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What Is Greece Known for & Famous For
Blessed with gorgeous sights and perfect weather all year long, Greece is one of the world’s best travel destinations. However, Greece owes its fame to more than just beautiful sceneries. So, have you ever wondered what Greece is famous for?
Greece is known for being the birthplace of democracy, having some of the best philosophers of all time, and its rich history. Greece is also famous for other things, including fantastical myths, delicious food, beautiful beaches, and UNESCO heritage sites.
Considering how Greece has so much to offer, it’s no wonder so many people are in love with it. In this article, let’s explore 47 amazing things that make Greece stand out!
1. Greek Food
Greece is home to some of the world’s most delicious dishes. Thanks to its strategic location, Greek cuisine is among the world’s most diverse and delectable. It’s heavily influenced by Mediterranean, Turkish, and Middle Eastern cuisine. Just take a look at moussaka and gyros!
Also, Greek dishes are very healthy and balanced. While meat, fish, and poultry are abundant, fresh grains and vegetables take center stage in Greek cuisine. Even street foods — like souvlaki — are healthy and great for those who are on a diet!
Food also plays an important role in Greek culture. For the locals, a meal is more than just about eating: It’s also an opportunity to bond and enjoy their loved ones’ company. For that reason, meals in Greece often include a wide array of dishes that large groups can enjoy.
The nice thing about being surrounded by the ocean is having a wide variety of tasty seafood. From fish to calamari, Greece has some of the freshest and most diverse seafood in the world.
Here are some Greek seafood dishes you can’t miss:
- Astakomakaronada. Lobster pasta with a hearty tomato and herb sauce.
- Kalamarakia tiganita. Deep-fried calamari served throughout the country.
- Bakaliaros. Cod fritters served with creamy garlic aioli, eaten all year round but especially important on Greek Independence Day.
- Garides saganaki. Traditional shrimp-based appetizer served with tomato sauce and feta cheese.
- Mydia. Fresh mussels steamed in red wine with various herbs.
Whether or not you’re a seafood lover, make sure to try some of these dishes for an authentic Greek experience!
Greece is also famous for its street food, especially souvlaki. Souvlaki means “meat on a skewer” and refers to how the dish is cooked. It’s made of small pieces of meat — sometimes with vegetables — and is grilled on small skewers.
Souvlaki is often eaten straight off the skewers with various sauces, usually tzatziki sauce. It can also be served as a full meal with pita bread, fried potatoes, and vegetables.
Aside from being delicious, this quintessential Greek dish is also a testament to the country’s extensive history. Evidence suggests that souvlaki was a popular delicacy in Santorini back in 2000 BCE. This dish was even mentioned in Homer’s The Iliad, where it was enjoyed by the hero Achilles himself.
Who can forget about gyros? When talking about Greek cuisine, lots of people think of gyros. The literal meaning of the dish is “round,” which refers to how the meat is cooked on a rotating vertical spit. The meat is then sliced and wrapped in pita bread along with tomatoes, onions, fries, and tzatziki sauce.
5. Olives & Olive Oil
Greece is also famous for its olives, a staple ingredient in Greek cuisine. The country has several types of olives with unique tastes, but Kalamata Olive is the most coveted one. Greek olive oil — 80% of which is extra virgin — is also recognized as the best in the world. They’re said to have rich aroma and flavor profiles.
With approximately 120 million olive trees spread across the country, Greece is the world’s third-largest producer of olives and olive oil.
Moreover, these native Mediterranean fruits have always played an important role in Greece society since ancient times. In Grecian culture, the olive tree, fruit, branches, and oil are believed to come from divine origins. They also symbolize peace, prosperity, and respect.
6. Feta Cheese
Did you know Greece is the home of the oldest cheese in the world? That’s right: Greece’s national cheese, feta, is as old as Homer’s Odyssey itself! This white, crumbly cheese is made from a combination of sheep’s and goat’s milk, which gives it an extra creaminess compared to cow’s milk cheeses. Feta cheese is produced in several regions in Greece, and each area has its own variations.
The cheese may be soft and creamy in some regions and hard and tangy in others. This variation in texture and flavor profile depends on the milk ratio.
Even though the classic feta is undoubtedly Greece’s most famous cheese, the country offers many other kinds of cheese, including:
- Kefalograviera . A hard table cheese made of sheep’s and goat’s milk often made into an appetizer called saganaki.
- Metsovone. A hard or semi-hard smoked table cheese made of cow’s milk and up to 20% sheep’s and goat’s milk.
