As Greece’s northernmost island, Thassos is an ideal under-the-radar destination if you’re looking for a Greek island with a combination of sandy beaches, mountain greenery and traditional villages. And to these you can add the cultural landmarks left behind by the many settlers attracted over the centuries by the island’s rich marble deposits and other natural resources. From the standout archaeological sites of Limenas to small folklore museums and former mining warehouses in settlements around the island, this is where we introduce you to the best museums and cultural sights for your holidays in Thassos.
The Acropolis and Ancient Theatre of Thassos
It’s no surprise that the highlight museums and cultural sights of Thassos are found in Limenas, the port and main town, where the island’s ancient city once stood. But the beauty of it is that the ancients created their most treasured monuments on a three-peaked hill above the settlement, meaning that their remains are still visible to visitors today. A wonderful 3.5km path starts from the Old Harbour and takes you up and around the tree-covered hill, past both the Ancient Theatre and the Acropolis of Thassos, as well as various sanctuaries.
A wall once connected the Acropolis to the Ancient Theatre, which is the first monument you pass. Hippocrates wrote about the theatre in the 5th century BC, but the version we see today is mostly from Roman times (1st-2nd century AD), when the stage was enlarged and converted into an arena that allowed events including gladiator fights. The Acropolis, meanwhile, can be traced to the 7th century BC, but its peak was in the 5th century BC when the nearby temples dedicated to the goddess Athena and the god Pan were added. The view from the Acropolis (especially at sunset) over the Old Harbour and towards the city of Kavala on the mainland is very special.
The Ancient Agora
You have the choice of turning back at the temples near the Acropolis and returning the way you came or continuing on a circular route back to Limenas and arriving at the Ancient Agora just above the Old Harbour.
The Agora (which was the epicentre of political, social, religious and economic life in ancient Thassos) consists of a courtyard, originally flanked on all sides by galleries (or stoas) with various public buildings, small temples, altars and sanctuaries within them.
Today’s remains date mainly from the 4th century BC to the 2nd century AD. The main entrance was through a monumental gate (propylon) to the harbour, but there was also a gate to the Sanctuary of Poseidon (which held sacrifices and ritual banquets dedicated to god of the sea).
Other sanctuaries include the Temple of Dionysus, one of the main gods worshipped in Thassos, and the Temple of Artemis, including altar foundations from the 5th century BC.
The Archaeological Museum of Thassos
Now that you’ve been introduced to the highlight cultural sights of Thassos, it’s time to visit the island’s top museum. The Archaeological Museum of Thassos dates back to the 1930s, but it has moved to a renovated museum near the Ancient Agora and houses artefacts from the Paleolithic and Roman and even Byzantine periods.It offers a fascinating insight into the history of Thassos through artefacts such as reliefs and inscriptions from public and private buildings and an impressive collection of marble sculptures and busts – not only from the famous marble quarries of Thassos but also made of marble from Paros and Pendeli, on the outskirts of Athens.
Highlights include a 3.5m Archaic Kouros carrying a goat found at Pythion and a 6th century BC bust of Pegasus, as well as the reconstruction of an ancient cemetery. Classical period exhibits include a head of Dionysus from the 4th century BC, which was part of a large statue of the god in the Temple of Dionysus.
The folklore museums of Thassos
Beyond the highlights, Thassos has smaller museums that allow you to include a cultural pit-stop in your plans for the day.
In Limenas, the handsome 19th-century Kalogeriko building in the old harbour is used for cultural events and exhibitions of paintings, prints, photography and more. The second floor contains a reproduction of a traditional Thassian house.
The village of Theologos (in the heart of Thassos) has a folklore museum in the Hatzigiorgis Mansion, which belonged to a mayor-turned-resistance fighter in the early 19th century when the village was the capital of Thassos during the Ottoman occupation.
The museum displays everyday tools and utensils from that time. The village of Kallirachi also has a folklore museum in a 19th-century building in the main square, with exhibits on Thassos' maritime history and everyday objects from the past.
And in Skala Potamias, the impressive stone building known as Tarsanas contains exhibits and photographs detailing the history of Potamia and Thassos, as well as a space for cultural events such as dance classes and other traditions of Thassos.
