20 Exquisite Cities in Greece for History, Nature, Cuisine, and Culture

With their epic locations, ancient ruins, and natural beauty, exploring the towns and cities in Greece will be a highlight of your trip. Here are 20 of the best Greek cities to visit this year.

Greece is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations. And for good reason! From the stunning sandy beaches to its captivating ancient ruins, there’s something for everyone.

Whether you’re after a metropolitan jaunt or an island-hopping adventure, today we’re going through 20 of the best towns and cities in Greece.

With their sun-kissed streets, incredible views, charming historic centers, and abundant cultural sights, these Grecian metropoles are hard to beat. Let’s dive in…

1. Athens

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There’s no better place to start than Athens, the nation’s capital. “The Cradle of Western Civilization” is one of the most important cities in history and the birthplace of modern democracy. Today, the ruins of the Ancient Greek city are open for all to enjoy.

Plan a few days here to allow time to get through the Acropolis, the Parthenon, the Panathenaic Stadium, and the Temple of Olympian Zeus, to name but a few. There are museums everywhere and all the bustling activity and nightlife you’d expect from a capital city.

2. Oia

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The island of Santorini is a natural wonder. Formed by volcanic eruptions, its beaches, landscapes, and iconic Caldera – a volcanic depression that’s now a 4-mile wide bay – make this island an incredibly popular travel destination.

While it’s more of a village than a city, Oia is the island’s capital. It’s the best place to find Cycladic architecture, those picture-perfect whitewashed houses with blue roofs. Oia Castle is the perfect place to catch the sunset. It’s hectic during the day, but you can head there later to enjoy it in more peace.

3. Chora

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Chora, also known as Mykonos Town, is the largest city on the island of Mykonos. Large parts of the town are pedestrianized most of the day, allowing you to enjoy it on foot.

Make for the Panagia Paraportiani, a remarkable church complex, for some sightseeing during the day, then strap in when the sun sets.

Mykonos is a famous party island, and the nightlife here is second to none. Check out Little Venice as a top spot to watch the sunset with a drink. The Venetian-style buildings front the water and the view is astounding.

4. Corfu Town

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The capital of the island that shares its name, Corfu Town, is one of the most vibrant cities in Greece. The Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the narrow streets fizz with life. 

Highlights include the old fortress, built by the Venetians in the 15th Century, and the Spianada, a town square covered in 19th-century French architecture.

Try to align your trip with one of the many festivals and carnivals the locals throw. The entire island gets involved, and the processions are sights to behold. 

5. Volos

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Volos is a coastal city in the Thessaly region. Myth and legend envelop this ancient city. Volos sits at the foot of Mount Pelion, said to be the home of the mythical centaurs.

The port is also the supposed starting point for the voyage of Jason and the Argonauts. Explore the ruins of the medieval fortress and the ancient theater of Demitrias.

Then head to the Argonaut Road, a pedestrianized waterfront that’s perfect for sipping traditional tsipouro – pomace brandy – outside one of the 600 tsipouradika (taverns) the city is famous for.

6. Thessaloniki

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Greece’s second biggest city behind Athens, Thessaloniki has just as much to offer as the capital. From the 3rd Century Roman Arch known as the Kamara and The Agora (an ancient Roman forum) to the multitude of preserved Byzantine churches, there are relics to explore from countless eras.

The Archeological Museum is a must-visit. It’s one of the finest in Greece and indeed the world. Thessaloniki has a large student population, and there is some serious nightlife on offer here. After a heavy night on the town, head to Bantis for some traditional Bougatsa for breakfast.

7. Alexandroupolis

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Perched right on the border between Greece and Turkey, Alexandroupolis (or Alexandroupoli) is a perfect stop-off point for travelers visiting both countries. However, there’s so much on offer here that you might get stuck!

From fascinating museums, including the Ethnological Museum and the Ecclesiastical Museum, to the imposing Faros Lighthouse, there’s lots of history to explore. Alternatively, strap on your walking boots and take advantage of the nearby Evros Delta National Park. This is a wetland haven for birdwatchers.

8. Piraeus

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Known as “The Port of Athens,” Piraeus is Europe’s biggest passenger port and the routine stop for cruise ships visiting Greece. It’s 7 miles from the capital, but don’t rush to Athens when you step ashore.

Instead, spend a while at the Archeological Museum or the incredible Hellenic Maritime Museum. Then, head to the Bay of Zea (previously called Pasalimani) for the famous local seafood.

Do the walk from Piraiki to Freatida along the seafront – the views are breathtaking. Check out the flea market if you’re in town on a Sunday. It’s as authentic as a market comes and a true hidden gem.

9. Patras

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The busy port city of Patras is the third largest city in Greece. It’s a bustling city with a large student population, so there’s plenty of buzz here.

You get two cities for the price of one here. The old town developed around the 6th Century castle and includes an ancient Roman amphitheater still used for events.

The new city is a prime shopping destination. Load up on retail therapy and check out Agiou Georgiou Square for bars and restaurants. There’s never a wrong time to visit, but during Apokreas (carnival season), there are regular street parties, parades, and celebrations to get involved with.

10. Ermoupolis

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Ermoupolis, or Ermoupoli, is the capital of the island of Syros. While not a typical tourist destination like Mykonos, Ermoupolis still offers plenty. It’s comparatively new, built in the 19th Century, so don’t expect ancient Greek ruins here. 

Instead, check out the rows of mansions in the Vaporia district for some stunning architecture. Or walk down to the headland to admire the megayachts moored on the waterfront.

There’s a big student population, and the harbor and nearby Maiouli Square often get pretty rowdy. If that’s not your scene, pop back a street or two from the coast to enjoy a relaxing Ouzo on this lovely island.

