Among the top destinations for traveling, especially in summer, are the Greek Islands, known for their vibrant nightlife, cosmopolitan atmosphere, and beautiful beaches. Greece, however, has many city destinations full of rich history and character, which are worth exploring all around the year.
Here’s a list of the best cities in Greece and what to see there:
A Guide to the Best Cities in Greece
Starting nowhere else but the capital of Greece, Athens is top on the list of cities in Greece you should visit. With countless opportunities for sightseeing, hiking, museum hunting, and going out, Athens is anything but boring.
Visit the magnificent Acropolis, a landmark of the city, and the country, with its Parthenon temple and the imposing Caryatids. You can get a combined ticket that allows you entrance to the Acropolis of Athens, the Ancient Agora, the Archaeological Museum of Kerameikos, Hadrian’s Library, and more. Don’t miss out on the new Acropolis Museum with its modern architecture and important artifacts and make sure you pay a visit to the Odeon of Herodes Atticus.
To get immersed in Athens’ atmosphere, stroll around in Monastiraki square and the flea market, and get glimpses of life in this city.
What else to do while in Athens:
- Visit the National Archaeological Museum
- Go sightseeing in Syntagma Square
- Shopping at Ermou Street
- Watch the view from Lycabettus Hill
- Hiking to Philopappos Hill
- Visit the Panathenaic Stadium
- Rest at the National Gardens
- Stroll around the quaint alleys of Plaka and Anafiotika
- Take a trip to Sounion (Temple of Poseidon)
Considered as Greece’s second capital, or better yet, the capital of Northern Greece, Thessaloniki is among the best cities in Greece for a city escape. It makes for the perfect urban yet cosmopolitan holiday location with lots of sights to see, easily accessible and close to one another, and many tastes to experience.
The city’s landmark is the famous White Tower, a 15th-century tower built as a prison and a fortress during the Ottoman occupation. Nowadays, it is home to the Museum of the city of Thessaloniki, and one of the most visited spots by locals and visitors alike. Head straight to the observation tower for panoramic views of the coastal city and amazing photos.
East of the White Tower, you can find the old waterfront, also known as “Palia Paralia.” Stroll around and enjoy the view of historic buildings, all the way from Nikis Avenue and White Tower to the Harbor. Close to the White Tower, you will find the New Waterfront, a modern promenade and a popular hub for young people, couples, locals, and visitors. There, you can also find the iconic artwork with the Umbrellas and take amazing photos.
What else to do in Thessaloniki:
- Marvel at the beauty of The Triumphant Arch of Galerius also known as Kamara
- Visit historical and impressive Rotonda
- Visit Thessaloniki’s Archaeological Museum
- Go to the Octagon Palace and its exhibition
- Learn about Modern Art in Greece at MOMus
In the regional unit of Magnesia lies Volos, a charming city that combines seaside with mountains. The Pagasetic Gulf is opposite the wonderful Sporades islands, making them easily accessible.
In Volos, you can walk by the sea on the promenade and enjoy an amazing sunset or stroll around the town and go shopping in Ikonomiki Street or Ermou Street. You will find many tsipouradika to grab a drink and have fun.
Volos is also ideal for a getaway to Pilio, a village on the Mountain Pelion, with traditional dwellings, amazing landscapes, and a variety of hiking trails to enjoy pristine nature. Visit the Spring of Manas in Portaria or walk along the Centaur’s path. Alternatively, you can take the Moutzouris Steam Train.
But Pelion is not only mountainous, it also has stunning beaches to sewing at, including Mylopotamos beach, Agios Ioannis beach, and Fakistra.
The lively city of Ioannina also known as Giannena is yet another of the best cities in Greece. Built on the banks of the beautiful Lake Pamvotida, the city is wonderful and cozy during winter and vibrant and buzzing during summer.
Explore the lake of Pamvotida by walking around it on the lovely promenade under the thick plane trees. There is also the option of going on a boat tour around the lake and to the island situated at its center. There, you will find lots of sights from ancient temples to wall paintings of religious figures.
