This alluring country is considered the birthplace of Western civilization. Modern-day principles of democracy, philosophy, math, science and architecture -- not to mention the Olympics -- are rooted in ancient Greece. Through the ages, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman occupation added further influences to Greece’s cultural map. Today, more than 300 national and private museums in the country trace 6,000-plus years of history.
Beyond the museums, visitors can experience the incomparable Grecian culture in its tavernas and markets and along seaside promenades and winding village lanes. Stop at an alfresco cafe for a few small plates of food called mezedes, accompanied by ouzo, a licorice-flavored aperitif. Traditional fare includes moussaka (a baked, layered dish of minced meat, sliced eggplant and bechamel sauce), tzatziki (a yogurt, cucumber and garlic dip) and souvlaki (skewers of grilled meats). Fresh seafood caught in the Aegean and Ionian seas also is featured on menus.
Olive oil is one of the pillars of Greek cooking; it’s used in abundance and sold all over. Greek honey is infused with the floral scent of the countryside, and sheep’s milk feta cheese appears in salads and the savory spinach pastries known as spanakopitas.
Folk dancing is part of everyday life here, and you’ll likely be treated to a performance at some point during your trip. Many Greek dances are set to the music of the bouzouki, a long-necked, stringed instrument.
Unique items commonly seen in shops include silver and gold filigree jewelry, embroidered clothing, hand-painted pottery, woven rugs, reproductions of religious icons and leather sandals and bags. Keep an eye out for the shaggy lamb’s wool rugs called flokati.