- Kopanisti. A salty, spicy cheese made of milk from cows, sheep, and goats reared on the islands of the Cyclades.
If you’re a foodie or a cheese lover, don’t forget to try all the traditional cheeses Greece has to offer!
Looking to have fun and get tipsy? If you find yourself in Greece, you have to try the country’s most popular alcoholic beverage, ouzo. This traditional strong liquor is made from the by-products of the wine-making process. Flavored with anise, this beverage has a distinctively sweet and licorice-like taste.
The locals say drinking Ouzo is an art and a way of life. It’s a staple for hot summer afternoons when you’re relaxing or socializing. This refreshing beverage is usually accompanied by mezedes or small plates of food.
9. Greek Language
Did you know more than 150,000 English words are derived from the Greek language? For those who speak English, it’s almost impossible to go through a single day without encountering a word of Greek origin. This includes philosophy, method, school, problem, music, acrobat, dinosaur — and the list goes on and on!
10. Ancient Greek
Known as the “Cradle of Western Civilization,” Ancient Greece was one of the most sophisticated and influential societies in ancient times. It heavily influenced the Roman Empire as well as many other civilizations to this day. Moreover, Ancient Greeks also made important contributions to various aspects of society, including science, mathematics, astronomy, philosophy, medicine, and the arts.
Considering how stunning the country is, it would be a shock if Greece wasn’t famous for tourism. Tourism has long been a key element in Greece’s economy. Greece attracted as many as 31.3 million visitors in 2019.
Here are some of the best tourist destinations in Greece:
- The Acropolis, Athens
- The Meteora Monasteries
- Mount Olympus
If you’re looking for exciting nightlife, you’re in for a treat! Greece boasts amazing nightlife scenes for locals and tourists alike. And considering how much the locals love dancing and partying, this is no surprise! Almost no other place in Europe can compare to Greece regarding nightlife.
It’s common for people to start partying early in the evening until early morning. For locals, a night out typically begins with cocktails at a small bar and ends in nightclubs or music venues.
13. Greek History
Spanning back to 1000 BCE, Greece is also known for its rich and extensive history. Even back then, ancient Greek societies were already influential due to their vital contributions to science, mathematics, politics, literature, arts, and medicine. Even today, their knowledge and way of thinking still influence the modern world. And Greek history remains a fascinating subject of discussion.
Another thing Greece was famous for is philosophy. From Socrates to Diogenes, Ancient Greece was home to some of the most brilliant Western philosophers of all time. Even to this day, the nation is still nicknamed the “Cradle of Philosophy.”
Philosophy emerged sometime in the 6th century BC. It aimed to explain the “meaning of life” outside religion while promoting ethics, politics, and logic. Though not all ancient philosophical concepts still hold today, they’re still highly regarded due to their tremendous effects on modern civilization.
Plato is easily one of the most famous and recognizable philosophers of all time. This Athenian man was known for his accounts of Socrates, his philosophy teacher. Plato was also famous for his work, The Republic, which touched on the nature of justice, virtue, and ethics. He was also known for founding the Academy, the first institution of higher learning in the West.
16. Greek Mythology
Of course, we can’t talk about Greece without mentioning Greek mythology. To this day, it remains one of the most influential sets of myths in the world. Despite not being rooted in reality, it’s more than just a collection of whimsical tales. Greek myths were (and still are) the perfect mediums to teach morals and virtues.
From Dante’s Divine Comedy to Disney’s Hercules, you can find Greek mythology references everywhere you look.
17. Mount Olympus
Mount Olympus is the home of the Greek gods and the throne of Zeus. It’s also a real place that you can visit! Unlike in other cultures, where gods are depicted as living in an unreachable location, the Greek gods simply reside at the highest peak in Greece.
Standing at an impressive 2,918 meters (9,573 feet), this mountain is a wonderful destination for outdoor lovers. Three hiking trails lead to the summit. The hike is relatively easy, and visitors don’t need special equipment besides sturdy boots, a tent, and some good outdoor clothes.
Greece is famous for Athens, its capital city. With a recorded history spanning over 3,400 years, Athens is the oldest capital city in Europe. It’s also known for many other things, including being the birthplace of philosophy and democracy and housing various historical landmarks.
19. The Greek Islands
Greece is famous for its numerous beautiful islands. The country has approximately 6,000 islands and islets scattered across its territory. However, only 227 of them are inhabited. Some famous Greek islands include Santorini, Mykonos, Crete, Corfu, and Rhodes.
However, that doesn’t mean you should ignore the rest of the Greek islands. With stunning sceneries and diverse wildlife, the uninhabited islands are small pieces of heaven on earth.