11. Rhodes Town

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Like many cities in Greece, the main settlement on the island of Rhodes is divided into an Old town (or Medieval City) and a New town. The main difference here is the two giant walls and moat separating one from the other!

Inside the walls, The Medieval City of Rhodes dates back almost 2400 years and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Head for the Palace of the Grand Master, the Street of the Knights, and the Archeological Museum for some real highlights, and the Acropolis for panoramic views of the town and sea.

Then, make for Mandraki Harbour, the supposed site of the legendary Colossus of Rhodes, in the New town, for food and drink on the waterfront.

12. Larissa

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Larissa isn’t particularly touristy, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a visit. It’s an agricultural city with a large university, and the center is entirely pedestrianized, making it a joy to travel around. There are two ancient theaters to view and photograph.

Meanwhile, the Diachronic Museum has incredible exhibitions dating from the Paleolithic Period to 1881. And if you need to unwind, the beautiful Alkazar Park unfolds alongside the Pineios River and is a popular place to walk, talk, and even catch a show at the Kipotheatto, an outdoor theater.

13. Kalamata

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Thanks to its famous olives eaten worldwide, Kalamata is one of the most well-known cities in Greece. Any visitor must head to a local producer to sample the olives straight from the field – the freshness and taste are otherworldly.

Elsewhere, Kalamata boasts a quaint old town housing the Ypapanti Cathedral, where 17 nuns still live and work.

Don’t miss the incredible and extensive ruins of the ancient city of Messini. These are some of the best ruins in the country and are a lot quieter than, for example, many of the sites in Athens. There’s a massive central market on Wednesday and Saturday, and the beaches are heavenly and packed with watersports.

14. Nafpaktos

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With a pair of Blue Flag beaches, Nafpaktos is one of my favorite seaside cities in Greece. Psani Beach is fantastic, but for a memorable evening, book a table at Spitiko, right on Gribovo Beach, and watch the waves while enjoying grilled meats and beer.

The Venetian Castle is open until 3 pm and well worth the trip up the hill, and the ancient towers framing the port are a captivating sight as the sun sets.

15. Chania

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Head to the island of Crete to find Chania, a beautiful city featuring a Venetian Harbor, a cobbled Old Town, and stunning beaches.

There’s something for everyone here, including the Chania Municipal Market, offering sumptuous delights from local farmers. The city boasts some of the most well-preserved Venetian architecture in the country. This includes the harbor and town walls. There’s also a well-renowned Archeological Museum to learn all about it.

Time your visit right, and you’ll enjoy the Chania International Film Festival. This festival always features a great lineup of independent movies and plenty of glamor.

16. Ioannina

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You might not have heard of Ioannina. This city is as off the regular tourist track as they come, but it’s no less deserving of a visit.

Ioannina sits on the shore of Lake Pamvotida, an idyllic oasis of nature, trees, and tranquility. On your way from Greece to Albania? Stop off here, get a drink, and spend a peaceful moment by the lakeside.

There’s also a 6th-century castle where, remarkably, the ruins are still inhabited to this day. After a day at the lake, head up here to watch the sunset.

17. Kavala

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Kavala used to be the largest center for tobacco exportation and processing in the Balkans; remnants of this industry remain. The Tobacco Museum is worth a visit to learn all about this fascinating trade.

Bring your camera to the Kavala Aqueduct. It’s 60 arches long and towers 82 feet above the city. There are plenty of beaches on offer. Kalamitsa Beach, a pebbled beach with stunning bayside views, is a top choice. It’s a great launching point for a day trip to the picturesque island of Thassos, too.

Make sure you pop into a local shop to try some traditional Kourabiedes – they’re a kind of almond biscuit, and they’re utterly divine.

18. Nafplio

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The beauty of Nafplio will take your breath away. There are three stunning castles to explore: Palamidi, Acronafplia, and the unique Bourtzi, surrounded by the sea. It’s accessible by a lovely walk down the harbor and is open to visitors during the day.

Nafplio New Town is famous for shopping, but you won’t find tourist tat. Every shop is teeming with Greek produce or international designer brands. Start at New Byzantium Town Square; you’ll find plenty on offer.

There are ruins of two ancient cities nearby, Mycenae and Tiryns. Both are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

19. Kalabaka

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Out of all the cities in Greece, Kalabaka is the best destination for the outdoorsy type. You have the unbelievable Meteora rock formations on the city’s doorstep – 400-meter-tall sandstone pillars with ancient monasteries perched on top.

The monasteries are open to explore, and that experience alone is worth the trip. You’re in prime hiking land here, with over 60 miles of trails to explore, all mapped out in this handy guide.

20. Heraklion

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Heraklion, on the Eastern side of the Isle of Crete, has been a settlement for over 3000 years. Heraklion still hosts the stunning ancient ruins of the Palace of Knossos. This is where King Minos of the Minoans is said to have kept the Minotaur in his labyrinth.

The city boasts an old town surrounded by Venetian walls with a fantastic central market – take a walk along the walls for great views of the entire city.

The waterfront area overlooks the 16th Century Koules fortress (open to visit for 2 euros) and has lots of bars and clubs. Stay at street level for a party, or head to any one of countless rooftop bars for a more sophisticated vibe.

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Author: Simon Whitaker

Title: Writer & Editor

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Simon Whitaker is a freelance writer and copyeditor based in England. With one degree in Natural Sciences and another in Musical Theatre he considers himself a bit of a jack-of-all-trades, and his writing reflects his numerous hobbies and interests. Simon has been passionate about travel his entire life: From hurtling down alpine ski runs behind his Dad as a child to getting engaged in Singapore as an adult, he's collected a wealth of tips, tricks and recommendations that he loves to share.