impressive of them all is the Parthenon – the Doric temple dedicated to Athena, patroness of Athens. The temple was completed in 432 BC, and it was designed by the well-known architects Iktinos and Callicrates. Monuments other than the Parthenon are the Erechtheon, the Propulaea, and the temple dedicated to Athena Nike, the Eleusinion, and many more sanctuaries and temples. From the top, you can also view the ancient theatre of Herodes Atticus, which is still in use.
Nowadays, at least a million people visit the Acropolis of Athens every year. Situated at the heart of Athens, you can ascend the hill by entering from one of its two entrances: one close to the Areopagus Hill and one next to the Church of Hagia Paraskevi, close to the Acropolis metro station. The ticket shop is located next to the first entrance.
It is advised to visit the Acropolis Hill early in the morning. You will avoid waiting in long ques and walking around the citadel under the hot Athenian sun. You can always prebook your tickets and download them at your smartphone.
Before Noon: Explore Anafiotika
After exiting the archaeological sight of Acropolis, you can start exploring Anafiotika, the most picturesque neighborhood of Athens. Anafiotika is located in Plaka, the “old town” surrounding the Acropolis hill. And it can be described as an “island that overlooks the city of Athens”. No cars, streets, or tall buildings in sight. Just cats and the smell of Jasmine trees.
The neighborhood was founded by islanders from Anafi who moved to Athens to construct the Palace of Otto of Greece, the king of Greece from 1832 to 1862. Indeed, Anafiotika has an atmosphere similar to the ones in the Greek islands. A small escape within the city.
After walking around for so long, you will probably get super hungry. But don’t worry, Athens is known for its great variety of street food options. The most popular option is of course the “gyros” or “souvlaki me pita”, as it is known in Athens. You can choose between a wide variety of ingredients -pieces of grilled chicken/pork, tomatoes, onions, fries, and tzatziki being the most popular options- to be wrapped within a delicious pita bread.
Athens has countless “souvlatzidika”, places where you can order and eat this delicious type of sandwich. They are in every neighborhood, and almost on every street at the city center. If you are looking for something sweet, you can always try the Eastern Mediterranean version of a donut: loukoumades. Round deep-fried pastries soaked in honey and coated with cinnamon. Loukoumades were reportedly consumed by ancient Greeks, who called them “honey tokens”.
Today, Athens hosts several street food restaurants that serve delicacies from all around the world: from crab burgers to bao buns. For a more authentic experience, you can always visit a local bakery and try a piece (or two) of Greece’s traditional savory or sweet pies, the so-called “pitas”: spanakopita (spinach pie), tyropita (cheese pie), and kolokythopita (zucchini pie). And, finally, it wouldn’t be a Mediterranean trip without a scoop of gelato to wash things down!
When non-Athenians visit Athens, they usually explore the three historical neighborhoods surrounding the Acropolis hill. But Athens is more than Plaka, Monastiraki, and Thiseio. Here are some of the lesser-known Athenian neighborhoods you should explore or consider living in.
Athens can get quite hot at noon and early afternoon. After your Athens street food tour, it is time to explore at least one indoor Athenian Museum. You will get a taste of the Greek culture, while enjoying the cool air from the air conditioning units.
Athens has numerous Museums and Galleries, including the Acropolis Museum, the Goulandris Museum of Cycladic Art, the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, Benaki Museum, Ilias Lalaounis Jewelry Museum, Museum of Greek Folk Art, the National Art Gallery, and more.
Keep in mind that the National Archaeological Museum is the biggest Athenian Museum. Moreover, many of these Museums and Galleries are located in the suburbs. Since you will be staying in Athens for only one day, visiting a small or medium-sized Museum near the center, such as the Acropolis Museum, is the best option.
Late Afternoon: Visit the SNFCC
Founded by the philanthropic organization, Stavros Niarchos Foundation, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC) or simply “Niarchos”, as locals call it, is a public space, where everyone has free access and can participate in various activities and events.
The Cultural Center includes the Greek National Opera, the National Library of Greece, and the Stavros Niarchos Park. Countless free events, such as open-air movie nights, concerts, and athletic activities, regularly take place at SNFCC.
Niarchos is one of the few places in Athens where you can safely cycle. You can rent public bicycles and cycle around the canal. You can walk up the “Lighthouse” and get a panoramic view of the city. You can also explore its magnificent gardens, such as the Mediterranean Garden.
