ANCIENT GREECE – Archaeological Sites and Museums

Ancient Greece is a magnet for travelers who enjoy history and culture. The country is sprinkled with a multitude of archaeological sites and museums. We hope we can help you understand the ancient Greek culture better, so you can plan your visit wisely.

Archaeological Sites and Museums of Greece

We have visited each one of these archaeological sites and museums so we can present the best possible recommendations for these pages:

Greek Art

The art of ancient Greece spans 3000 years, and remains influential to our day.

It is divided into the different chronological eras, and the most major units are Stone Age, Bronze Age–including Mycenaean and Minoan art, Geometric, Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic, and Greco-Roman.

After the ancient Greek era ended, Byzantine art dominates for another thousand years. The land is also littered with Ottoman artifacts from the 400-year occupation, but it is not considered “Greek” art in any sense of the word.

Choose from the following topics to learn more about ancient Greek art:

About Ancient Greece

Five thousand years of history have left a distinct mark on the Greek landscape.

Through the centuries, many ancient Greek monuments, cities, and landmarks have remained in use continuously. Athens, Argos, and Thebes are a few examples of cities that have been in existence since neolithic times.

But many fell into obscurity and were buried under the ground only to be unearthed by archaeologist in the past two hundred years. Mycenae, Knossos, Delphi, Olympia, are some ancient sites in this category.

Such ancient sites appear today as monuments to the Greek ideas and culture that influenced the subsequent generations of the western civilization.

History of Greece

If you are not familiar with Ancient Greece, read our concise history of Greece to orient yourself with the different eras, and the reasons for its importance for us today.

Where to Go if You Like Ancient Greece

If you enjoy ancient Greek ideals, history, architecture, and art, Greece will enchant you.

But we know time is limited, so we will break down the different eras, thematic groups, and history of ancient Greece.

The majority of most important archaeological sites are on the mainland. However, the islands have their share of excavated antiquities and museums of their own.

Here are two suggested itineraries if you want your holidays to revolve around the antiquities:

If you are a history buff, a lifetime is not enough to visit every ancient Greek site and museum. But you can start with the most important ones.

Where Are the Most Important Archaeological Sites and Museums?

Just about every town and island has its own archaeological site or two in its vicinity. Their corresponding archaeological museums exhibit finds from their surrounding area.

But this does not mean that the most important artifacts are always exhibited near the area they were found. If they are important enough, they find their way to the largest archaeological museums of Greece.

The Largest Archaeological Museums of Greece

There are two major museums that collect, maintain, and exhibit the most important ancient finds.

The National Archaeological Museum of Athens acts as an aggregator of the most important archaeological finds from each area. This means that the local museums usually exhibit artifacts from their area that have not been chosen for the National Museum.

The other major Greek institution is the Heraklion Archaeological Museum in Crete. Its collection includes the most important artifacts from ancient Crete.

Ancient Sites and Museums in Athens

Consequently, some of the most important ancient sites and museums are in and around Athens.

They include the Acropolis, the ancient Agora, Keramikos, and the biggest museums of Greece, the Acropolis Museum and the National Archaeological one.

Major Archaeological Sites and Museums Outside Athens

Outside Athens, you will find major archaeological sites and museums in Delphi, Olympia, Mycenae, Crete, Santorini (Museum of Prehistoric Art), Vergina, and Thessaloniki.

The Best and the Most Important Sites

The best ancient sites and museums are a bit different than the “most important”.

We consider archaeological sites “best” if they are first, important for the world.  Second we look if the archaeological site is convenient to visit, and once there, if there is enough exposed to provide a good experience for the visitors.

It goes without saying that “best” and “important” overlap a great deal, so we include certain sites in both lists.

In this respect, the best archaeological sites for travelers are:

The Best Ancient Greek Archaeological Sites

The Best Archaeological Museums in Greece

  • National Archaeological Museum in Athens
  • Heraklion Museum in Crete
  • Delphi Archaeological Museum
  • Olympia Archaeological Museum
  • Museum of Prehistoric Art in Santorini
  • Volos Archaeological Museum
  • Ioannina Archaeological Museum
  • Thessaloniki Archaeological Museum
  • Vergina
  • Corfu Archaeological Museum

The Most Important Archaeological Sites in Greece

The most important ancient sites in Greece are chosen by the amount of influence they exerted, and consequently by the richness of archaeological finds unearthed there.

The most important archaeological sites in Greece are:

The Most important Archaeological Sites By Era

Over the past 5000 years Greece changed dramatically. Each era lasted several centuries and produced unique cultural artifacts.

Read more about our brief history of Greece if you need to orient yourself with the different eras of ancient Greece.

The Most Important Stone Age Archaeological Sites

  • Franchthi cave near Nafplio
  • Asprochaliko in Ioannina
  • Sesklo, and Dimini near Volos in Thessaly

The Most Important Bronze Age, Minoan, and Mycenaean Archaeological Sites

  • Mycenae, and Pylos in the Peloponnese
  • Knossos, Malia, Phaistos, and Zakros in Crete
  • Akrotiri in Santorini

The Most Important Archaic and Dark Ages Archaeological Sites

  • Eretria and Lefkandi in Eubea
  • Agora and Keramikos in Athens
  • Zagora in Andros

The Most Important Classical Archaeological Sites

The Most Important Hellenistic Archaeological Sites

  • Vergina in Macedonia
  • Epidaurus in the Peloponnese
  • Dion near Thessaloniki
  • Aegai in Macedonia

The Most Important Greco-Roman Archaeological Sites

  • Nikopolis in Preveza
  • Patra
  • Thessaloniki
  • Filippoi
  • Ephesus (in what is now Turkey)
  • Gortyn in Crete

The Most Important Byzantine Archaeological Sites

  • Mystras
  • Meteora
  • Mt. Athos – Agio Oros
  • Arta

The Most Important Medieval and Venetian Sites and Castles

  • Rhodes
  • Heraklion
  • Chania
  • Methoni
  • Corfu
  • Nafplio

Major Ancient Greek Sites Outside Today’s Greek Borders

Ancient Greek towns and influence are spread well beyond the modern Greek borders.

In the Archaic era (700 – 480 BCE), Greeks expanded beyond the Aegean and colonized hundreds of areas of the northwest Mediterranean, and the black sea.

A century later, Greek influence and migration expanded from the Aegean all the way to western India.

Consequently, you can visit many ancient Greek settlements in many countries in southern Europe, northern Africa, Russia, and southwest Asia.

There are too many to list, but not every ancient Greek settlement was important, and not every one has been excavated. But there are a few that are important Greek archaeological sites.

The most important Greek archaeological sites outside modern Greece are:

  • Albania: Buthroton (Butrint)
  • Italy: Agragas, Syracuse, Herculaneum
  • Turkey: Pergamon, Ephesus, Miletos, Halicarnassus
  • Cyprus: Salamis, Pafos
  • Egypt: Alexandria
  • Lybia: Cyrene
  • FYROM: Pelagonia, Antigoneia, Gortynia, Heraklia Lyngistis
  • Crimea Peninsula: Chersonesos Taurica

Major Ancient Greek Artifacts in Museums Outside Today’s Greece

Greek civilization had such heavy influence in western culture, many museums around the world feature ancient Greek artifacts.

These are the museums outside Greece that include major ancient Greek artifacts: