What is Greece famous for? Here are 18 things Greece is famous for, including beautiful islands, mythology, UNESCO sites, great food, and more!
Birthplace of democracy and cradle of Western civilization – two phrases used to describe Greece and its influence on the world for two thousand years!
This small country in the south of Europe is famous for many things. According to some, it is an ancient civilization and has contributed to theatre, philosophy, mathematics and medicine. For others, Greece is the ultimate vacation destination, basking in the sun and beautiful beaches. What Greece is famous for – ancient sites, beaches, islands and more!
We have come up with 18 interesting things that people associate with Greece. Read on to find out what Greece is famous for and the best way to experience it for yourself!
1. Greek sons
Think of Greece, and images of whitewashed houses and sparkling clear waters immediately come to mind. Greek islands are famous all over the world.
Greece has a coastline of 13,676 km and according to some sources the total number of Greek islands is more than 2,500 or 6,000! Home to around 170 of them, you’re likely to find your very own Greek paradise when you visit!
Crete is the largest island of Greece and Evia is the second largest island. Apart from them, most of the Greek islands are grouped together.
The most important groups of islands are the Cyclades, the Dodecanese, the Ionian Islands, the Sporades, the Northeast Aegean and the Argosaronic Islands.
Spend 2 nights on one island, then catch a ferry to another island, and another, and another!
The Cyclades are the most popular island chain for Greek island hopping, but you can also go Greek island hopping on other island chains.
Most of the Greek islands can be reached from the port of Piraeus in Athens . The larger islands have international airports and can be reached directly from Athens as well as many European countries.
Island chains usually have ferries that connect to each other, but one island chain is not necessarily connected to another.
Check the map before planning a Greek island hopping route that includes Ithaca, Lesbos and Santorini!
A special mention is the most popular Greek island, Santorini. Many people’s answer to the question “what is Greece famous for” is the sunset views of Oia, the northernmost village of this small island.
Everyone has seen those photos of blue domed churches and whitewashed walls. It seems to ooze chic elegance.
Experience it yourself by visiting Santorini in the off-season
In our very honest opinion, Santorini is best enjoyed and appreciated in the off-season – we visited in November and loved it.
Here are some ideas on what to do in Santorini if you decide to visit.
3. Acropolis and Parthenon
It is impossible to summarize the ancient complex of the Acropolis in Athens in a few lines. The site contains many ancient temples and buildings, the most important of which is the Parthenon.
Most of the temples were built during the Golden Age of Pericles in the 5th century.
You can visit this wonderful UNESCO World Heritage Site on your own. At the same time, if you want to know more about its history, architecture and social context of the time, you can enjoy a guided tour.
Experience yourself by choosing your time wisely
It can get hot at the top of the Acropolis! Convention says that people should come early in summer to escape the heat of the day.
I think it might be a better idea to visit the Acropolis between 17.00 and 20.00, when there are no coach tours and cruise ship passengers have returned to their boats.
Read more here: Facts about the Acropolis and the Parthenon.
4. Ancient Greek Mythology and the Olympian Gods
Ancient Greek mythology is known around the world, and it seems that most people have heard at least one myth.
Some popular ancient Greek legends include Odysseus’ return journey to Ithaca, the city of Athens named after the goddess Athena, the legend of Theseus and the Minotaur, and Jason and the Argonaut.
Ancient Greek mythology likely dates back to the 18th century BC, although there is no written evidence from that time. The oldest sources are Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey and Hesiod’s Theogony and Works and Days.
They discuss the origin of the world, numerous gods and heroes, and throw some light on the customs, institutions, customs, and life of the ancient Greeks.
All aspects of ancient Greek mythology feature the twelve Olympian gods. Unlike later gods in other religions, they share negative human traits such as lust, jealousy, and anger.
Twelve gods lived on Mount Olympus, the highest mountain in Greece, and each of them had specific functions. Later Roman gods are based on Greek gods. Here are more Greek mythology and fun facts about Greece.
Experience it yourself by visiting Ancient Olympia
Almost any museum connected to ancient Greece will have aspects of Greek mythology, while the museum at ancient Olympia has an amazing collection of sculptures.
Central to this is a series depicting the myth of Hercules and the 12 Labors. If you’re interested in Greek mythology, make sure to include a visit to Olympia in the Peloponnese on your itinerary!
5. Greek philosophers
Philosophy, the search for the meaning of life, emerged sometime in the sixth century BC. Philosophy aimed to explain life outside of religion, and promoted science and logic, but also politics and ethics.
Many ancient Greek philosophers such as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle are still relevant today. Many later philosophers such as Epicurus, Seneca, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius were influenced by the ancient Greeks.
