Acropolis of Athens

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Greece

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There are 19 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Greece. These include world-famous cultural landmarks like the Acropolis of Athens and the sanctuaries of ancient Delphi and Olympia, as well as Byzantine monasteries and even a collection of Zagori villages in Epirus, singled out for their traditional stonework. What they all have in common is that they are recognised for their exceptional value to humanity, making them must-see cultural sites in Greece. 

*You can book tickets for selected UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Greece here

The Acropolis of Athens

An eternal symbol of classical spirit and civilisation and one of the most complete ancient Greek monumental complexes, the Acropolis of Athens has been inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987. There is evidence that a 14th century BC Mycenaean royal palace once stood on the rocky hilltop overlooking the Greek capital. But it is for the historical and cultural significance and the architectural beauty of the Parthenon and the other 5th century BC monuments – forming part of Athenian statesman Pericles’ grand reconstruction for Athens – that the Acropolis is world-famous today.

The Parthenon (created by the legendary sculptor Phidias and once housing a 12m tall gold and ivory statue of the goddess Athena), the Erechtheion, the Propylaea, the Temple Athena Nike and the other defining monuments of the Acropolis were created during this time. Athena had been worshipped here in the previous centuries, but now the magnificence of the monuments (made with the finest Pendelic marble) also served as symbols of Athens’ dominance over other city-states, following its victory over the Persians. With the establishment of democracy, the Golden Age of Athens had begun. 

Take a tour of the Acropolis of Athens

Archaeological site of Delphi

One of the most extensive archaeological sites in Greece, Delphi was a symbol of unity in the ancient Greek world. According to myth, it is where the two eagles released by Zeus to locate the centre of the world met, and so was referred to as the omphalos (or navel) of the world. It was also a sanctuary of unparalleled beauty, built on the slopes of Mount Parnassos and overlooking the Pleistos valley to the sea. There could be no more fitting location to worship the sun god Apollo, who (according to Greek mythology) killed the dragon-serpent Python on this very spot, thereby gaining control of the oracle. Everyone from kings to commoners came to hear the words of Apollo delivered by the priestess Pythia (named after Python) at Delphi’s legendary oracle. 

Delphi reached the height of its religious and political influence in the 6th century BC, but it remained important into Roman times. Gifts were displayed in treasuries (the Athenian Treasury is the best preserved) lining the narrow streets. Archaeological wonders include the Temple of Apollo, the Ancient Theatre, the Castalian Spring and the Tholos of Athena Pronaia (also worshipped here). The Stadium held the four-yearly Pythian Games, second in importance only to the Olympic Games.  Winners would receive a laurel wreath, made from the sacred plant of Apollo.

Feel the aura of Ancient Delphi

Archaeological Sites of Mycenae and Tiryns

"Gold-rich Mycenae" (as Homer called it) is the richest palatial centre of the Late Bronze Age in Greece and effortlessly blends history with mythology. It was the realm of the mythical King Agamemnon (who commanded the Achaeans during the Trojan War) and was named by Perseus (son of Zeus and Danae and the slayer of the gorgon Medusa). The last of Perseus' descendants was Eurystheus, who set Hercules his 12 labours. It is also synonymous with one of the most brilliant civilisations of prehistory, the Mycenaeans. 

The earliest human activity in the area dates from the 7th millennium BC (the Neolithic period) but most of today’s monuments are from 1350-1200 BC. These include the Cyclopean Walls which, legend tells us, Perseus commissioned to be built by the one-eyed Cyclops giants from Asia Minor, and the Lion Gate, the entrance to the citadel, named after the two lionesses carved above the doorway. The Treasury of Atreus (also known as the Tomb of Agamemnon, without there being any evidence that the king was buried there) is the best-preserved of the famous vaulted beehive tombs of Mycenae and the Tomb of Clytemnestra is named after the wife of Agamemnon and half-sister of Helen of Troy.   

BONUS: Very close to Mycenae in the eastern Peloponnese, Ancient Tiryns is also UNESCO-protected and an important Mycenaean acropolis. Its Cyclopean Walls are built with stones even larger than those of Mycenae and there is an ancient acropolis with a gate that resembles the Lion Gate.  

