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 Sparta.
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!
This travel guide to Sparta can help you plan your trip so you have the best experience possible no matter why or when you go!
Table of Contents
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Sparta
1. See the King Leonidas Statue
2. Visit the Archaeological Museum of Sparta
3. Tour the Diros Caves
4. Visit the Mystras
5. Visit the Museum of the Olive and Greek Olive Oil
Other Things to See and Do in Sparta
1. Walk around the modern town
Travelers don’t often hang out in the modern town of Sparta, which is why you should check it out. Head to the main square where you’ll find the town hall, and enjoy some people-watching at one of the cafes. There are also a handful of ouzeries in the square if you would like to pick up some souvenirs.
2. Explore the ancient Sparta archaeological site
There’s not much left from the ancient city here north of the Leonidas statue, but a walkthrough will lead you to where the acropolis and the agora once stood from the 2nd-century BC (up until the Roman times). You’ll also find the remains of an ancient theater and the Sanctuary of Athena. It’s free to wander around. The theater used to be one of the largest theaters in Ancient Greece!
3. Visit the Sanctuary of Artemis
On the north side of town, you’ll find the remains of the Sanctuary of Artemis Orthia — the most important deity for the Spartans, and the goddess of wild animals and the hunt. She was also the goddess of chastity and childbirth. It’s the site of some rather violent rituals, including the flogging of young Spartan boys until they bled. The bravest of the boys would be awarded bronze sickles to dedicate to Artemis.
4. Check out the Koumantareios 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, but it’s housed inside a stunning early 20th-century neoclassical mansion. It’s free to visit.
5. Explore the Menelaion
A few miles outside of the city on the hill of the Prophet Elias lies the Menelaion, a 5th-century BC shrine that was built to honor King Menelaus, husband of Helen of Troy. There is not a lot left to see of this site except for its crumbling ruins, but it’s worth a visit to walk around here if you have extra time in Sparta. There’s no admission fee.
6. Make some mosaic art
Head to the village of Xirokambi near Sparta and meet Dimtra, a self-taught mosaic artist who hosts art classes in her cozy workshop. She makes her mosaic pieces by hand so that each section of glass is unique. If you want to try your hand at making your own mosaic, she hosts four-hour workshops in her courtyard for €50 ($56 USD).
For more information on specific destinations in Greece, check out these guides:
Sparta Travel Costs
Hostel prices – There are not many hostel options around Sparta.
Four to six-bed dorms cost from €10 ($11 USD) per night, or you can rent a campsite for as little as €4 ($4.45 USD) in peak season. Prices are the same in the off-season because Sparta doesn’t get a large number of tourists.
A standard twin private room or bungalow with an ensuite bathroom starts at about €55 ($61 USD) per night for two people regardless of what season it is.
Budget hotel prices – A room with a private ensuite bathroom in a two-star hotel will start at about €39 ($43 USD). In the off-season, you’ll find rooms for €25 ($28 USD).
Airbnb is available in Sparta, with private rooms averaging €33 ($37 USD) per night. A full apartment averages about €68 ($76 USD) per night.
Food – Street food like traditional grilled gyros or souvlaki will cost about €5.50 ($6.10 USD) each. Greek salad will also cost no more than €6 ($6.65 USD), while a plate of pasta is about €7 ($7.80 USD). An eggplant salad is less than €4 ($4.45 USD).
At a mid-range restaurant, you’ll find plates of seafood like cod or shrimp for €8.50 ($9.45 USD). A plate of souvlaki with some sides (like fries and a salad) will be about €7 ($7.80 USD), and a beer will cost you from €3 ($3.35 USD). Higher-end restaurants aren’t typical in Sparta but expect to pay from €13 ($14 USD) for dishes like a seafood risotto or €18 ($20 USD) for filet mignon.
If you cook for yourself, you can spend as little as €35 ($39 USD) on groceries per week, which would include some meat, eggs, pasta, some veggies, cheese, and fruit.
Backpacking Sparta Suggested Budgets
If you’re backpacking Sparta, expect to spend about €37 ($41 USD) per day. This is assuming you’re staying in a hostel dorm, eating lots of cheap and fast food, cooking some meals, walking everywhere, visiting about one attraction per day (including the archaeological sites), or taking advantage of lots of free activities.
On a mid-range budget of about €90 EUR ($100 USD) per day, you can stay in a budget hotel room, eat out for all your meals, take an occasional taxi, and visit more sites! You won’t live large, but you’ll want for nothing!
On a luxury budget of about €216 ($240 USD) per day in Sparta, you’ll stay in a four-star hotel, eat at nicer restaurants, take more taxis, and do all the tours you want! Since Sparta isn’t a very touristy area, you don’t have to worry much about prices fluctuating in the on-season and off-season.