The Polygnotos Vagis Sculpture Museum
In the village of Potamia, on the slopes of Mount Ipsarion, there’s another little gem worth going out of your way for that will help you get to know Thassos even better. Housed in the old primary school is a museum dedicated to Polygnotos Vagis, who was born in the village and emigrated to America in 1911 at the age of 19, where he made a name for himself as a sculptor. He lived in America until his death in 1965, when he bequeathed his remaining works to his homeland. The museum contains 98 sculptures and 15 paintings by Vagis, which are characterised by their abstract designs.
The sculptures (in materials such as plaster, bronze, wood and granite) are divided into two periods. The first includes works inspired by mythology, the Bible and history, and the second period consists of primitive styles and elements of Greek Archaic art.
The olive oil museums
Olives (especially the Throuba variety found throughout Thassos) are just as much a part of the island’s cultural heritage as its ancient landmarks and museums. In fact, olives have been grown on Thassos for 6,000 years and there are two museums dedicated to them and the oil they produce.
Very close to Prinos port is the Olive Oil Museum of Thassos, where you'll learn all about the traditional techniques of olive oil production on Thassos.
The museum includes olive presses and an outdoor area with an estimated 80 varieties of olive trees – almost half of the known international varieties).
In the village of Panagia, the Sotirelis Olive Oil Museum is housed in a traditional olive press that was active from 1915 to 2007, when it was turned into a working museum.
You’ll learn all about cold pressing, using stone mills to grind the olives into a paste at a temperature that never exceeds 27°C (to preserve the essential oils), followed by separation techniques using malaxers.
Naturally, you'll want to buy a bottle or two at the end of the tour.
The Archaeological site of Aliki
For a cultural sight in Thassos that can be part of a day at the beach, the Archaeological Site of Aliki is right next to Aliki beach, which is among the best beaches in Thassos.
In fact, Aliki is the name of two sandy beaches on either side of a double-fronted peninsula in southeastern Thassos. The archaeological site is at the end of the eastern beachfront (which is longer and quieter than the more developed western beach).
There is evidence that the area was inhabited as early as the 7th century BC, most probably because of the marble excavated in the nearby quarry.
Apart from a large Roman-inscribed sarcophagus and some tombstones, little has been uncovered of the original settlement, but you can see the remains of a temple dedicated to Apollo and the ruins of two early Christian basilicas from the 5th century AD.
You can also visit the ancient quarry, from which marble was exported from the Archaic period, through the Roman occupation (when it was sought after for monuments, temples and private buildings) and up to Byzantine times.
The Palataki & Metallia Factory
Your last cultural sight in Thassos is on a small hill overlooking Limenaria, in southern Thassos, close to Metalia beach. There is a path from the settlement through pine trees that leads to a building with a very different design to anything else you will see on the island. It is called Palataki (or small palace, due to its central European architecture and towers) and was built in 1903 as the headquarters and residence of the German mining company that operated in Thassos until 1963. Nearby is the Metallia Factory, which houses a folklore museum created by members of the Cultural Association of Limenaria. It preserves local tradition through exhibits such as household items, clothing and tools of traditional trades and frequently organises events and cultural activities.
Best museums and cultural sights in Thassos
Which of the museums and cultural sights of Thassos will you be including in your holidays on Greece’s northernmost island?
Road-testing the experiences for you
To road test the museums and cultural sights of Thassos, we invited a team of international media to live the experience for themselves.
FAQs about Thassos, Greece
- There are regular ferries from Keramoti (on the mainland) to Limenas in Thassos (approximately 40mins by car, taxi or public bus, from €4) and from Kavala to Prinos (approximately 1hr20min). More info here.
- Keramoti port is 40km by car or KTEL bus from Kavala, which has an international airport and is also a great addition to a holiday in Thassos.
- Kavala is 171km (1hr50mins) from Thessaloniki (which also has an international airport).
- There are hire cars, taxis and a bus service on Thassos.
The best time for holidays in Thassos is from May to September, when accommodation, restaurants & cafes & activities are all operating. Visiting during the quieter months either side of peak summer will give you the best experience.