Discovering Ancient Olympia

Olympia is one of the most influential ancient Greek sanctuaries, located in western Peloponnese, in Elis. In antiquity it was famous beyond the borders of mainland Greece for hosting the Olympic Games every four years, starting in 776 BC. 

The archaeological site is located within walking distance of the modern village called Ancient Olympia and it includes ruins from Bronze Age to the Byzantine eras. The site covers an expanded area of ruins scattered among low trees, as well as the ancient stadium where the Olympics took place. An impressive array of artifacts which were unearthed during excavations are on exhibition at the nearby Olympia Museum.

The history

The site of Olympia, in a valley in the Peloponnese has been inhabited since prehistoric times. In the 10th century B.C., Olympia became a centre for the worship of Zeus. The Altis – the sanctuary to the gods – has one of the highest concentrations of masterpieces from the ancient Greek world. In addition to temples, there are the remains of all the sports structures erected for the Olympic Games, which were held in Olympia every four years beginning in 776 B.C.

The Stadium

This is the same track where athletes raced for glory millennia ago. The remains of dozens of buildings and temples sit among the shade of trees on the archaeological site. Some were specifically built for sporting events, and some for the worship of Zeus. A museum holds a collection of priceless artefacts that once decorated the sanctuary. See Olympia come alive with music and culture at its major events—the Ancient Olympia International Festival and the Olympia International Film Festival for children and young people.

What else you can see

Apart from the lovely Archaeological Museum as well as a Museum of the History of the Olympic Games, the site itself, a lush valley once filled with olive trees and called Altis that was created in the 8th Century BC, is awe-inspiring. Temples, such as those of Hera and of Zeus, the circular Philippeion dedicated to the Macedonian King Philip II, the training palestras, stadiums and the Bouleuterion are all a feast for the eyes and imagination. The town of Olympia, in the region of Katakolo, Ilia, is unremarkable but cute for a touristy stroll with some pretty views.

How to Get There

By bus, you can reach Olympia from Athens via Pyrgos, the capital of the region. By car, it is 290 kilometres from Athens (about 3.5 hours). If travelling by boat, the nearests ports are Katakolo (34km), where cruise ships arrive, Killini (66km) with connection lines to and from the Ionian islands, and Patras (117km) from where you can travel to Italy by ferry.

When to Visit

Any time of the year is suitable to visit Olympia. From late April to late October, the site and Olympia museum are open daily during the daylight hours so visitors have more time to enjoy the monuments and galleries. From November 1 to March 31, tickets for the site and museums (open from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m.) are half price. In the winter, there are typically no lines.

Cover image @westerngreece

Exploring Delphi, Greece’s Second Most Popular Archaeological Site

Did you know that after the Acropolis, Delphi is the most popular archaeological site in Greece?

Located at the foot of Mount Parnassos, within the angle formed by the twin rocks of the Phaedriades, lies the sanctuary of Delphi, which had the most famous oracle of ancient Greece. In fact, Delphi is regarded as the centre of the ancient world.

Due to its close proximity to Athens (just over two hours drive) Delphi is an ideal spot for a long weekend getaway from the Greek capital. This historical site not only offers incredible cultural experiences, you are also in for an adventurous trip, with some fabulous spots to eat and drink.


The archaeological site of Delphi includes two sanctuaries, dedicated to Apollo and Athena, and other buildings including the Treasury of the Athenians, the Theatre, the Stadion, and the Castalian Spring- which are all must-see sites.

Visitors arriving from Athens first encountered the sanctuary of Athena Pronaia – that is, Athena who is before the Temple of Apollo. Outside its walls spread the settlement of Delphi. Within the walls were the famous Tholos, the symbol of Delphi today, and the remains of three temples dedicated to the goddess. Outside and around the two sanctuaries are the remains of the settlement and cemeteries of Delphi, which developed mainly in the Classical and Roman period.

