Our Family Day Trip to Olympia Greece

Our Family Day Trip to Olympia Greece pin

Last year, we got the chance to visit one of the places that had been high up on our bucket list. Home to the famous Olympic Games, Olympia Greece is a stop that’ll please any history or Greek mythology buff. Though we only got to visit the ancient city briefly, we had a great time and left with lifelong memories.

As our son with autism dislikes touring with large groups, we booked a private tour guide and customized our visit. During booking, our guide suggested we visit the ruins early in the morning to avoid crowds. He also said we should visit the local museum, after which we could enjoy a late lunch at a typical Greek taverna.

Gymnasium, Leonidaion, and Phidias’ Workshop

On the day of the trip, our tour guide Nikos met us at the entrance to the port as scheduled. After a 45-minute drive, we arrived at our first stop, the ruins. As we entered the area, we passed by the Gymnasium, Leonidaion, and Phidias’ Workshop.

Our Family Day Trip to Olympia Greece field

The Gymnasium was an ancient Greek training grounds for those competing in the games. The name “gymnasium” originated from the ancient Greek term “gymnos,” which means “naked.” Athletes in the games often competed in the nude, a fact which likely inspired the name. Other than a place for training, the gymnasium was where the athletes socialized and enjoyed mental as well as physical activities.

The Leonidaion was a luxury hotel for competing athletes. Leonidas of Naxos commissioned and designed the lodging area, constructing it as the largest building on the Olympia site. During the Roman period, the Leonidaion was remodeled with a garden and a pool.

Our Family Day Trip to Olympia Greece distant

Phidias was a well-known artist who is famous for his Statue of Zeus, considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Phidias’ Workshop was likely where the artist developed his famous statue. Archaeological excavations identified the location as Phidias’ workshop with the discovery of a cup with an inscription on the bottom. The inscription translated to “I belong to Phidias.” Archaeologists used this location to reconstruct the methodologies behind the creation of the statue.

Temple of Zeus

The Temple of Zeus, which held Phidias’ statue, was next. An interesting fact about this temple was that the primary structure was carved out of local limestone, considered bad quality. Therefore, builders coated the limestone with stucco to give it the appearance of marble, matching the sculptures decorating the rest of the building. The roof was made of marble, cut so thin that it was translucent.Our Family Day Trip to Olympia Greece ruin

There were many sculptures depicting scenes decorating the temple, but the Statue of Zeus was by far the most impressive. The statue featured Zeus sitting on an elaborate cedar wood throne ornamented with ebony, ivory, gold and precious stones. The work measured 44 feet in height and 22 feet in width.

Olympia’s Stadium

We entered Olympia’s  rectangular stadium through a stone archway. In its glory days, the stadium could seat over 40,000 men. Greece held Olympic Games in this stadium between 776 B.C. and 393 A.D.

Our guide revealed that The Olympic Games were created after a sacred truce was signed by three kings; Iphitus of Elis, Lycurgus of Sparta and Cleisthenes of Pisa. The agreement ensured that hostilities between the kings would cease and no executions would happen during the games. Ancient Greece held the games in honor of Zeus, and the Olympics continued well into Roman rule until Emperor Theodosius the First stopped them in 393 AD in his campaign to force Christianity on the Roman Empire.

Our Family Day Trip to Olympia Greece pillar

Temple of Hera and Olympic Torch

Continuing north, we came across the Temple of Hera, the site’s most intact structure, built in 590 B.C. During its prime, the temple stored items considered relevant to the Greek culture and offerings from the people of Greece. Today, the Olympic torch is lit here, though that certainly wasn’t the case in ancient Greece.

Our Family Day Trip to Olympia Greece tree

The highlight of the tour undoubtedly when we saw where the torch of the Olympic flame was originally lit – in the spot the Temple of Hestia once stood. Our kids, brushing up on their Greek mythology, discovered to their fascination that the torch symbolizes the fire Prometheus stole from the gods.

Archaeological Museum of Olympia

Next, we headed to the Archaeological Museum of Olympia. This venue is one of the most important museums in Greece and boasts thousands of artifacts. One of its permanent exhibitions contains the findings from the excavations in the sacred precinct of the Altis dating from prehistoric times to the Early Christian period.

Our Family Day Trip to Olympia Greece land

The museum is famous for two sculptures collections: the Bronze collection and the Terracotta collection. These groups feature sculptured ornaments from the Temple of Zeus, twelve metopes (a name for an architectural rectangle), and lion-headed water spouts.

Other noteworthy displays included the statue of Hermes carrying an infant Dionysos and one of Nike of Paionios dedicated by the Messenians in honor their victory over the Spartans.

Lunch at Touris Club

By now we had walked extensively for hours and built quite an appetite for a late lunch. Our guide suggested we stop at the Touris Club, a family-run taverna, for a bite to eat while enjoying some authentic Greek entertainment.

Our Family Day Trip to Olympia Greece dance

The buffet style lunch included Greek dishes like eggplant dip (melitzanosalata), tiropita, olive tapenade, and souvlaki chicken prepared with fresh lemon, garlic & olive oil. Once the diners had completed their meals, the folkloric dance show began. Four dancers dressed in national costumes performed in the show. The dancers were lively and engaging. They got everyone up and dancing, including our son with autism who is usually shy. Soon people were dancing on tables.

Our Family Day Trip to Olympia Greece dance2

A few glasses of wine and ouzo later, everyone was having a great time! Even the owner chimed in smashing plates on the floor – a Greek tradition. We regretted not bringing our swimming suits since the restaurant had a beautiful pool reserved for patrons.

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Families visiting the ruins should prepare to walk extensively on uneven ground with no shade and places to rest.
  • Parents should pack plenty of bottled water, sunscreen and insect repellent. They should also pack a mini first aid with band-aids in case of minor mishaps.
  • We recommend closed toe shoes because of the uneven terrain.
  • Visitors cannot touch the artifacts in the museum. Therefore, parents should inform kids of this.
  • For kids that are noise sensitive ask the restaurant for a table away from the music and the dancing.



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Margalit Sturm Francus
A reformed dentist who gave up pulling teeth to show her son the world! Need tips on how to #travel with #autism? Follow me on Instagram & Facebook
Margalit Sturm Francus

Margalit Sturm Francus

A reformed dentist who gave up pulling teeth to show her son the world! Need tips on how to #travel with #autism? Follow me on Instagram & Facebook

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