The first thing in the Ioannina center to do is explore the castle town of Ioannina, which is the oldest Byzantine fortress in Greece. Learn all about the history of the city in the various museums situated inside the castle town. Visit the Silversmithing Museum, as well as the Municipal Ethnographic Museum and the Aslan Passa Mosque.
What else to do in Ioannina:
- Explore Perama Cave
- Try the traditional cuisine of Epirus
- Visit Dodoni Sanctuary and Theatre
- Stroll around Old Town
- Enjoydrinksin live music bars
Chania is among the best cities in Greece, this time south, on the island of Crete with a population of around 156,000 inhabitants, making it a large seaside island center. In the region of Chania, you will find a combination of vibrant nightlife and youthful atmosphere, and arguably most of the best beaches on the island.
To get a grasp of the unique atmosphere of Chania, head to the Old Venetian Harbour with a lovely promenade by the sea, and visit the Maritime Museum of Crete, or the Archaeological Museum. Nearby, you can find the Firka Venetian Fortress, also a Maritime Museum, and a lovely sight to behold. Stroll around the city and marvel at the lively locals. Try out local delicacies, the food there is delicious!
Outside of the city center, Chania’s region features pristine nature, wild landscapes with crystal-clear cyan waters, and great beaches and coves. Don’t miss out on visiting the nearby beauty of the Balos lagoon, known internationally as one of the best beaches. Similarly, you can’t forget Elafonisi, popular for its endless dunes, crystal-clear waters, and virgin nature.
What else to do in Chania:
- Swim at Kedrodasos beach
- Go to Seitan Limania for a dive
- Enjoy a sea day at Falassarna
- Go to Glyka Nera beach for a trip
Kavala is a coastal city in northern Greece built around a bay, where you can find a marina. The city of Kavala is full of life in countless locales and many parks, and it has a large population of students.
To get immersed in it, visit the imposing castle of Kavala in Old Town, with the best views over the whole city. Take photos there or simply marvel at what lies in front of you. While returning, wander through the neighborhoods in Old Town and marvel at traditional dwellings.
Visit the equestrian statue of Mehmet Ali opposite his old house which is now a museum. If you want more panoramic views of the city, walk to the Old Lighthouse and enjoy the cityscape from above.
What else to do in Kavala:
- Visit the Halil Bey Mosque
- Tour the Imaret of Mehmed Ali
- Visit Kavala’s Archaeological Museum
- Pay a visit at the Tobacco Museum
Another magical city to visit in Greece is Kastoria. In between Grammos and Vitsi mountains, on a narrow peninsula, the wonderful city of Kastoria is built, as an amphitheater overlooking lake Orestiada.
The lake is wonderful and worth a visit for nature lovers, as it is a natural habitat for endangered species of flora and fauna. Around the lake, you can also find the Dragon’s Cave with many stalactites to explore.
Head to Agios Athanasios viewpoint to get some stunning views of the city, the lake, and the surrounding mountainous landscape. According to the season, you can even board a tourist boat that tours around the lake and the peninsula, giving you unique views.
In the center of Kastoria, get to know the rich Byzantine history of Kastoria, by visiting any of the 60 churches of that period built around the city as back as the 9th century. To name a few, visit the Monastery of Panagia Mavriotissa by the lake, or the church of Doltso and Agios Panteleimonas. To learn more about the rich history, visit the Byzantine art Museum situated at Dexameni Square!
What else to do in Kastoria:
- Stroll around the picturesque Doltso neighborhood
- Explore Dispilio settlement in lake Orestiada with its Middle Neolithic findings
- Visit the Folk-Art Museum in Neratzi Aivazi mansion
For more information, check out my guide to Kastoria.
Preveza is situated in the Epirus region, just like Ioannina, and is also on the list among the best cities in Greece. Built by the sea, at the so-called Ambracian Gulf known for the tasty shrimps, this city has many options.
