Interesting Facts About Greece: 50+ Things You May Not Know
Ever wanted to visit Greece? Well, before booking your next getaway, learn more than 50 interesting facts about the country that will make you want to pack up and head straight for this beautiful European destination. This summer there has been one place on everyone’s mind–Greece! Known for its beaches, isles, culture & ancient history; it offers so much more than just an amazing vacation spot. But how well do you really know this splendid Mediterranean nation?
Sure you may know many common fun facts about Greece including that is one of the oldest countries or a thing or two about Greek mythology, but we are diving in to share the most interesting facts about Greece you need to know before your visit.
What is Greece known for?
Greece is known for its rich history, especially how it was the birthplace of democracy. Greece is also known for its beautiful blue coastlines and picturesque villages on top of hills. The Greek islands are a popular destination because they are close to mainland Europe but have unique cultures!
From the population to ancient history, for centuries Greece has been one of the most popular and interesting countries in the world. The Greek culture and lifestyle are craved by international visitors who after experiencing just days in the coastal paradise, never want to leave. Learning these interesting facts about Greece and its history, food, culture, and more will make you want to visit the country, travel like a local, island hop from the mainland to Santorini to Milos and beyond, and give Greece a top spot on this year’s bucket list.
Quick Greece Facts
Population10.72 million (2019)
Neighbouring countriesAlbania, North Macedonia, Bulgaria, and Turkey
Anthem“Hymn to Liberty” or “Hymn to Freedom”
Ancient Greece Facts
Fun Fact 1: Ancient Greece refers to 700-480 B.C. It’s no surprise that Greece has one of the oldest and longest histories, but one of the biggest misconceptions is that the period most famous for architecture, art, and philosophy is the Archaic or Ancient Greek period. However, it was in fact the Classical Age (480-323 B.C.). Ancient Greece is responsible for advances in art, technology, and poetry. One of the most interesting facts about Greece’s Ancient Greek period is that it was during this time in which the city-state was invented.
Fun Fact 2: Athens, the capital of Greece, is Europe’s oldest capital. Athen’s origins date back as far as 3,400 years ago making it one of the oldest cities in the entire world.
Fun Fact 3: Athens has been continuously inhabited for at least 7,000 years.
Fun Fact 4: Greece is the country where democracy started. People in Greece got together and decided what they wanted to do. It also was the country that gave birth to Western civilization. This means Greek history has had an enormous impact on our lives. Here are 11 fun facts about Greece!
Fun Fact 5: The first Olympic Games took place in Greece more than 2600 years ago in 776 B.C. in Olympia. The tradition of the games lasted until 393 A.D. and did not return until the first Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, in 1896.
Fun Fact 6: Women were forbidden to watch or participate in the ancient Olympic Games.
Fun Fact 7: The two major Greek poems, the Odyssey and the Iliad by Homer were written during the ancient Greece period.
Fun Fact 8: Greece’s official name is the Hellenic Republic, also known as Hellas.
Fun Fact 9: In ancient Greece, there were over 1,000 city-states (Greek Polis). The main were Athína (Athens), Spárti (Sparta), Kórinthos (Corinth), Thíva (Thebes), Siracusa (Syracuse), Égina (Aegina), Ródos (Rhodes), Árgos, Erétria, and Elis.
Fun Fact 10: Ancient Greeks cleaned clothes with fat from sacrificed animals.
Fun Fact 11: Many Ancient Greeks believed that eating beans was bad because they had the souls of dead people in them.
Greek Geography and Cities
Fun Fact 12: Mount Olympus is the highest mountain in Greece and one of the highest peaks in Europe. Located on the border between Thessaly and Macedonia, the mountain rises up to 2,917 meters above sea level.
Fun Fact 13: Greece is one of the most mountainous countries in Europe, and 80% of the country is mountainous. Aside from Mount Olympus, the country is home to other well-known mountains, such as the Parnassus, Taygetos, and Pelion;
Fun Fact 14: Greece has the longest coastline in Southern Europe – over 60 km of it surrounds Athens!
