Fascinating towns and cities of the Greek Islands

The Greek Islands hold a romance and mysticism that make them the ideal holiday spot. Crystal blue waters, culture by the barrel load, and warm, hospitable people – could you ask for anything more?

How about great towns and cities that enthral and surprise? Well, they've got those too.

Athens

No list of Greek cities can exist without mentioning Athens. It's the historical capital of Europe and the origin of some of the greatest works of mythicism, culture, art, philosophy and science the world has known.

The first settlement of the area can be dated back to the Neolithic age but it wasn't until the 5th century BC that the city really came into its own. Known as the 'Golden Age of Pericles', this period in history is when the city was at its most prosperous and at its most politically significant. It was during this time that playwrights Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides lived and historians Herodotus and Thucydides walked the streets.

Physician Hippocrates and philosopher Socrates also lived during this time, making it an exciting place to be.

Athens derives much of its vibrancy from its multitude of conquerors who shaped the city and erected some of the historic sites we know today.

No visit to Athens is complete without a trip to the Acropolis, the Parthenon or the Ancient Agora of Athens, to name but a few.

Nafplion

A stunning example of the Byzantine era, this is one of the most breathtaking towns in the Argolis and has a rich history.

Founded by Nafplios, believed to be the son of Poseidon and daughter of Danaus Anymone, Nafplion can be traced back to the prehistoric era.

While it went into decline during the Roman era, it resurged during Byzantine times and bears the marks of Frankish, Venetian and Turkish conquerors. You can see it's history played out in its architecture, traditions and its people.

So central is this town that between 1823 and 1834 Nafplio was the first capital of the new Greek state.

Visitors to the town can marvel at the medieval castle, commanding statues, idyllic fountains and ancient walls.

Sparta

Any fans of Greek military history need to go to Sparta – it is the location of the ancient military state of Sparta and anyone who's seen the film 300 will know that it bred its people to be strong in body, healthy in mind and brave in character.

The ancient site of Sparta is located close to the modern city centre and was previously occupied by a small group of people who lived among the ruins.

Visitors should be sure to see the Tomb of Leonidas, the theatre of ancient Sparta and the Archeological museum.

In Ancient Sparta, enter the South Gate of the Acropolis and see the Temple of Athena Chalkioikos. North in the ruins is the Heroon and the Altar of Lykourgos.

Rhodes

The capital city of the island of Rhodes, it is one of the most famous and ancient spots in Greece. Rhodes is now a World Heritage site and its past is etched beautifully on its stone walls.

The city used to be home to the Colossus, which was classed as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The old town is also one of the best preserved historic sites, giving visitors a real atmosphere.

When in the city it's important to drop by the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes and the Archbishops Palace. Both are beautiful buildings and contain examples of the history of the city.

The examples above are but a taste of what can be experienced on a cruising holiday in Greece with Seafarer. Witness the Peloponnese peninsula in southern Greece, home to the fascinating historical site Mystra. A glorious airy ruin hugging a lush, vegetated foothill, the Byzantine ruins here are extremely intact. Or else experience the delights that Thessaloniki has to offer. Winding alleys, monumental gates and medieval houses are yours to explore. Finally, don't forget to check out Corfu for examples of French, British and Venetian architecture from throughout the ages.