Discover the secrets of Mycenae


There is no competition for the title of most dramatic UNESCO World Heritage Site in Greece. The Meteora rocks and the active or abandoned monasteries that seem impossibly perched on their peaks are extraordinary feats of both nature and man. The pillar-shaped sandstone rock formations were sculpted by prehistoric rivers and they first attracted ascetics in the 10th and 11th centuries, who lived and prayed in the natural hollows of the rocks. Using scaffolding supported by beams wedged into holes in the rock and later netting and rope ladders, the hermits gradually found refuge further up the rocks. 

The first monastery (the Monastery of Great Meteoron) was founded in around 1340 by Saint Athanasios Meteorites, a scholar from Mount Athos, at the peak of Paltys Lithos, the tallest rock. Over the next centuries, the number of monasteries grew to 24, of which six are still active (the Monastery of Great Meteoron, the Monastery of Varlaam, the Monastery of St Nicholas Anapafsas, the Monastery of Rousanou, the Monastery of Holy Trinity and the Monastery of St Stephen). As well as being sacred places of Christian Orthodoxy, they contain countless priceless ecclesiastical artefacts and 16th-century frescoes, denoting a key stage in the development of post-Byzantine painting.

Discover the wonder of Meteora

Archaeological site of Olympia

Located in the western Peloponnese, in the beautiful valley of the Alpheus River, Ancient Olympia was one of the most glorious sanctuaries of ancient Greece. It was dedicated to Zeus, in whose honour the Olympic Games were held every four years, uniting the Greeks of the then known world and even suspending hostilities. The Games continued uninterrupted for more than 1,000 years (from 776 BC to 393 AD) and the many monuments and facilities for athletes, religious ceremonies and visiting dignitaries at Olympia were fit for Zeus himself. 

The heart of the sanctuary was the Altis (or grove), a sacred precinct containing monuments like the Temple of Zeus (which once housed the 13.5m ivory-and-gold statue of Zeus created by Pheidias and considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World). The 7th century BC Temple of Hera is where the famous statue of Hermes by Praxiteles (in the Museum of Ancient Olympia) was found and where the Olympic torch is lit today. Other remains include the Pelopion (dating from 2500 BC and the centre of the cult of King Pelops of Pisa), treasuries for storing votive offerings and the circular Philippeion (built by Philip II of Macedon after his victory over the Greek League in 338 BC). Landmark monuments beyond the Altis include Pheidias’ Workshop as well as the Gymnasium and Stadium and even the remains of a complex of baths and villas, including one built by the Roman Emperor Nero for when he attended the Games. 

Feel the spirit of Ancient Olympia


The largest archaeological site in Greece and the smallest island to have been a city-state, Delos is where Leto (made pregnant by Zeus and banished from Olympus by a jealous Hera) is said to have given birth to Artemis and Apollo. The first traces of settlement are from the second half of the 3rd millennium BC and there are remains from Mycenaean times (1750 to 1050 BC). By the 8th century BC, a vast Apollonian Sanctuary had been created, attracting pilgrims and (from the 7th and 6th centuries BC) gifts, statues and other offerings in honour of Apollo. And from the 4th century BC, Delos was a prosperous Mediterranean trading port, housing artists, bankers and shipowners in villas that were richly decorated with frescoes and mosaic floors. Such was its stature that the islands surrounding it became known as the Cyclades islands, today including legends like Santorini and Mykonos. Its decline began in the 1st century BC and it was abandoned during the Roman period.

The archaeological site covers almost the entire island. The Temple of Delians (built between 476-314 BC and an example of Doric architecture) is the largest of three temples dedicated to Apollo and there is a temple dedicated to Hera. The much-photographed Terrace of Lions was a gift by the Naxians and the Ancient Theatre has wonderful views over the sea. There are also an unprecedented number of sanctuaries dedicated to foreign deities (the temples to the Egyptian gods Sarapis, Isis and Anubis and the Syrian gods Haadad and Atargatis) and even the remains of what is believed to be a synagogue, emphasising the cosmopolitanism nature of Ancient Delos.

Explore the treasures of Ancient Delos

Sanctuary of Asklepios at Epidaurus

Ancient Epidaurus is best known for its magnificent theatre, which still hosts performances and is considered one of the purest masterpieces of ancient Greece. But its significance – and the reason for its inclusion on Greece’s list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites – goes far beyond the theatre. Spread over two terraces in a beautiful corner of the eastern Peloponnese, it is a sprawling sanctuary dedicated to Asclepius, the god of medicine, and is considered the earliest organised sanatorium. As such it represents part of the transition from exclusively divine healing to one incorporating science-based treatments.