Evening: Cocktail Time
After a long day walking around the city, it is time to return to the city center (Syntagma or Monastiraki) for some drinks. Athens is known for its rooftop bars, such as “Couleur Locale” and “Anglais Athens”, where you can enjoy some drinks and order some finger-food, if you feel like it.
Depending on how much time you have in hand, you can have a bar tour of Athens. The Greek capital has also plenty of cocktail bars that are situated on the ground floor. During the summer, it is common to get a drink at the bar and chat with your friends on the street.
Last but not least, Athens has some of the best bars not only in Europe but… in the world. From cocktail to wine bars to… underground speak-easy bars. “The Clumsies” has been repeatedly been placed on the top 3 best bars in the world, according to the “50 BEST” annual rankings! Getting a drink before you leave is a must.
The city of Athens has a history spanning over three thousand years. As you can imagine, the capital of the Hellenic Republic of Greece is the birthplace of countless important figures, revolutionary ideas, legendary stories, and mysteries. Here are some of the most mysterious places in Athens, Greece.
Ardittos Hill is located at the heart of Athens, surrounding the Kallimarmaro; the historical Panathenaic Stadium which was built in 330 BC and reconstructed in 144 AD. Adrittos Hill was the area where ancient Athenian judges would take their oath.
The green hill has attracted many curious researchers of the unexplained over the years. It has been observed that the area is oddly quiet. Visitors often report that birds avoid entering the wooded area, which is unusual. Cats, on the other hand, seem to be attracted to this area.
Others say that they feel a strange energy surrounding the hill. Moreover, there are reports of peculiar findings in the area, such as candles, ropes, and remains of ritualistic activities. But why is that?
It is worth mentioning that a street named Odos Agras, right next to Ardittos Hill, is also the center of various urban legends. The street is known for the house of the Nobel laureate and poet, Giorgos Seferis. But, according to an urban legend, someone who walks on this street might end up walking back in time. Just like the main character in the Woody Allen movie “Midnight in Paris”. Imagine exploring Athens only to come across one of Greece’s most important poets!
Moreover, although Athens has indeed a large amount of stray cats, the street has a… disproportionate amount of felines roaming around. On the street you can also find the so-called “House with the Cats”, which is reportedly always guarded by two cats that stand next to its front door. Witnesses have said that the cats stay so still that they look like statues. Not only that, but the house, which is not clear whether it is inhabited or not, has a sign with the following verse:
“I will not reign, to serve I detest, the cat I remain.”
Mount Pentelicus | Mysterious Greece
Mount Pentelicus or Penteli is one of the mountains of Athens. It is known for its marble, the Pentelicon marble that was used to construct the Acropolis of Athens. The mountain is one of the most mysterious places in Greece since antiquity.
According to some reports, there is a spot on Penteli where drivers experience a weird phenomenon. A street that seems to be going slightly uphill manages to defy gravity. When cars stop there, they start moving on their own. They move upwards – as if gravity is reversed.
Some observers suggest that there is an optical illusion, and that the road actually goes downhill. Others say that there are strong magnetic fields in the area that pull the cars in a seemingly unnatural way.
Mount Pentelicus is also associated with countless urban legends and myths. There are reports of mysterious hitchhikers who disappear in people’s cars. In the past, people have reported UFO sightings while visiting the area.
In the 1990s, Penteli became a feared place after it started attracting groups of devil worshippers. One of this groups, consisting of two young men and a teenage girl, committed a series of sacrificial murders of young women in the area of Pallini, a municipality at the foothills of Mount Pentelicus.
The Duchess reportedly lost her mind after the premature death of her beloved daughter, Eliza. Rumor has it that she turned to spiritualism and later to witchcraft. She wanted to communicate with Eliza and she invited mediums and necromancers to her tower. As a result, the estate is rumored to be “haunted” with countless spirits, including the spirit of Eliza.
But the most mysterious place of Penteli is without the doubt its notorious cave: Davelis’ or Pan’s Cave…
Although Daveli’s Cave is located on the southwestern side of Mount Pentelicus, it deserves to be examined separately. That is because it sparked people’s curiosity since antiquity.
To begin with, ancient Athenians believed that the chthonic god Pan who resided under the surface of the Earth, was able to visit Athens by exiting this Cave on Mount Pentelicus. Nymphs were also considered to reside next to the cave. After the battle of Marathon, when Pan allegedly helped the Athenians win by causing panic to the Persians, Athenians would enter the Cave to worship Pan.
