Sparta was the ancient rival of Athens and known for her fierce warriors (see the historically inaccurate movie “300”). The city has great history and ruins to explore. There is no shortage of things to do, excursions to take, and places to eat. It’s an often overlooked city (most skip it) but you can get all the history of Greece without the tourists of Athens here.
Hostel prices – Hostels aren’t expensive here and depending on the location, they can be quite cheap. Expect to pay no more than $20 USD a night for a dorm bed, and around $10 in low season. You can get a double private room for $26 USD in the low season.
Budget hotel prices – Budget hotels average to be $50 USD per night.
Average cost of food – Restaurants will cost about $20 USD for a nice dinner, even in the tourist area. If you really want to eat cheap, eat gyros (like kebabs). A Gyro is around $3 USD and will easily fill you up. Most cafes will cost you around $10 USD for a meal. Buying your own groceries will cost around $40 USD per week.
Transportation costs – Taking the bus is a good option if you’re staying right in Sparta. If you want to explore other areas, consider renting a car as the train doesn’t cover a lot of the surrounding region.
Money Saving Tips
Take self-guided tour – Whether you want to rent a car or not, don’t indulge in the guided tours that are often very costly.
Eat Gyros – Tasty, cheap, and readily available, gyros cost as little as $3 USD, and will satisfy your hunger for quite awhile. They are a good way to avoid racking up hefty restaurant bills.
Top Things to See and Do
Visit the library – This is one of the most important monuments in Sparta. It’s a beautiful historic building that makes for a good wander before lunch.
Wander through the Olive and Greek Olive Oil Museum – This is a pretty interesting place. Here you can discover all there is to know about olive oil, an important staple of Greek life. The entrance fee is only a few Euros.
Walk around the modern city – Visit Town Hall, which is in the central part of the town’s square, and from there eat and drink the local food.
Visit the Mystras – These Byzantine ruins are one of the best archaeological sites you can see in the area. You can view a Byzantine church and fortress as well as do a lot of hiking around the area. This is the biggest attraction in the region.
Sanctuary of Artemis Orthia – This museum was founded in order to highlight the history of the Greek goddess, Artemis. She was a huge deity for the Spartans. There is a lot of history surrounding her role in mythology, including some interesting ritualistic practices. The museum has a small collection of clay masks that were worn during such rituals as well as some other exhibits about the goddess.
See the Byzantine Church of Christ the Saviour – On the path to the acropolis lie the ruins of this church. Several important archeological discoveries were made here and are now the archeological museum.
Walk through the John Coumantarios Art Gallery – This gallery features a permanent collection of 40 paintings, as well as, a temporary, rotating exhibit of pieces from the National Art Gallery in Athens. The gallery is a small and intimate space.
Eat out – Sparta isn’t very big so there are only a few big places to eat. Diethnes is a long standing favorite place for locals and Restaurant Elysse is another popular, dual-tavern hot spot, which features Lakonian specialties.
See The King Leonidas Statue – This was one of the very famous kings of ancient Sparta (see the movie “300”). Located in front of a soccer stadium, this statue is a testament to the fading ruins of the Spartan legacy. You can find it easily by heading north, along Paleologou.
Visit the Acropolis and Theatre – North of the Leonidas statue lies the hill of the acropolis. Here you can find the ruins of a theatre from the 2nd-century B.C. Although it used to be one of the largest theatres in Ancient Greece, most of the stones from the site were later scavenged and used in subsequent construction projects.
Explore the Menelaion – A few miles outside of the city lies the Menelaion, a shrine from the 5th-century B.C. that was built to honour King Menelaus, husband of Helen of Troy. There is not a lot left to see of this site, but it’s worth a visit if you have extra time in Sparta.
Tour the Diros Caves – This can be done as a daytrip from Sparta. The Diros Caves consist of a 5-km network of impressive caves, most of which are part of an underground lake. A 30-minute boat tour takes groups of eight to ten people through these caves. Entrance is $15 USD, and the guided tour is only in Greek, so you may want to buy an information guide.