Asclepius was worshipped here from the 6th century BC but most of today’s monuments, including the temples of Asclepius and Artemis and the enkoimeteria (a sleeping hall where treatments took place) date from the 4th century BC. Attending theatrical performances was considered part of the therapy, offering a fascinating insight into the healing cults of the ancient Greeks and Romans, who also used the sanctuary. Elsewhere, there are remains of a guesthouse and recreational areas for patients, as well as a tholos (of unknown use), a palaestra (gymnasium) and a stadium. The star of the show, however, is the theatre, which originally held 6,000 spectators and is renowned for its perfect architectural proportions and exemplary acoustics.

Take a tour of Ancient Epidaurus

Old Town of Corfu

While the roots of Corfu Old Town go back to the 8th century BC, it was the Venetians, French and British, who ruled over the island from the 13th to the 19th century, who contributed most of the buildings that have led to the entire settlement being declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The defining monuments are the two fortresses (Old and New), designed by renowned Venetian engineers and rebuilt several times, most recently under the British rule in the 19th century. For four centuries, they helped secure the maritime trading interests of the Republic of Venice and repelled attempted Ottoman sieges. As such, Corfu resisted the Ottoman occupation that befell much of Greece.

Today, we can enjoy a blend of Venetian, French and British architecture (mainly from the 17th-19th centuries) and some of the first buildings of modern Greece, following the declaration of the Ionian Islands as an autonomous state in the early 19th century. It is one of the few Greek cities to have preserved its entire historic fabric. The pedestrianised cantounia (narrow streets) wind past churches, palaces, art galleries and squares. Architectural marvels include Liston and Spianada Square, the Palace of St Michael and St George, Corfu’s Old Town Hall (San Giacomo Theatre) and the Ionian Parliament.

Corfu Audio Walk 🎧 Landmarks & hidden gems of Corfu Old Town

Medieval City of Rhodes

The medieval city of Rhodes was founded by Crusaders from the Order of the Knights of St John of Jerusalem, who occupied the island from 1309. It became the foremost stronghold of the region, with grand palaces and churches and fortified walls that repelled brutal sieges by the Sultan of Egypt in 1444 and Mehmet II in 1480. In 1522, after a six-month assault, Rhodes finally fell and it remained in Ottoman hands until it was occupied by the Italians during the First World War. In 1947, it became part of the Greek state along with the other Dodecanese islands.

The Upper Town has many wonderful representations of Gothic and Renaissance architecture, including the Palace of the Grand Master, the Great Hospital and the Church of Our Lady of the Castle. Along the Street of the Knights, you can find the “tongues” (or inns) of the knights, named after their place of origin (France, Spain, Provence etc). The densely populated lower town featured bazaars, synagogues, mosques and churches, as well as houses and public baths. A 4km-long stone wall surrounds the city, with 6 main gates and a series of smaller ones that continue to provide a memorable entrance to a unique settlement.

Take a tour of the Medieval Old Town of Rhodes 

Paleochristian & Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki

Thessaloniki has more than 2,000 years of history – Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman and modern – and much of it is preserved in the monuments and architecture of Greece’s second city. Perhaps most famously, Thessaloniki was one of the first bases for the spread of Christianity in Europe. And it is this Byzantine legacy – in the form of churches and monasteries and priceless ecclesiastical relics from the 4th to the 15th centuries – that is celebrated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Greece. 

Monuments such as the Rotunda, Hosios David (Latomou Monastery), the Church of Hagia Sophia and the Vlatadon Monastery are considered Early and Medieval Christian masterpieces and the castles of Heptapyrgion and Trigoniou Tower are highlights of the Upper Town. Meanwhile, the Church of Agios Dimitrios contains the relics of the patron saint of Thessaloniki, who was a Roman soldier and an early convert to Christianity. Some 15 Early Christian-Byzantine monuments and the city walls make up the UNESCO site, many containing mosaics and frescoes that are masterpieces of the Palaiologan Renaissance (from the late Byzantine period).

Archaeological site of Aigai in Vergina

Aigai was the capital of the ancient Macedonians and home to the royal dynasty of the Temenids, the family of Philip II of Macedon and Alexander the Great. Known in its entirety as the Polycentric Museum of Aigai, it is one of the largest and most fascinating archaeological sites in Greece. It boasts numerous invaluable historical artefacts, many on display in the recently opened Central Museum building. 