Over the years, when Greeks left their pagan past behind, chthonic deities were considered demonic. They resided under the surface of the Earth – where hell is located. Byzantine and Ottoman Greeks feared the cave. Farmers and shepherds that passed by Pan’s cave would often run back to their villages in terror, reporting sightings of terrifying monsters that exited the cave. As a result, a small church was built right at the entrance of the cave dedicated to Saint Spyridon and to Saint Nicholas.
The cave is mostly known today as Davelis’ cave, instead of Pan’s cave. That is because the infamous 19th century brigand Christos Natsios or Davelis, used the cave as a hideout. According to some rumors of that time, Davelis had a secret love affair with the previously mentioned Duchess of Plaissance!
Due to its pagan history, new age occultists started visiting the cave to perform rituals. The devil worshippers of Pallini were allegedly frequent visitors of the cave as well. But today, the majority of its visitors are climbers, hikers, and nature lovers.
In the past, cave explorers and hikers have reportedly managed to fully explore its vast tunnel system, which, according to some, could lead someone to the center of Athens. This is no longer possible; the tunnels have been closed down for unspecified reasons.
Rumor had it that they wanted to use it for a secret military base, since its tunnels could lead to the sea and therefore would be the perfect location to keep some of their submarines. Others suggested that they wanted to produce or store secret nuclear weapons for a short time period.
Many explorers confirm this scenario, since electronic devices often stop working when entering the cave. Not only that but concrete was used to seal some of the tunnels, as if the military wanted to protect the public from dangerous substances… if not from the monsters that terrified medieval Greeks.
It is worth mentioning that the secret military works at Penteli were reported at the local press at that time. Today, many people have come up with some additional scenarios – some realistic, some less realistic- about what happened at Daveli’s cave in the ‘70s. For example, they suggest that the cave can serve as a portal to other dimensions, hence the appearance of strange beings over the years. A German tv-series called “Dark” has a storyline that bears many similarities to this scenario.
The Dragon Gate | Mysterious Greece
If you have ever read any of the Harry Potter books, then you might remember of the Diagon Alley but also some magical buildings and train platforms that muggles -non wizards- would simply ignore. A strange building like this exists at the heart of Athens.
This is no other than the narrow and tall building at the street Akadimias 58a. The odd structure has an architecture with many gothic references, which is rare to see in Athens. At the same time, despite its appearance, most people ignore it completely while passing by. It looks odd but stays unnoticed at the same time. A surprising fact is that there used to be an iron dragon on top of the main gate for many years, which was removed mysteriously overnight. Nobody really knows who removed the dragon and why.
There are many official and unofficial reports regarding the so-called “house with the dragon gate”. According to some older rumors, the building was used by secret societies, perhaps by the “Free Masons”, for their mysterious meetings.
People who lived in neighboring buildings often said that they would see people dressed in peculiar clothes enter the building. Thanks to its gothic elements and the scary dragon on top of the gate, many people believed that dark rituals were performed there. It didn’t help when some explorers managed to enter the building in the late 20th century, only to find an altar, a small church and religious icons stuffed in there.
It has been recently revealed that it served as an additional entrance (in GR) to the house of the German-born Green-national architect Ernst Ziller. Ziller is the mastermind behind some of the most beautiful and unique houses and mansions of Athens.
His estate located on street Mavromichali 6, is somehow connected to the “house with the dragon gate”. Rumor had it that it was later purchased by the very prominent family of bankers, the Loverdos, to store a secret private collection of ancient and medieval relics.
A few months ago, the Greek newspaper Kathimerini reported that the building has been turned into a Museum with the consent of the Loverdos family. The visitors will be able to see the private collection of relics that is now maintained and stored there, along with the building’s very unique interior.
It is worth mentioning that the fact that the building belonged indeed to Ziller (a prominent architect) and later to Loverdos (a prominent banker), doesn’t mean that it was never used for secret meetings of mysterious people in the past…
The Acropolis of Athens | Mysterious Greece
The Acropolis of Athens is very different from the rest of the previously mentioned areas, since it evokes positive rather negative feelings and emotions. In many ways, it could be described as the opposite of the Hill of Ardittos. It represents light, wisdom, and excellence. A place that fills you in with positive energy. At the same time, it is one of the most mysterious places of Athens, of Greece, and of the world.
Over one million people from around the world visit the Acropolis of Athens every year. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the greatest symbol of democracy, since it was the great leader Pericles who was behind the great works on the site. Visiting the Acropolis of Athens is not just a cultural trip but perhaps… a trip in time.
Do you have any other mysterious places to add to this list? Feel free to comment down below!
