Sparta is a truly marvelous place to spend the holidays, with plenty of variety. For a wonderful cultural experience, the Greek city offers the visitor a thrilling perspective through organized tours of the area.
For the anthropologically inclined, Sparta is famous for its past battles during the Peloponnesian War. Visitors who love probing into a city’s past will discover that the Spartans actually studied war and that from the time they were born, they were indoctrinated into a military culture.
Young boys were taught how to be warriors to protect Messenia and Laconia. So, from their earliest years, they were introduced to a shield, spear, and sword. Here are some top things to do in Sparta, and we’re going to give you some insight into Sparta’s best.
11 Top Things to Do in Sparta
Sparta – small enough to go where your heart takes you
Sparta was a city-state in its day, located in the southeastern Peloponnese region of ancient Greece, but today it is both a city and municipality in Laconia, Greece. It is small, which means it is possible to visit most sites on foot.
Visitors to this intriguing, illustrious area find that taxis are a cool, convenient, and affordable way to get around and about to visit the many attractions of the city. But for those who prefer, renting a car is the best way to explore Sparta and the greatest region of Peloponnese, and if you prefer to self-drive, an international driving permit is required.
Avoid the intense summer heat
Sparta can get pretty hot in the summer, and getting around in the heat between June and August can become exhausting. Those who have traveled to Sparta and who know the weather conditions well will tell you that April to early June and September to early December are the best times to go.
The weather is comfortable, with temperatures averaging roughly 22- 28 °C ( 71.6° – 82.4° Fahrenheit). For those who like winter temperatures, you need to know that some restaurants and businesses shut down during this time, and this can be irritatingly frustrating for anyone who comes from areas where services are 24/7.
Sparta is somewhat smaller than Athens. However, it still attracts many visitors, especially history buffs, and it offers lots of thrilling attractions, making the drive from Athens a worthwhile trip.
#1. Admire the view from the Acropolis of Sparta
There are some people that love and appreciate the different kinds of architecture found in a country or city, and the Acropolis of Sparta is an important archeological site in Laconia.
The discoveries made here are fairly recent as they were uncovered during the excavations of the British School of Athens in the early 20th century. Among the olive trees lie the ruins of the sanctuary of the Temple of Athena Chalkioikos – the patron goddess closely connected to the public and military life of the city. Here you can also admire the famous ancient theater of Sparta, which was one of the biggest during antiquity.
You can enjoy the view of Taygetos, which is often snow-covered. It’s a beautiful mountain range on the Peloponnese peninsula in southern Greece, great for hiking and getting out into nature.
#2. Visit the Archaeological Museum of Sparta
If you love visiting museums or you consider yourself a bit of a history buff, a visit or even a tour that includes the Archaeological Museum of Sparta is a must.
The collections inside will show you items discovered during excavations in and around Sparta. You can look at them all and learn about the fascinating stories behind them.
The Archaeological Museum of Sparta was built in 1874, but later a couple more rooms were added to the main building. It is famous for the archaeological exhibits that come from excavations in and around Sparta.
The valuable archaeological collections include mosaics, a collection showcasing part of the Temple of the Goddess Artemis, prehistoric collections, and even columns from ancient temples. This temple dates back to the 10th century B.C.
The fascinating museum also hosts a set of 7th-century clay amphorae, and many Greek mythological characters can be seen depicted on the mosaics.
But there is going to be a new archaeological museum in Sparta now. The Minister of Culture announced that the new museum would be erected on the premises of a former factory, but that there were also plans to upgrade the current Archaeological Museum of Sparta.
#3. Enjoy a walking tour of Sparta
The fabulous thing about walking tours is that they capitalize on the best points of interest a city has. A walking tour inside Sparta is fun and educational, with the seasoned guides sharing all of the city’s best attractions.
Hammam facilities were enjoyed in Ancient Greece
The ancient Greeks and Romans loved their steam baths and aromatic oils and recognized that cleanliness was part of being healthy, with Hippocrates recommending daily bathing in various forms such as mineral and infusion baths.
