Oh Greece, no matter what you do you delight us. With your endless myths and legends to your succulent food and astonishing architecture and history, you leave us wanting more.

From sandy shores to long lost lairs, there’s a lot to be discovered in Greece, not least of all in its cities. But which ones are the one you have to see?

Its hard, but we think we’ve narrowed it down.

1 Kastoria

Kastoria lake, Greece

People who talk about Kastoria do so with a breathless sort of awe and the thing they’ll likely tell you about first is the glorious lake that is the city’s centrepiece.  It sits, mirror-still and surrounded by romantic willow trees, little cafes and restaurants, and further out a mountainous landscape rearing up from the horizon to finish the whole thing off.  It’s the sort of beauty usually only found in fantasy books, and a city many have fallen hard for in the past.

While the water is the heart of the city, supporting many natural wonders and taking on little boat tours for the mesmerised traveller, all around it and spanning out is a hive of activity. From quaint tavernas and ouzeris, little bars and astonishing manor houses of architectural wonder, Kastoria thrives beneath a blanket of calm and relaxation.

One thing you must do if, like me, you’re a fan of folklore, is visit Dragon’s Cave. Inside is an open maw of beautiful stalactites and stalagmites, not to mention 5 passageways and 7 underground lakes.  And yes, there’s always been a myth surrounding it, something about an animal with a scaled hide and fiery breath…

2 Thessaloniki

birds eye view of the white tower in Thessaloniki

Thessaloniki, the second biggest city in Greece and another location that can’t contain its historical roots. It’s a wonderful patchwork of a place, combining nods to the past, vibrant nightlife, sweeping sea views and dishes to die for. Old sits beside new in a clash of culture and time, creating something that is ultimately beautiful and a source of never-ending curiosity.

One thing you must do if you’re ever lucky enough to visit is the White Tower, a landmark that is the focal point of plenty of stories and history, not to mention one of the best locations to take in the city views.

The White Tower though is just the start. In Thessaloniki, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to attractions and you'll discover it’s full to the brim with points of historical interest, museums, restaurants, shops and the opportunity for tours of all kinds.

One of the quirkiest things to go and see would be to pop into The Museum of Ancient Greek, Byzantine, and Post Byzantine Musical Instruments. It’s a strange and fantastic little museum that’s well worth a look in, but believe us, there's many more things in Thessaloniki to entertain the curious mind. 

3 Rethymno

Rethymno harbour at sunset

Rethymno is fairy-tale like in its beauty and unusual for its geographical location on a cape. Known for its sweeping sandy beach eastward and the jagged coastline to the west, there’s a lovely mix of warm and wild about the place, harking back once again to Greece’s innate magic and myth.

It’s beyond pretty. The harbour is a particular head turner, small, but glorious and surrounded by classic Venetian buildings in various shades. Honestly, it’s hard not to want to set up shop here and never leave.

Walk around and you’ll be faced with idyllic little streets, cafes and restaurants nestled away behind hanging baskets that are overflowing, and tiny little trinket shops full of delights.  There’s also the brilliant Historical and Folklore Museum, which is perfect to amble around for an afternoon, the excellent summer Renaissance Festival, and the much-loved Neratze Mosque, a wonderful piece of architecture that hosts various concerts throughout the year.

Rethymno is a quieter side of Greece, unabashedly romantic to look at and brimming with art and culture, in short, it’s not to be missed.

4 Athens

Athens skyline, Greece

It needs no introduction, but seeing as we’re here, why not? The capitol of Greece, Athens is also the home of many historically fascinating landmarks, including the hilltop citadel Acropolis, the Parthenon that pays homage to the goddess Athena, and of course the iconic Herod Atticus Odeon. These are just a handful though, and the more you stroll around Athens, the more you realise its history is very much still with it, showing up unexpectedly and with astonishing resilience despite its age.

If you want to learn the heart and history of Greece then, Athens is the place to do so, from this historic ruins, wonderfully detailed museums including the Acropolis Museum and Benaki Museum (there are many!) to the countless galleries, Athens is the keeper of Greece’s culture and it does it well.

Aside from its complex tapestry of culture that will have you enthralled for days at a time, Athens is also great for finding excellent restaurants, enjoying walking tours and indulging in a plethora of water-based entertainment.

5 Kavala

view from above of Kavala, Greece

Kavala is a striking city and boldly wears its history on its sleeve. As you stroll about you’ll notice quite a few things that are hallmarks of the city, including incredible neoclassical mansions that call back to the aristocracy of the time, not to mention large tobacco factories that also give a nod to a time that Kavala was known as the Mecca of tobacco.

A key area that draws a great many travellers in Kavala is of course the wonderful Megalou Alexandrou Pedestrian Street, which is a hive of activity and a great place to spend some time. Whether it’s shopping in boutique stores, relaxing in a vibrant, tucked away café or else indulging in something lovely for lunch, you’ll find it all here.

If it’s sights you’re after though, then the Castle of Kavala is always worth a visit, along with the impressive looking Aquaduct and the highly interesting Archaeological Museum of Kavala.

villas in Greece