Mystras is a fortified city on a hillside in the Peloponnese and a fascinating open air museum.
The Byzantine structures of the Archaeological Site of Mystras were originally built between the 13th and 15th centuries. Wandering the paths, you’ll climb up and down and discover the ruins of city gates, palaces, churches and even a monastery and a convent that is still inhabited by caretaker nuns.
Taken by the Byzantines in 1262, Mystras was later occupied by the Turks and the Venetians. In the 1800s the city on the mountainside was abandoned with most of the residents moving to the town of Sparta down the hill.
Mystras is an amazing sight to visit anytime but is especially wonderful during low season when you might have the place mostly to yourself. You can almost hear the whispers of the previous inhabitants across the centuries. Around each turn is another fantastic building with frescoes or intricate stonework.
One of my favorite things about this site, and other sites in Greece, is the free access you have to wander the area on your own and discover its secrets. Contrast this with a visit to Stonehenge which is undoubtably amazing but doesn’t have the same effect as peeking into an ancient Byzantine church to discover beautiful artworks inside. It’s almost like you have accidentally found these ruins while hiking.
Mystras is a unique example of a Byzantine city, as the center of the Byzantine state, Mystras was also an intellectual, cultural and artistic center. The art of Mystras influenced painting throughout the region.
Lovers of history, architecture and nature will enjoy this archaeological open-air museum and UNESCO World Heritage Site.
If you liked the Archaeological Site of Mystras you might also enjoy:
- Alhambra de Granada
- Mezquita-Cathedral de Cordoba
- Alcazaba de Málaga
- Zaanse Schans
- Basilica Cistern