30 Quintessentially Greek Experiences For The Whole Family

Greece is famous worldwide for its islands, white-washed houses and amazing food. But once you get here, you’ll find so much more to love, that are quintessentially Greek – your kids will help you locate most 😉

This article is inspired by an amazing post in Mama Loves Italy, the top Italy expert out there, What is Italy known for? 40 Typically Italian things that make Italy famous

 

Typical Greek Things You Must Experience

 

Food

Feta cheese

Although there are several different cheese varieties produced around Greece, feta cheese is the most famous. Its made of cow and or goat milk, it has a unique texture and salty taste and it accompanies the typical greek salad, legumes and our oily dishes (gemista, fasolaki, peas, papoutsakia) perfectly. Your kids will love it on a slice of village bread, too. On the islands, dare to try in with water melon!

 

Pita, our pies

I’ve eaten pies similar to the Greek ones in Bulgaria and Serbia, but few of the savoury pies you’ll find in Greece are quintessentially Greek: tiropita (feta cheese pie), hortopita (pie with spinach and aromatic herbs), kreatopita (meat pie). There are several variations of the cheese pie around Greece: you’ll find it fried, served with sesame and honey, with myzithra cheese instead of feta, with different kinds of fyllo or dough. Please try them all! It’s our pizza equivalent and even my fuzzy eaters love them!

 

Legumes

Legumes are a typical dish around the Middle East, Mexico, Spain and elsewhere. Each country has its own recipes and Greece is no different. I’ve found that one particular legume dish is pretty unique and you’ll enjoy it more in two very different locations: 1. on the Greek mountains, in a traditional tavern next to a slice of hortopita and some tsipouro and 2. by the sea with some ouzo and octopus. I’m talking about gigantes, giant beans, cooked in the oven with tomato paste and lots of onion. It is to die for and kids can definitely try it.

 

Octopus

I was pretty astonished when I found out pretty late in my life that people don’t eat octopus in most countries. In Greece it’s a signature dish, roasted as a meze with ouzo, even in a pasta dish cooked with tomato. They’re both amazing, although I get that it might be everybody’s cup of tea. However, be prepared to get accustomed to, even like octopi drying at ports on our islands!

From the Mediterranean Traveller

 

Tsipouro, ouzo, raki

Greek spirits that we recommend you avoid drinking unless your kids are sound asleep! High in alcohol, they are considered ideal meze companions. Tsipouro can be found inland and it’s the perfect warmer after a cold day on the mountains. Raki is typical Cretan. Ouzo is consumed with ice cubes, so it’s ideal in the summer. Keep away from children!
Similar spirits can be found across Turkey and the Balkans. Ouzo will remind you of sambuca.

 

Cretan cuisine

It’s actually the only regional cuisine in Greece that you can experience pretty authenically in Athens. There are plenty of cretan restaurants and plenty of food and dishes typically found only in Crete. Paximadi, dakos, kreatotourta, kohlioi, malaka cheese, zucchini flowers, just to name a few. It’s actually my favorite local cuisine, together with the Mexican and the Italian.

 

Tsoufti pasta

Pasta dishes are popular around Greece and although not quintessentially Greek, they are a huge part of our diet. There are several pasta dishes only found in Greece, most influenced one way or another by some Italian pasta dish. Makaronia me kima (macaroni with minced meat) is our take on ragu ala Bolognese; Octopus pasta is our take on the italian sea food pasta; and tsoufti will remind you a bit of carbonara. Tsoufti is only found in Mani peninsula. It’s made with long thick pasta, lots of fried butter, shredded myzithra cheese and a fried egg on top! I love it so much, I’ve been to Mani 5 times…

 

Pita gyros & souvlaki

Although the concept of meat on a stick or some kind of flat dough covering meat and vegetables isnt’t just found in Greece, these two foods are typically Greek. Whenever I come back home from abroad, I order in some pita with souvlaki and tzatziki and a decent Greek salad. Yes.

 

Cold Greek coffee

This is our signature summer beverage: cold coffee. There are 3 types: 1. frappe, 2. Espresso freddo and 3. Freddo cappuccino, with the last 2 not being found in Italy, weirdly enough! Better enjoyed on the beach.

 

Locations

The beach culture

It’s a culture alright! Nothing says “Greece” like the beaches. With such a long coastline and 277 islands you can understand why. But let me explain. It so happens that the weather tends to be milder on the islands and on the coast, so much so that Greeks who live by the sea swim 365 days a year. They also know when the rest of us flock their beaches and retrieve from them before we arrive or visit them after hours. You want find the real locals on the famous beaches during high season; they know when not to go: when the Greek travelers and the foreign tourists are there! They want their beaches to themselves. And all Greeks have these in common: we own many swimsuits, many hats, many sunglasses, separate “beach clothes”; We know which suncream to use when and where and we rarely get sun burnt; We have many beach bags: one for towels, one for beach toys, one for books and creams and sunglasses, one for snacks and water. We own umbrellas AND beach tents; we refuse to get a cart to carry them all, because we park our car next to the sand OR we leave half our stuff on the beach to reserve OUR spot for the next day. You can understand that we spend hours on the beach every summer! We love our sands, we love our little coves, we love our crystal blue waters, we love the cool wooden sun beds with huge mattresses and straw umbrellas in those cool beach clubs. You’re welcome 😉

Aegean sea coast with blue transparent water, greenery around, rocks, bushes and trees, view from the drone Greece

 

The mountain culture

Now this might sound weird for most of you. Greece has many, MANY mountains. There are so many mountains in Greece that there are no train connections to many parts of the country. There are 17 ski resorts in Greece (!), operating till April, sometimes even May! The best thing about the mountains, after their idyllic nature of course, is the traditional, picturesque, cobble stone villages perched in them. As you probably know, the cities of Greece are not pretty, with the exception of Chania, Kastoria, Giannena and the old town of Nafplio and Athens. But the mountain villages are fabulous! So pretty, Greeks travel their country 12 months a year – and you should too!

 

The islands!

I was really impressed to see famous images of Santorini being advertised in tourists offices all across… Singapore! Especially when Asia boasts so many fabulous, exotic, famous islands and especially since parts of the magical South Pacific are closer to Singapore and cheaper to get to than the Mediterranean. Americans, Asians and Australians tend to only visit the famous Cycladic islands, Mykonos, Santorini, Paros, Naxos, Milos, sometimes Crete for its combination of great food, stunning beaches, warm weather 6 months a year and tons of history. Europeans though, especially Germans, Brits, Italians and of course Swedes dare to visit (or actually they are the ones who put them on the tourist map) the Ionian Islands, the island in the Argosaronic Gulf, the islands of the North Aegean, the Dodecanese and Sporades Islands. Which are by the way my favorites.
Not all islands feature the well known white washed houses with blue windows – these are found in the Cyclades only. But they are all picture perfect, with charming towns, amazing villages, stunning beaches, great local food and great hospitality. After all, like 60% of Greeks work on this industry, so you can say it’s our DNA!
Note that the world class hotels, some of the top in the world are located on Santorini, Mykonos and Crete. Fewer on Corfu (Ionian) and some in Chalkidiki (inland).

A vertical shot of a beautiful square with white buildings and a church in Paros, Greece

 

Athens

Athens might not be the prettiest or the most family friendly city out there. But it’s one of the oldest cities in the world, with a history spanning over 5000 years. The monuments in the city center are amazing, with the Acropolis really standing proud over us Athenians. There are also plenty to do with kids.

 

Crete

One of the top destinations in Greece together with Athens, Mykonos and Santorini, Crete has so much to offer besides its countless stunning beaches. The Minoic civilization thrived here thousands of years ago and the monuments are a sight for sore eyes. There are also cool mountain/hilltop villages here, like Kerames, Moundros and Anatoli. As well as two of the most beautiful towns in Greece, Chania and Rethymno. With many amazing hotels, water parks and farms, Crete is a great destination on its own really.

 

The Greek culture

Taverns

A great passtime for Greeks is to enjoy their lunch at one of the many taverns in the country. The food is traditional, the seating is minimal and rural, there’s usually music and cheap booze. Some are also very family friendly, with a playground or green outside areas. The fish taverns are better for families in my opinion IF of course they are right on a sandy beach.

 

Ouzo bars

They are day bars and they serve ouzo meze as well. Please enjoy cautiously!
We recommend the ones in Plaka area, the historic center of Athens, right below the Acropolis. Car free alleys with shade host picture perfect taverns and ouzo bars, ideal for families!