Here are some uninhabited Greek islands you can visit on short day trips:
20. The Mediterranean Sea
It would be a sin to talk about Greece and not mention the Mediterranean Sea. Thanks to its numerous islands, Greece boasts a coastline of 13,676 km (8497.8 miles), most of which is connected to the Mediterranean sea. Today, the Mediterranean Sea is famous for its crystal clear, azure waters. It’s the backdrop of some of the most exquisite beaches in Greece and the source of bountiful fruits of the sea.
However, the Mediterranean Sea held even more importance in the ancient world. It was key to Grecian trade and cultural exchange. It also helped cement Greece’s status as one of the best maritime societies in ancient times.
“This is Sparta!” Most people likely recognize that line from the Zack Snyder film 300. While that movie was nowhere near historically accurate, it helped introduce the Spartans to most people. Most people recognize Spartans as cool warriors, and that would be correct in a way.
Sparta was a strong warrior society in ancient Greece notorious for its rigorous military training and fearless warriors — so much so that the word “spartan” became synonymous with uncompromising self-discipline.
That said, Spartan culture was also known for being relatively progressive for the period. In Sparta, women enjoyed more freedom and higher social status than their counterparts in other Greek city-states.
22. The Idea of Democracy
Greece is known for being the birthplace of democracy. The Ancient Greeks invented so many important things, but the idea of democracy is probably their biggest contribution to the world. This concept of governance was first introduced in Athens in 50 BCE, just before the Golden Age of Pericles. Even though democracy only applied to free male citizens, it still helped lay the groundwork for many nations’ governments today.
23. The Greek Pantheon
Still on the topic of mythology, the Greek pantheon of gods is the most easily recognizable ancient pantheon today. Just ask around: Even if the average person doesn’t recognize every god in the pantheon, they’ve likely heard about Zeus, Athena, Hercules, and Aphrodite.
What makes the Greek pantheon unique is the gods’ characteristics. Just like humans, Greek gods aren’t pure and perfect. They exhibit human traits, such as lust, wrath, and vanity. Greek gods are dynamic and highly relatable, which is probably why they’re still well-known even 2,000 years later.
24. The Olympic Games
Greece is also known for being the birthplace of the Olympic Games. As the name suggests, the first Olympic Games were held at the sanctuary of Zeus in Olympia from 776 BCE to 393 CE. Many centuries later, the Olympic Games would be revived in the 1800s thanks to a Frenchman named Baron Pierre de Coubertin.
The first modern Olympics were held in 1896 in Athens.
The philosophers of Ancient Greece did not just busy themselves with ethics and virtue. They were also pioneers of science. Ancient Greece was home to some of the brightest figures in antiquity, including Pythagoras, Aristoteles, and Anaximander.
Many of their ideas and concepts are still in use even today, such as Pythagoras’ mathematical theorem, Archimedes’ view on experimentation, and Aristotle’s systematic study of logic.
Considering how science flourished in Ancient Greece, it’s no surprise medicine did as well. Since 600 CE, doctors in Ancient Greece stopped relying on divine intervention for good health and began to use a rational approach when dealing with patients and medicine.
It’s also important to note that the father of medicine, Hippocrates, also came from ancient Greece. He was also the figure that was believed to have written the Hippocratic Oath.
27. Theatre & Drama
Greece is famous for inventing theatre and drama. The history of theatre dates back to 6 BCE in Athens. At that time, theatre and drama were important aspects of various religious festivals. For example, the earliest recorded theatre performance was performed in 534 BCE to honor Dionysus, the god of wine and fertility.
Today, you can still visit the remains of the world’s first theatre in Athens, called the Theatre of Dionysus.
Since the nation is surrounded by the ocean, lighthouses are common in Greece. Today, the country has no less than 120 lighthouses — some as old as 200 years.
Unfortunately, many lighthouses stand empty and desolate, a far cry from their former glory. That said, there are some well-preserved ones you can still visit.
Here’s a list of beautiful lighthouses that are still in tip-top condition today:
- Armenistis Lighthouse in Mykonos
- Akrotiri Lighthouse in Santorini
- Egyptian Lighthouse of Chania
- Lighthouse of Saint Theodore Kefalonia
- Melagavi Lighthouse
As a maritime nation, it’s only natural that the Greeks contributed a lot to ship-making and sailing techniques. Greek shipbuilders’ biggest contribution to the trade was the invention of anchors. After all, the ancient Greeks loved to embark on long journeys and explore new, remote places.
