There are currently 18 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Greece. Sixteen of them are inscribed based on “cultural” criteria, while the remaining two (Mount Athos, Meteora) for meeting both “cultural” and “natural” criteria. Five of the sites are located on islands. One is distributed between the islands and the mainland, with the remaining 12 exclusively on the mainland.
This first site to be inscribed was the Temple of Apollo at Bassae in 1986, and the most recent is the Philippi, inscribed in 2016. There are an additional 14 sites on the Tentative List.
A collection of massive, yet perfectly balanced architectural masterpieces in harmony with the natural landscape, the Acropolis of Athens is one of the most essential expressions of Classical Greek aesthetics. It was completed by the 5th century BC and had since then exerted a profound influence on architecture worldwide.
Archaeological Site of Aigai (modern name Vergina)
The ancient city of Aigai was the first capital of the Kingdom of Macedon. In addition to the monumental palace, richly decorated with mosaics and painted stuccoes, the site contains a burial ground with more than 300 tumuli. One of them has been identified as that of Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great.
Archeological site of Delphi
The pan-Hellenic sanctuary of Delphi, location of the oracle of Apollo, was the spiritual center of the Greek world. Situated in a spectacular natural setting at the foot of Mount Parnassus, it was a symbol of Greek cultural unity from the 8th century BC onwards.
Archeological site of Mystras
Long known as “the Wonder of the Morea,” the remarkably well-preserved medieval city of Mystras played a central role in the final years of the Byzantine Empire. Built on a steep hill at the foot of Mount Taygetus, it was the last Byzantine stronghold to fall to the Ottomans, holding out until 1461.
Archeological site of Olympia
The site of Olympia, built on the banks of the Alpheios river in the Peloponnese, was the location of the ancient Olympic Games beginning in 776 BC. In addition to numerous temples and sanctuaries, it contains the remains of several sporting structures, such as its famous stadium.
Archeological site of Mycenae and Tiryns
Mycenae and Tiryns were two of the most important cities of Mycenean Greece. They flourished between the 15th and 12th centuries BC. The Lion’s Gate and Treasury of Atreus at Mycenae have been listed as “outstanding examples of human creative genius.”
The sacred island of Delos was the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis according to Greek mythology. It was one of the most essential pan-Hellenic sanctuaries. The sanctuary of Apollo on Delos attracted pilgrims from all over Greece, making the island a prosperous trading port.
Historic Centre (Chora) with the Monastery of Saint John
The small island of Pátmos in the Dodecanese is reputed to be where St John the Theologian wrote both his Gospel and the Apocalypse. A monastery dedicated to the ‘beloved disciple’ was founded there in the late 10th century. It has been a place of pilgrimage and Greek Orthodox learning ever since. The fine monastic complex dominates the island. The old settlement of Chorá, associated with it, contains many religious and secular buildings.
Medieval City of Rhodes
The Order of St John of Jerusalem occupied Rhodes from 1309 to 1523 and set about transforming the city into a stronghold. It subsequently came under Turkish and Italian rule. With the Palace of the Grand Masters, the Great Hospital and the Street of the Knights, the Upper Town is one of the most beautiful urban ensembles of the Gothic period. In the Lower Town, Gothic architecture coexists with mosques, public baths and other buildings dating from the Ottoman period.
Monasteries of Daphni, Hosios Loukas and Nea Moni of Chios
Although geographically distant from each other, these three monasteries belong to the same typological series. They share the same aesthetic characteristics. The churches are built on a cross-in-square plan with a large dome supported by squinches defining an octagonal space. In the 11th and 12th centuries they were decorated with superb marble works as well as mosaics on a gold background, all characteristic of the ‘second golden age of Byzantine art.’
Old Town of Corfu
The Old Town of Corfu, on the Island of Corfu off the western coasts of Albania and Greece, is located in a strategic position at the entrance of the Adriatic Sea and has its roots in the 8th century BC. The three forts of the town, designed by renowned Venetian engineers, were used for four centuries to defend the maritime trading interests of the Republic of Venice against the Ottoman Empire.
