A Guide to Ancient Corinth

Prominent in art and architecture as well as religion, Ancient Corinth is one of the most important cities of Greece and the Mediterranean in general.

With a powerful history of almost 5,000 years, a gorgeous location, a once illustrious acropolis, and a religious complex, Ancient Corinth have always been a strong political, economic, and cultural player in its area- as much as Ancient Athens and Sparta if not more!

Though a terrible earthquake in 1858 tore down the ancient city, forcing its dwellers to rebuild modern Corinth nearby, a good part of it still stands today. Surrounded by gorgeous landscapes and promising impressive, unique views and vistas, Ancient Corinth is waiting to be discovered by visitors today, not unlike how it was experienced during the time of Pausanias, the ancient traveler, and geographer who marveled at its sight.

Walk in Pausanias’ footsteps as you immerse yourself in Ancient Corinth’s rich history, learn about Corinth’s strong connection to the Christian faith, and enjoy the treat that is modern Corinth. With this guide, you will make the most of every moment you spend in one of the most important places in antiquity, as well as one of the most iconic ones now.

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Where is Corinth and Ancient Corinth?

Corinth is located at the southern end of Central Greece, right at the impressive canal at the Isthmus. It is considered the gateway to the Peloponnese. There are few Greeks that don’t remember childhood road trips with the family to the Peloponnese, passing through Corinth and the Isthmus, with a brief stop there for a souvlaki meat skewer on a slice of toasted bread while gazing at the sea.

How to get to Corinth

It is very easy to get to Corinth as it’s just an hour’s drive away from Athens! It is also very well connected through all kinds of mass transportation, so you have a lot of options and can even make a day trip out of the entire experience.

If you decide to go by car, all you need to do is take the highway A75 to Corinth and drive for around 50 minutes to get to the Isthmus.

I recommend booking a car through Discover Cars, where you can compare all rental car agencies’ prices, and you can cancel or modify your booking for free. They also guarantee the best price. Click here for more information and to check the latest prices.

You can also go by KTEL bus. You will need to take the bus from Terminal A at Kifissou street. No need for booking as the buses depart every 30 minutes. The trip by bus takes roughly an hour and a half since there are stops made.

If you opt to go by train, which may be the best way to relax and enjoy the scenery, you can do so directly from Athens International Airport. Alternatively, get on the Suburban Railway at any of its platforms and to its Corinth station.

The trip takes roughly an hour, give or take 30 minutes, depending on where you board the Suburban Railway.

Finally, the easiest way to visit is by a guided tour from Athens.

I recommend the following: Ancient Corinth Guided Tour from Athens.

A brief history of Corinth

According to the myth, Corinth was founded either by Corinthus or by Ephyra. Corinthus was one of Zeus’ sons who later became the grandfather of one of the bandits blocking the road from Corinth to Athens and who was killed by Theseus.

Ephyra was an Oceanid, a water nymph, and the daughter of Oceanus. She is said to have been the first one to have inhabited Corinth and the mother of Aeetes, one of the most famous mythical kings of Corinth.

Corinth generally has been featured in ancient Greek myths, from the story of Jason and the Argonauts to Theseus to even an arbitration between Poseidon and Helios, the god of the sun, for who owns Corinth. It was decreed that the city belonged to Poseidon while its acropolis to the sun- a testament to the powerful imagery the scenery offers in the area.

Historically, Corinth was founded in the Neolithic period from 5000 to 3000 BC and became prominent in the 8th century BC as a cultural hub and powerful trade center. Corinth was renowned in ancient Greece for its unique architectural inroads (this is where the Corinthian style originates) and its iconic black-figure pottery that was invented there.

During the Roman period, Corinth was declared the capital of Roman Greece and as such, the Romans completely upgraded and rebuilt what an already impressive city was. Corinth flourished and was known as an upscale, extravagant city with a high standard of living.

With the advent of Christianity, Corinth also took a strong meaning for Christians as it is often mentioned in the New Testament and especially through Apostle Paul’s travels to the city and his letters to the Corinthians.

During Byzantine times, there was a decline in Corinth and even some rough periods when it was harassed by barbarians, but by the 9th century AD, it had recovered, and by the 12th century AD, it was a hub of the silk industry in the area.

After the fall of the Byzantine Empire, Corinth was conquered by the French knights and then later on by the Ottoman Turks as Greece became part of the Ottoman Empire. It was liberated and became part of the modern state of Greece after the Greek War of Independence of 1821 and the founding of the Greek state in 1830.

The ancient city of Corinth was excavated thoroughly for the first time in the 1890s, and ever since, excavations have kept unearthing important archaeological artifacts and knowledge.