Insights Greece - Exploring Delphi, Greece's Second Most Popular Archaeological Site

Temple of Apollo 

All that remains of the Temple of Apollo, the most important building in the Sanctuary of Apollo, are the foundations. It was built on the same location three times and featured columns, sculptures, and statues inside. The present Temple of Apollo, built in Doric style in the fourth century BC, preserved the ground-plan of the earlier sixth-century-BC Archaic temple and re-used the old column drums, but the detailing is typical of the late-Classical period. It is here, in the adyton (inner shrine) that the Pythia (priestess) would sit and utter the words of the Oracle, sent to her by Apollo and interpreted by the priests.

Modern Museum

The  Archaeological Museum, which presents the history of the Delphic Sanctuary in 14 rooms, provides for another profound lesson in Delphi’s political, religious and social history. Lying between the ancient site and the modern town of Delphi, the archaeological museum displays a fascinating collection of finds from the site, including friezes, statues, votive offerings, and stele. Exhibits are displayed in chronological order and arranged across the 14 rooms. There is also a café and a gift shop. Tip: Make sure to check the museum’s opening times ahead, as hours can vary.

Historical Monasteries

On the western slopes of Mount Elikonas, just outside Distomo village (15 km from Delphi town) is the Holy Monastery of Osios Loukas (Saint Luke). The large walled complex contains two adjoining churches, one of which is the 10th Century Church of the Theotokos, dedicated to Panagia, Virgin Mary. Adjoining it is the Katholikon cathedral, built in 1011. A bell-tower, monastic rooms and a little store selling religious items are also located in the complex.

Adventurous activities

From the fresh, mountainous air to the incredible caves, springs and ancient paths, Delphi is the ideal spot for hiking, paragliding, rock climbing and mountain biking. There are many tours that are organised here throughout the year or you can of course, adventure out on your own and explore the wonderful surroundings.

Visit the Pretty Town

The gorgeous little town of Delphi (population of around 2,000) is now home to a range of hotels, guest houses, restaurants and shops. It was established in 1892, when the village of Kastrí, which had grown up on the site of the Temple of Apollo, was moved to a new position one kilometer west to allow excavation of the ancient site. This is a good base for exploring the surrounding area.

Before You Leave
Check out the picturesque town of Amfissa, which is at the foot of Delphi. Here you can enjoy the endless olive groves and walk along the paved streets, admiring traditional stores and cafes, with locals who are ready to welcome you with authentic delicacies.
Cover Image via

Greek Girl in a Museum

Growing up in a home filled with antiques and collectibles and spending her childhood getting lost at archaeological sites, it’s no surprise Mariza Karidi has become a History and Philosophy student at the Kapodistrian University of Athens, and creator of “The Girl in the Museum,” a popular Greek blog informing and inspiring people to visit museums.

IN+SIGHTS GREECE recently spoke with Mariza about her love of history and culture, her favourite galleries, and her desire to open up her own museum.
Insights Greece - Greek Girl in a Museum

Tell us about your studies. 

Capturing the moment was my passion from an early age. I have a Photography degree from Middlesex University, and I’m also finishing my second degree in History and Philosophy of Science at the Kapodistrian University of Athens. I couldn’t be happier with my choices as I had a blast doing art and museology courses at both universities. Presently, I’m spending days freelancing, self-managing my properties, writing about museums, and being a student. Also, I take environmental activism pretty seriously, so I would add that to my profession.

How did your passion for museums and history begin?

My father loved to learn and share his knowledge. Because of him, I spent my childhood getting lost in museums, attending lectures for grown-ups, and discussing deep topics with his intellectual friends. He also loved to collect rare maritime antiques and wanted to build a museum for them. So, my house looks like a museum because it’s full of his collectibles until this day. Sadly, he passed away nine years ago but, happily, he managed to pass his passions on to me. Whenever I’m in a museum, I feel at home, and I aspire to start my own museum one day.