 

Open air cinemas

Not a uniquely greek thing, but there are some many open air cinemas in every greek city, town or village that it’s really our summer thing. I totally recommend Cine Thisseion, where you can enjoy your movie with a view to the Acropolis!

From suemtravels.com

 

Pop Culture

Zorba The Greek

I’d rather just write “Kazantzakis” here, but since most people are not familiar with the book’s writer, but everybody can correlate the theme of the movie Zorba The Greek with Greece, here it is! The famous music theme composed by the great Mikis Theodorakis has been used in over 70 famous movies and ads, so you’ve heard it and it probably reminded you of Greece.

 

Mamma Mia!

No movie says “Greek Summer” like Mamma Mia! The story is set on an island called “Kalokairi”, which is the Greek word for Summer. And the first movie was filmed here, on Skiathos and Skopelos island, as well as Pelion. Not many movies are filmed in Greece, due to a law that was to my satisfaction lifted like a year ago. But this one made a huge exception!

 

Modern Greek Cinema

Raw, low budget and nerve-wrecking or expensive, historical and beautiful, modern Greek cinema focuses on the modern culture or our recent history. Really worth watching some greek films before visiting – they will help you understand the country more. May I suggest “Dogtooth” (not to be watched with young children!) and “A Touch of Spice” or “An Eternity and A Day”.

 

Civilization and History

The Ancient Theater, Tragedy, Comedy and Satyre

Of course you know about the ancient Theater and of Greek tragedies. Do you know that the art of theater was actually created here? Same goes for Comedy and Satyre too.
It’s an amazing experience to visit ancient theaters while in Greece, but even more amazing to catch a show at Epidavros Ancient Theater or Herodes Atticus Theater in Athens.

 

The Classics

From epic poems and tragedies, to philosophical masterpieces and history, the ancient Greeks wrote A LOT. Their work was carefully written down by their students on stone copies. Later, the Romans made sure to transfer them in papyri, in several copies, and keep them in monasteries or libraries. Unfortunately, many were destroyed when the Library of Alexandria in Egypt was burnt. But plenty made it from 500 bC to the time of typography, they were made into books and now they can even be found online. Introduce your kids to them starting with a children Mythology book!

 

Scientific Language

You know that most scientific concepts have Greek names. The concepts might not be Greek, but their names are. This is a huge honor to the Greek language and history, because it furnished science with the most powerful tool for understanding it, through great scientists that lived in the ancient times and through the greek language itself that it’s so rich in compounds. Maybe teach your kids one or two smart words?

 

Sciences

Philosophy, Geography, Mathematics, Astronomy, Medicine, Physics, even Chemistry were sciences studied in Ancient Greece! Are your little ones interested in any of them? Introduce them to the Greeks who studied them first!

 

Democracy

This is something Greeks are really proud of: Democracy as a concept and as a political system was first introduced in Athens around 500 BC. People were asked to vote (on the rock below) before major decisions and the majority ruled. Crazy, huh? Maybe tell your kids about it, next time you have to vote on something.

 

Architecture

Ancient Monuments

Delphi, Epidaurus, Mycenae, Dodoni Theater, Pella, Dion, Knossos, Phaestus and The Minoic Civilization… Delos, Akrotiri on Santorini, so many to mention, so unique and well preserved, they are an absolute must! Make sure you keep your visit short, because the long walks under the hot greek sun are not very kid friendly.

 

Byzantine chapels

Really from another era not that long ago, compared to the ancient monumets, hence very well deserved, these churches can be found all over Greece and are very charming. Time for some cool shade for the whole family, to rest after sightseeing.

 

Neoclassical buildings

They are mostly found in Athens and they were built in the previous century, but obviously influenced by the ancient classical style, with columns and pediments. The most notable buildings are for sure The Library, The University and The Academy, one next to the other and in every day use, right on Panepistimiou Avenue at the city center. There are many huge bookstores nearby, maybe visit them to get some Mythology books?

 

Whitewashed houses

The typical simple and very minimal architecture found on the islands of the Cyclades. Really picture perfect! The kids will love staying in one for sure!

Beautiful Architecture building Exterior with santorini and greece style – Vintage light filter

 

Stone built houses

There are several kinds, some colored, some preserving the stone in the exterior, some with prominent balconies, all with beautiful roofs. They are found on the mountains, all over the Peloponnese and on many of the islands.

Some old buildings have been turned into family friendly hotels!

 

 

 

 

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