Things to Do in Greece - page 3
Covering the period from 1453 to the 1940s, Athens’ National History Museum takes visitors from the Ottoman years right up until the Greek-Italian War. The museum is housed in an ornate Neoclassical palace dating back to 1813 and has seen several incarnations; it was once the home of King Otto, the first Greek monarch after independence in 1832, before being taken over by Greek Parliament, who in turned moved out to the current Parliament Building in Syntagma Square in 1932. Lastly, the Old Parliament building housed the justice ministry before opening as a museum in 1962, showcasing turning points in Greek history from the Byzantine rule to the build up to the Wars of Independence in the 1820s and the disastrous Asia Minor Campaign in 1919.
Now supported by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, the Athens Numismatic Museum first opened in 1834 and has been relocated several times during its lifetime; its present resting place is the Iliou Melathron (Palace of Iliou), a late 19th century Neo-classical mansion that was once home to German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann, who discovered Troy. The house, designed by Ernest Ziller in 1881, is as big an attraction as the museum and is surrounded on three sides by manicured gardens full of replicas of classical statues. Inside, a series of grand apartments are filled with highly patterned marble floors, elaborately painted ceilings and wall paintings reflecting Schliemann’s interest in ancient civilizations.
Thessaloniki is home to one of the world’s largest caches of Byzantine architectural treasures, thanks to the city being ruled by Constantinople from the fifth century AD to the 13th. The empire’s legacy can be seen in what’s left of the city walls; in the many Byzantine churches; in Latomou Monastery and, most importantly, in the church and crypt of Ayios Dimitrios. Named after the city’s patron saint, the Christian martyr Dimitrios, the church started life as a small temple – itself built over the remains of a Roman baths complex – in the fourth century under Byzantine rule it took its present shape as a five-aisled basilica, built of stone with layers of arcaded windows and two stumpy towers. In the Middle Ages Thessaloniki became part of the Ottoman Empire; in 1493 Ayios Dimitrios was transformed into a mosque and its original Christian frescoes and mosaics were plastered over. It remained a mosque until the liberation of the city in 1912, but burnt down five years later.
The Byzantine and Christian Museum is housed in the lovely Neo-Classical Villa Ilissia in the Athens suburb of the same name; it was built in 1848 as the residence of Sophie de Marbois-Lebrun, the philanthropic US-born Duchess of Plaisance. Having had an architectural facelift in 2004, the museum has one of the best displays of Byzantine icons and mosaics on earth. Its priceless exhibits are laid out chronologically to trace the development of early Christian and Greek Byzantine culture from the 4th century onwards, drawing on more than 25,000 treasures from across the Greek world including religious statuary removed from ruined churches in Attica. Among the Coptic priestly vestments, pottery, the frescoes, armor and fragmented mosaics is a world-beating collection of more than 3,000 glittering Byzantine icons. Modern-day religious art in Greece is covered in a series of ever-changing temporary exhibits.
As befits a city that was under Byzantine rule between the fifth and 13th centuries, Thessaloniki has a rich and priceless supply of Byzantine antiquities that are chronologically displayed in the city’s award-winning contemporary museum. Opened in September 1994, the Museum of Byzantine Culture was designed by modernist architect Kyriakos Krokos and has spectacular displays of mosaic fragments, icons, stone tablets bearing ancient inscriptions and delicate wall paintings taken from tombs. Although some of the almost 43,000 artifacts in the collection were moved there from the Byzantine and Christian Museum in Athens, most were unearthed locally. The three permanent exhibitions walk through the centuries of Byzantine rule in Thessaloniki, while the final two rooms display icon collections and religious engravings donated to the museum by Greek philanthropists.
The Monument of Lysicrates is the best preserved choragic monument in Athens, Greece. In ancient times, statues like this one were built as a base for placing trophies. Theater competitions were organized each year, and the sponsor of the winning performance won a trophy. This particular one was built by Lysicrates, a wealthy citizen of Athens, in the 4th century BC. It stands over 30 feet high and is crowned with a capital in the shape of acanthus leaves. The bronze trophy would have been placed on top of this capital.
On top of the pedestal, you can see a tholos, which is a circular structure with Corinthian columns and covered with a marble roof. Beneath the roof you can see a frieze that shows scenes from the winning play along with Dionysus, the patron god of the stage. The monument was integrated into a Capuchin monastery that was built in the same location in the mid 1600s, which is part of the reason it has survived.
More Things to Do in Greece
Delphi is the second-most important archeological site in Greece (after the Acropolis in Athens). In ancient times Delphi was considered the place where heaven and earth met so the gods were close-by. Established around the 7th century BC, Delphi was a sanctuary to the god Apollo. It was here that the Oracle of Delphi was situated, the most trusted oracle in the ancient world from which the spirit of Apollo gave advice on everything from domestic matters to wars.
Delphi had a theatre and temples as well as the oracle, and has a well preserved stadium which once held chariot races. These were excavated from the mid-1800s and today the ruins stand impressively in their mountain landscape. Many believe the place to have a special magic and report being moved spiritually when visiting Delphi. Ancient engravings on the stone such as 'Know Thyself' and 'Nothing in Excess' could be from today's self-help movement.
Most of Santorini’s pocket-sized beaches are made of dark volcanic sand and pebbles set against black, austere cliffs, but perhaps its most unusual beach is near the Minoan ruins at Akrotíri on the south coast. Aptly named Red Beach (‘Kokkini Ammos’ in Greek) for its blood-red sand and gently crumbling burnt-umber cliffs, the crescent of beach forms a bizarre Martian landscape of red and black lava boulders scattered over grainy red and black sand. Rocks thrown up by ancient volcanic activity lurk just offshore in the calm bay, forming perfect platforms for sun worshippers, and the crystal-clear waters are paradise for snorkelers.
Open-topped wooden boats, known as kaiks, trundle backwards and forwards between Red Beach and Akrotíri disgorging a constant stream of visitors.
Things to do near Greece
- Things to do in Athens
- Things to do in Rhodes
- Things to do in Corfu
- Things to do in Santorini
- Things to do in Heraklion
- Things to do in Kalamata
- Things to do in Katakolo
- Things to do in Thessaloniki
- Things to do in Corinth
- Things to do in Kos
- Things to do in Albania
- Things to do in Macedonia
- Things to do in Ionian Islands
- Things to do in Peloponnese
- Things to do in Macedonia