You can stroll along the promenade and enjoy the timid weather, eat delicious cuisine or seafood, or go sightseeing in the nearby regions. You can begin with Nicopolis, an ancient city built in 31 B.C whose remains stand imposingly in place.
Alternatively, go for a swim or rafting in Acheron River Springs, a few kilometers outside of Preveza, and enjoy virgin nature, steep cliffs, and the most refreshing experience of river bathing.
What else to do in Preveza:
- Hike around Acheron River
- Swim at Alonaki beach
- Go to Lichnos beach
The first capital of Greece used to be Nafplion when they first established the new state. The glory of that era is still prevalent in the most romantic and quaint city. Located in the Peloponnese, just 2 hours away from Athens, it is the perfect weekend getaway.
Climb up the 999 stairs (as it is rumored) to get to the high Palamidi Fortress, built with Bastions during the 18th century. The panorama from up there is rewarding, as you can see the city, the endless sea, and the Bourtzi fortress.
Head to the islet of Bourtzi by boat and learn about its rich history, or go to Akronapflia Fortress, yet another castle with awesome views. Alternatively, take a long stroll at the beach Promenade of Arvanitia, with the seaside at one side and rocky steep cliffs on the other. It is 1 kilometer long and perfect during sunset hours for a romantic evening.
What else to do in Nafplion:
- Visit the Archaeological Museum
- Drink coffee at Syntagma Square
- Try the most delicious Gelato at Antica Gelateria di Roma
- Swim at Karathonas beach
- Stroll the Old town and buy souvenirs
Among the best cities in Greece is also Kalamata, the central part of the Messinia region. Blessed with natural wealth and fertile soil, it produces olive oil, raisins, and other fine-quality products.
The landmark of the city is the “castle of Isabeau” upon Farai Acropolis, where the annual International Dance Festival takes place and attracts many visitors. To get an idea of the history of the region, visit the Archaeological Museum of Messinia with findings from various ancient towns nearby.
Stroll the Old Town just below the castle for glimpses of the neoclassical mansions and the beauty of architecture and visit the famous Byzantine church of the Holy Apostles and the Cathedral of Ypapantis.
From Kalamata, you can easily have a getaway to the peninsula of Mani, a stunning region of raw beauty, rocky beaches, and crystal-clear seawater. It is about 100 km away, and the trip lasts up to 2 hours. There, you can get to know Areopoli or Limeni, marvel at the beauty of Cape Tenaro, or visit the Diros Caves.
Built on the foot of Rhodopi mountain range in Thrace, of Northern Greece, the city of Xanthi is a lively destination, full of history, art, tradition, and nature.
There are countless options for any type of traveler to get to know the vibe of the city. Stroll around the Old Town of Xanthi and you will get immersed in its distinct character.
Then, you can begin your museum tour with the Folk and History Museum of Xanthi and the Public Paint Gallery, as well as the modern art museum “The House of Shadow”.
For nature lovers and adventurers, there is Nestos River, and the Nestos Straits, where you can enjoy freshwater swimming and outdoor activities.
The quaint city of Trikala is indubitably among the best cities in Greece for visitors and locals alike. Situated in the region of Thessaly, it is a winter paradise, especially for its Christmas village, but it is worth a visit all year round.
You can’t miss the Kastro built in the 6th century or the famous Clock Tower in town. Get a chance to learn Trikala by visiting the iconic Matsopoulos Mill monument by the riverside, or take a bike ride around town, fun and free.
While in Trikala, you can’t miss the stone-arched bridges above Lithaios River, such as the Palaiokarya’s Stone Bridge and the Stone Bridge Gate.
The most enticing part is its proximity to Meteora, a top destination in Greece, where you can marvel at ‘soaring’ rocky masses with monasteries built on top; that’s surely a sight to behold and remember. Meteora lies 26 km northwest of Trikala, just 29 minutes away.