Sparta was the ancient rival of Athens and known for her fierce warriors (see the historically inaccurate movie “300”). The city has a long history and ruins to explore. There is no shortage of things to do, excursions to take, and places to eat when you visit the city. It’s an often overlooked city (most travelers skip it as it’s out of the way) but you can get all the history of Greece without the tourists of Athens if you visit. I wouldn’t suggest skipping Sparta – your visit here will be very rewarding and give you a chance to see Greece without the crowds!
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Sparta
1. See the King Leonidas Statue
2. Sparta Lakonia Archaeological Site
3. Tour the Diros Caves
4. Visit the Mystras
5. Olive and Greek Olive Oil Museum
Other Things to See and Do
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1. 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.
2. 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.
3. Byzantine Church of Christ the Saviour
On the path to the acropolis lie the ruins of this church. Several important archaeological discoveries were made here and are now the archeological museum.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. Visit the Acropolis and Theatre
North of the Leonidas statue lies the hill of the acropolis. Here you can find the ruins of a theater from the 2nd-century B.C. Although it used to be one of the largest theaters in Ancient Greece, most of the stones from the site were later scavenged and used in subsequent construction projects.
7. 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 honor 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.