Fun Fact 15: Greece is smaller in size than the state of Alabama, in the USA;
Fun Fact 16: About one-third of the Greek population lives in the capital Athens.
Fun Fact 17: Thessaloniki is the second-largest city in Greece;
Fun Fact 18: The highest temperature ever recorded in Europe was in Athens — 48° C on July 10, 1977.
Facts about Greek Mythology & Architecture
Fun Fact 19: Greece has more archaeological museums than any country in the world. Some of these archaeological museums include the most famous, Acropolis in Athens, The Archeological Museum of Rhodes, National Archeological Museum, and many more.
Fun Fact 20: Greece is home to 18 UNESCO World Heritage sites including the Acropolis, Mount Athos, Old Town of Corfu, and Medieval City of Rhodes. According to the official list, there are 14 locations that are currently pending consideration for becoming a Greek UNESCO World Heritage site.
Fun Fact 21: Aside from being one of the most prominent World Heritage Sites in Greece, the Acropolis is considered to be the symbol of Athens and Western Civilization. It’s also the most popular tourist attraction in the country.
Fun Fact 22: Greek mythology is still relevant in Greece today. There were twelve Olympic gods celebrated in Ancient Greece, including Zeus, leader of the Olympians, Hera, Zeus’s wife and sister, and Athena, goddess of wisdom, defense, and war. The famous Hercules, a son of Zeus, was not actually a Greek god but is still known as the greatest hero in Greek mythology.
Fun Fact 23: Athena defeated Poseidon to become the guardian of Athens. They each gave the city a gift, Athena an olive tree and Poseidon water in the form of a spring. The people of Athens thought the olive tree was much more useful as it could provide food, oil, and wood.
Fun Fact 24: Columns are very symbolic of Greek architecture. There are three main types of columns used to build Greek temples and structures. They are Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian.
Fun Fact 25: The famous saying “taking the bull by its horns” comes from the Greek myth of Hercules saving Crete from a raging bull by seizing its horns.
Fun Fact 26: The Acropolis of Athens almost became one of the “New 7 Wonders of the World”, but Mexico’s Chichén Itzá made it to the list.
Interesting facts about Greek Isles
Fun Fact 27: Greece has over 6,000 islands. These islands are spread throughout the Aegean Sea and are some of the most popular destinations to visit in the world. Only 200 of these islands are populated.
Fun Fact 28: Crete is the largest Greek Island. The entire island is 3218.548 square miles (8836 square kilometers) and has a population of over 630,000 people. In comparison, Halki is the smallest inhabited Greek island and is only 11 square miles (28 square kilometers).
Fun Fact 29: Greece is one of the sunniest places in the world, with 85% of sunshine a year. This means that country has 300 days of sunshine per year.
Fun Fact 30: Santorini Island is an active volcano. The last eruption recorded was in 1950. Santorini is also commonly known as the most popular Greek Island to visit.
Fun Fact 31: Santorini is the world’s only inhabited caldera.
Fun Fact 32: Many houses in the Greek isles are white-washed with blue doors and roofs. That color is believed to keep evil spirits away.
Fun Fact 33: One of the Greek Islands, Mykonos, has an official mascot, which is a pelican named Petros.
Fun Fact 34: Mykonos was nicknamed “The Island of the Winds” due to the strong Meltemi winds that sweep through the Aegean Sea.
Fun Fact 35: In Mykonos, doors and shutters are painted blue, green, or red, as slanders would paint them according to their profession.
Fun Fact 36: Greece has two pink sand beaches: Elafonisi, and Balos, in Crete.
Fun Fact 37: The Mamma Mia movies were filmed on the Greek islands of Skopelos and Vis.
Bonus Fun Fact: Amid the Coronavirus pandemic, Corfu and Preveza, Greece, were named two of the European Best Destination‘s safest cities to visit in summer 2020.
Facts about Greek Culture & Lifestyle
Fun Fact 38: Athens has the most theatrical stages in the world. More than New York’s Broadway or London’s West End. There are a total of 148 theatrical stages in Athens.