Experience this with a visit to Plato’s Academy Museum
Surprisingly, there was no museum dedicated to philosophy in Athens until Plato’s Academy Museum opened a few years ago. It is an interactive museum that explains Plato’s life and philosophy. Find out more at: Plato ‘s Academy Museum .
6. Birthplace of Democracy
Greece is known as the birthplace of democracy, which effectively means “democracy”. This political system began in Athens in ancient times, just before the Golden Age of Pericles.
Although ancient democracy was very different from what we know as democracy today, it was the first attempt to empower people to actively participate in the problems of the city.
All male citizens of Athens who had undergone military training could participate in the assembly, meetings held a few times a year. The electoral process was reserved for Athenian men only, while women, non-Athenians and slaves were excluded from the process.
Originally, the Athenian assembly had the opportunity to vote on most decisions. It was a powerful body, as it could banish people for up to ten years. Later some powers of the Legislative Assembly were transferred to the courts.
On the legislative side, there was a public body of 500 people called Boule (Parliament). His responsibility was to guide the work of the assembly and ensure that the decisions of the assembly were implemented.
Although the people in the bowls were supposed to be chosen at random on an annual basis, there are indications that they were probably prominent Athenian citizens and their relatives.
See here for more interesting facts about Athens.
Experience it yourself… vote next time there is an election!
Next time there is an election, exercise the power of the people by voting!
7. Greek Language
Did you know that thousands of words in English come from Greek? Think philosophy, democracy and history, but also photography, psychology, school, problem, method, genre, music, idea, episode, program, apology, satire, practice, phrase. That’s not Greek for you… or is it?
Although evidence is scarce, languages that preceded Ancient Greek may have developed as early as 4000 BC. The language we refer to as “Ancient Greek” was the language of the Iliad and Odyssey and the language of the Golden Era or Pericles.
The language developed further in the following centuries and evolved into the so-called Koine Greek, which was widely used during the Hellenistic and Roman periods and became the official language of the early Byzantine Empire.
The New Testament was written in Koine Greek. Modern Greek is not far from Koine Greek. Nowadays, a Greek person can more or less read texts written in Koine Greek nearly 2,000 years ago!
Experience yourself by learning a few words before your vacation
While English is widely spoken in Greece, it doesn’t hurt to learn a few words before you visit. This article should help. And in case you’re wondering, instead of “it’s all Greek to me”, the Greeks say “it’s all Chinese to me”!
8. Olympic Games
You may know that the first modern Olympic Games were held in Athens in 1896 – but did you know that the first Olympic Games were held in Ancient Greece in 776 BC? It was held in honor of the king of the gods, Zeus, and matches and games were added at a later stage.
The games took place every four years in ancient Olympia, and people from all the city-states of Greece traveled to participate or attend.
During that time, the Olympic Truce was implemented to allow people and athletes to travel and participate safely – this was very important, as city-states were often at war with each other.
Only men of Greek descent who were not slaves were allowed to participate in the ancient Olympic Games. Although women were allowed to own chariots used for chariot racing, they were not allowed to participate in or attend the games.
The Olympic Games were suspended by Emperor Theodosius I in AD 393 due to the expansion of the Byzantine Empire. They were reinstated in 1896, with 241 male participants competing against each other. In 2004, the Games were held again in Athens.
Experience it yourself by visiting the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens
This interesting stadium was rebuilt for the first modern Olympic Games. It also has two interesting rooms with memorabilia from various Olympic Games around the world. Visiting with your family? Race on the track and see who is the Olympic champion in your family!
9. Greek Grains
For many visitors, Greek food is one of the reasons they come to Greece. Dishes like moussaka and souvlaki are famous all over the world.
However, if you want to experience some real Greek food, you have to come to Greece, preferably outside of the main tourist centers.
Greek cuisine is quite rich and varied. Vegetables and pulses are liberally consumed, but meat, poultry and fish are also abundant.
Flavors are usually subtle with onions, garlic, tomatoes or lemon and olive oil in most traditional recipes. Some of the staples on the Greek table are bread, served with every meal, olives and feta cheese.
Experience yourself by dining with a large group of people
Greek cuisine is best enjoyed in large groups. That way, you can order multiple dishes and try many different things. Greeks eat late and meals can go on for several hours. Enjoy!
10. Greek olives and olive oil
Do you need friendly advice? Never tell a Greek that olive oil from “another country” is the best. The Greeks are very proud of their olives and olive oil and consider every other olive oil inferior.
Honestly, Greek olives are pretty amazing. There are many varieties according to color, size and taste.
Small “Koronicki” olives are used to produce some of the best olive oils. They are found in the Peloponnese and Crete, the two main areas in Greece where olive oil is best produced. Another famous variety is the “Kalamon” olive, which is also exported.
