Attica and Delphi

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  • 1. Ancient Delphi

    After a square surrounded by late-Roman porticoes, pass through the main gate to Ancient Delphi and continue on to the Sacred Way, the approach to...

    After a square surrounded by late-Roman porticoes, pass through the main gate to Ancient Delphi and continue on to the Sacred Way, the approach to the Altar of Apollo. Walk between building foundations and bases for votive dedications, stripped now of ornament and statue, mere scraps of what was one of the richest collections of art and treasures in antiquity. Thanks to the 2nd-century AD writings of Pausanias, archaeologists have identified treasuries built by the Thebans, the Corinthians, the Syracusans, and others—a roster of 5th- and 6th-century BC powers. The Treasury of the Athenians, on your left as you turn right, was built with money from the victory over the Persians at Marathon. The Stoa of the Athenians, northeast of the treasury, housed, among other objects, an immense cable with which the Persian king Xerxes roped together a pontoon bridge for his army to cross the Hellespont from Asia to Europe. The Temple of Apollo visible today (there were three successive temples built on the site) is from the 4th century BC. Although ancient sources speak of a chasm within, there is no trace of that opening in the earth from which emanated trance-inducing vapors. Above the temple is the well-preserved theater, which seated 5,000. It was built in the 4th century BC, restored in about 160 BC, and later restored again by the Romans. From a sun-warmed seat on the last tier, you see a panoramic bird's-eye view of the sanctuary and the convulsed landscape that encloses it. Also worth the climb is the view from the stadium still farther up the mountain, at the highest point of the ancient town. Built and restored in various periods and cut partially from the living rock, the stadium underwent a final transformation under Herodes Atticus, the Athenian benefactor of the 2nd century AD. It lies cradled in a grove of pine trees, a quiet refuge removed from the sanctuary below and backed by the sheer, majestic rise of the mountain. Markers for the starting line inspire many to race the length of the stadium.

    Delphi, Central Greece, 33054, Greece
    22650-82313

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €12, includes the Sanctuary of Athena and Delphi Museum
  • 2. Delphi Museum

    Visiting this museum is essential to understanding the site and sanctuary's importance to the ancient Greek world, which considered Delphi its center (literally—look for the...

    Visiting this museum is essential to understanding the site and sanctuary's importance to the ancient Greek world, which considered Delphi its center (literally—look for the copy of the omphalos, or Earth's navel, a sacred stone from the adytum of Apollo's temple). The museum is home to a wonderful collection of art and architectural sculpture, principally from the Sanctuaries of Apollo and Athena Pronoia. One of the greatest surviving ancient bronzes on display commands a prime position in a spacious hall, set off to advantage by special lighting. Known as the Charioteer (said to be scaled to life), it was created around 470 BC and its human figure is believed to have stood on a terrace wall above the Temple of Apollo, near which it was found in 1896. It was part of a larger piece, which included a four-horse chariot. Scholars do not agree on who executed the work, although Pythagoras of Samos is sometimes mentioned as a possibility. The donor is supposed to have been a well-known patron of chariot racing, Polyzalos, the Tyrant of Gela in Sicily. Historians now believe that a sculpted likeness of Polyzalos was originally standing next to the charioteer figure. The statue commemorates a victory in the Pythian Games at the beginning of the 5th century BC. Note the eyes, inlaid with a white substance resembling enamel, the pupils consisting of two concentric onyx rings of different colors. The sculpture of the feet and of the hair clinging to the nape of the neck is perfect in detail. Two life-size Ionian chryselephantine (ivory heads with gold headdresses) from the Archaic period are probably from statues of Apollo and his sister Artemis (she has a sly smirk on her face). Both gods also figure prominently in a frieze depicting the Gigantomachy, the gods' battle with the giants. These exquisitely detailed marble scenes, dated to the 6th century BC, are from the Treasury of the Siphnians. The caryatids (supporting columns in a female form) from the treasury's entrance have been repositioned to offer a more accurate picture of the building's size and depth. The museum's expansion also allowed curators to give more space to the metopes, marble sculptures depicting the feats of Greece's two greatest heroes, Heracles and Theseus, from the Treasury of the Athenians. The museum also has a pleasant outdoor café (weather permitting).

    Delphi, Central Greece, 33054, Greece
    22650-82312

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €12, includes Ancient Delphi and the Sanctuary of Athena
  • 3. Monastery of Daphni

    Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    Sacked by Crusaders, inhabited by Cistercian monks, and desecrated by Turks, this UNESCO World Heritage site remains one of the most splendid...

