Sparta (or Sparti) in the Peloponnese of Greece was one of the most
important city-states of ancient Greece and has some archaeological
remains at Ancient Sparta.
View of Sparta from Mystras
Photo used under Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.
Sparta in the Peloponnese isn’t on most people’s list of must-see places in
Greece, but it has a distinguished history and an archaeological site which
makes it worth visiting for a day or two. See our list of the Top Archaeological
Sites in the Peloponnese.
Sparta City Center and Town Hall
The History of Sparta
The long and remarkable history of Sparta has filled many
books, so we won’t try to emulate those here. The city is thought to have been
founded in about the 9th century BC, and by 650 BC was the greatest military
power in ancient Greece. It fought and defeated Athens in the Peloponnesian War
of 431 to 404 BC, though began to go into decline after the Romans conquered
Greece in 146 BC. Today it is the capital of the Greek region of Laconia, and
has a population of under 40,000.
What to Do in Sparta
The site of Ancient Sparta is just a few minutes’ drive north
of the city centre, where housing gives way to agriculture. If you leave the
city on the main road to the site you will first come across the Statue of
Leonidas. Leonidas was one of Sparta’s prominent kings, and his tomb can be
found at the site of Ancient Sparta.
As well as the tomb of Leonidas, at Ancient Sparta you will also
find the remains of a theatre, the acropolis, ancient walls, a temple, and a
10th-century monastic church.
Sparta Archaeological Museum
Photo licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.
Sparta’s Archaeological Museum naturally has the rich finds
from the site of Ancient Sparta. It’s one of the oldest archaeological museums
in Greece and was the first outside Athens when it opened in 1876. It’s now a
listed building and also contains Roman remains, Roman mosaics, and finds from
the wider region of Laconia.
On the very southwestern edge of the city is this absolutely
fascinating museum which explores everything about the olive and olive oil,
both central to the Greek economy. You’ll see fossilised olive leaves that are
60,000 year old, learn about the history of the olive tree from prehistoric times,
the harvesting of olives, the many uses of olive oil, and see examples of olive
presses throughout history as well as working miniature models of olive
Getting to Sparta
Map (c) Google Maps
Sparta is in the centre of the southern half of the Peloponnese.
It’s to the east of Mount Taygetos in the Evrotas River valley.
Sparta is about an hour’s drive east of Kalamata if you take the much longer but much quicker route via Gefyra, and about 90 minutes if you take the straight route due east through the mountains. It’s almost a two-hour drive southwest from Nafplion, and three-to-four hours from Patras.
If you’re flying, the nearest international airport is in
Kalamata, with a wide range of seasonal flights from throughout Europe. The
other alternative is to fly to Athens and rent a car. It’s a two-to-three-hour
drive to Sparta if going direct from Athens International Airport.
Where to Stay in
Other Peloponnese pages
The top archaeological sites in the Peloponnese in Greece include Epidavros, Olympia, Mycenae, Mystras, Tiryns, and Argos.
The Temple of Bassae in Messenia in the Peloponnese of Greece is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most important archaeological sites in Greece.
The Peloponnese in Greece has such sights as Olympia, Mycenae, the Mani, Nafplion, Corinth and Epidavros.
The Greece Travel Secrets guide to the ancient archaeological site of Tiryns, near Mycenae, in the Peloponnese of Greece, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Patras, or Patra, in the Peloponnese is Greece's third-largest city, home to Greece's largest Carnival, with many Roman and Greek remains, museums and churches.
Kalamata in the Peloponnese is the area's second-biggest city and is world-famous for the quality of its olives and for the nearby site of Ancient Messene.
The Nemean Games, like the Olympic Games, take place every four years but, unlike the Olympics, anyone can apply to take part and run in the original stadium.
Nafplion in the Peloponnese was the Greek capital before Athens and today is a charming waterfront town with good restaurants, museums, shopping, beaches, old fortresses and a delightful atmosphere.
The ruined Byzantine city of Mystras sits on the top and the slopes of a hill that juts out from the plain and is one of the most remarkable places in Greece.
Mycenae in the Greek Peloponnese was a royal palace and is famous for the royal tombs, Lion Gate, and was excavated by archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann.
Greece Travel Secrets reviews the photography book Monemvasia with extracts from works by Yiannis Ritsos and Nikos Kazantzakis.
The Mani in the south of the Peloponnese is the most southerly part of the Greek mainland and famous for its rugged landscape, feuds, and tower houses.
The ancient theatre at Epidavros is one of Greece's greatest attractions, ranking alongside the Acropolis and the Palace at Knossos in Crete, and it is easily the finest theatre in Greece.
Corinth has four aspects to it, which are the Corinth canal, the modern town of Corinth, nearby Ancient Corinth, and above that Akrokorinthos or Upper Corinth.
The Bradt Guide to the Peloponnese is the best book on the Greek region which includes attractions like Mycenae, Epidavros, Olympia, Monemvasia and Nafplion.
Travel guide to Ancient Olympia in the Peloponnese of mainland Greece, home to the original Olympic Games.
Monemvasia in the Peloponnese is the Greek Rock of Gibraltar and is a huge offshore rock which conceals a tiny town connected to the mainland by a single road.
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