A visit to the ancient site of Philippi has been on my bucket list for years. Why? Well, it is one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites in Greece. But what has truly drawn me to visit this site, is that it tells a story of multiple eras. From the ancient Greeks, to the Romans, and the early Christians. Philippi is one of the few archeological sites in Greece that allow you to travel through centuries of history within one place.
Philippi’s location is the only thing preventing this site from being on the list of top tourist destinations in Greece. The city ruins are located just above Kavala, in Macedonia, North-East Greece. You can reach the site within 2 hours from Thessaloniki International Airport, or you can fly to Kavala from Athens Airport. A visit to Philippi is easy to combine with more off-the-beaten-path holiday destinations like Chalkidiki, Thrace, or Thasos.
The archeological site of Philippi has a long and rich history. The city has known many users and has transformed with each of them. On-site, there is a lot of information about the history, transformation, and use of the buildings in different eras. But to give you an idea of what to expect, here is a quick overview of what happened at Philippi.
The Ancient Greeks
It all started with the Thasians (colonists from the close-by island of Thasos) in 360 B.C. They came to the mainland and settled at the spot that is now Philippi. However, by this time, they called it Crenides. A few years later, the Macedonian King Philip conquered this settlement and gave it its current name.
Philippi was in Macedonian hands till 168 B.C., during this time, the city grew to play an important role in the kingdom. The ancient theatre and (the start of) the via Egnatia were constructed.
The Roman era
When the Roman Empire took over Philippi, they named it Amphipolis and transformed it into a “Little Rome”. The theatre was adjusted and extended to hold Roman games, and a classical Roman Forum was created. The Romans also completed the via Egnatia, a kind of old-time highway, connecting modern-day Turkey with Albania. The importance of Philippi in the Roman Era is what gave the site its spot and the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Christianity and later
The early Christian era enriched the archeological site with beautiful mosaics and basilicas, dedicated to the apostle Paul. The Early Christian monuments of Philippi are among the best-preserved of their type and for this historical period in the whole world. However, in the 6th century B.C. the Slavic invasion, a plague pandemic, and an earthquake destroyed the city. Later in history, the strategic location made Philippi a well-wanted area in many wars, however, the city never became great again.
The ancient site of Philippi is huge and offers so many interesting places and history lessons. At the start, there is the ancient theatre where you can take a seat and enjoy the magnificent view of the surrounding landscape.
After the theatre, you pass from the Basilica, the via Egnatia, the Forum, the Octagon, and the famous Basilica B. Every building either is constructed at a different time or transformed by different users. A visit to this ancient site is an incredible and unique experience. A real-life history class.
At the end of the site, there is a museum you should not miss out on. Incredible statues, jewelry, and tools of different centuries are on display here. And for the hikers amongst us, there is the opportunity to take a 40-minute hike up the mountain to visit the Acropolis.
- Entrance to the site of Philippi is not free. A ticket costs €6,-, or €3,- if you’re in school or over 65 years old. During the summer, the site is open from 08:00 to 20:00. For the rest of the years, check the opening hours on this website.
- Prepare to walk a lot when you visit Philippi. There are about 2 kilometers of hiking trails on site, which you will walk back and forth so be prepared. Unfortunately, these paths are not paved and impossible to access by wheelchair. However, for people with disabilities the entrance is free, so you can visit the museum, see the theatre, and enjoy a coffee at the restaurant at the start of the site.
- If you visit the archeological site of Philippi during the summer months, take a lot of water with you, use sunblock or/and a hat, and try to plan your visit early in the morning or the evening.
- Combine a visit to Philippi with a stay in Kavala, Thasos, Xanthi, or Chalkidiki.
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