Greek baths date way back to the first half of the 5th century BCE, and on walking tours, you will get the chance to see how life was in ancient Byzantine times. On a walking tour of Sparta you will visit the modern city and the two Byzantine temples of the 10th century. These walking tours provide insight into the history, mythology, and culture of a place.
You get the chance to visit some archaeological sites in Greece, such as Ancient Olympia, the Temple of Apollo, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and also Ancient Sparta—whatever appeals to tourists as these walking tours can be adjusted to suit.
The 14,5-meter-high Colossal Throne of Apollo is another impressive structure that can be included on these walking tours.These walks are described by those who have experienced them as ‘not to be missed’.
#4. Explore the Museum of Olive and Greek Olive Oil
If you knew the awesome health benefits of olive oil, you would be sure to mark off the Museum of Olive and Greek Olive Oil as an extraordinary place to visit.
The entire museum is dedicated to olives and oil. In Greek mythology, the goddess of wisdom, Athena, presented Athenians with an olive tree, and they, in turn, named their city after her.
The contribution olive oil makes to Greece’s economy
Extra virgin olive oil is famously a part of the Mediterranean diet that most of us are aware of, and a visit to the museum promises to be enthralling and educational.
The Museum of the Olive and Greek Olive Oil in Sparta provides information on olive oil production from prehistoric times to the present.
What is totally amazing is being able to look at rare fossilized olive leaves that are thousands of years old from the island of Santorini.
There is so much more to see at this fascinating attraction, and at the end of your visit, apart from the information you’re provided with, you can go to archaeological sites of olive oil production and to traditional olive presses.
#5. Relax in the modern-day city of Sparta
Built on the site of ancient Sparta in 1834, the modern day city of Sparta is known as Néa or New Sparti. True, modern Sparta doesn’t get as many visitors as Athens does, but it still has a lot to explore. The city is small, and most visitors like to stay just a couple of days and pack a lot into that time.
One or two must-sees are:
The King Leonidas Statue
King Leonidas was a famous king who took a strong stand against the Persians way back in 480 BCE. The statue is found in front of a soccer stadium.
The Archaelogical Museum of Sparta
This is one of Greece’s oldest museums and it has thousands of artifacts from excavations of Sparta’s ancient Acropolis.
#6. Watch the Sparthanon
If you’re visiting Sparta in September, it can be fun and entertaining to watch the historic ultra-distance Sparthanon, a 152-mile race that attracts runners from around the world.
#7. Rejuvenate at the Euphoria Retreat
People are so relaxed in Sparta as it is, but they want to enjoy additional healing of the body and mind by visiting the beautiful Euphoria Retreat, a world class wellness destination spa hotel.
There’s a wonderful ancient manor house complete with dining area overlooking Mystras and the distant Parnonas Mountains to add mystery to the splendid views.
Everything is in earthy tones, and with the sauna, balneotherapy, and Turkish bath, you’re guaranteed to find a range of treatments that promise to relax, cleanse, balance, and rejuvenate the body and mind and restore them to wholeness.
Enjoy being thoroughly pampered with deep-tissue massages, while other awesome features of this luxurious hotel include a fitness center, a bar and lounge, and a beautiful outdoor pool.
Euphoria isn’t just a splendid hotel, but a magnificent health and fitness retreat where they find natural remedies for you that ensure you enjoy the ultimate healthy getaway. This holistic wellness destination also offers transfers from the airport for its guests who are looking for a great experience in Sparta. For availability and rates click here>>
#8. Discover the medieval castle town of Mystras
Known as the ‘Wonder of the Morea’, the lovely medieval castle town is found on the slopes of Taygetos Mountain. The fascinating fortress, built in 1249, has been included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and with good reason—it’s a site deemed to have outstanding cultural value and should be protected.
One of Greece’s important historical sites
The fortified town was once a busy city with public squares, churches, and palaces, and today it is one of Greece’s most important historical sites. It’s just 5 kilometers from the town of Sparti.
Apart from being an area of cultural value, the medieval castle town is also found in a beautiful mountainous area with amazing views.