When non-Athenians visit Athens, they usually explore the three historical neighborhoods surrounding the Acropolis hill. But Athens is more than Plaka, Monastiraki, and Thiseio. Here are some of the lesser-known Athenian neighborhoods you should explore or consider living in.
Mets is a popular and quite central neighborhood of Athens. Built amphitheatrically between the Hill of Ardettos and the Hill of Loginnos, most houses and apartment buildings have a great view of the city of Athens. Mets is also very close to the ancient Temple of Olympian Zeus. The neighborhood got its name from the first Athenian brewery that was founded by the Bavarian Karl Fuchs.
Today, Mets it’s the neighborhood of choice for artists and writers. The local art center frequently organizes cultural events and exhibitions. Although it is situated in the heart of Athens, it is quiet and green. Last but not least, it is one of the few neighborhoods of Athens where you can still find many neoclassical buildings from the 19th century.
Nea Smyrni, Athens
Nea Smyrni is a family-friendly municipality in the southern part of Athens. Its name derives from the Greek refugees who settled there after the catastrophe of Smyrna in 1922. Many Athenians choose Nea Smyrni because it is close to the city center but, at the same time, it has the benefits of a suburban area. It has parks, a small forest called “Alsos Neas Smyrnis”, and many two-story houses with gardens.
Paleo Faliro is a coastal district in the southern part of Athens. Just like Nea Smyrni, Paleo Faliro housed many Greeks from Asia Minor in early 20th Century. Today, locals often call it “Falirofornia”. That is because of the countless palm trees planted across its beautiful marina and public park called “Flisvos”. Athenians love it because of its ideal geographical position. You can easily reach the center of Athens and the port of Piraeus. And most importantly, finding an apartment with a seaside view is easier than in other parts of Athens.
Ano Petralona, Athens
When visitors arrive in Athens, they start exploring Syntagma, Plaka, Thiseio, and Monastiraki. But they often overlook a central Athenian neighborhood that is known for its authentic (and non-touristic!) Greek tavernas and restaurants.
Ano Petralona is a neighborhood located next to Thiseio. It has an excellent public transportation system and it is much quieter than most Athenian neighborhoods that are located within walking distance from Syntagma square. It is also an affordable neighborhood to live in, considering its central location.
Exarcheia is both one of the coolest and one of the most avoided neighborhoods of Athens. Situated close to Panepistimiou Street and the National Technical University of Athens, it is inhabited mostly by students and young Athenians. The area has also attracted many left-wing intellectuals and artists, since it has been associated with the Polytechnic Uprising of 1973 against the Greek Junta. Over the years, radical activists and anarchists started residing there.
Foreign visitors often avoid Exarcheia because of its reputation as the “Anarchist Neighborhood” of Athens. But the chances of a random person being bothered by the anarchists of Exarcheia are very rare. Visitors usually have nothing to be afraid of in Exarcheia but it is recommended to avoid the neighborhood on November 17th and December 6th, to avoid coming across a protest. You should also avoid parking your vehicles in this neighborhood.
Next to Exarcheia, there is the historical and picturesque neighborhood of Neapoli. Located on the northern slope of Mount Lycabettus, it offers a panoramic view of the city. It is perfect for those who want to live in the center but despise large crowds and noises. Neapoli is also known for its countless bookstores and publishing houses. Many writers and artists reside there.
Close to Neapoli and Exarcheia, there is Kolonaki neighborhood. The name literally translates to “little column”. That is because of an old 2-meter high marble column that was located there.
Kolonaki is one of the most upscale neighborhoods of central Athens. It is the fashion center of the Greek capital, with many fashion designers and architects choosing one its countless neoclassical buildings for their studios. Benaki Museum, the Byzantine Museum, and the Goulandris Museum of Cycladic Art are all located there.
Kolonaki square is known for its fashionable cafes, restaurants, bars, and clubs. The neighborhood has two major metro stations (Evangelismos and Megaro Mousikis) and countless luxurious hotels for business travelers. Finally, Kolonaki is the home of many foreign embassies.
Few blocks away from Syntagma square, right by Kalimarmaro stadium, you can find one of the coolest neighborhoods of Athens: Pangrati. The neighborhood has recently received great attention from young and creative business owners, which translates to higher rent prices.
Pangrati is one of the most authentic Athenian neighborhoods, since it rarely receives attention from tourists. Athenians visit Pangrati for its historical cafes and parks, and often choose it for their main residence.
