Are you searching for the best cities in Greece? Look no further. After visiting the country multiple times we have compiled this list of cities in Greece that we think should be on your radar. When most people think of Greece the turquoise waters and sandy beaches of the Greek Islands come to mind but Greece has mountains, monasteries, many cities that are just waiting to be explored.
The Very Best Greek Cities
Greece is a gorgeous country that spans an area of nearly 51,000 square miles (131,957 square km). International tourists flock to Greece to explore its history and incredible scenery making it one of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations. The Greek Islands beckon travelers to enjoy clear blue waters and sandy beaches while Greek cities boast fine food, nightlife, and archaeological wonders.
Greece has a little something for everyone, but that just makes it harder to plan your vacation in Greece. Where are the best places to go or eat? What cities in Greece should you visit? We answer these questions.
It can be very overwhelming to try and narrow down where to go in Greece, especially on your first trip there. Read on to learn the seventeen best cities in Greece to visit and why they should be on your travel itinerary.
1. Athens (Capital City)
No trip to Greece would ever be complete without spending at least a little time in Athens. This city isn’t just the capital of Greece; it’s also the oldest capital city in all of Europe and the largest city in Greece. Its recorded history goes back over 3,400 years! With famous archaeological sites such as the Acropolis and the Temple of Olympian Zeus, you’ll feel as if you have stepped back in time to the fifth century BC when ancient Greece was at its most powerful.
Athens has a modern element with fantastic nightlife, rooftop bars and great shopping. There is plenty of sightseeing to be done in the Capital City, especially for those interested in Ancient Greek history. There are so many things to do in Athens; we have an entire post about it. We suggest 3 days in Athens to truly experience its interesting museums and tourist attractions.
You might see this town’s name spelled many different ways. You also may not see it on many other lists of important destinations to visit in Greece. This town is located in Meteora, giving it a stunning landscape as a backdrop to this picturesque city.
Those interested in religion and religious history in Greece should come here. It’s known for its historical sites set within a dramatic landscape. The monasteries of Meteora sit high on massive spires. It’s one of the best places to stay to visit the Meteora monasteries.
You should also take the time to visit the Mushroom Museum here for a museum experience you won’t get anywhere else.
The port city of Kalamata is also the capital city of Messinia in Peloponnese. This is a great place for fans of theatre and the arts to visit. That’s because the main draw here is the Castle of Isabeau. The International Dance Festival is held here annually.
This site is a massive amphitheater that offers a view of the entire city. You will also get to see the various influences both the Venetians and the Turks had on the architecture of the structure. And of course, there are plenty of museums to visit while you’re here as well. Therefore, you should be sure to take your time exploring this city.
4. Rhodes Town
Those who are interested more in Medieval history will love Rhodes Old Town. This city is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The main attraction here is the Palace of the Grand Master. It’s a massive architectural preservation project that boasts large rooms, galleries, and beautiful walks along the walls and old tow. Many people come to enjoy this historic castle night and day.
And when you’re done with the castle, there’s still plenty to do. Enjoy the cafes, restaurants, and shops in the city for a while. The best part is that you can see the whole city in one day, so it makes a good day trip from the rest of your journey.
5. Corfu Town
First on the list is a beautiful little island known as Corfu. This entire tiny island is rich in history and wildlife. It also boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in all of Europe.
UNESCO dedicated old town Corfu as a World Heritage Site. Here you can find Venitian forts and the Palace of St. Michael and St. George. There is also the Achilleion Palace not far from these ancient monuments.
Furthermore, those who like period shows might recognize the island as the setting of The Durrells in Corfu. Based on an autobiography by conservationist Gerald Durrell, fans of the series can explore both the real and fictional places the Durrells would have been during their stay on the island.
Those who want a more outdoor experience might enjoy the mountains of Pelion. There are many small villages in this region to find accommodations.
This adventurous area boasts many hiking trails. There is also horseback riding and even a cave to explore while you’re here. Naturally, you should also check out the beach and relax.
This is also where the hit musical Mama Mia, starring Meryl Streep, was set and filmed. Fans of the film can explore many of the same sights that the cast and crew would have seen while filming.
7. Thessaloniki – The Cultural Capital
Thessaloniki, known as the cultural capital of Greece, is also the second-largest city in Greece. It’s also not nearly as popular with tourists as other major cities such as Athens. However, it has just as much to offer, especially for those interested in Byzantine history.