What to see and do in Ancient Corinth

Explore the site of Ancient Corinth

The impressive site of Ancient Corinth sprawls around the Akrokorinthos hill, around the Temple of Apollo. Keep in mind that during high season, the site is open to the public from 8 am to 7 pm and has a ticket of 8 euros. In the off-season, it is open from 8 am to 3 pm and the ticket is half-price.

Once you enter the site, you will immediately come upon the Roman-made Glauke Fountain. According to the myth, this was where princess Glauke jumped to save herself from being burned by a poisoned cloak that burst into flames when she wore it. Walking further in, you will come upon the stunning Temple of Apollo.

The Temple of Apollo is the best-preserved archaic temple and one of the most ancient ones in all of Greece. Its unique feature is that its columns are monoliths: they are carved out of a solid block of stone rather than pieced together, as is the case with the columns of later temples.

After you marvel at the imposing feel of the temple, walk down Lechaion street, which was the high-end shopping street of the ancient Corinthians. All around, you will see the remains of extravagant homes from various eras, including the Basilica Ioulia, which was a courthouse built by Emperor Claudius in 44 AD.

There are also several other public buildings to admire, even in their state of ruin, as they are still decorated with impressive reliefs and sculptures you can see. Don’t miss out on locating the Temple of Octavia with its iconic columns in the Corinthian order, the Roman Odeon, and the Gymnasium.

There is also the Bema of St Paul, which was where Apostle Paul stood trial for his teachings. Originally the Rostra of the Roman Forum, it was later chosen as the site for a Christian church, and you can still see both remnants in the site of Ancient Corinth.

Wander in the Akrokorinthos

Temple of Apollo in Corinth

The Acropolis of Ancient Corinth, or otherwise Akrokorinthos, is a magnificent castle that is built on a monolithic rock. It is one of the biggest castles in Europe and the largest one in Greece. Fortunately, it is amazingly well preserved, and wandering in its complex is a treat!

It was first founded and built in the 6th or 7th century BC with the famous Temple of Aphrodite. At its height of influence and power, the temple housed 3,000 prostitutes, and the city of Corinth was dubbed the place where “many a sailor went bankrupt.”


The whole act of prostitution was not considered condemnable but rather a sacred act that brought those engaged in it in contact with Aphrodite. It was a sort of “sacrifice” to the goddess to pay for one of the Temple’s sacred prostitutes who also could pray and mitigate pleas to the goddess.

Within the castle, all of Corinth’s eons of history merge. You will be able to explore chapels and churches, such as the chapel of Aghios Dimitrios that is still in use, to the ruins of the Temple of Aphrodite, a 16th-century mosque that could also have previously been another temple to Aphrodite and a site where Apostle Paul taught about Christianity.

Akrokorinthos Greece

One of the gorgeous highlights of the Akrokorinthos, except for the stunning views from the fortified walls, is the Peirene fountain.

The Peirene fountain has been in use since the Neolithic period and was often embellished and had structures added to it over the different epochs. Myth has it that it is where the winged horse Pegasus struck the ground with its hoof and created the spring or where the nymph Peirene cried when her son was unintentionally killed by Artemis and turned into this spring.

Akrokornthos Castle

Though some of the Fountain’s structures are submerged in the water, it is still a gorgeous site, very picturesque, with many Roman-era columns and arches visible and well preserved.

Visit the Archeological Museum of Ancient Corinth

This remarkable museum is within the archaeological site of Ancient Corinth. Its building was built in the 1930s and was specially designed to showcase the artifacts and findings from the excavations in the area.

Its exhibition halls and atriums are arranged to take you through the entire history of ancient Corinth as if you were a time traveler: you will see exhibits from the Prehistoric period all the way to the Byzantine era, rare and important statues and reliefs (such as the twin kouroi of Klenia, the only archaic burial statue group found in Greece), and even artifacts from the Jewish community of the area.

There are also audiovisual tours and displays that you shouldn’t miss readily available at the museum!

Visit the Isthmus

The Isthmus is the narrow strip of land that connects Central Greece to the Peloponnese. During ancient times, the Diolkos would help ships cross over the strip of land rather than go around the Peloponnese.

day trip from Athens Corinth Canal
Corinth Canal

It was a marvel of ancient engineering, which can still be seen today, a paved street around 3,5 to 5 meters wide, with special grooves for the ship hull and platforms on wheels that would carry the ship across.

In 1893, however, the Canal of Corinth was finally opened to allow ships to sail from the Corinthian to the Saronic bay. It is 6 km long and around 23 meters wide which makes it suitable for relatively small ships to pass through by modern standards.

As a result, it currently is not in serious commercial use, but it is a gorgeous sight to look at over the bridge and, if you have the time and change, to sail through.

Make sure to visit the Tourist Info Center for detailed information and a new platform that offers new gorgeous views of the canal.