Neo & Paleo Psychiko, Athens
Psychiko – Neo and Paleo – is located just 5 km northeast of the city center. It is a wealthy residential area, chosen by doctors and lawyers. It was historically the home of Greek aristocrats and “old money” families. Psychiko has also countless prestigious private schools, such as Moraitis School, Arsakeio, and Athens College. Finally, just like Kolonaki, the neighborhood hosts many foreign embassies.
Koukaki was a snubbed neighborhood of Athens that gained great popularity the past ten years. Vogue has announced that Koukaki is now the “new cool neighborhood of Athens”.
Koukaki is a popular brunch destination for Athenians, but it is also known for its hip cocktail bars. Many galleries and museums are located there, including the Ilias Lalaounis Jewelry Museum.
But the main reason locals love Koukaki and are desperately trying to find an apartment there, is its proximity to the Acropolis Hill. Koukaki is not as crowded nor touristic as Plaka, but it is just few steps away from the temple of the Parthenon.
Did you know any of these neighborhoods? If yes, what is your favorite?
Thessaloniki is the second biggest city in Greece and one of the most beautiful ones as well. Situated in the Greek region of Macedonia in northern Greece, the port city of Thessaloniki has been a cosmopolitan city for many centuries. Known for its unique architecture, relaxed lifestyle, and rich history, Thessaloniki attracts many visitors every year. The city is also one of the places that see some snow from time to time during the winter, with many Greeks visiting it for this exact reason!
Another reason to visit Thessaloniki is the fact that is considered the food capital of Greece. Do you like sweet treats? Try the traditional sweet-savory bougatsa pie with lots of cinnamon and you will instantly fall in love with the city. Do you prefer fine dining? You will find plenty of restaurants to choose from. Since the Greek summer can be quite hot, hence reducing people’s appetite, make sure to visit Thessaloniki in the winter.
# 9 Athens
The capital of Greece might be visited all year round, however, it is recommended to visit it during the winter. Just ask a tourist who did outdoor sightseeing in Athens in July. Athenian summers are always very hot, with the temperature reaching often 40 degrees Celsius during the day. Therefore, coming during the winter is more enjoyable.
The city of Athens is always sunny, and the temperature can reach 20 degrees Celsius even in December. Pack your lightest coat and a few thin sweaters (or your shorts if you are from Scandinavia) and climb up the Acropolis of Athens and the Filopappou hill. Walk around the ancient Agora and National Gardens and explore the ancient cemetery of Kerameikos. Visit the Acropolis Museum, the National Archaeological Museum, the Benaki Museum, and Stavros Niarchos Cultural Center. Go thrift shopping in the second-hand markets of Monastiraki and Omonoia and order a nice cocktail in the bars around Square Klafthmonos.In the winter, there are also several theatrical plays. If you understand Greek at a basic level, watching a play in the birthplace of drama is a lifetime experience.
#8 Mounts of Attica
Athens is situated in Attica, a region with rich history. Attica is visited throughout the year by nature and hiking lovers because of its mountainous landscape. Try exploring Mount Hymettus, Penteli, and Parnitha. These mountains were considered “magical” since ancient times and there are often visited by paranormal investigators. A great example would be the “haunted” cave of Mount Penteli. If you love skiing, you can also visit Mount Parnassos ski center!
Due to its geographic location, Xanthi is one of the most culturally diverse cities in Greece. Situated in the northern region of Thrace, Xanthi welcomes many visitors during the winter. The city is known for its unique architecture. Byzantine churches, next to Ottoman-era mosques, and neoclassical buildings from the 19th century. Every winter, the city celebrates one of Greece’s most popular events: the carnival of Xanthi. It is recommended to visit the folklore museum, the old town, and the nearby waterfalls.
#6 Trikala of Corinthia
In the North Peloponnese, Greece holds one of its greatest secrets: Trikala. The picturesque town is known for its beautiful landscape, traditional homes made out of stone, and numerous winter traditions. Many families visit Trikala during Christmas to see the “Mill of the Elves” – the most beautiful Christmas themed park in Greece (which is completely free of charge). Not only that, but Trikala is one of the few smart cities in the world! It has automated citizens service center, mobile check apps, wifi for everyone, smart lighting system, smart parking system, smart waste management, and many more advanced municipal services. Trikala was also the first city to use driverless buses!