    Sacked by Crusaders, inhabited by Cistercian monks, and desecrated by Turks, this UNESCO World Heritage site remains one of the most splendid Byzantine monuments in Greece. Dating from the 11th century, the golden age of Byzantine art, the church contains a series of miraculously preserved mosaics without parallel in the legacy of Byzantium: powerful portraits of figures from the Old and New Testaments, images of Christ and the Virgin Mary in the Presentation of the Virgin, and, in the golden dome, a stern Pantokrator ("ruler of all") surrounded by 16 Old Testament prophets who predicted his coming. The mosaics, made of chips of four different types of marble, are set against gold. An ongoing long-term restoration project makes it hard to see some of the mosaics, but this doesn't take away much of the awe inspired by the craftmanship of the Byzantine masters.

    , Attica, 12461, Greece
    210-581–1558

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free, Closed Mon., Wed., Thurs., Sat., and Sun
  • 4. Osios Loukas

    Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    Luke (Loukas) the Hermit—not the evangelist who wrote a book of the New Testament—was a medieval oracle who founded a church at this site and...

    Luke (Loukas) the Hermit—not the evangelist who wrote a book of the New Testament—was a medieval oracle who founded a church at this site and lived here until his death in AD 953. He was probably born in Delphi, after his family fled from Aegina during a raid of Saracen pirates. This important monastery was founded by the emperor Romanos II in AD 961, in recognition of the accuracy of Loukas's prophecy that Crete would be liberated by an emperor named Romanos. The katholikon, a masterpiece of Byzantine architecture, was built in the 11th century over the tomb of Luke. It follows to perfection the Byzantine cross-in-a-square plan under a central dome and was inspired by Ayia Sophia in Constantinople; in turn, it was used as a model for both the Monastery of Daphni and Mystra churches. Impressive mosaics in the narthex and in portions of the domed nave are set against a rich gold background and done in the somber but expressive 11th-century hieratic style by artists from Thessaloniki and Constantinople. Particularly interesting are the reactions evident on the faces of the apostles, which range from passivity to surprise as Christ washes their feet in the mosaic of Niptir, to the far left of the narthex.In the second niche of the entrance is a mosaic showing Loukas sporting a helmet and beard, with his arms raised. The engaging Nativity, Presentation in the Temple, and the Baptism of Christ mosaics are on the curved arches that support the dome. Two priceless icons from the late 16th century, Daniel in the Lion's Den and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the Flames of the Furnace, by Damaskinos, a teacher of El Greco, were stolen a few years back from the white marble iconostasis in the little apse and have been replaced with copies. The tomb of Osios Loukas is in the crypt of the katholikon; his relics, formerly in the Vatican, were moved here in 1987, making the monastery an official shrine. A highlight of the complex, evocatively clinging to a pine-scented hillside, is the Theotokos (Mother of God), a small communal church dedicated to the Virgin Mary, on the left as you enter. On the periphery are the monks' cells and a refectory, now restored, which has been used as a sculpture museum since 1993. To visit you must wear either long pants or a skirt. Bring a small flashlight to help see some of the frescoes.

    On rise above valley of Mt. Elikon, Osios Loukas, Central Greece, 32005, Greece
    22670-22797

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €4
  • 5. Sanctuary of Athena

    Start your tour of Ancient Delphi in the same way the ancients did, with a visit to the Sanctuary of Athena. Pilgrims who arrived on...

    Start your tour of Ancient Delphi in the same way the ancients did, with a visit to the Sanctuary of Athena. Pilgrims who arrived on the shores of the Bay of Itea proceeded up to the sanctuary, where they paused before going on to the Ancient Delphi site. The most notable among the numerous remains on this terrace is the Tholos (Round Building), a graceful 4th-century BC ruin of Pendelic marble, the purpose and dedication of which are unknown, although round templelike buildings were almost always dedicated to a goddess. By the 2nd millennium BC, the site was already a place of worship of the earth goddess Gaia and her daughter Themis, one of the Titans. The gods expressed themselves through the murmuring of water flooding from the fault, from the rustle of leaves, and from the booming of earth tremors. The Tholos remains one of the purest and most exquisite monuments of antiquity. Theodoros, its architect, wrote a treatise on his work: an indication in itself of the exceptional architectural quality of the monument. Beneath the Phaedriades, in the cleft between the rocks, a path leads to the Castalian Fountain, a spring where pilgrims bathed to purify themselves before continuing. (Access to the font is prohibited because of the danger of falling rocks.) On the main road, beyond the Castalian Fountain, is the modern entrance to the sanctuary.