For starters, there’s the large Byzantine castle that overlooks the city. The White Tower of Thessaloniki was built in the 15th century and stands proudly overlooking the sea. You should also check out the many interesting museums and ancient monuments, and Ottoman buildings around the city for a taste of some Roman history.
And for those who are just looking for a relaxing place to unwind, this is a good spot for you too. There are beautiful beaches and vibrant nightlife in Thessaloniki as well. You can also enjoy both the modern fun attractions and fascinating history at the same time if you want.
Nafplio is a coastal town that is often referred to as the original capital of modern Greece. It’s only a few hours from Athens, so it makes an excellent day trip from there.
While you’re here, you should make sure to check out the two historic fortresses near the old town. The first is Bourtzi, which is located on a tiny island just off of the coast. There’s a boat service from the city to take you there.
The other is Palamidi. This is a Venitian fortress on top of a hill overlooking the city. It’s a great place to enjoy the architecture and landscape of the town.
Chora is a bustling little town on the island of Mykonos in the Cyclades. While those interested in architecture could find the iconic whitewash of the region anywhere in the Cyclades, there is still nowhere better to do it than in the old town of Chora. It’s a gorgeous town to explore and even get lost in the labyrinth of the historic streets.
However, Chora is most known as one of the best cities for its nightlife. Those who want to spend their evenings being social will find plenty of clubs to enjoy. In the morning, you can take it easy on one of the beautiful beaches in town.
You can even take a day trip out to the Ancient Delos while you’re on Mykonos for something fun to do during the day.
Patras is Greece’s third-largest city and the capital city of Western Greece. There is a massive student population here as well as a carnival people from all over the world come to visit.
The carnival is just one good reason to spend some time in Patras. There’s also an archeological museum that’s always a treat to explore.
Aside from the carnival, it’s also not super popular with tourists. This means if you want to see more of the local culture of Greece, then this is a great place to start. It’s also quieter and more relaxing for those who want to get away from the lively tourist traps for a while.
Chania is a small coastal town on the island of Crete. It’s a great place to spend your time if you only have one day for Crete. For this reason, it’s also very popular with tourists.
It is one of the most picturesque cities in the Greek Islands as there are beautiful narrow streets and architecture to enjoy just by walking around. Anyone who has been here will also tell you that you need to try the food here. Otherwise, you can simply spend your day walking or lounging on the many gorgeous beaches in town.
There’s also vibrant nightlife in Chania. If you’re the kind of person who wants to go out and enjoy some music, drinks, and dancing, then this is the place for you.
If you’re going to be in the Cyclades islands, then you should take a trip out to Ermoupolis. This port city is the capital of the Cyclades and boasts a lot of attractions for tourists to enjoy.
Those who like architecture will enjoy the many neoclassical buildings that are open to the public. There are also plenty of museums to explore, art galleries, and the Apollo Theatre right in the city.
Furthermore, there’s also an amazing beach to enjoy while you’re here, so make sure to bring a swimsuit and sunscreen.
The northwest coast of mainland Greece is home to the little town of Parga. This town is popular with tourists simply because of the gorgeous views. It has a backdrop filled with beautiful green trees, blue sea, and the charming traditional houses of old Greece.
Here you should be sure to explore the ruins of an old Venitian castle. Once you’re done there, you can make yourself comfortable on one of the many beaches that are mostly unchanged by man. It’s the perfect place to relax for as long as you like while you’re in town for a while.
Nafpaktos is a stunning little port town across the Rio-Antirrio Bridge from Patras. This is a great place for anyone looking for a weekend trip away from Athens while they’re visiting Greece.
Here, the main attraction is the harbor. This provides stunning views and plenty of places to stop and eat.
Those who want to enjoy the great outdoors of Greece will also enjoy exploring the nearby mountains. There are plenty of biking and hiking trails to explore here. Some are more challenging than others, so be sure to be prepared before you take off on your journey of exploration.
Finally, those visiting western or northern Greece should consider visiting Ioannina for a quiet day trip or two. This little town is located along the coast of Lake Pamvotida and mostly goes unnoticed by tourists.
Ioannina is mostly known for its large student population. However, there are also many museums to visit here for anyone thirsting for knowledge. Furthermore, you should also explore the Ioannina Castle and Fethiye Mosque while you’re here.
