Greece might be associated with stunning islands and beautiful beaches, but it also has some amazing cities. Here's the best cities in Greece to visit during your next vacation.
Best cities to visit in Greece
Unless you're a dedicated urban explorer, Greek city hopping is never going to be as appealing as Greek island hopping, but maybe it should become a thing? There's dozens of them scattered over the mainland and throughout the islands, each with their own individual charm and personality.
In this guide, I'll introduce you to my favourite Greek cities, and why you should spend a day or two in each one if you happen to be traveling by them.Note: I did try to find out what actually constitutes a city in Greece, but hit a wall. That means some of the listed cities here may be technically towns. If you have a clear definition of what a city in Greece is, leave a comment at the end of the post!
What is the most beautiful city in Greece?
I might as well kick off with the most controversial question! There's a lot of competition for the most beautiful Greek city. Many people consider Nafplion in the Peloponnese to be the most beautiful, or Chania in Crete.
Whilst I'm not arguing against Nafplion, I happen to have visited on two overcast days, so perhaps the shine was taken off a little bit? When I visited Chania in summer, it was too crowded to appreciate the beauty.
Instead, I'm going to come out with Ioannina, which is in the Epirus region of Greece. I loved the historic centre, the castle, and its setting beside the lake.
Find out more here: Things to do in Ioannina
Athens – Biggest city in Greece
There's no prizes for guessing that Athens is the biggest city in Greece. It's also the oldest, with a recorded history dating back over 3400 years.
Athens has waxed and waned in popularity as a destination over the years, and is finally on the rise once more.
Of course there's the ‘ancient stuff', but there's also so much more. Cool street art, countless museums, great food… I could go on and on. Athens is certainly worth spending a day or two in – longer if you really want to get to know it.
Find out more here: The Ultimate Guide to Athens
Thessaloniki – Second biggest city in Greece
Thessaloniki is the second biggest city, and often flies under the radar of people planning a trip to Greece. Perhaps it's because of its location, or maybe there's simply just so much in Greece to see and do.
Whatever the reason, it's resulted in Thessaloniki evolving into a considerably more laid back city than Athens. It's smaller of course, and with fewer people, but there's still plenty to see and do.
Find out more here: Things to do in Thessaloniki
Patras – Third Largest City in Greece
Whilst Athens and Thessaloniki both boast sizeable populations, Patras, which is the third largest city, has a population of just 167,000 people. Patras is positioned geographically in the northern Peloponnese, and acts as regional capital for Western Greece.
It's a vibrant place, with a lively student population, and a carnival which attracts visitors from all over the world. In my opinion, far too many visitors simply pass through either taking the Antirio bridge to western Greece or jumping on a ferry to nearby Greek islands and Italy.
It's a shame, because Patras is a wonderful little town to spend some time in, and has a fabulous museum which I would argue is one of the best in Greece.
Find out more here: Things to do in Patras
On the other side of the Antirio Bridge from Patras and to the right a bit, is the historic town of Nafpaktos. It's an unpretentious little port town that can make a nice weekend break destination from Athens, or worthwhile stop on a Greek road trip.
The quaint Venetian harbour is the main attraction to Nafpaktos, and there's also a couple of beaches to try out. The nearby mountains and forests are also worth exploring if you have extra time, and I've cycled some challenging but rewarding routes in the area.
Find out more here: Best things to do in Nafpaktos
Rhodes City in Rhodes
If you fancy a trip back to the age of Knights and Castles, Rhodes city is a must see. The medieval heart of the city is a fascinating place to wander around, with a focal point being the Palace of the Grand Master. In fact, the medieval city of Rhodes is designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, – one of 18 in Greece.
You can more or less see Rhodes city during a day. This means that it's easy to visit whether you are stopping on a cruise, or just want a break from the beach – and the island of Rhodes has some great ones!
Find out more here: UNESCO sites in Greece
Heraklion in Crete
Over in the neighbouring island of Crete, the capital Heraklion is another interesting city in Greece to visit. It may not be as beautiful as nearby Chania (to some eyes), but it ticks plenty of boxes.
The fortified harbour area, market, and old town are all great places to explore, and the tavernas have some of the best food in Greece. It's main draw-card though is probably Knossos, the home of the Minotaur. Are you ready to enter the Labyrinth?
Find out more: Day trips from Heraklion
Kalambaka (near Meteora)
Kalambaka (Kalampaka, Kalapaka, numerous other spellings) may not be an obvious addition to a list of best cities to visit in Greece, but it all comes down to location.
Backed by the awe-inspiring landscape of Meteora, this is the city (or town, I'm not quite sure!) to be based in when visiting the Meteora monasteries. There is also more to do in town as well, including being able to visit a rather unique Mushroom Museum!
Find out more: Meteora Tours and Activities