Home to a large number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Greece has served as the home to some of the most prominent civilizations in history, including the Minoans, Byzantines, Ottomans, Greeks, and Romans. Each of these civilizations has left its own mark on the country, especially in terms of architecture. Travelers will find an overwhelming number of incredible structures throughout Greece, from ancient ruins to modern designs that pay homage to tradition while demonstrating something new. A few examples of extraordinary architectural achievement in Greece include:
Located on the island of Corfu in the village of Gastouri, Achilleion Palace was actually constructed for the Austrian empress Elisabeth of Bavaria in 1890. However, the design borrows heavily from the heritage of Greece with the use of columns and other design elements. Inside the palace, visitors will find several different paintings and statues that celebrate the mythological figure Achilles. They’ll also be impressed by the elaborate gardens, as well as the wonderful views of Corfu Town and the surrounding sea from the top of the palace.
One of the most stunning Greek Orthodox churches in the world, the Basilica of Agios Andreas is located in Patras. Visitors will recognize the structure from far away, thanks to its massive dome topped with an elaborate gold cross. The inside of this Byzantine-style basilica is perhaps even more impressive than its exterior; the worship space is decorated with colorful murals on the walls and ceilings, along with an intricate chandelier depicting the saints. In addition, the basilica contains the relics of Saint Andrew, who is believed to have been crucified in Patras.
Many of the architectural wonders from the ancient world have eroded over the centuries, but the Parthenon in Athens remains an extremely impressive site. Perhaps the most influential building in all of Greek history, the Parthenon tops the Acropolis and was dedicated to Athena, the goddess of wisdom and patron of Athens. Originally built as a celebration of the Greek victory over the Persians, the structure became a symbol of Athenian democracy and even Western civilization, and it continues to inspire architects to this day.
Located on Crete, Knossos Palace once served as the center of the Minoan civilization during the Bronze Age. It was abandoned at some time between 1400 and 1100 BC; legends say the palace was the home of King Minos, who famously kept a half-man, half-beast creature called a minotaur in a labyrinth there. Today, visitors can see reconstructed versions of the mosaics and frescoes that once decorated the palace walls, and wander through a number of rooms connected by winding corridors.
Stoa of Attalos
Built in the Agora of Athens, the Stoa of Attalos was a gift from King Attalos II of Pergamon, who ruled in the second century BC. A sprawling, elaborate building, the structure was built from Pentelic marble and limestone using a design that features both Doric and Ionic elements. Altogether, the building has two stories, each consisting of 21 rooms. While the Heruli destroyed the original building a few hundred years after it was built, a full reconstruction in the 1950s means visitors can get a true sense of the Stoa’s contribution to Greek architecture.
Onassis Cultural Center
One of the best examples of contemporary design in Greece, the Onassis Cultural Center embraces simplicity but stands out thanks to an exterior clad in bands of white marble, which both play with light and allow the building to serve as a giant screen for projectors. The facade also features a massive painting by a Greek graffiti artist. Located in the Neos Kosmos neighborhood of Athens, the center hosts various cultural events and contains theaters, lecture halls, and exhibition spaces, as well as a café and a Michelin-starred restaurant called Hytra on the top floor.
This mansion in Thessaloniki demonstrates a variety of architectural styles, including Romantic and Art Nouveau flourishes. The Great Fire of 1917 destroyed much of the city, but the villa, finished in 1909, was spared. When the building was abandoned in the 1990s after being acquired by the Petridis family more than six decades earlier, Thessaloniki decided to undertake a careful, conscientious renovation and restoration. Now, Villa Petridis hosts a variety of different public events, including the Open House series.
Temple of Hephaestus
Located within the ancient Agora of Athens, this temple is one of the best preserved of all ancient structures in Greece. Dedicated to Hephaestus, the god of fire and craftsmanship, the temple is a wonderful example of Doric design, with some Ionic elements. Built in the fifth century BC, the temple has served a variety of different roles over the centuries, including as a Greek Orthodox church, a Protestant burial place, and a museum. Today, it has been restored to its original appearance so that tourists can enjoy it in its original splendor, complete with both Parian and Pentelic marble.