Unfortunately, by the early 1800s, Mystras was no longer a major city, and it actually began to fall into ruins. In spite of this, there are still nuns that live in the Pantanassa Monastery in Mystras, which offers visitors the chance to see the building’s extraordinarily beautiful architecture, particularly the stone-carved facade.
It can get awfully hot visiting sites like this, so make spring and autumn your visiting times if you want to enjoy comfortable days and nights. There is a lot of walking to do when visiting this medieval castle town, so keep the season in mind, as well as any mobility issues.
#9. Hike Mount Taygetos
You can call these mountains a hiker’s paradise as they offer great outdoor adventuring. The Taygetos extends for many miles from the southern tip of mainland Greece to the northern part of the Mani Peninsula. It is one of the largest mountain ranges in Greece, stretching 110 km in length and 30 km in width.
There are magnificent forests and gorges and a host of fantastic walks and hikes for people of all fitness levels. There are many peaks and many fascinating footpaths, some steep and narrow.
Do yourself a favor and invest in The Taygetos Walking Map and Guidebook, as you will glean information on about 18 hiking routes.
You can also camp on the mountain, with some people opting to camp on the summit. The highest peak is known as Prophet Elias, and at the top, you will come across a small stone church.
The peak itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and each year during July, the tiny church holds a large festival. Some hikes can be accomplished in a couple of hours, others in a day, and others include a couple of days to scale some peaks.
#10. The Cultural Summer Festival
Sparta has a rich culture, and you’ll find this very same culture being depicted in some of the many festivals that are held in and around Sparta. As it is, all the churches in the city host their own unique religious festivals, but there are many thrilling cultural festivals too.
Every summer, between June and September, there is the popular Cultural Summer Festival that takes place at the Sainopouleio Amphitheatre in the suburb of Magoula. Visitors will enjoy a series of cultural events including dance, music concerts, theatrical performances, and more.
A colorful spectrum of Greek and European artists
You will discover a wonderful selection of actors, curates and singers such as the National Theater, the Ochestra of Colors and the National Opera. You’ll see and hear works from Greek and European composers and all performed by leading artists.
The Amphitheatre was completed in 1990 at the expense of the Sainopouleio Foundation. It can accommodate up to 1500 spectators. Each year, as mentioned, there are many cultural events organized, and these are all known as “cultural summer.”
Those who love song and dance love the Cultural Summer Festival with its musical, theatrical, and dancing performances by Greek and international artists. The festival started in 1988, with a fantastic line up of events being organized from June until August.
#11. Day trips from Sparta
Mani makes a super day trip from Sparta. The driving distance between Sparta and Mani is 99 miles or roughly 57 km, requiring about 2 hours to reach Mani. What a worthwhile day trip it will be.
Mani is said to be one of the most beautiful places in Greece, with dramatic steep cliffs and caves.
Located in the Peloponnese, the Mani Peninsula is so mountainous that some villages were even inaccessible by car at one time. In fact, it’s the mountain ridge of Taygetos that was partly responsible for this inaccessibility, but these days there is a road connecting these most ‘wonderful-to-visit’ villages.
Mani is actually split into two prefectures, Laconia and Messinia, and you get to the Messinian part by driving through the city of Kalamata, which itself is an awesome tourist attraction, renowned for its olive groves, castle, and beautiful beach.
Caves of Diros
These fascinating caves, which formed thousands of years ago, consist of a 3 mile network of caves that are part of an underground lake.
They’re a truly extraordinary attraction, with the flooded caves located approximately 11 kilometers south of Areopolis, with the entrance on the beach.
When you arrive, you buy your ticket at the booth and park your car in the parking area outside the caves.
Signs of human settlements found
The locals who have visited these caves say that they can be named as one of the most important natural sites in Greece and that the Paleolithic and Neolithic artifacts found here reveal that the caves were one of the earliest inhabited places in Greece. Remains of ancient settlements have been found in the caves.
However, after an earthquake in 4 BC, they were abandoned as human habitats and only rediscovered much later, in about 1895.
