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BlogDestinationsDreaming of the Aegean? Here are the 8 best cities to visit in Greece

Dreaming of the Aegean? Here are the 8 best cities to visit in Greece

Nov 02, 2023 by The Go Ahead Tours Team

Greece is full of enriching experiences. When you visit this sunny country on our Greece tours, you’ll find the echoes of ancient civilizations, stroll along picturesque beaches, and explore bustling cities teeming with art and energy. “From sea level to the high mountains and back, Greece is such a beautiful and diverse country,” said traveler Doug, who joined us on our A Week in Ancient Greece: Athens, Delphi & Olympia tour.

Discovering everything Greece has to offer is a dream, and you can visit many of our favorite archaeological sites, villages, and cities in Greece all on one tour. Ready to marvel at whitewashed buildings, warm culture, and glorious cuisine? Here are eight of the best cities to visit in Greece when you join us on our Grand Tour of Greece: Athens, Corfu & Santorini.

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1. Thessaloniki

One of the largest cities in Greece, Thessaloniki is a contemporary hub of Greek art and culture with a history dating back over 2,300 years. The city was founded in 315 B.C. and was named after Alexander the Great’s half sister. This lively, walkable city is punctuated with striking architecture from the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman empires. Examples include the stately White Tower of Thessaloniki, which stands at attention on the waterfront, and the UNESCO-listed, fourth-century Rotunda of Galerius, one of the city’s oldest buildings.

Thessaloniki’s diverse history has influenced not just the city’s architecture but its culture and cuisine as well. “We started in Thessaloniki in Macedonia, homeland of Alexander the Great,” said traveler Kathy of our Food & Wine: A Taste of Greece tour. “Thessaloniki is an old historic city known for the diversity of its populations over the years. In the early part of the 20th century, the city’s population was mainly Muslim since the area was part of the Ottoman Empire. But it also had a significant Sephardic Jewish population. Now, the city is almost 100 percent Greek Orthodox. These cultural traditions are reflected in the local cuisine.”

Thessaloniki isn’t just one of the best cities to visit in Greece for history buffs and foodies—it’s also a fantastic destination for art enthusiasts. The city has a vibrant art scene and is studded with galleries, theaters, and music venues. When you join us on our Grand Tour of Greece: Athens, Corfu & Santorini, you’ll explore the cozy, pedestrian-only Ladadika district. The dynamic neighborhood is a favorite among local artists and students and hosts several festivals each year. It’s one of our favorite places in the city to shop, people watch, or sip coffee or ouzo with fellow travelers.

Dine your way through Greece


2. Meteora

The first thing you’ll notice when you enter the Meteora region is the soaring rock formations set against the backdrop of the sterling Pindus Mountains. Take a closer look and you might spot the remote, red-roofed monasteries perched atop the rocks like something out of a storybook. When monks first began settling in the area in the 11th century, they lived in caves within the rocks. As they slowly began to build the monasteries in the 14th century, they would use ladders and baskets with pulley systems to reach the sky-high complexes.

Now, the area is much more accessible, and you can visit these ancient wonders when you join us on our Meteora tours. “There were so many ‘favorite’ places and moments on this trip, but one that I wasn’t expecting was visiting the monasteries in the Meteora region,” said traveler Kelly after returning from our Footsteps of Saint Paul in Greece: Thessaloniki to Athens tour. “What an incredible experience to visit these two monasteries perched on top of rock formations that look and feel otherworldly.” Join us on our Grand Tour of Greece: Athens, Corfu & Santorini to meet with local nuns and learn about the work they do within the monasteries. Spend some time admiring the monasteries’ spiritual Byzantine art before descending back to ground level.

Explore the Meteora region


3. Corfu

A lush paradise in the Ionian Sea, Corfu is a breezy island covered in sheltered coves, cypress trees, and fragrant olive and citrus groves. “Corfu was my favorite—quaint and lovely!” wrote traveler Jane after visiting on our Athens & Ancient Greece tour. Nestled among the sherbet-colored buildings of the Venetian-influenced Corfu Town, one of the most picturesque cities in Greece, you’ll find the Church of St. Spyridon and its distinctive bell tower. The church blends architectural styles, including Venetian, Byzantine, and Baroque elements, and is full of sacred relics depicting the life of Corfu’s patron saint.

When you visit Corfu on our Greece tours, take some time to relax on some of the most beautiful beaches in Greece and stop to enjoy the bounty of the island. Sample liqueur and marmalade made from kumquats, a zesty, bite-size citrus fruit that’s grown under strict quality and sustainability regulations in Corfu. Then, join us on the Corfu Tavern Dinner excursion offered on our Grand Tour of Greece: Athens, Corfu & Santorini and enjoy Greek specialties, local wines, and traditional music at a rustic, family-run tavern.

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4. Delphi

Home of the legendary oracle, Delphi was considered a religious sanctuary for the Ancient Greeks. It was here, on the slopes of Mount Parnassus, that the high priestess Pythia would inhale the fumes rising from beneath the Temple of Apollo and speak the god of light and music’s word in prophecy. The temple is one of the best in Greece and lies within the UNESCO-listed Archaeological Site of Delphi—a location that was believed by ancient Greeks to be the Navel of the Earth. “The Delphi ruins were fascinating although the oracle didn’t provide me any predictions,” said traveler Edward after returning from The Greek Islands: Mykonos, Santorini & Crete tour.

When you join us on our Grand Tour of Greece: Athens, Corfu & Santorini, you’ll have time to explore the fascinating Delphi Museum. The museum is home to an extensive collection of artifacts from Delphi and the surrounding area, including friezes, architectural elements, the marble Sphinx of Naxos, and the bronze Charioteer of Delphi—a life-sized statue considered to be one of the best examples of ancient Greek sculpture.