What was the idea behind your blog ‘The Girl in the Museum’? 

It’s a pity there are so many blogs about travel, beauty, cooking, but only a few about museums and none of them are in Greek. People – especially Greeks – need to know that museums are not boring institutions that our school teachers force us to visit. They are inspiring, mindful, liberal places, and everyone would have a favourite one if they gave it a chance. In fact, the experience of being in a gallery could be life-changing, and that’s why doctors prescribe museum visits as a treatment. Some doctors are even convinced that in the 21st century, culture will be what physical activity was for health in the 20th century. Therefore, I make sure to take my museum-pill daily, and then I blog about it, so more people will benefit from it.

How many museums (roughly)  have you visited?

Insights Greece - Greek Girl in a Museum

More than most people, but less than I would like to. I advise you not to count stars, summer swims, and museum visits. All should be uncountable.

Do you have a Top 3 list of museums- worldwide and in Greece?

It’s a tricky one. Housed in a stunning example of neo-Gothic architecture, the Oxford University Museum of Natural History is breathtaking, and it has to be on my list. Next, the Science Museum in London because if you are a science lover like me, you’ll feel the unique energy at the very moment you enter the building. Plus, if you’re also a coffee lover, you’ll be able to hold a good cup of coffee while wandering around the exhibits, and no one will blame you. And, of course, I can’t stop talking about Forte di Belvedere in Florence ever since I visited, because of its magnificent views. Interesting fact, that’s where Kanye West and Kim Kardashian got married. As for Greece, the Acropolis Museum deserves its fame. I also adore the Museum of Asian Art in Corfu- the only museum in Greece dedicated to Asia’s art. Lastly, the Herakleidon Museum in Athens explores the intersection between maths, science, and art. Believe me when I say it is one-of-a-kind.


Do you have a preference for modern or classical museums?

I appreciate both, but classical museums housed in buildings full of history, wooden floors, and natural light, like the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, have my heart.

What do you enjoy most when visiting a museum?

Insights Greece - Greek Girl in a Museum

Museums are not only institutions that care for a collection of artifacts. They are great places to get inspired, have a first date, work remotely, read a book, relax, and share a cup of coffee with friends. Therefore, I could revisit a cultural organisation every week. My favourite thing to say is that there are a thousand and one ways of visiting a museum, and none is better than the other.

Do you spend hours walking through a gallery?

It doesn’t take me long to see an entire exhibition, but, oh, how I could enjoy the ambiance of a museum cafe all day long. What makes me come back is the unique interiors, the friendly museum guards, and the attention to small details. Furthermore, all museums should be free; thus, everyone, rich or poor, has access to such significant cultural resources. Considering that, free admission is much appreciated.

Is there a certain period of Greek history or archaeology that you feel most drawn towards?

I have been studying Ancient Greek Philosophy for years. I’ve always been fascinated by
images of a bunch of bearded men, wearing himations, strolling around Athens, and trying to answer deep questions while flirting with each other. It is tragicomical and genius at the same time.

What museums and archaeological sites- famous and not so well known- would you highly recommend?

For the ones who like large and famous museums, the British Museum in London has it all. For folklore enthusiasts, the not so known Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum in Cologne will be a surprise. For some vintage aesthetic vibes, the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford was founded in 1683. For the lovers of Greek history, the National Historical Museum in Athens, and Poseidon’s temple at Cape Sounion. And for the real museum geeks, the Criminology Museum, which functions on the grounds of the Medical School of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. Due to the nature of its exhibits, the Criminology Museum is open to the public only by appointment. If you’re feeling lucky, go there and try to find a professor who will be kind enough to let you in. And remember you have to promise not to photograph the collection of the human remains.

Is there a region in Greece that you think is particularly wonderful for museum lovers?

Of course, museums are thriving in Athens and Thessaloniki. Still, I wouldn’t underestimate the importance of culture in sparsely populated regions. The Peloponnese is full of museum-gems, and the same goes for the Aegean Islands, especially Andros and Syros. The thing about museums is there is always one that you find by accident and it was the best one of your life. 