Experience for yourself with an olive oil tasting tour
It doesn’t matter where you go in Greece, there will be an olive oil or olive tasting tour somewhere! See Get your guide for tours wherever you plan to visit in Greece.
11. Feta Cheese
When it comes to cheese, “What is Greece famous for?” There is only one answer – Feta. This white, crumbly cheese is made in Greece from 100% sheep’s milk or a mixture of sheep’s and 30% goat’s milk.
What is not well known, however, is that feta cheese is a protected designation of origin product in the EU. Therefore, the so-called feta cheese in other EU countries cannot really be called feta. Not even feta, a white cheese made with cow’s milk!
Feta can be eaten in its original form, with bread or in various salads such as the famous Greek salad. It is also used in tiropita and spanakopita, various omelettes and many other dishes.
Experience it yourself by ordering a Greek salad
No trip to Greece is complete without trying at least one Greek salad!
An integral part of the Greek summer, this strong distilled alcoholic drink is loved by many visitors. With a distinct dill flavor, it will accompany any meal, but goes best with fish. You can choose to drink it watered down, on the rocks or straight, always in good company.
Experience it… take it slow
If you’re not used to strong drinks, take it easy if you want to enjoy your day ahead. Yiamas!
13. Greek coffee
Before you visit Greece, you probably have no idea about the different types of coffee that are popular throughout the country. Traditional Greek coffee, which is boiled in a pot and served steaming hot, is very popular.
However, there are many varieties of cold, iced and hot coffee, such as Fredo Espresso, Fredo Cappuccino, the long-established Frappe and others that you can also find in your country.
What makes Greek coffee unique is the time it takes to drink it! Drinking coffee is a ritual in Greece. Unless you’re getting a coffee to go, sitting down for coffee with a friend usually means a long chat lasting two hours. See our article on Greek coffee culture.
Watch the world go by at the cafe
Coffee in Greece should not be rushed. Order yourself a nice cold frappé or freddo expresso and sit back and watch the world go by.
14. UNESCO Sites
We already mentioned the Acropolis – but did you know that Greece has a total of 18 UNESCO sites? Spread across the country, Greece’s UNESCO sites are unique.
From Mycenaean to Byzantine sites, monasteries to medieval castles, Greece’s UNESCO sites are truly diverse. See our comprehensive article for all UNESCO sites in Greece.
Experience it yourself by planning a road trip
Not all UNESCO sites in Greece are on the mainland, but there are enough of them that you can plan a road trip to cover all the sites. Find out about planning a road trip in Greece.
You can also take one of these Greece tours from Athens.
15. Greek Monastery
Although Greece’s best monasteries fall under the UNESCO Sites category, we can’t help but give a special mention to the world-famous region of Meteora.
The six active Meteora monasteries are located a few hours north of Athens, in a fascinating area full of steep cliffs and impressive cliffs.
You can visit independently or take a Meteora day trip from Athens if you don’t want to deal with the logistics.
However, Meteora Monastery is not the most important monastery in Greece. On the Chalkidiki peninsula in northern Greece is an area called Mount Athos. There are 20 monasteries in this area, 17 of which are Greek and the remaining three are Russian, Serbian and Bulgarian.
These monasteries have been fully functional since their foundation and thus Mount Athos is the oldest monastic community in the world. An estimated total of 1,650 monks live there.
You might be wondering why you haven’t heard of Mount Athos. The main reason is that women are not allowed in the entire area of Mount Athos!
Like the Vatican in Rome, Mount Athos is an independent state, governed partly by monks and partly by the Greek state. Pilgrims and male visitors should arrange their visit weeks or months in advance.
Experience it yourself by taking a cruise…
However, it is possible to cruise around the Mount Athos area. While you won’t be able to visit the monasteries themselves, you’ll get a glimpse of this beautiful and lesser-known region of Greece by boat and enjoy the island of Ammouliani.
16. World’s Deepest Ghat – No, it’s not the Samaria Ghat
You’ve probably heard of Mount Olympus, the home of the Olympian gods. However, did you know that according to the Guinness Book of Records, Greece has the world’s deepest canyon in proportion to its width?
Vikos Gorge is a gorge in northern Greece in the Zagori region. It is located in the Pindos mountain range in the Vicos Aos National Park.
Its length is about 20 km and its depth is almost 1,000 meters in some places! As it is not affected by tourism, Vikos Ghat is home to many endangered species and thousands of different types of plants. Parts of the gorge are estimated to be literally a million years old.
If you rent a car you can visit Vikos Ghat independently. The ghat starts around the villages of Koukauli and Monodendri and ends around the village called Vikos.