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5. Athens

Athens is one of the best cities to visit in Greece if you want to experience the seamless blend of ancient history and modern, metropolitan life. Its iconic landmarks, like the Acropolis and Parthenon, rise up alongside bustling shopping districts, diverse neighborhoods, and urban parks. “Being at the Parthenon is easily one of the highlights of my life so far,” said traveler Gregory after visiting Athens on our A Week in Ancient Greece: Athens, Delphi & Olympia tour. “It’s the navel of Western civilization. Just to be in that one spot, I could just feel the history of this place.”

One of the best things about this well-connected Greek city? If you’d like to explore more ancient ruins beyond Athens, you can join our optional Cape Sounion excursion on our Grand Tour of Greece: Athens, Corfu & Santorini. Then, set out to explore the southern tip of the Attica Peninsula and view the dramatic Temple of Poseidon perched on the rocky shore.

It should come as no surprise that the best cities in Greece also boast some of the best food in the country, and Athens is no exception. Take a tip from our Athens Travel Guide and spend a free afternoon or evening taverna-hopping in the city. “Eating is really the best thing to do in Greece, in my opinion,” said staffer Sarah. Whether you try it in a traditional Horiatiki salad or wrapped in phyllo, be sure to try the feta!

Travel to Athens on tour


6. Santorini

If your visions of Greece cities consist of whitewashed buildings with sapphire-colored roofs perched high above the glittering sea, the volcanic island of Santorini might be calling to you. The island is home to black sand beaches and breathtaking views (take a tip from our Santorini Travel Guide and head to the top of Mount Profitis Ilias for a 360-degree view of the island). It’s also home to one of the most important archaeological sites in Greece: Akrotiri. Known as “the Pompeii of the Aegean,” Akrotiri was once a prominent port town before it was covered in ash following a volcanic eruption. You can explore its well-preserved homes and artifacts, all of which appear frozen in time, from a series of paths and walkways through the settlement.

When you join us on a tour of Santorini, you’ll have the option to add our Santorini Caldera Cruise & Dinner excursion. Here, you’ll board a catamaran and sail through the volcanic crater that formed Santorini and its neighboring islands. Spend the day sunbathing, snorkeling, and swimming in natural volcanic hot springs. Later, enjoy a dinner of Greek specialties and local wine on board the boat as the sun sets. “The Caldera cruise was fantastic,” said traveler Gennifer, who added the excursion on our A Week in Greece: Athens, Mykonos & Santorini tour. “That, along with the adventures at and after Akrotiri, made one heck of a last day in Santorini.”

See Santorini on tour


7. Crete

Nestled in the Aegean Sea, Greece’s largest island is steeped in ancient history and natural beauty. Crete is the former heart of the bronze-age Minoan Civilization, and its rugged mountains and pink sand beaches are punctuated with well-preserved ruins. One of the most striking of these sites, Knossos Palace, was the place where, according to myth, King Minos imprisoned the legendary Minotaur. When you visit Knossos Palace on our Grand Tour of Greece: Athens, Corfu & Santorini itinerary, spend some time admiring the palace’s grand staircases, colorful columns, and detailed frescoes as you hunt for evidence of the fabled beast.

Crete isn’t just home to ancient kings and mythical creatures; it’s also home to a rich culinary scene. When you join us on a tour of Crete, you’ll sample the unique flavors of the island—some of which you won’t find anywhere else in the world. Add our Iraklio Wine Country Tasting Tour excursion and our Venetian Rethymno & Crete Farm Lunch excursion to taste produce, cheeses, and wine varietals grown exclusively on Crete. (Tasting the island’s one-of-a-kind wines is one of our top five favorite things to do on Crete.) “We visited Domaine Paterianakis, an organic winery,” said traveler Dennis after visiting Crete on our Food & Wine: A Taste of Greece tour. “On out second day, we had a cooking class in the country (at a beer brewery), an olive oil tasting at another winery, and another too-much-food dinner. Fearing that my clothes might not fit, I was, sadly, more restrained in my eating. You just do not get these freshly picked vegetables in the United States.”

Go on a tour of Crete


8. Olympia

Taking a trip to Olympia is like journeying back in time to the birthplace of one of the most enduring and iconic events in human history. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Archaeological Site of Olympia marks the original location of the famous Olympic Games, which first took place in 776 B.C. Here, you’ll find the gymnasium where the games were held and the ruins of the Temple of Zeus, the largest and most important temple in the region. Immersing yourself in the powerful energy of Olympia is one of our bucket list things to do in Greece.

When you join us on the Olympia extension of our Grand Tour of Greece: Athens, Corfu & Santorini itinerary, you’ll travel to the area by way of the Odontotos Rack Railway. The scenic train ride will take you along mountain slopes and through the Vouraikos Gorge, one of the most scenic spots in Greece. According to mythology, Hercules opened the gorge to reach his lover, Voura, who lived in the sea. The journey will take you through charming Alpine towns and past the stunning scenery of the Peloponnese region surrounding Olympia.

Ready to explore these diverse places in Greece all on one tour? Join us on our Grand Tour of Greece!

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About the author | The Go Ahead Tours Team
We’re a team of passionate travel experts, dedicated to helping people explore the world. From inspiring stories to tips for an amazing trip, the topics we cover are all about getting you out there and making discoveries.

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views of the aegean sea from the greek islands with white buildings in the foreground
views of the aegean sea from the greek islands with white buildings in the foreground views of the aegean sea from the greek islands with white buildings in the foreground
A Week in Greece: Athens, Mykonos & Santorini
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