They often needed to stay in one place and had to tie their ships to something sturdy. But it’s not always available, so they made the first anchors by filling huge buckets or sacks with rocks.
Just like the Olympic games, the marathon also originated in Ancient Greece. Even though the modern marathon is a long-distance running race, the first-ever marathon was not a race: It was done out of urgency. The first marathon was run in 490 BC by an Ancient Greek messenger, Pheidippides.
He ran for 40 kilometers (25 miles) without stopping to bring the news of the Greek victory over the Persians. After he delivered the information, Pheidippides collapsed out of exhaustion and died.
Thus, the modern marathon was created to commemorate and honor Pheidippides’ dramatic run.
31. The Greek Sun
When you come to Greece, there’s one thing you’d notice immediately: the Greek sun. It’s always bright and warm. Bleak, rainy days are very few and far between. Due to its geographical location, Greece is known to be one of the sunniest places in the world.
The country enjoys more than 250 sunny days each year, with some southern islands receiving 300 dry and sunny days. (That’s almost the entire year!) In total, Greece gets 3,000 hours of sunshine, making it the perfect destination for those who love basking under the sun!
Everyone who visits Greece will tell you that it’s one of the world’s most welcoming places. Just walk down the streets of Greece, and you’ll notice people smiling at you and ready to help you with whatever you need. This spirit of hospitality is known as Philoxenia or “guest-friendship” in Greece.
Turns out, this concept has its roots in antiquity. In ancient Greece, being hospitable to guests was a sacred duty. This is because people believed that the visitors might be gods or goddesses in disguise.
The people of Greece may have long forgotten about that superstition, but the spirit of Philoxenis is here to stay!
33. The Sanctuary of Delphi
As a UNESCO Heritage Site, the Delphi Sanctuary is among Greece’s most well-known tourist destinations. And you’ll understand why it’s so popular if you’ve ever stood among the temple’s ruins. This hauntingly beautiful site was an ancient temple dedicated to the Greek god Apollo. It was also home to the Oracle of Delphi, who was famous for their prophecies.
The rise of Christianity in Greece caused the decline of this sanctuary, and it was ultimately buried under a village. Later, it was excavated in the late 1800s and became a protected historical site.
34. Dancing and Partying
The Greeks are known to be fun-loving people who know how to have a good time. They are very passionate and love to party as often as they can. It’s even said that partying is a Greek national sport along with football. Dancing and partying are big parts of life in Greece. It has always been that way, even since ancient times when wealthy people would even construct special party rooms at their houses.
So, if you’re a party animal, partying in Greece should be on your bucket list!
Filotimo is one of the Greek lexicon’s most famous yet untranslatable words. Even native Greeks have trouble explaining it! When translated literally, it simply means “love of honor.” However, in reality, the meaning of filotimo goes much deeper than that.
Filotimo as a concept is central to the Greeks’ lives. Filotimo encompasses an array of virtues needed to lead a productive and honorable life — including dignity, pride, hospitality, responsibility, and more.
Filotimo is so important to the Greeks that being told “You have no filotimo” is considered one of the worst insults you can direct at a Greek person.
36. Cartography and Map-Making
Greece is the source of many wonderful inventions that help shaped the world today, including cartography. The earliest literature on geography and the fundamentals of cartography can be attributed to Homer, the founding father of geography. Even though he wasn’t a mapmaker, his work helped establish the trade of map-making.
It’s also no surprise that one of the first cartographers came from Greece. His name was Anaximander, and he was the first person in recorded history to draw a map of the known world.
37. The Acropolis
The Acropolis is one of Greece’s most famous and interesting UNESCO Heritage Sites. The name means “the high city,” referring to its strategic location atop a limestone hill. It was considered the perfect place for building temples as it was “closer to the gods.”
Aside from being a religious site, the Acropolis was also used to defend the city of Athens. Thanks to its relatively high altitude, it’s a great place to spot enemies before they can approach Athens.
38. Temple of Hephaestus
The Temple of Hephaestus is one of the most well-preserved temples in Greece. Nestled in Ancient Agora, this sanctuary was built between 460 and 420 BCE to honor Hephaestus and Athena. The reason it’s so preserved despite its age is unique.
Unlike other temples that were destroyed or abandoned after Christianity spread in Greece, the Temple of Hephaestus was instead used as a church. So, the temple’s construction remains mostly intact to this day.
39. The Meteora: Holy Trinity Monastery at Meteora
In a region of steep sandstone pillars lie 24 beautiful monasteries. This region is called the Meteora, and it’s one of the most fascinating UNESCO Heritage Sites in Greece. Unlike most other Heritage Sites in Greece, the Meteora Monasteries don’t have their roots in antiquity.