Zagori is a region in the Pindus mountains in the Epirus region of Greece. The area is known for its magnificent landscapes that are very rare in southern Europe. Rare animal species such as the brown bear and the wolf reside there. Greeks visit the area during the winter months to hike or explore the 46 traditional picturesque villages, known as the “Zagorochoria” (the villages of Zagori). Zagori has two national parks, traditional arched stone bridges, crystal-clear waters, and numerous Byzantine churches. It is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places in Greece.
If you love climbing, you might already know Meteora. It is a rock formation in central Greece, near the town of Kalabaka. The area is included on the UNESCO World Heritage List and is visited by people from around the world who are intrigued by its unique landscape. On top of some of the hills, there are Christian Orthodox monasteries that were built there during Byzantine times. Many climbers attempt to climb on top of the hills and countless film companies have asked for permission to film there. Meteora is one of the magnificent places to visit in Greece during the winter.
#3 Northern Pelion
Although South Pelion is a secret summer paradise, Northern Pelion – a mountain range in central Greece, is Greece’s winter hidden gem. Do you love skiing and winter sports? You can visit the ski resort of Chania. Do you love hiking? You can explore the cobblestone trails connecting Pelion’s traditional villages. Pelion is one of the few places where you can experience heavy snowfall in Greece.
The most well-known ski resort in Greece is the one of Arachova. It is situated next to one of the most picturesque villages of the entire country, Arachova. Located in the region of Boeotia, not very far from Attica, it gathers many visitors from Athens. The village is known for its woodcut creations, dark red wine, traditional carpets, and chylopites – a type of pasta that dates back to Byzantine times.
It was believed to be the home of the gods and goddesses of ancient Greece. The kingdom of Zeus and Hera. A magnificent mountain that reaches the heavens. How could it come second or third on this list? Mount Olympus is one of the most popular hiking and climbing destinations in Greece. It is also a ski mountaineering destination for avid skiers! On Mount Olympus you can find several beautiful villages, including some ghost villages such as Morna. The village was abandoned for unknown reasons and many urban legends have spurred over the years. The village was built on the “dark” side of Olympus, where sunlight is limited. Since ancient times, Greeks avoided this part of the mountain, since it was visited by chthonic deities, and not by the gods and goddesses who resided at the top.
One of the most fascinating ancient Greek myths is the one of Theseus. The young Athenian hero is a legendary figure, although many scholars believe that he might had been a real king during the Late Bronze Age. But let’s see his story from the beginning.
Who Was Theseus?
Once upon a time, before the era of Classical Athens and Democracy, the Greek city-state was ruled by kings and queens. One such king was Aegeas. He had many riches and he was ruling a successful city-state. However, he had no luck in his love life. All of his marriages ended in disaster, he remained childless, and most importantly, heirless.
Aegeas believed he was cursed by Aphrodite, goddess of romance, and he introduced the worship of Aphrodite Urania (Heavenly) in Athens. He also visited the Oracle of Delphi and asked for a prophecy. However, there was no solution to his problem.
The Athenian king finally met Pittheus of Troezen who introduced him to his daughter, Aethra. The two spent the night together and Aethra was able to conceive a child: a boy she later named Theseus. Rumor had it though that Theseus’ real father was Poseidon, god of the sea, and not Aegeas.
The latter was happy to finally have a son. He left Troezen to rule his city, Athens, but made sure to leave his sword, shield, and sandals behind. His son would wear them upon he reached adulthood to claim his birthright.
Years passed by and Theseus was now a brave young man. After retrieving his father’s possessions, he started his trip to Athens. Instead of reaching the city by sea, he decided to follow a dangerous path, completing a series of tasks, known as “labours”.
Among other things, he killed a giant pig and countless bandits, including a serial killer named “Procrustes” or simply “the Stretcher”. This man would place his victims on an iron bed and would cut off any parts that didn’t fit. If the victim was too short, he would stretch their legs – often splitting them in half.
Theseus arrived in Athens safe and sound and he was finally greeted by a cheerful Aegeas and his new wife, Medea. You might remember the latter as the wife of Jason, leader of the Argonauts. Since Medea’s story will be narrated in a different video series, all you have to know for now is that Medea’s first marriage did not have a happy ending. It was a literal tragedy.
Theseus and Aegeas would spend a lot of time together to compensate for all the years they spent apart. Medea was getting jealous. She also feared that her son would have no rights to the kingdom of Athens. The sorceress decided to poison Theseus but her plans were revealed. Aegeas threw her out of the castle and Medea run away from Athens. The king did not know that this would not be the only time his dear son would be in danger.