What museum will you be exploring next?

I’ve spent all my life in Athens, but only recently I’ve heard about the Vorres Museum, which lies in the shadow of Mount Ymittos. It looks lovely in pictures, and I can’t wait to visit. As for the future, Paris is always a good idea. 


Daphni Monastery: Rising like a phoenix for 2,000 years

Venture outside the tourist box to see how Athens’ ever-changing present syncs with its age-old past! The book ‘111 Places in Athens You Shouldn’t Miss’ was written to offer you exactly that. This is just one of 10 unmissable places that even locals often miss, offered exclusively for IN+SIGHTS GREECE readers by the guide’s publishers EMONS.

Insights Greece - Daphni Monastery: Rising like a phoenix for 2,000 years

This World Heritage monument, whose church has some of the most stunning mosaics in Greece, has been under almost constant repair since its beginnings. The plot, once a laurel wood, first held a temple dedicated to Apollo Daphnephoros (the laurel bearer). That was destroyed in 395 A.D. by barbarians, all but a few Ionic columns, which were incorporated into the first monastery erected in its place in the 6th century. Only one is left; Lord Elgin made off with the rest, which have been replaced with obvious too-white marble copies.

Despite its prestige, it was later abandoned until the 11th century, when someone high up in the Byzantine imperial court restored   it, building a new church and lining it with ravishing mosaics. But with the nefarious Fourth Crusade in 1204, Crusaders took over the Byzantine empire and the monastery became part of the Duchy of Athens, run by Cistercians. The sarcophagi near the entrance belong to two Catholic dukes.

Semi-abandoned once more under the Ottomans, it was variously used as a garrison, a base for Greek revolutionaries, a Bavarian bar- racks, and a lunatic asylum as well as a monastery. In our day, though, owing to earthquake damage, it has been closed for repairs for decades and has only recently become visitable again.

Worth seeing are the crenellated battlements of its outer walls, the cloisters on either side and the superb mosaics – of the Life of Christ and the Virgin, the saints and prophets – dominated by the piercing eyes and stern face of the Pantocrator (Ruler of All) in the golden dome. There’s no doubt he knows your secrets. But take your binoculars because, except for the flowers above the north door, most of the mosaics are too high to examine properly. Many gaps reflect the church’s chequered history, but it’s a miracle any survived. There was even an attempt to melt down the tesserae for their gold.

Insights Greece - Daphni Monastery: Rising like a phoenix for 2,000 years

Address: Athinon, Haidari 12400, +30 210 5811558

Getting there: Metro to Agia Marina (M 3) and then bus 811; buses from Athens A 16, G16 or 836, or from Piraeus 801 or 845

Hours: Tue & Fri 8am – 3pm.

Tip: At the Haidari ‘death’ camp just beyond the monastery, hundreds were executed by the Nazis in 1944 in reprisals for partisan attacks against them. It was the most notorious prison in Greece.

111 Places in Athens That You Shouldn’t Miss can be found at all major bookstores worldwide as well as online at Amazon.

Veria: Greece’s Charming Town Bursting With Rich History

If you are looking to visit a beautiful town that is bursting with rich history, culture, museums and archaeological sites, look no further than Veria.

Part One | History 

By Eleni Orfanidou 

Located in Macedonia, it is set on the foothills of Mount Vermion and crossed by the River Tripotamo. From the 11th to the 14th century it was the third most important city of the Byzantine Empire, after Constantinople and Thessaloniki.

Now known as “Little Jerusalem,” the city is filled with an impressively large number of Byzantine, post-Byzantine churches as well as lots of archaeological sites and historical museums.

Here is a list of must-see places for when you visit!

Religious Sites

Step of the Apostle Paul is a historical monument of global interest and a source of religious tourism for the city. Every season of the year people from all over the world arrive in Veria to see up close the traces of Apostolos’ tour.