It is mind-boggling to learn that the known part of the caves cover an area of around 33000 square meters, but that only 5000 square meters have been explored.
There is also a boat tour that will take you through the passageways to see the amazing stalagmites and stalactites. In fact, when you enter the cave, you go down a stairway to an underground lake where the boats are waiting. You’re given a lifesaving vest, and a guide steers the boat through caverns till you enter a huge subterranean room.
Gytheio is a beautiful harbor town founded by Hercules and Apollo and located in the center of the Laconic Gulf. With its beautiful neoclassical houses huddled together against the slopes of Mt. Koumaros, it is protected from the weather.
The attractive coastal town is lively throughout the year, with a chilled vibe. Many visitors make it their base from where they explore the Mani area. The lovely seaside town offers visitors cozy hotels to stay in, lots of traditional Greek tavernas and trendy cafes where you can sit with a meal and take in the views.
Near Gytheio, you can make a stop to visit the shipwreck of the ship Dimitrios. Dimitrios was a 65-meter cargo ship that was shipwrecked and abandoned on Valtaki Beach in 1981. There are many intriguing stories about how that happened.
When visiting Gythion, a good idea is to start off by visiting the Gythion cultural centre, which has more recently been transformed into an ethnographical museum. Certainly, if you are planning to travel to the Mani, it makes for an interesting starting point.
Monemvasia is extremely picturesque, with beautiful stone mansions, romantic winding stone paths, and great Byzantine churches. It’s a fantastic place to visit all year. Its beaches are clean and beautiful.
Monemvasia is a fascinating, well preserved castle town on the southeastern side of the Peloponnese. Visitors just love exploring the romantically mystical stone-built settlement, immersing themselves in its utterly unique atmosphere!
When you wander around its narrow cobbled streets, there will be much to delight. The ultimate treat will be to stay overnight in this amazing place surrounded by the Aegean Sea – an island linked only to the mainland by a single causeway.
Where to stay in and around Sparta
Mystras Grand Palace Resort and Spa
Living up to its 5-star status, the Mystras Grand Palace Resort and Spa offers everything one would expect from a hotel of this caliber, including the most delicious food and after dinner drinks.
You’ll be spoiled for choice, and it’s simply the perfect place to relax and indulge, with all the air-conditioned rooms having terraces.
The beautiful hotel with exquisite gardens offers luxury amenities such as free wifi, swimming pools, flat screen TVs, a fitness center, and more.
Laze away your days at the lovely 3-star neoclassical Menelaion Hotel, which has been renovated to ensure comfort and luxury but without a hefty price tag.
Everything anybody could wish for is provided at the hotel, which is conveniently located in the middle of Sparta.
It has a restaurant that serves great Greek and Mediterranean dishes made with fresh products. There is also a swimming pool and comfortable, stylish rooms that are air conditioned.
The hotel also offers free WiFi, and some of the rooms have a balcony. There is also a cafe and a souvenir shop, ensuring a wonderfully pleasant stay. For availability and rates click here>>
Mystras Inn has everything going for it: a lovely location at the foot of Mount Taygetos and everything to ensure comfort and enjoyment.
Guests staying at the inn love the stone-paved courtyard, the free wifi, the air conditioned rooms, the restaurant, and the wonderful views overlooking the mountain.
The comfortably stylish rooms come with a flat-screen TV, a safe, a private bathroom, and a hairdryer. Breakfast is served in the dining area or courtyard, and once you’ve refueled for the day, you’ll discover that top attractions are fairly close by.
Sparta – you get a true Greek experience
Many people visit Sparta because they relish the idea of simply spending time at Sparta’s main square. They feel as if they are having a true Greek experience, drinking ale, enjoying music, and listening to stories of Sparta’s glorious past.
True, Sparta can’t be described as a beautiful town, but it makes a good base for exploring the southeast part of the Peloponnese.
It is particularly hot in the summer, but the evenings are comfortable, and when the sun disappears behind Mount Taygetos, the city still buzzes with energy, and you can look forward to another day in the city, which has a lot to offer local and international tourists.