You can use the chart below to get some idea of how much you need to budget daily, depending on your travel style. Keep in mind these are daily averages – some days you’ll spend more, some days you’ll spend less (you might spend less every day). We just want to give you a general idea of how to make your budget. Prices are in USD.
Sparta Travel Guide: Money Saving Tips
Despite Sparta being one of the most touristy islands in Greece, the island remains pretty budget-friendly. Greece itself is pretty cheap and, even during peak summer, you can still find ways to save money. Here are some of my favorite ways to cut your costs in Sparta:
- Take a self-guided tour – Don’t indulge in the guided tours that are often very costly. The ruins in the area are easy to get around and visit.
- Order the ouzo – Often if you’re at a traditional Greek taverna and you just order ouzo or tsipouro, you’ll often get served small plates of food to go wtih it. And it’s filling!
- Couchsurf – If you plan ahead, you can usually find really nice Couchsurfing hosts all throughout Sparta. This way, you not only have a place to stay, but you’ll have a local host that can tell you the best places to go and things to see.
Where To Stay in Sparta
Sparta doesn’t have a lot of hostel options, but fortunately, there are lots of budget-friendly hotels or small apartment rentals. These are my suggested and recommended places to stay in Sparta:
How to Get Around Sparta
Walk – Sparta is small, and you’ll be able to get around easily on foot to see most sites.
Taxi – Taxis are cheap here, and they’re really your only method of getting to attractions outside of town (like Mystras). A taxi from Sparta to Mystras should cost no more than €11 ($12 USD).
Hitchhiking – Hitchhiking is very safe in Sparta, but as tourists are not overly common, it may be difficult to get a ride. Check out Hitchwiki for everything you need to know about hitchhiking in Greece.
When to Go to Sparta
Summer in Sparta is hot. The average daily temperature in July-August is 93°F (34°C). There’s not much relief here if you want to escape the heat — the sea is less than 62 miles (100 kilometers) away.
On the other hand, off-season and winters are a good time to visit. Winters average 50°F (10°C) but keep in mind that some businesses shut down during this time.
How to Stay Safe on Sparta
Sparta is a very safe place to travel. Violent crime is rare, and petty crime like pick-pocketing is your only real concern.
If you’re worried about getting scammed, you can read about the 14 travel scams to avoid right here.
Always trust your gut instinct. If a taxi driver seems shady, stop the cab and get out. If your hotel is seedier than you thought, move somewhere else.
If you don’t do it at home, don’t do it in Sparta! Follow that rule, and you’ll be fine.
The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past.
Sparta Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources
These are my favorite companies to use when I travel to Sparta. They are included here because they consistently find deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors.
- Momondo – This is my favorite booking site. I never book a flight without checking here first.
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is another great flight search engline which searches a lot of different airlines, including many of the budget carriers that larger sites miss. While I always start with Momondo, I use this site too as a way to compare prices.
- Airbnb – Airbnb is a great accommodation alternative for connecting with homeowners who rent out their homes or apartments.
- Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there, with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
- Couchsurfing – This website allows you to stay on people’s couches or spare rooms for free. It’s a great way to save money while meeting locals who can tell you the ins and outs of their city. The site also lists events you can attend to meet people (even if you’re not staying with someone).
- Booking.com – The best all around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have a no money down policy, great interface, and the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
- Intrepid Travel – If you want to do a group tour around Europe, go with Intrepid Travel. They offer good small group tours that use local operators and leave a small environmental footprint. If you go on a tour with anyone, go with them. And, as a reader of this site, you’ll get a discount when you click the link!
- The Man in Seat 61 – This website is the ultimate guide to train travel anywhere in the world. They have the most comprehensive information on routes, times, prices, and train conditions. If you are planning a long train journey or some epic train trip, consult this site.
- Rome 2 Rio – This website allows you to see how to get from point A to point B the best and cheapest way possible. It will give you all the bus, train, plane, or boat routes that can get you there as well as how much they cost.
- Bla Bla Car – BlaBlaCar is a ridesharing website that lets you share rides with vetted local drivers by pitching in for gas. You simply request a seat, they approve, and off you go! It’s a cheaper and more interesting way travel than by bus or train!
- World Nomads – I buy all my travel insurance from World Nomads. They have great customer service, competitive prices, and in-depth coverage. I’ve been using them since I started traveling in 2003. Don’t leave home without it!
Sparta Gear and Packing Guide
If you’re heading on the road and need some gear suggestions, here are my tips for the best travel backpack and for what to pack!
The Best Backpack for Travelers
Straps: Thick and cushy with compression technology that pulls the pack’s load up and inwards so it doesn’t feel as heavy.