Over time, the forts were repaired and partly rebuilt several times, more recently under British rule in the 19th century. The mainly neoclassical housing stock of the Old Town is partly from the Venetian period, partly of later construction, notably the 19th century. As a fortified Mediterranean port, Corfu’s urban and port ensemble is notable for its high level of integrity and authenticity.
Paleochristian and Byzantine monuments of Thessaloniki
Founded in 315 B.C., the provincial capital and seaport of Thessaloniki were one of the first bases for the spread of Christianity. Among its Christian monuments are fine churches, some built on the Greek cross plan and others on the three-nave basilica plan. Constructed over a long period, from the 4th to the 15th century, they constitute a diachronic typological series, which had considerable influence in the Byzantine Empire.
- Thessaloniki City Walls (4th/5th centuries)
- Rotunda of Saint George (4th century)
- Church of the Acheiropoietos (5th century)
- Latomou Monastery (6th century)
- Church of Saint Demetrios (7th century)
- Church of Hagia Sophia (8th century)
- Church of Panagia Chalkeon (11th century)
- Church of Saint Catherine (13th century)
- Church of Saint Panteleimon (14th century)
- Church of the Holy Apostles (14th century)
- Church of Saint Nicholas Orphanos (14th century)
- Church of the Saviour (14th century)
- Vlatades Monastery (14th century)
- Church of Prophet Elijah (14th century)
- Byzantine Bath (14th century)
Pythagoreion and Heraion of Samos
Many civilizations have inhabited this small Aegean island, near Asia Minor, since the 3rd millennium B.C. The remains of Pythagoreion, an ancient fortified port with Greek and Roman monuments and a spectacular tunnel-aqueduct, as well as the Heraion, temple of the Samian Hera, can still be seen.
Sanctuary of Asklepios at Epidaurus
In a small valley in the Peloponnesus, the shrine of Asklepios, the god of medicine, developed out of a much earlier cult of Apollo, during the 6th century BC at the latest, as the official cult of the city-state of Epidaurus. Its principal monuments, particularly the temple of Asklepios, the Tholos and the Theatre – considered one of the purest masterpieces of Greek architecture – date from the 4th century. The vast site, with its temples and hospital buildings devoted to its healing gods, provides valuable insight into the healing cults of Greek and Roman times.
Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae
This famous temple to the god of healing and the sun was built towards the middle of the 5th century B.C. in the lonely heights of the Arcadian mountains. The temple, which has the oldest Corinthian capital yet found, combines the Archaic style and the serenity of the Doric style with some daring architectural features.
In a region of almost inaccessible sandstone peaks, monks settled on these ‘columns of the sky’ from the 11th century onwards. Twenty-four of these monasteries were built, despite incredible difficulties, at the time of the great revival of the eremetic ideal in the 15th century. Their 16th-century frescoes mark a crucial stage in the development of post-Byzantine painting
An Orthodox spiritual center since 1054, Mount Athos has enjoyed an autonomous statute since Byzantine times. The ‘Holy Mountain,’ which is forbidden to women and children, is also a recognized artistic site. The layout of the monasteries (about 20 of which are presently inhabited by some 1,400 monks) had an influence as far afield as Russia, and its school of painting influenced the history of Orthodox art.
The remains of this walled city lie at the foot of an acropolis in the present-day region of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace, on the ancient route linking Europe and Asia, the Via Egnatia. Founded in 356 BC by the Macedonian King Philip II, the city developed as a “small Rome” with the establishment of the Roman Empire in the decades following the Battle of Philippi, in 42 BCE. The Hellenistic theatre and funerary heroon (temple) were supplemented with Roman buildings such as the forum. Later the city became a center of the Christian faith following the visit of the Apostle Paul in 49-50 CE. The remains of its basilicas constitute an exceptional testimony to the early establishment of Christianity.