Fun Fact 39: 98% of Greece’s population are ethnic Greeks. 40% of the entire population resides in the capital city, Athens.
Fun Fact 40: Ikaria is one of the five blue zones in the world. Blue zones were founded by Dan Buettner. The concept of a blue zone is based on people living longer and happier lives based on the average lifespan of the population in the area is one of the longest in the world.
Fun Fact 41: There are over 4,000 official traditional dances throughout Greece.
Fun Fact 42: Greek grandparents usually live with their children’s families until they pass away. There are very few retirement homes in Greece, so grandparents will live with the family of their children for the rest of their lives.
Fun Fact 43: The word “alphabet” refers to the first two letters of the Greek alphabet, alpha (α) and beta (β);
Fun Fact 44: The Ancient Greek alphabet is the oldest written language to still be used to the present days;
Fun Fact 45: You speak Greek and you don’t know it! The Greek language has contributed to the English vocabulary, and 150.000 of English words derive from Greek. Examples: economy, academy, paradise, school, poem, and decade, just to name a few.
Fun Fact 46: The evil eye, or mati, is a common Greek superstition. It’s believed to be a negative energy, such as jealousy or hostility, and it can cause several bad things, such as headaches, weakness and bad luck. To protect against the harmful energies of the evil eye, Greeks wear a mati pendant, a blue and white eye charm which dates back to the 6th century BC.
Fun Fact 47: 90% of the population of Greece is Christian Orthodox, and the Orthodox Church is the third largest branch of Christianity, after the Roman Catholics and the Protestants. There are also Muslims, Jewish and Catholics in Greece.
Fun Fact 48: In Greece, it’s common to celebrate name days instead of birthdays. They have a holy name calendar, and each day of the year is dedicated to a Christian saint or martyr. According to the Greek Orthodox tradition, when someone is named after one of these holy figures, that saint’s day becomes their “name day”.
Fun Fact 49: “ Eleftheria i Thanatos” is the motto of the Hellenic Republic and it means Liberty or Death.
Fun Fact 50: The Greek flag, also known as the Γαλανόλευκη (galanolefki) or Κυανόλευκη (kyanolefki), consists of a cross in the upper left corner, and nine horizontal lines of sky blue and white alternated. It’s said that the nine stripes represent the nine syllables of the phrase “’Eleftheria I Thanatos”, but some say they symbolize the nine letters of the Greek word “freedom” (eleftheria).
Fun Fact 51: At traditional Greek weddings, the best man will shave the groom on the day of the ceremony. This gesture symbolizes trust.
Interesting Facts about Greek Cuisine
Fun Fact 52: A typical meal in ancient Greece always included bread, olives, and wine.
Fun Fact 53: Lunch is called “mesimeriano” and it is the most important meal of the day in Greece.
Fun Fact 54: The famous term, the “Mediterranean Diet” is based on food patterns that originated in Crete, Greece. It’s impossible not to eat well when visiting this island in Greece. And the country as a whole. The Mediterranean Diet includes vegetables, olive oil, nuts fish, grains, and a low intake of red meat.
Fun Fact 55: Winemaking in Greece has been a tradition for 4,000 years. There are over 600 wineries in Greece.
Fun Fact 56: Olive oil is a staple thanks to the thousands of olive trees that have been in the country since ancient times. Greece is also known to be the country in the world with the most olive oil consumption per capita. In fact, many greek women rubbed olive oil into their skin to make it soft.
Fun Fact 57: Greece is the third-largest producer of olives in the world, and it produces more than 430,000 tons of olive oil annually.
Fun Fact 58: According to Greek mythology, goddess Athena gave the first olive tree to Athens before it spread to the rest of Greece.
Fun Fact 59: Aside from being a leading producer of olives, Greece is also known for its Feta Cheese, which is one of the country’s most important exports. In fact, the cheese was affectionately nicknamed “white gold”.
Fun Fact 60: The ancient Greeks believed that milk was a sacred food and, according to Greek mythology, the gods sent the son of Apollo to teach the Greeks the secrets of cheese making.