The Sacrifice to the Minotaur
When Aegeas was younger, he participated in the Panathenaic Games – a religious ceremony and athletic competition that took place in Athens and resembled the Olympic Games. One of his competitors was Androgeos, son of King Minos of Crete. Androgeos was able to win against Aegeas, with the latter being filled with envy.
There are many different variations of the myth that explain what happened next: Aegeas challenged Androgeos with an impossible task that ended up killing him, Aegeas ordered someone to kill Androgeos, or Aegeas killed Androgeos himself, or another man named Pallatides. No matter how it happened, the result was the same. Androgeos died in Athens and Aegeas was to blame.
King Minos learned the news and declared war on Athens. But the two kings were able to avoid war with a mutual agreement. Every nine years, seven Athenian young men and seven Athenian young women would be sent to Crete as a sacrificial offering to a vicious monster known as the Minotaur – the taurus, meaning “bull” in Greek, of Minos.
The Minotaur was the result of Minos’ wife mating with a white bull, known as Marathonian or Cretan bull, that was sent to Minos by Poseidon. Poseidon wanted Minos to sacrifice the bull to him but Minos was charmed by the bull’s rare appearance. That comes as no surprise.
Regardless of whether this myth is real or not, the Minoan civilization was a real Bronze Age Aegean Civilization – the first advanced civilization in Europe. You can still see their remains by visiting the palaces of Knossos and Phaestos in Crete. If you have ever visited these archaeological places, then you might have noticed the fascination the Minoans had for bulls and bull-leaping or taurokathapsia – a non-violent ancient Greek sport involving bulls.
The king decided to keep the bull at his residence, and he made a different sacrificial offering to the god of the sea. Poseidon was furious and made Mino’s wife fall in love with the animal. The result was the birth of the Minotaur. The beast resided in a special area of the palace; a labyrinth that was designed by the architects Daedalus and Icarus.
When Theseus learned about the agreement between Aegeas and Minos, he became angered. As the future king of Athens, he wanted to end this and he decided to travel to Crete with the next ship sailing with the young Athenians. He would find the Minotaur and destroy him, just like he did with the monsters and criminals he had found in his way.
The future king of Athens promised to Aegeas he would return victorious. He would depart with black sails – a sign of mourning- but he would return with white sails. In this way, his father would be able to see the boat from afar and start organizing the celebrations that would follow. If he was defeated, the captain wouldn’t change the sails and his father would be able to start preparing for his funeral.
Theseus arrived with the rest of the young men and women at the palace of Knossos and he was surprised to see a luxurious and colorful palace with a very strange design. It resembled a labyrinth. The Athenians had to leave any weapons behind and they soon learned that they would be left to wonder in the palace’s corridors for days and the Minotaur would hunt them down and eat them one by one. Even if the Minotaur was unable to find them, escaping the labyrinth was considered an impossible task.
The prince was not scared. He was able to hide a small knife in his tunic to protect himself, but his most helpful weapon were actually his good looks. King Minos had many children and one of them was princess Ariadne. The young woman felt a strong attraction towards Theseus and wanted to help him. When no one was looking, she offered him a ball of thread and advised him to tie it at the entrance of the labyrinth and use it to escape once he defeats the beast.
Theseus followed Ariadne’s instructions and started exploring the labyrinth holding the thread. It didn’t take long to find the Minotaur sleeping. The monster woke up from his sleep and attacked him. Theseus, having Poseidon’s blood running through his veins, was able to overpower him and with his small knife he was able to give him a fatal blow in his neck. He then run back to the entrance of the labyrinth, along with the rest of the Athenians.
They were all free and no one was there to stop them from leaving. They all entered the boat that was waiting for them and soon realized that Ariadne and her younger sister, Phaedra, were also on board. Ariadne wanted to escape with Theseus and live with him in Athens.
The trip back home started with celebrations. Not only did they survive this ordeal, but a very dangerous custom was coming to an end. No other Athenian would have to be sacrificed to the Minotaur anymore. At some point, they made a stop at Naxos island. Goddess Athena visited Theseus and instructed him to leave Ariadne there for god Dionysus.
Theseus was distraught but he knew that he had no choice. He couldn’t disobey the gods. Ariadne was abandoned in Naxos island and Theseus left with the rest of the crew, including Phaedra. The mood onboard had shifted. No one was in the mood to celebrate and they forgot to change the sails from black to white.
Aegeas was standing at a cliff at Sounion in Attica, near Poseidon’s temple. He was staring at the horizon, waiting for Theseus’ boat. And he finally saw it. But the sails were black, meaning that the crew wasn’t bringing any good news. Was his favorite son, the one who was conceived under such difficult circumstances, gone? Aegeas jumped off the cliff and drowned in the waters that we now know as the Aegean Sea; the sea of Aegeas.
The myth of Theseus ends here, however, countless poems and plays have tried to give another ending to his story. Most of the variations mention that Theseus ended up marrying Phaedra, he had many children with her and other women, and ended up dying after falling from a cliff. Others, want him married to the queen of the Amazons.
As mentioned in the beginning, it is not clear whether there was an Athenian king named Theseus, whose life resembled the myth. However, Theseus’ myth signifies a transitional period in history – from Bronze Age, to Iron Age, and then, finally, to the Archaic Period.
Athens is the capital of Greece, a city with a history spanning over 3.400 years. In ancient times, and specifically in classical times, Athens was a powerful Greek city-state. Democracy was born in Athens and the city was the center of arts, sciences, and, of course, philosophy.
Not only was it the birthplace of notable philosophers such as Socrates and Plato, but also of politicians, such as Pericles, and playwriters and tragedians, such as Aristophanes and Sophocles. Nowadays, many people dream of visiting Athens and specifically the hill of Acropolis, where many polytheistic temples are still intact.
The epicenter of Acropolis is the Parthenon; the temple that was dedicated to goddess Athena, the goddess of wisdom and strategy, among other things. The question that arises is why did the Athenians choose Athena to be their protector and why does the name of Athens and the goddess are so similar?
There is a myth that has survived thousands of years that explains why Athens was named after the goddess Athena. Many historians believe that Athena was actually named after the city of Athens. But today we are going to explore the myth surrounding the naming of the city.
Before Athens met its glory, it was called Cecropia. It was named after its mythical founder, Cecrops. The latter was born by the Earth itself and was half-man and half-serpent. Despite his appearance, he was not feared by the people. He is in fact considered the father of native Athenians and the one who taught them how to read and write.
Cecropia was considered a beautiful land with plenty of sunlight. It lacked a lot of vegetation, but it was located by the sea. At the center of the city, there was a hill that could be used for strategic purposes but also to connect with the divine. The people of Cecropia were educated, cultured, and among the first who started worshipping the Olympian gods. Soon enough, the Olympians noticed this beautiful land and wanted to protect it. The two gods who wanted Cecropia the most were Athena, the goddess of wisdom and strategy, and Poseidon, the god of the sea.
Athena and Poseidon were willing to compete against each other to win the sympathy of the natives. They did not try to force their power over the city; they knew that people would be more motivated to follow a god or goddess if he or she gained their respect rather than cause them to fear. This detail is important and often overlooked when describing the myth. The gods’ decision signifies the transition from oligarchy to democracy.
The two powerful gods stood in front of Cecrops and the citizens and presented their offers. Poseidon stood on the rocky terrain of Cecropia, which he then struck with his trident. A well full of salt water appeared, which was later called the “Sea of Erechtheus”. This was indeed very spectacular, however, the locals couldn’t drink the water and there was no practical use for it.
The wise goddess Athena did something less spectacular but she took into consideration the needs and wishes of the people. With her divine powers, an olive tree grew from the rocky terrain. The olive tree can survive the strong Attican sun and live for thousands of years. Today, visitors can see one of the oldest olive trees of Athens standing tall on the Acropolis hill. Rumor has it that this is the exact same tree that emerged from the ground with Athena’s powers.
Cecrops chose Athena to be the protector of the city, which was named after the goddess. This decision was proven very profitable, since the olive tree enabled the Athenians to produce olive oil – the “liquid gold” of the Mediterranean region. Not only did they become self-sufficient, but they exported the product in other regions as well. With their economy blooming, Athenians were able to spend more time thinking about how to improve society. What would the ideal governing style look like? What is moral and what is immoral? How can the arts and sciences improve people’s lives?
Other variations of the myth:
-Poseidon offered the people of Cecropia a goat; livestock farming would not bring a lot of profit, since the land lacked vegetation. Another, unpopular variation says that Poseidon actually offered the people a horse. Poseidon is indeed considered the creator of the horses.
-It wasn’t Cecrops who decided on the fate of the land, but the citizens. Women voted for Athena and men for Poseidon. The women were more than the men. This variation explains also the “birth” of Democracy, since the citizens voted for who would represent them. However, Democracy was developed around 600 BC, whereas Athens was founded 2,5 thousand years before that.