What else to visit while you’re in Corinth

Experience the modern city of Corinth

Corinth is still around! After the devastating earthquake of 1858, dwellers were forced to rebuild near the ancient Corinth site, not 3 km away. It is built right on the coast overlooking the bay and is one of the most beautiful modern, anti-quake cities in Greece.

There is an active encouragement for pedestrian transportation which makes the city center accessible and pleasant to explore. It is ideal for cyclists as well and has been carefully designed to give you easy access to all its shops, cafés, and tavernas.

Korinthos city

Start your exploration from the iconic Eleftherios Venizelos Square and the coastal front of Aghios Nikolaos for gorgeous views of the port and the marina.

Then, direct yourself towards the center of the city, with its shopping hubs and signed mosaics on the sidewalks. And if you’re feeling like swimming, make sure to walk to Kalamia beach, a beautiful, large sandy beach right there in the city.

Don’t neglect to visit Corinth’s museums, including the Historical and Folklore Museum of Corinth, with its exhibits of traditional costumes, rare books, engravings, and artifacts of rural and pastoral life, the Ecclesiastical Museum, with rare icons and religious documents, and even frescoes preserved from destroyed churches and edifices from the various devastating earthquakes.

Finally, if you like art exhibits, make sure to drop by the Municipal Art Gallery featuring important artworks from several prominent Greek painters but also international ones such as Rubens, Dali, and Goya.

Visit Lake Vouliagmeni and the Heraion Archaeological site.

Turquoise meets azure blue in the waters of this gorgeous lake which was formed by a narrow strip of land separating it from Corinthian bay. This is the larger lake Vouliagmeni which shouldn’t be confused with the smaller one that is on the road to Sounion, in Attica.

The lake’s banks are sandy, and the waters are initially shallow and warm. But don’t be fooled! They suddenly become very deep without warning, so be careful if you are wading in a while having a swim.

The waters are always calm and perfect for water sports. The most beautiful side of the lagoon is the northwestern one in terms of seaside lounging. Before you leave, don’t forget to visit the little chapel of Aghios Nikolaos, which is so picturesque it has become a popular venue for weddings!

As you move away from the lake on its western side, around the two hills, you will find the archaeological site of the Heraion- the temple complex dedicated to the goddess Hera, wife of Zeus.

Aghios Nikolaos in Lake Vouliagmeni

More officially called the Heraion of Perahora, it has the remnants of two temples, a stoa, a cistern, and a couple of dining rooms. The location of the ruins is gorgeous, as is the site- and there’s a little bonus beach where you can have another swim to cool down after your exploration, with beautiful azure, crystal clear waters.

Visit Lake Doxa

Lake Doxa near Corinth

Lake Doxa is yet another lake in Corinth’s general area; only this one is artificial. It is created by the small river Doxa and is breathtakingly beautiful. It is surrounded by lush fir forest, and its mirror-calm waters reflect the beautiful mountains of the area.

Make sure you visit the small chapel of Aghios Fanourios and the historic monastery of Aghios Georgios, a fortified castle complex still in use today! Enjoy the hospitality of the monks and the unique rose petal spoon sweet they will serve you as you enjoy the gorgeous view.

Visit Lake Stymphalia

Lake Styphalia is familiar and famous among the Greeks and myth lovers for being the site of one of the feats performed by Heracles: the killing of the Birds of Stymphalis. According to the myth, Heracles went to lake Stymphalis for his 6th feat, which was to deal with the Stymphalis birds.

Lake Stymphalia near Corinth

They were man-eating birds with beaks, claws, and wings made of copper. They would hide in the marshlands of the lake and then prey upon the locals and their livestock. Heracles was helped by the goddess Athena in killing most of them with his bow and arrows.

Despite the fantastical element of the myth, there seems to have been some truth to it because, at the time where this would have taken place, there was bald ibis living there, and it would have been for thousands of years before going extinct in the area. Lake Stymphalia is, even now, one of the most important wetlands in Greece and is protected by NATURA 2000 legislation.

The lake is gorgeous, with marshland interweaving with the silver lakewater. Mt. Kyllini reflects in it, creating a gorgeous tableau for you to enjoy. Depending on what season you visit, you will get to see a different lake! That is because the waters rise and recede depending on the season, revealing or concealing different sides of this stunningly beautiful vista.

Again, depending on the season, you may get to see a lot of rare migratory birds and other unique species. No matter what the season, however, you are guaranteed to see unique natural beauty, breathe in the calm, clean air, and enjoy the softly lapping waters as you walk and explore the area.

Make sure also to visit the local Environmental Museum, which will familiarize you with the various wonders of this gorgeous lake that has so much heritage and natural beauty.

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