    Delphi, Central Greece, 33054, Greece

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €12, includes Ancient Delphi and the Delphi Museum
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  • 6. Schinias Beach

    Beach

    The best beach in the north of Attica, just beyond Marathon, is this long, sandy, pine-backed stretch called Schinias. It's crowded with Athenians...

    The best beach in the north of Attica, just beyond Marathon, is this long, sandy, pine-backed stretch called Schinias. It's crowded with Athenians on the weekend, has a few simple tavernas along the sand and quite a lot of beach bars, and is frequently struck by strong winds that windsurfers love in summer. A dirt-and-sand track skirts the pine groves behind the beach, providing access to some relatively remote stretches. Campers like to settle in the Schinias forest during the summer, taking care not to disturb its precious natural habitat, which is enviromentally protected. Amenities: food and drink; lifeguards; parking (free); showers; toilets; water sports. Best for: sunset; swimming; walking; windsurfing.

    Schinias, Marathon, Attica, 19007, Greece
  • 7. Tatoi Royal Estate

    Historic Home

    What was once a beautiful summer retreat for the Greek royal family is slowly being reclaimed by the wild. It's an unusual tale, even by Greek...

    What was once a beautiful summer retreat for the Greek royal family is slowly being reclaimed by the wild. It's an unusual tale, even by Greek standards, and a setting that makes for a remarkable walk on the southeast slopes of Mt. Parnitha. The first piece of the estate was bought by King George I in 1871, who slowly built up the land around it and commissioned a mansion in the style of Russia's Peterhof Palace. Over the next century the estate grew and grew as vineyards, a cemetery, stables, a pool, a hotel, and various buildings were added to its 10,000 acres. Then it all came to a halt. The abolition of the monarchy in 1974 preceded a long-running dispute over the estate's ownership and saw its buildings fall sadly into neglect. Since then, clumsy attempts at restoration and plans to turn it into a museum have come to little, and today its buildings, now mostly boarded up, are off-limits to visitors. The grounds are free to roam by the public until sunset and have parking nearby to allow access. That is the extent of its facilities, however; there are no cafés, toilets, or running water inside the park. Yet the estate's fall from grace doesn't diminish what is an astonishing walk, as you wander through pine-scented forest and contemplate the fleeting nature of wealth in this "ghost palace.

    Tatiou Rd. , Mt Parnitha, Attica, Greece
    69759-47248
  • 8. Temple of Poseidon

    Although the columns at the Temple of Poseidon appear to be gleaming white from a distance in the full sun, when you get closer you...

    Although the columns at the Temple of Poseidon appear to be gleaming white from a distance in the full sun, when you get closer you can see that they are made of gray-veined marble, quarried from the Agrileza valley 2 km (1 mile) north of the cape, and have 16 flutings rather than the usual 20. Climb the rocky path and beyond the scanty remains of an ancient propylon (gateway), you enter the temple compound. On your left is the temenos (precinct) of Poseidon; on your right, a stoa (arcade) and rooms. The temple itself (now roped off) was commissioned by Pericles, the leader of Greece's golden age. It was probably designed by Ictinus, the same architect who helped design the Temple of Hephaistos in the ancient Agora of Athens, and was built between 444 and 440 BC. The people here were considered Athenian citizens, the sanctuary was Athenian, and Poseidon occupied a position second only to Athena herself. The badly preserved frieze on the temple's east side is thought to have depicted the fight between the two gods to become patron of Athens. The temple was built on the site of an earlier cult to Poseidon. Two colossal statues of youths, carved more than a century before the temple's construction (perhaps votives to the god), were discovered in early excavations. Both now reside at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. The 15 Doric columns that remain stand sentinel over the Aegean, visible from miles away. Lord Byron had a penchant for carving his name on ancient monuments, and you can see it and other graffiti on the right corner pillar of the portico. The view from the summit is breathtaking. In the slanting light of the late-afternoon sun, the landmasses to the west stand out in sharp profile: the bulk of Aegina backed by the mountains of the Peloponnese. To the east, on a clear day, one can spot the Cycladic islands of Kea, Kythnos, and Serifos. On the land side, the slopes of the acropolis retain traces of the fortification walls.

    Sounion, Attica, 19500, Greece
    22920-39363

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €10
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  • 9. Agios Georgios Church

    Festival–Sight

    If you're lucky enough to be in Arachova for the festival on St. George's Day—April 23 (or the Monday after Easter if April 23 falls during...

