The country of Greece can trace its roots all the way back to ancient times.
Their rich cultural traditions, unforgettable landscape, and delicious food make it a favorite destination for travelers. Check out these fun facts about Greece.
Basic Facts About Greece
Greece sits on a peninsula that juts into the Mediterranean Sea. It is a rocky country with around 2000 islands sprinkled around it. Its capital is Athens.
The Greek flag is blue and white stripes with a white cross in the upper left-hand corner.
The population of Greece is around 10 million people, and 99% of them speak the national language, which is (surprise!) Greek. It’s the oldest language still spoken today.
Read on for more fun facts about Greece!
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1. You’ll Need to Try Souvlaki More Than Once
Greek food is renowned for its flavors. One of the most popular dishes is souvlaki, but every restaurant in Greece has its own recipe.
You’ll have to order it from different places and choose your favorite!
Hunks of meat are marinated, skewered, and grilled. The meat is served on top of a pita or alongside french fries. A special dipping sauce sits to the side.
If you have room for dessert, don’t miss baklava. Flaky layers of phyllo pastry surround layers of crushed nuts and sweet, thick honey.
2. The Kithara Makes Sweet Music
Picture a handheld harp. You are close to visualizing the kithara, an ancient Greek musical instrument.
The English word “guitar” comes from “kithara” since both are stringed instruments.
The kithara has seven strings and is said to have been invented by the Greek god Apollo.
3. It Turns Out the Greeks Invented Everything
Okay, technically, this is not true, but the Greeks did invent an astounding amount of world-changing items and ideas, from money to maps, geometry to thermometers, and umbrellas to alarm clocks.
4. Delphi Is Where Kings and Queens Went for Advice
In ancient Greece, the god Apollo was the one who knew the future. His representatives on the earth were women called oracles.
The most famous oracle dwelled in his temple in the city of Delphi.
Famous leaders from all over the ancient world traveled to Delphi to visit the temple of Apollo and hear from the oracle.
This ancient temple’s ruins are still present today. You can walk through an ancient stadium that seated almost 5,000 people and see a bronze statue that is 2,500 years old.
5. The First Olympics Happened in Greece
The Olympics were invented by the Greeks in 776 BCE to honor their chief god, Zeus.
Even though the cities in Greece were often at war with one another, they would pause their fighting to compete against each other in the Olympic Games.
The Games did not have all the events we have today. They did have sprinting, wrestling, discus, and chariot racing. Only men were allowed to compete.
6. Drinking Coffee Takes Hours
If someone in Greece asks you to go for coffee, prepare to spend hours at the coffee shop!
The Greeks love this leisure time. The conversation is relaxed and punctuated with very slow sips.
So sit back with your frappe, espresso, or cappuccino and enjoy the slower pace of life and the leisurely conversation.
7. Greece Makes 275,000 Gallons of Olive Oil a Year
Olive trees are abundant in Greece, and the tiny green fruit can be pressed for olive oil.
Greece is one of the top producers of this flavorful oil, second only to Italy and Spain.
The traditional method of olive picking involves pounding the trees with large sticks to make the olives fall to the ground.
In any given year, Greece will produce more than 2 million olives.
8. The Greek National Anthem Has 158 Verses
“The Hymn of Liberty” became the Greek national anthem in 1865. It is played at the close of every one of the modern Olympic Games.
The song has 158 verses to it, but only two are sung as the national anthem.
9. Santa Claus Is Greek
St. Nicholas, whose name is lent to Jolly Old St. Nick, was a Greek bishop born in 270 AD/CE.
St. Nicholas dropped bags of gold coins into the houses of the poor.
10. Greece Isn’t Officially Greece
Greece’s official name is actually the Hellenic Republic, and Greek refer to themselves as “Hellenes.”
It was the Romans who called the Hellenes “the Greeks,” and the name stuck with English-speaking people.
Read More About Greece
Check out these books to learn even more fun facts about Greece.
Greece Fun Facts Picture Book for Kids
This book has bright photographs and fun facts that will appeal to young kids. Greece is a gorgeous country, and these photos do it justice.
A Kid’s Guide to Greece
This book is chock full of trivia and fun facts about Greece. It is aimed at kids in late elementary and middle school.
National Geographic The Greeks: An Illustrated History
This book has stunning photos and an in-depth narrative of the history of the Greek people. Best suited for high school and adults.