For many people, Greece with kids conjures images of aqua seas and white and cobalt houses climbing seaside cliff faces. Picture-perfect islands and beautiful sandy beaches; historical sites and sunshine; ancient ruins and the Aegean sea.
This is a Greece family vacation we hope to try one day.
This year, however, with a Percy Jackson obsessed daughter of 9, we decided to use a week to try the Greek mainland with its surfeit of temples and shrines to the Gods.
With just six nights before the nation-wide shut downs of Greek Orthodox Easter, we knew we’d have to pick some highlights. We thus decided to blend mythology with some of the architectural and scenic destinations on the Greek mainland and the Peloponnese.
As it turns out, there were many holes in this plan including the distance between temples and sites, and the lack of charm in the Greek towns surrounding many archeological sites.
Guest post and photos by Clay Kelly. Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate and commercial links. For more information see our disclosure policy.
Our travel plans usually hinge on the availability of charming Airbnbs, avoiding the cost of two hotel rooms or the discomfort of sharing. That said, the Greek mainland doesn’t boast the volume of tempting lets we’ve found elsewhere and with the economy still very much on the edge, hotels were reasonable priced.
So, we opted for a combination of the two. The result was a family trip to Greece with some real highlights and some forgettable moments.
If you’re looking for more ideas on Greece family holidays then this post has ideas on things to do in Crete with kids. For more tips on visiting Crete for families then this post has lots of great ideas and this post has some great family-friendly villa suggestions. For more ideas on Greek island family holidays, take a look at this post on Mykonos for families.
Athens with kids
Starting in Athens meant jumping into the mythology deep-end.
We had a very enjoyable mythology walking tour arranged by the very kid friendly company Kids Love Greece. We all agreed this tour is one of the best things to do in Athens with kids. They even offer tours for young children.
We took in Zeus’ temple, the Acropolis and the Agora. Not usually keen on group tours led by travel guides, it was great to have the information amusingly fed to us; tickets pre-purchased, queues skipped and a day without our noses in Google maps.
What is more, Kids Love Greece worked with me in advance to be sure we got on a tour with other kids as our singleton hates being the only one. You’ve seen the pictures but trying to grasp the enormity of how these temples were built is worth the in-person experience.
Plaka, the old town, has its charms and plenty of good food to eat.
Predictably, the famous Monastriaki market is a tourist trinket zoo without a sign of a Greek person in site but it is good fun. Outside Plaka, there were plenty of interesting places but given the chance we wouldn’t repeat most of the rest of Athens with children.
For a delightful local meal on the edge of the old town try The Seychelles, on Kerimikou Street. More interesting than the other yummy, but predictable, Greek meals you will have. Stick to warm days when the doors and windows will be open, smoking is still allowed indoors in much of Greece.
The economic hardship of the past decade is very present and many neighbourhoods feel on the dangerous side of neglected. You may want to visit the old town and then head out into the country!
Less than three hours away from Athens, Delphi is a true highlight. It’s one of the best places in Greece for families and is a must see for any fans of antiquities, mythology and/or climbing!
There are organised day trips from Athens but we recommend driving on your own. The mainland driving isn’t too congested outside Athens though be sure to have plenty of toll money on hand and be sure you have an enthusiastic driver at the wheel. Greece is a hilly country and awash in switchbacks.
With kids used to car travel and no sense of urgency, the breathtaking views are worth it. If you’re looking for rental car options, Auto Europe offer some very good deals.
Delphi clings to the side of Mt. Parnassus and though it is touristy, it retains its charm. The hotel, Fedriades, was serviceable but forgettable but lingering in a local restaurant, Epikouros, overlooking the valley and strolling the few streets in the evening was worth the stay.
Mt. Parnassus itself is sensational, with layer upon layer of ruin climbing the side of the mountain. Take your time, bring water and sturdy shoes. We skipped the guided tour but that could be interesting given the layers of history and mythology on offer here.
There is a pleasant little museum but may not be very engaging if you have access to larger museums of antiquities like The British Museum or The Met.
Here’s where it gets hard. Do you turn north and take in the stunning monasteries of Meteora and Mt. Olympus or head south into the Peloponnese?
A week’s family vacation in Greece is not long enough for both unless you plan a daily drive of four hours. We went south.
First stop was the locally popular Venetian port of Nafpaktos, which we found forgettable though it has a lively waterfront bar scene if you can work that into your Greece with children itinerary! Importantly it broke up our drive down to Monemvasia. This obscure outcropping at the southern tip of the eastern Peloponnese was worth the extreme driving. On the way you can visit the fortified town of Mystras, ‘the wonder of Morea’, which once again provides an opportunity to scale hills and experience the wonder of medieval fortress making.
Monemvasia is a walled, car free town located on a small island off the east coast of the Peloponnese that provided exceptional scrambling opportunities. In fact, scrambling turns out to be our daughter’s one traveling delight after mythology.
We stayed one night but make it two if you can just to enjoy the eye-melting beauty for more time. We stayed in the Malvasia Traditional Hotels main building. They offer a number of multi-room options with balconies at good prices. The charming decor was tasteful and rustic with far more character than we encountered elsewhere in Greece. A nice continental breakfast was included.
Spend a day wandering the cobbled streets and climbing the hillside up to the castle ruins. While April is too early for swimming in Greece, this was a worthwhile trade for pleasant mild weather. The castle is uphill all the way, not to be attempted lightly in the heat of summer!
Final stop, Nafplio. We took the coastal road and the views were stunning. However, proceed this way only with adventurous and sure footed drivers, the zigzagging roads on cliff faces are not for the faint of heart.
Nafplio is the most popular Greek mainland destination. Another harbour village under the shadow of a castle. Another opportunity to climb! This one is over 1000 steps up to the Palamidi fortress. It felt good to achieve the climb and great to see those forty flights on the iPhone tracker but lacks the charm of the Monemvasia scrambling.
The old town of Nafplio is reminiscent of Athens but there is plenty of good seafood and nice ambling along the waterfront. As with all of Greece there is a sense of being worn down but charm remains.
If the kids are ready for a break from grilled meat try Scuola Pizza with fun decor and perfect for kids to unwind. For family-friendly Nafplio accommodation, the Airbnb “By Nikos” was more two room executive hotel than apartment with minimal kitchenette but it was exceptionally new and clean and the host was great. It’s just outside the old town if you are looking for a savings but not more than 5 minutes to the centre of it all.
Our Greek vacation had a few highlights and they were indeed high. The parts in between were forgettable but we left replete with gods and goddesses, stunning views and excellent hikes.
Greece for families – where to go
Short on time? Here’s where we discovered to be the best place to go in Greece for families as well as places you can keep off your itinerary!
- Athens for Kids walking tour
- Athens outside old town