    If you're lucky enough to be in Arachova for the festival on St. George's Day—April 23 (or the Monday after Easter if April 23 falls during Lent)—you're in for the time of your life. St. George the dragon slayer, is the patron saint of Arachova, and the largest church on the top of the highest hill in town is dedicated to him. So, naturally, the festival here lasts three days and nights, starting with a procession behind the generations-old silver icon from the church, in which the villagers don the local costumes, most of them ornately embroidered silken and brocaded heirlooms that testify to the rich cultural heritage of the town. The festival is kicked off in fine form with the race of the yeroi, the old men of the town, who are astonishingly agile as they clamber up the hill above the church without so much as a gasp for air. The following days are filled with athletic contests, cooking competitions, and, at night, passionate dancing in the tavernas until long after the goats go home. Visitors are welcome to partake of a feast held outside St. George (Agios Georgios) church that features Mt. Parnassus's legendary roast lamb and feta cheese and a steady flow of Arachova wine.

    Arachova, Central Greece, 32004, Greece
    22670-31241-Ayioa Yiorgios church
  • 10. Agios Nikolaos

    Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    The cathedral, perched atop a hill above the harbor and Old Town, is named after the patron saint of sailors and possesses a beautifully carved...

    The cathedral, perched atop a hill above the harbor and Old Town, is named after the patron saint of sailors and possesses a beautifully carved 19th-century altar screen.

    Old Town, Galaxidi, Central Greece, 33052, Greece
  • 11. Akti Vouliagmeni

    Beach

    A fee gives you access to elegant wooden lounge chairs, white umbrellas, and shiny beach bars. Also on-site at this public beach are basketball...

    A fee gives you access to elegant wooden lounge chairs, white umbrellas, and shiny beach bars. Also on-site at this public beach are basketball, volleyball, and tennis courts as well as a playground for pre- or post-swimming fun. There's also Wi-Fi and a first-aid station during the summer. Amenities: food and drink; lifeguards; parking (free); toilets. Best for: swimming; walking.

    2 Poseidonos, at Apollonos, Vouliagmeni, Attica, 16671, Greece
    210-896–0697

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €7
  • 12. Alimos Beach

    Beach

    The town of Alimos has the nearest developed—and clean—beach to Athens. The so-called Beach of the Sun extends over 60,000 square meters and...

    The town of Alimos has the nearest developed—and clean—beach to Athens. The so-called Beach of the Sun extends over 60,000 square meters and has umbrellas and lounge chairs for rent, three beach bars, a couple of tavernas, and one minimarket. Expect it to be packed over the hot summer months. There is an entry fee (slightly higher on weekends); expect to be charged extra for the sun beds during weekends as well. Amenities: food and drink; lifeguards; parking (fee); showers; toilets. Best for: swimming; walking.

    Poseidonos, opposite no. 62, Alimos, Attica, 17455, Greece
    210-985–5169

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €3 weekdays, €5 weekends
  • 13. Anavyssos Beach

    Beach

    The broad, sandy beach at Anavyssos is very popular with windsurfers (especially the stretch called Alykes). There's a children's playground...

    The broad, sandy beach at Anavyssos is very popular with windsurfers (especially the stretch called Alykes). There's a children's playground and beach volleyball courts, as well as sun beds and umbrellas for hire. Amenities: food and drink; showers; toilets; water sports. Best for: solitude; swimming; windsurfing.

    Anavyssos, Attica, 19013, Greece
  • 14. Asteras Beach

    Beach

    This sprawling, upmarket complex draws a hip young crowd as well as families with children, who enjoy different sides of the beach. It is built...

    This sprawling, upmarket complex draws a hip young crowd as well as families with children, who enjoy different sides of the beach. It is built around a fine sand shore and landscaped grounds shaded by elegant pergolas, but the high-concept branding and glitz is just another attempt to glamorize (and monetize) the Riviera sands. On balance it offers a fair amount of facilities, including lounge chairs, umbrellas, pools, lockers, changing rooms, showers, trampolines, a playground, restaurants, bars, and water sports. Yet for the cost of €8 and the privilege of spending even more on high-priced drinks and food, it makes you yearn for simpler pleasures. The youthful Balux poolside café-club offers a spot to cool off on abundant pillows with a chilled coffee in hand or sip a cocktail long after sundown. Amenities: food and drink; parking (fee); showers; toilets; water sports. Best for: partiers; swimming; walking; windsurfing.