You can also visit the nearby Ioannina island by using the boat service provided in town to see its monasteries. Anyone is sure to enjoy exploring this tiny island inside the lake. Read more: Things to do in Ioannina – A Little Known Greece Escape
Lying gracefully on the shores of Lake Orestiada and framed by the Pindus Mountains, Kastoria offers scenic beauty and rich history. Known for its Byzantine churches, Ottoman-era architecture, and well-preserved mansions, this city reflects diverse cultural influences.
Walk along the cobblestone streets, explore the Cave of the Dragon, and enjoy the serene beauty of the lake, particularly during sunset. With its perfect blend of nature and heritage, Kastoria is a tranquil oasis that showcases the diverse tapestry of Greece.
Perched on the slopes of Mount Symvolo and overlooking the Aegean Sea, Kavala is a blend of ancient history and modern charm. The city’s aqueduct, known as Kamares, and the Byzantine fortress offer glimpses into its storied past.
Wander through the old district of Panagia, with its meandering alleys and traditional houses, and indulge in fresh seafood at the city’s bustling port. Kavala’s rich history, coupled with its beaches and vibrant nightlife, makes it a perfect destination for those seeking a holistic Greek experience.
Nestled on the northern coast of Crete, Rethymno gracefully marries Venetian and Ottoman influences, showcasing a historical tapestry that’s truly captivating. The city’s old town, one of the best-preserved in Greece, brims with intricate wooden balconies, stone pathways, and hidden courtyards.
The imposing Fortezza, Rethymno’s Venetian fortress, stands as a sentinel over the city, offering panoramic views of the azure Aegean Sea. Alongside its rich history, Rethymno boasts pristine beaches and vibrant festivals, ensuring a blend of relaxation and cultural immersion. Ideal for travelers seeking both historical depth and coastal charm, Rethymno is an unmissable gem in the heart of Crete.
A short drive from Athens transports you to Nafplio, the Peloponnese’s shining jewel. This former capital of Greece exudes romance with its neoclassical mansions, marble streets, and waterfront promenade.
Dominated by the Palamidi Fortress, which offers panoramic vistas of the Argolic Gulf, Nafplio’s blend of Venetian, Ottoman, and Greek architecture paints a vibrant urban canvas.
Explore Syntagma Square, delve into the city’s fascinating museums, and stroll along the harbor, keeping an eye out for Bourtzi, the water fortress. Nafplio is a picturesque retreat offering layers of history, culture, and unparalleled beauty.
Ancient Cities in Greece
Evoking images of fierce warriors and ancient legends, Sparta has left an indelible mark on Greek history. Set against the backdrop of the Taygetos Mountains, today’s Sparta is a blend of modernity and ancient ruins.
While the archaeological sites narrate tales of its legendary past, the modern city offers lush olive groves and vibrant street life. Visit the ancient theater, the Acropolis, and the Archaeological Museum to get a glimpse of Sparta’s glorious days. This city, once the pinnacle of military might, now stands as a testament to the resilience and legacy of Greek civilization.
The Agora is historically meant to be the bustling part of any city. In modern terms, the word usually refers to a marketplace. However, most people will think of the Agora of Athens when they hear this term.
This is a historic area of Athens that’s mostly historic ruins now. It was a very populous area for approximately 5,000 years in Ancient Greece. At one time, it served as the central hub of Athens, where people would go to socialize and shop. The ruins stand northwest of the Acropolis, and many people still come here to visit and learn the history of the city.
This capital city also boasts gorgeous architecture, bustling markets, and some of the best food in Greece. In other words, there’s something for everyone here.
The main attractions here, however, are the archaeological museum and the Palace of Knossos. You might know the latter place as the Labyrinth: the home of the mighty Minotaur. If you’re feeling brave enough, you can even explore this fantastical piece of architecture yourself.
An archaeological goldmine, Mycenae was once at the heart of the Mycenaean civilization, influencing much of ancient Greece. Its legendary history is intertwined with myths, most notably that of King Agamemnon.
The iconic Lion’s Gate, Europe’s oldest known monumental sculpture, welcomes visitors to this Bronze Age city. Wander through the ancient ruins, explore the royal tombs, and soak in the aura of a civilization that laid much of the groundwork for classical Greece. Mycenae isn’t just a destination; it’s a journey through time.
The Most Beautiful Cities in Greece
It’s always best to have an idea of where you want to go and see before visiting Greece. That way, you can be sure you’re able to get to everything you’re most interested in before you leave. However, you should definitely have at least a few of these cities in Greece on your list before you go.
These Greece cities are all alive with the history, nature, and culture that attracts so many to the country. That’s what everyone’s looking for when they vacation in Greece!