Instead, they were built from the 11th century onwards by monks who wished to distance themselves from the worldly way of living. Each monastery is stunning in its own right. However, the Monastery of Holy Trinity is the most photographed of them all.
Though they are rather difficult to access, the Meteora monasteries are worth visiting!
40. Alexander the Great
Even though Alexander the Great was technically Macedonian, he’s still very much an indelible part of Greek history. If you haven’t heard of him already, he’s one of the most famous military commanders of the ancient world. (Hint: “The Great” isn’t just for show.)
Alexander the Great is well-known — among other things — for establishing one of the largest and most pivotal empires in history, for never having lost a battle, and for having all of these accomplishments before his death at 33.
Who doesn’t know Santorini? With elegant whitewashed houses and blue-domed churches, it’s one of the most recognizable islands in Greece. And it’s not hard to see why! It has everything an ideal holiday destination must have: Breathtaking sunsets, sandy beaches, delicious food, a vibrant nightlife, and lots of Instagrammable spots!
42. Palace of Knossos
Located near the north coast of Crete is the ancient Palace of Knossos. This historical site dates back to the late Minoan period. The site was excavated in the early 20th century and was extensively restored later. The site is well-laid out today, but it’s still shrouded in mystery.
For instance, researchers are still unsure about the palace’s construction chronology. And since it was found in bad condition, some portions of the site can only be roughly reconstructed by historians.
Regardless, the Palace of Knossos is still an exquisite historical site. It’s certainly worth visiting when you’re in Crete!
43. Crusader Castles
Contrary to popular belief, Greece isn’t only populated with ancient temples. It also has some gorgeous castles! There are approximately 800 castles scattered across the country. Some of the most famous ones are the Crusader Castles.
As the name suggests, these are a series of castles built or occupied during the Crusades. These medieval castles are well-preserved and stand proud as a testament to impressive tales from the past.
Here’s a list of Crusader Castles in Greece:
- The Grandmasters Palace of the Knights Hospitaller of St. John
- Kastellorizo Castle
- Kos Castle
- Halki Castle
- Platamon Castle
- Corfu castles
- Amfissa Castle
- Leros island castle
44. The Plate-Smashing Tradition
Whether you’ve attended a Greek wedding or seen this peculiar custom in a movie, you may wonder why Greeks love smashing their plates. The plate-smashing tradition is one of the most well-known aspects of the culture. It’s mostly done at weddings, but it’s also done during other occasions, including birthdays and funerals.
This custom has several meanings, depending on where it’s performed. At joyous occasions like weddings, it’s meant to ward off evil spirits and symbolize new beginnings. However, it can also symbolize grief and mourning when done at a funeral.
However, this custom is rarely seen in Greece today. It’s discouraged in most places since it can cause serious injuries.
Delos is the most distinctive island in Greece. Why? Because it doesn’t just house a UNESCO Heritage Site, the entire island is a World Heritage Site. That’s right: The entirety of this small, rocky island is considered an important archaeological site.
According to Greek mythology, Delos was the birthplace of the god Apollo, making the entire island sacred. For that reason, no mortal was allowed to be born or die here.
Today, the island is uninhabited. Only its temple’s ruins are left standing. However, it still welcomes history-loving visitors with open arms.
Bougatsa is another well-known Greek dish. It’s a traditional breakfast pastry made of layers of phyllo dough and various tasty fillings. It’s mostly served as a sweet dish. But depending on where you are in Greece, you might get a sweet or savory bougatsa. For example, bougatsa is usually filled with sweet custard in Veria and Serres, but it’s usually filled with minced meat in Thessaloniki.
47. The Cyclades
The Cyclades are the most popular group of islands in Greece. Located in the heart of the Aegean sea, the Cyclades consist of wildly famous islands, such as Mykonos, Santorini, Paros, and Sifnos. These islands are well-known for their traditional Cycladic architecture — white-painted houses, blue domes, and quaint cobblestone alleys. They also boast breathtaking beaches, crystal clear sea, delicious food, and fantastic nightlife scenes.
Greece has so much to offer, from great food and dynamic culture to beautiful ancient wonders. As the place where history and modernity combine in the best way possible, it’s no wonder Greece appeals to a wide range of people from around the world.
Above all, the most fantastic thing about Greece is its people and their love for life. So, if you ever find yourself in Greece, embrace the locals’ spirit, and don’t forget to make some great memories!
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