    Poseidonos 58, Glyfada, Attica, 16674, Greece
    210-894–1620

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €8
  • 15. Astir Beach

    Beach

    This beach club on the Laimos promontory is not just a place to get a tan; it's where you go to be seen . Yes, it is open to the public daily...

    This beach club on the Laimos promontory is not just a place to get a tan; it's where you go to be seen. Yes, it is open to the public daily from 8 am to 9 pm, but its exclusive location has always commanded a hefty entrance fee (to the indignation of locals), which means the green lawns and sandy stretch are usually not so crowded. It is also home to a slice of ancient history. The 6th-century Temple of Apollo Zoster was discovered here when a couple of young boys from a nearby orphanage—which still exists—dug it up while playing in the sand in the early part of the 20th century. If that doesn't do it for you, a range of services (including shopping, dining, water sports, and yoga on the beach) are offered at an extra cost. Amenities: food and drink; volleyball courts; water sports. Best for: swimming; relaxing in style. If you don't fancy paying €30 to rent an umbrella, across the road is a small public beach where locals paddle in the water for free.

    Apollonos 40, Vouliagmeni, Attica, 16671, Greece
    210-890–1619

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €15 weekdays; €25 weekends; umbrellas from €30
  • 16. Folklore Museum & Clock Tower

    Museum/Gallery

    This small, two-room museum has some fascinating old black-and-white shots of traditionally dressed locals and festivals as well examples of...

    This small, two-room museum has some fascinating old black-and-white shots of traditionally dressed locals and festivals as well examples of their clothing. Proceed behind the museum for access to the wonderfully moody-looking clocktower, which has been destroyed and rebuilt numerous times having been destroyed by earthquakes and Nazis alike. The view from above soars over the red-tiled roofs of this noble town and across to the spectacular gorge below.

    EO Livadiass-Amfissas, Arachova, Central Greece, 32004, Greece
    22670-31630

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free
  • 17. Georgiadou Bakery

    Store/Mall

    Athenians flock here for the piroshki, a Russian turnover filled with spicy ground meat, but leave carrying bags filled with all types of...

    Athenians flock here for the piroshki, a Russian turnover filled with spicy ground meat, but leave carrying bags filled with all types of baked goods, from baguettes and hearty peasant loaves to honey-drenched cakes. A branch of this historic bakery (founded in 1910) recently opened right in the center of Athens, on Ermou Street, a few yards away from the Greek Parliament.

    Vas. Konstantinou 98, at Afroditis 2, Varkiza, Attica, 16672, Greece
    210-897–5602
  • 18. Kavouri Beach

    Beach

    This public beach extends north from Vouliagmeni to Voula and is one of the most easily accessible free, public beaches near the city. It has...

    This public beach extends north from Vouliagmeni to Voula and is one of the most easily accessible free, public beaches near the city. It has fine golden sand and is a good choice for families. There are a few modest cafés along the beach as well as some shops, while umbrellas and sun beds are available for rent. Amenities: food and drink; parking (free); showers; toilets. Best for: swimming; walking.

    Vouliagmeni, Attica, 16671, Greece

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free
  • 19. Lake Marathon

    Viewpoint

    The huge man-made reservoir formed by the Marathon Dam (built by an American company in 1925–31) warrants a visit soley to see the only dam...

    The huge man-made reservoir formed by the Marathon Dam (built by an American company in 1925–31) warrants a visit soley to see the only dam in the world said to be faced with real marble. At the downstream side is a marble replica of the Athenian Treasury of Delphi. This is a main source of water for Athens, supplemented with water from Parnitha and the Boeotia region. Wonderful views glimpsed from the tall front windows help make this a perfect and refreshing stop on your way back to Athens from Schinias Beach.

    Marathon, Attica, 19007, Greece
  • 20. Lavrion Mineralogical Museum

    Museum/Gallery

    Even if you're just drifting through, this small mineralogical museum is worth a stop to get a gist of the history of the area. Its 700 exhibits...

    Even if you're just drifting through, this small mineralogical museum is worth a stop to get a gist of the history of the area. Its 700 exhibits—including several rare and beautiful specimens such as laurionite and azurite—are housed in a charming late-19th-century building once used by the French Mining Company to wash minerals. Coins made from the silver that the ancient Greeks mined around Lavrion are also on display.

    Iroon Polytechniou Sq., Lavrion, Attica, 34195, Greece
    22920-25295

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €2, Closed Mon., Tues., and Thurs.

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