Agios Patapios was the center of ancient, but also of the early Christian Veria, as it was located on the east side of the main road, which led from the north gate of the fortified enclosure inside the ancient city. The most extensive ensemble was excavated in the ruins of buildings of the Roman period, which provides a very important picture of the organization of the city during the early Christian period. Discovered here were parts of a building complex with extensive mosaic floors, an early Christian baptistery, as well as part of the diocese.

Byzantine churches

Veria is known for its numerous Byzantine and post-Byzantine churches (about 48 surviving today) and 72 originally, resulting in the name of a ‘Small Jerusalem’, as well as unique collections of Byzantine icons. Particularly famous is the Church of the Resurrection. Other important temples are the Church of St. John the Theologian (13th century), the Church of Saints Kirikos and Ioulitis (16th century) and the Church of Saints Peter and Paul (11th century.) Make sure to pay a visit to the church of Panagia Dexia, built in the 19th century, in place of a former church of the 14th century. Take a look at the easternmost surviving sector of the former church where you can gaze upon the sanctuary’s niche and wall paintings.

Insights Greece - Veria: Greece's Charming Town Bursting With Rich History 

Jewish Synagogue

The Jewish Quarter was built in 1850 and is located next to the Tripotamos River, boasting cobblestone streets and grand mansions. It is one of the oldest Synagogues in Europe and in the heart of the Jewish quarter is Barbuta, the stone building of the Synagogue, with ornate interior decoration. Today it is closed and open only when Jewish people travel and come to pray. The Apostle Paul preached here when he visited the city in 51 and 57 AD.

Archaeological Sites

Vergina: A short distance from Veria is Vergina, built geographically on the site of the ancient Aigai, where the excellent archaeologist Manolis Andronikos excavated and discovered the ancient tomb of King Philip V. The modern underground museum of Vergina is astonishing. Royal tombs and exhibits from the entire history of Macedonia are found here. At the Royal Tombs Museum, you can admire many findings and wall paintings in an impressive underground construction. Philip II’s tomb and the magnificent golden urn are the items that stand out.


Byzantine Museum: The prosperity of Veria during the Byzantine era is presented in every detail. It is housed in the old Mill of Markos, near the city walls. Finds include mosaics, manuscripts, pottery, wood carvings and coins.

Archaeological Museum: Recently renovated, it attracts enormous archaeological interest from all over the world and offers a flashback to the rich past of Veria, while referring to the historical grandeur of the Ancient City of those years. In the three rooms of the Museum one can see findings from the Paleolithic era to the period of Ottoman rule.

Museum of Education: There is a permanent exhibition, which presents the evolution of education and its teaching aids in Greece, from the time of waxed plates, parchments, ancient ink and conveyors to the age of notebooks, desks and computers.

Museum of Modern History and Art: Known as Vlachogiannio, it exhibits in a unique way the flourishing of art and the progress of modern history in this place.

Folklore Museum: It is housed in the old mansion of Sarafoglou. The museum focuses on the folklore of the area, highlighting the rich history of the habits of the inhabitants of Veria. The material of the museum is of astonishing interest, while at the same time it is housed inside an old mansion, which allows you to see the architecture of the city inside.

Vlach Folklore Museum: The Museum is housed in a listed building next to Orologiou Square, highlighting the cultural heritage of the Vlachs. In the museum there are exhibits with traditional costumes, rich photographic material and a collection of traditional material related to the Vlach tradition of the area. The purpose of the museum is the preservation, promotion and dissemination of elements of Vlach culture. For this reason, events are held in the area accompanied by traditional music.

*Eleni Orfanidou is a school teacher who was born and raised in Veria and is very proud of the local traditions, culture and history of her home town. Over the coming weeks, Eleni will be sharing with IN+SIGHTS GREECE readers what to see and do when visiting Veria.