Features: Removable top lid, large pocket at the front, hydration compatible, contoured hip belt
If you want something different, refer to my article on how to choose the best travel backpack for tips on picking a pack and other backpack suggestions.
What to Pack for Your Trip
- 1 pair of jeans (heavy and not easily dried, but I like them; a good alternative is khaki pants)
- 1 pair of shorts
- 1 bathing suit
- 5 T-shirts (Unbound Merino is my preferred company. If you’re a member of NM+, you can get 15% off your purchase)
- 1 long-sleeved T-shirt
- 1 pair of flip-flops
- 1 pair of sneakers
- 6 pairs of socks (I always end up losing half)
- 5 pairs of boxer shorts (I’m not a briefs guy!)
- 1 toothbrush
- 1 tube of toothpaste
- 1 razor
- 1 package of dental floss
- 1 small bottle of shampoo
- 1 small bottle of shower gel
- 1 towel
Small Medical Kit (safety is important!!!)
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Antibacterial cream
- Hand sanitizer (germs = sick = bad holiday)
- A key or combination lock (safety first)
- Zip-lock bags (keeps things from leaking or exploding)
- Plastic bags (great for laundry)
- Universal charger/adaptor (this applies to everyone)
- LifeStraw (A water bottle with a purifier)
Female Travel Packing List
I’m not a woman, so I don’t know what a woman wears, but Kristin Addis, our solo female travel guru, wrote this list as an addition to the basics above:
- 1 swimsuit
- 1 sarong
- 1 pair of stretchy jeans (they wash and dry easily)
- 1 pair of leggings (if it’s cold, they can go under your jeans, otherwise with a dress or shirt)
- 2-3 long-sleeve tops
- 2-3 T-shirts
- 3-4 spaghetti tops
- 1 light cardigan
- 1 dry shampoo spray & talc powder (keeps long hair grease-free in between washes)
- 1 hairbrush
- Makeup you use
- Hair bands & hair clips
- Feminine hygiene products (you can opt to buy there too, but I prefer not to count on it, and most people have their preferred products)
For more on packing, check out these posts:
Sparta Travel Guide: Suggested Reading
The Iliad, by Homer
A story of men and gods, Homer’s epic poem conveys the horror and heroism of the Trojan War before moving into its heart-wrenching, tragic conclusion. The translated version by classicist Robert Fagles is a beautiful rendition of this story. Just take a second to appreciate the fact that this poem has been around since the 9th century BC. It’s a wonderful glimpse into life at that time. (Follow it up with The Odyssey!)
Zorba the Greek, by Nikos Kazantzakis
This book was first published in 1946, and is now considered a Greek classic. It’s the story of a Greek working man named Zorba, a great lover of life, and the unnamed narrator who accompanies Zorba to Crete where they work together in a mine. But it’s also about the “struggle of men to find their souls and purpose in life.” The best part about this book is Zorba – a memorable character who makes the most out of life, whether it’s work in the mines or hanging out with monks in a mountain monastery. It’s like pure poetry.
Eurydice Street: A Place in Athens, by Sofka Zinovieff
Sofka Zinovieff became enamoured with Greece when she studied there as a student, but years later she moved back with her Greek husband and two young daughters. This book is about her first year in Athens, and all the trials and (hilarious) tribulations that come with learning how to be Athenian. There are a lot of great insights into everyday Athenian life here, including how to catch a taxi, the importance of cigarettes, and how to get a pig cooked at the baker’s. It’ll definitely spark your desire to hang out in Athens for awhile.
It’s All Greek to Me, by John Mole
This is the self-deprecating, humorous true story of John Mole – a man whose ideals of Greek paradise lead him to buying a shambled home in the countryside with no water, no electricity, no doors, no windows…you get the point. Mole drags his family along to this rural escape, where they spend some time cleaning out 20 years of goat poop and getting to know the friendly neighbors (like Elpida, who cures back pain with raw eggs). This is a seriously funny book.
The Summer of My Greek Taverna: A Memoir, by Tom Stone
One summer Tom Stone went to Greece to write a novel, and ended up staying 22 years. On the island of Patmos he fell in love with a French painter named Danielle, and seven years later they moved to Crete. Not long after, his friend offered him a summer partnership at his beach taverna back on Patmos, and Stone decided to go for it – although his wife warned against it. Ultimately she was right: Stone ended up learning the hard lessons about doing business in Greece, and that the partnership was really a “Trojan horse.” Here is his account of that time – about life as an American struggling to make his dreams a reality in a foreign place.
Sparta Travel Guide: Related Articles
Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on backpacking/traveling Greece and continue planning your trip: