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The Complete Guide to Visiting Olympia, Greece

Though Olympia in Greece isn’t quite as well known as the Acropolis in Athens, it really should be! It’s where the ancient Olympic Games originated, and was formerly home to the Statue of Zeus. In the past, this 12-metre seated statue was known as one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

Sadly, this huge sculpture by Phidias, thought to date back to around 430 BC, disappeared many centuries ago. It was placed in the Temple of Zeus, and may later have been transferred to Constantinople (now Istanbul). No one is certain whether it was destroyed along with much of the temple, or in a Constantinople fire. 

Despite the absence of this ancient Wonder of the World, there’s plenty to see when visiting Olympia. Points of interest include the remains of the Temple of Zeus, the original Olympic racetrack, and more. There’s also the Archaeological Museum of Olympia, adjacent to the ancient site. Much of the history of Olympia, Greece can be seen here, including a couple of important statues. 

Read on to discover all that the city of Olympia, Greece has to offer, and how you can visit this fascinating site of ancient civilization. 

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So many amazing sights to see when visiting Olympia

The location of Olympia, Greece is in the south of the country. The site lies around 10 miles (or 16 kilometres) inland from the Ionian Sea, close to the west coast of the Pelopponese.

The UNESCO-listed archaeological site is idyllically set among woodland and farmland, in the Greek countryside. It’s also near to where the Alpheus and Cladeus rivers converge.

Ancient Olympia in Greece is around three-and-a-half to four hours by car from Athens. The distance is about 165 miles, or 265 kilometres. Many people do Olympia as part of a Pelopponese road trip, often from Athens. 

There is a bus from Athens to Pyrgos, then you can catch a local service to Olympia. The former leg takes around five hours, and the latter an extra 30 minutes or so.

The ancient Olympia archaeological site is close to the port town of the same name. You can drive, take a taxi, hop onto a bus, or join an organised tour to reach Olympia from here. 

Alternatively, pre-book a round-trip transfer from Katakolo Cruise port if you’ll be arriving in the area by boat.

Click here to book a return transfer from Katakolo Cruise port to Olympia

An easy way to see Olympia is to book an organised trip. These are available from Athens and Katakolo. Here are some of the best options.

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If you want to visit Olympia independently, the best bet is to buy a combined ticket for the ancient archaeological site and the museum. 

Do note that entry to the Archaeological Museum of Ancient Olympia has to be booked as a timed slot. You can enter the archaeological site at any time on the same day, however.

Click here to book tickets for Olympia archaeological site and museum

Don't miss the temple of Zeus when visiting olympia.

You can see the remains of the Temple of Zeus at Olympia. Around 15 of the original 100 columns are still standing. This is where the vast Statue of Zeus once sat. 

Don't miss the temple of Hera when visiting olympia.

The Temple of Hera was devoted to the queen of the Greek gods. It’s also one of Greece’s oldest monumental temples. Even today, a torch is lit here every two years, before the summer or winter games commence.

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This original stadium for the Games is around 2,500 years old. Many of the events of the ancient Olympic Games were held here. They took place every four years between 776 BC and 393 AD.

When it initially opened in 1888, the Archaeological Museum of Olympia was the first Greek museum outside Athens. It’s still one of the country’s main museums – and visiting it is one of the most popular things to do in Olympia, Greece.

The exhibits here showcase the history of Olympia, Greece, and also tell the tale of the ancient Olympic Games at the Museum of the History of the Olympic Games in Antiquity. At the same site, there is also the Museum of the History of the Excavations in Olympia, which is pretty self-explanatory!

Thousands of years’ worth of artworks are on display at the main archaeological museum. The depository also houses two important statues – Hermes of Praxiteles, and the Statue of Nike of Paionios. You can also see some other statues from the Temple of Zeus here.

You’ll need to visit the Archaeological Museum of Olympia if you want to see Hermes of Praxiteles, Hermes and the Infant Dionysus, or the Hermes of Olympia, as the statue is known.

It was discovered in 1877, among the Temple of Hera ruins in Olympia. Praxiteles is credited with its creation, and it’s seen as a classic example of Hellenism. 

The Statue of Nike of Paionios is also located within the museum. It depicts the Greek goddess of victory, Nike, and was sculpted by Paionios. 

The Parian marble the victorious winged figure is made from is pure white, and almost translucent. Though it suffered damage due to the ravages of time, it’s still an impressive sight. 

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The weather in Olympia is generally warm, thanks to the Mediterranean climate. It can get very hot in summer, so bring a hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses. It’s relatively cold in winter, but fairly mild in southern Greece as compared to northern Europe and northern parts of the US. 

If you’d like to stay over in this historic, sunkissed part of southern Greece, then here are some of the best hotels in the area. Due to the balmy climate, properties here tend to be like holiday resorts, with outdoor pools, restaurants, bars, and more. So it can be a pleasant place to stay over for a night – or a few. 

Situated in Ancient Olympia atop Drouvas Hill, Hotel Europa Olympia offers sweeping views over the area. It’s a four star property in a lovely location, with an outdoor swimming pool and pool bar. Both ancient Olympia and the town centre are close by. 

All accommodation here comes with marble flooring and a private balcony. As well as rooms, there are larger suites and apartments with up to three bedrooms. 

Hotel Europa Olympia also offers a Greek restaurant, plus several bars. This restaurant has the highest ratings in Olympia (find out more below). With free parking on site and an airport transfer service, it’s ideal for those arriving in the area by car or by plane.

Click here to book Hotel Europa Olympia

This hotel in Olympia, Greece is around a mile-and-a-half from the Temple of Zeus and the archaeological museum. Set among pretty gardens, it has an outdoor pool, and all rooms come with a balcony or terrace. 

Amalia Hotel Olympia also offers guest lounges, a bar with a fireplace, and Artemis Restaurant, which serves three meals a day. The breakfast is highly rated, as is the level of service offered by staff. 

There is free parking here, too, which is perfect for those arriving in the area by car. The pool and Mediterranean gardens give this hotel a resort-like feel, which may make you want to linger in the area for longer. 

Click here to book Amalia Hotel Olympia

With the sights of ancient Olympia under a mile away, Olympion Asty Hotel is ideally – and also idyllically – located. There are fabulous views over the valley, river, and bay, and the sunsets are breathtaking. 

Rooms and suites come with private balconies. Family rooms are available, which can comfortably sleep up to six.

This clean, peaceful place offers excellent service, great food at the restaurant, parking, a bar, and well-maintained grounds. 

Click here to book Olympion Asty Hotel

If you want to grab a bite to eat while visiting ancient Olympia, here are the top three cafes and restaurants in the area. 

This Greek taverna is situated at the Hotel Europa Olympia, on the top of Drouva Hill. It serves Greek and Mediterranean fare between May and October. The food, service, and views are all outstanding. 

Pheidias Grill House can be found in town, next to the pharmacy. The owner extends a warm welcome to every guest, and you can expect authentic Greek cooking. Dishes are freshly prepared, packed with flavour, filling, and affordable. 

Whether you want Greek food, would like to dine on Italian or are more about the desserts, don’t miss Zeys in Olympia town. As well as Greek fare, you can expect burgers, pizzas, pasta, and more. The cocktails are also very good, and prices are very reasonable.

Ancient Olympia Common Grounds

There are several compelling reasons to visit Olympia. It’s ideal for anyone interested in ancient Greek culture. The remains of the Temple of Zeus are here, which once housed the Statue of Zeus, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

You can also find out all about the history of the ancient and modern Olympics. There’s also museums at Olympia dedicated to the excavation of the site, Olympic history, and centuries of art. 

Olympia also enjoys an idyllic setting, among the Greek countryside and farmland, near the west coast of the Pelopponese. 

One day in Olympia, Greece is enough to explore ancient Olympia, including the ruins and the trio of museums. 

You could spend more time in the area, however. There are some good places to eat on Drouva Hill and in town. If you’d like to stay over, there are lovely resort-style hotels with outdoor pools in the area too. 

Olympia is a fascinating place for anyone interested in Greek mythology and sporting history. As part of the Pelopponese, the site makes a great road trip destination. There’s also some good restaurants in Olympia town, and places to stay with outdoor pools for summer. 

Whether you take an organised day tour, make a stop on your Greek road trip, or take a side trip from the cruise port, Olympia is well worth a day or more of your time!