At the southern end of the site, the Palace of Aigai was once the biggest building of Classical Greece, lavishly decorated with mosaics and painted stuccos and three times the size of the Parthenon. Around 60m from the palace’s western wing is the Ancient Theatre, where Philip II was murdered in 336 BC on the day of his daughter’s wedding. Around 2km to the north are the Royal Tombs (Display of Treasures), featuring the unlooted tombs of Philip II and his grandson, Alexander IV.  Meanwhile, the Royal Necropolis (where excavations are ongoing) contains more than 500 tumuli dating from the 11th to 2nd centuries BC, including the Royal Cluster of the Temenids. Within the Cluster of the Queens is believed to be the remains of Phillip II’s mother, Queen Eurydice, and daughter, Thessalonike of Macedon.

Feel the majesty of the Royal Tombs of Aigai

Archaeological site of Philippi

Another UNESCO World Heritage Site in Greece connected with Philip II of Macedon is the archaeological site of Philippi. Originally called Krinides, when it was founded in 360 BC as a colony of Thassos, it was conquered in 356 BC by Philip II, who understood the value of its timber, gold and silver reserves. It developed into a thriving city and an important stop on the Via Egnatia trade route. The Theatre and many of the public and private buildings on the site are from this period. But it was the Romans who had the greatest impact on the urban identity of Philippi.

Following the Battle of Philippi in 42 BC, the city became a cornerstone of the newly established Roman Empire. Public buildings, such as the Forum, were added and the city’s layout and architecture were adapted to that of a Roman colony, prompting UNESCO to refer to Philippi as “small Rome” in its inscription as a World Heritage Site. Its historical identity was sealed with the visit of the Apostle Paul in 49/50 AD, after which it became a centre of the nascent Christian faith. The remains of churches – including two basilicas (A and B), which were originally built in the style of the Byzantine churches of Constantinople and the Octagonal Complex (containing a 5th century AD church) – are considered outstanding examples of Early Christian architecture.

Take a tour of the Archaeological Site of Philippi

Zagori Cultural Landscape

The inclusion of Zagori on UNESCO’s list of Cultural Landscapes in 2023 was the first example of Greece’s recent cultural heritage (as opposed to that of antiquity or Byzantium) being protected by UNESCO. The inscription notes the universal value of the architecture of Zagori, in the stunningly beautiful Epirus region of northeastern Greece. The collection of more than 40 traditional villages in the foothills of the Pindos Mountains (collectively referred to as the Zagori Cultural Landscape) is singled out for the authenticity and the integrity of the stonework they contain, as a representation of the common heritage of Byzantine and Ottoman municipal architecture of the wider Balkan region.

Most Zagori villages feature cobbled streets and stone churches and houses, and single or multi-arched bridges are found throughout the surrounding countryside. Megalo Papingo, built in the shadow of Mount Tymfi, is one of the most visited villages, along with its neighbour, Mikro Papingo, and the villages of Vikos and Aristi, bordering the Vikos-Aoos National Park are just a few examples of the extraordinary collection of villages, known collectively as the Zagorohoria.  

Discover all the things to do in Zagori

Archaeological site of Mystras in Peloponnese

The 'Wonder of the Morea', as the medieval castle town of Mystras is known, was built as an amphitheatre around a Frankish fortress erected in 1249 on a 620m hilltop overlooking Sparta in the southern Peloponnese. After being surrendered by the Franks to the Byzantines in 1262, it became the capital of the Byzantine Despotate of the Morea in the 14th and 15th centuries. This period marked a flourishing of art, education and theology, known as the Palaiologan Renaissance, a reference to the Palaiologos family, which provided numerous rulers (despots) of Morea.

As a fortified town, Mystras is renowned for its exceptional Byzantine architecture, including palaces, churches, fortifications and monasteries. The frescoes and other treasures found in the churches (such as the Peribleptos Monastery and the Cathedral of Saint Demetrius) are notable for their beauty and historical value. Distinguished intellectuals of Mystras include Georgios Gemistos Plethon, the Neoplatonist philosopher whose interpretation of Platonic philosophy and study of ancient Greek texts contributed to the European Renaissance. The citadel remained inhabited until the 19th century, when the population gradually moved to the new city of Sparta, leaving only the incredible medieval ruins we enjoy today.

Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae 

The Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae in the Peloponnese has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986 (a year before even the Acropolis of Athens) and is one of the best-preserved ancient Greek temples. It is recognised for the understanding it has given us of ancient Greek religious practices, architectural evolution and artistic achievement and is the only Greek temple to feature three architectural orders – Doric, Ionic and Corinthian.

UNESCO sites - Temple of Apollo

It was built between 420 and 400 BC by Ictinus, one of the great architects of antiquity who, with Kallikratis, designed the Parthenon of Athens. According to the historian Pausanias, it was one of the most impressive temples to visit. Located at 1,131m on the slopes of Mount Kotilion, it is part of Bassae (meaning ‘little vale in the rocks’) in the Peloponnese. Its relatively isolated location may have contributed to its preservation. Archaeologists are convinced that the remains of an older temple exist under its foundations, probably dating back to the 7th century BC.

Pythagoreion and Heraion of Samos

The remains of the ancient city of Pythagoreion and the Heraion of Samos are found a few kilometres outside today’s Pythagorio, in southern Samos. It was the birthplace of the mathematician Pythagoras and, at the height of its cultural development in the 6th century BC, a major naval and commercial power, with examples of remarkable feats of ancient engineering.

The Eupalinian Aqueduct (also known as the Tunnel of Eupalinos), whose remains are also just outside Pythagorio and part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, supplied clean water to the city and demonstrated a sophisticated understanding and application of mathematics and engineering principles. A little further outside Pythagorio, on the coast, the Heraion of Samos was one of the most important religious centres of the ancient Greek world, including the ruins of the massive Temple of Hera (one of the largest of its kind) which once housed a famous cult statue of the goddess.

UNESCO monuments in Patmos

The entire historic centre of Hora, the capital of Patmos, has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with the Monastery of St John the Theologian and the Cave of the Apocalypse. Together they embody the profound spiritual heritage of monasticism in the Orthodox Church.

The Monastery of St John the Theologian, resembling a castle above Hora, was founded in 1088 and is a place of pilgrimage for Orthodox Christians. Its chapels contain a treasure trove of frescoes, icons and religious relics and are some of the finest examples of Byzantine architecture. The library contains a vast collection of manuscripts and other priceless Christian artefacts. Just below Hora, the Cave of the Apocalypse is where the Apostle John, exiled from Ephesus in 95 AD, is said to have had the visions that led him to write the Book of Revelation, which concludes the Bible.

Discovering the mystical aura of Patmos’ Hora

Mount Athos

Located on the easternmost peninsula of Halkidiki, Mount Athos is a unique monastic state that is considered a spiritual centre for the Orthodox Christian world. Known as the Holy Mountain, it has been a place of pilgrimage and monastic life for over a thousand years and is home to 20 monasteries (the Monastery of Great Lavra being the oldest, founded in 963 AD) within 33,000 hectares of some of the most pristine countryside in Greece.

UNESCO sites - Mt. Athos

It enjoys a special autonomous status within Greece (women and children are forbidden from entering) and attracts thousands of devout Christians each year, who seek out the spiritual and contemplative atmosphere of the monastic communities. The monasteries house extensive collections of well-preserved manuscripts, icons and religious paintings, many considered masterpieces of Byzantine art and culture.

Discover Mount Athos

11th- 12th century Monasteries

The last of Greece’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites consists of three monasteries in different parts of the country. Together, they are exemplary representations of Byzantine architectural and artistic achievement during the 11th and 12th centuries, with mosaics and other features considered to be among the finest in the world.

The Monastery of Daphni, on the western outskirts of Athens, has a classical cross-in-square architecture and the central dome is covered with mosaics depicting scenes from the life of Christ. Near the town of Distomo, on the slopes of Mount Helicon in central Greece, the Monastery of Hosios Loukas is another important monument of Middle Byzantine architecture and art, including the Church of the Theotokos and the larger Katholikon, which houses the relics of St Luke. And the Nea Moni of Chios has mosaics that are considered masterpieces of the 'Macedonian Renaissance', characterised by a renewed interest in classical models. It has a unique octagonal church architecture and a richly decorated dome.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Greece 

Which UNESCO World Heritage Site in Greece are you adding to your wish list? Archaeological sites like the Acropolis or Ancient Olympia and Delphi speak for themselves. But how about the other-worldly Meteora monasteries or all that living history in the old towns of Rhodes or Corfu? Or perhaps you’re now intrigued by the mysticism and art of Byzantine churches? There’s a lot to choose from.

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