Delphi is a religious center dedicated to Apollo and a spectacular place for children to explore during holidays in Greece. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a must-visit for families who love Greek history and mythology. I have been to Delphi several times before but in July 2020, I visited the site again with my family and friends. Here is what you need to know before you visit Delphi with kids!
To make the most out of your visit to Delphi with kids, I recommend you to read about Greek Mythology before your trip. I have listed my favorite mythology books for kids here.
The navel of the earth
Located on Mt. Parnassus, in ancient legend, Delphi was originally the home of Python, serpent son of Mother Earth, and Poseidon. Apollo, arriving as (or riding on) a dolphin, killed the serpent, which was buried in the omphalos, the belly button of the world. The sanctuary of Delphi was at its peak during the 8th century BC. During that period, the citizens of most Greek cities would travel to Delphi and consult the oracle when they needed to take an important decision.
The ancient Greeks considered this place to be the navel of the earth. In Delphi, you will see impressive monuments such as the Athenian Treasury, the Theatre, the Temple of Apollo, the Navel of the Earth, the Sacred Way, the Apollo Temple, and many more!
Tip: In summer, bring lots of water with you.
Our visit to Delphi with kids
We opted for a private guided tour with Delphi Guided Tours Georgia Hasioti and emmersed ourselves in the history of Delphi.
We met our local state-licensed guide Georgia at the entrance of the archaeological site and followed the Holy Route or Sacred Way to the Athenian Treasury and to the Temple of Apollo to consult the oracle of Pythia.
Then, we headed north to visit the ancient theatre. We imagined music from the ancient concerts, saw engravings in the rocks, and climbed to the highest spot in the ancient Stadium.
Sanctuary of Apollo
The Sacred Precinct is a big complex, built at different times, from 600 BC into the Roman era. As you walk up the Sacred Way, you just have to imagine all the buildings and sculptures on either side. On the first section, there were tons of bronze statues, then several treasuries, small buildings where cities displayed their power and wealth.
Apollo and Greek Mythology
In Greek Mythology, Apollo was the God of Light, and it was his job to pull the sun across the sky in his 4-horse chariot every day. He has also been referred to as the God of music, poetry, art, medicine, knowledge, plague and archery.
Apollo was the son of Zeus (the God of Thunder) and Leto. He had a twin sister, Artemis, who was the Goddess of Hunting. Apollo was also famous for being an oracular god, and had two cults in Delphi and Delos. People would come from all over the world to learn from Apollo what their future held. It was believed that, as the God of both medicine and plague, Apollo could heal people as well as cause disease by shooting people with his arrows.
Prepare your visit to Delphi with Kids by reading a book about Greek Mythology: 20 Best Greek Mythology Books for Kids
Delphi with Kids: The Omphalos
Where the Sacred Way turns to go up the hill, stop at the omphalos, the center of the universe. Kids can rub their hands on the belly button of the world (it’s a replica). Originally the omphalos was located underneath the Temple of Apollo, or near the Castalian Spring, the belly button seems to move around.
Check out the polygonal wall, a retaining wall for the temple of Apollo, not like retaining walls for your garden at home, except this retaining wall is thousands of years old, has withstood earthquakes, without any mortar to hold the stones in place. And on this wall are inscriptions of the names of freed slaves.
Temple of Apollo
The temple of Apollo was suitably grand. Out front, there were huge golden tripods and a gigantic statue of Apollo. Inside the temple, in the innermost room (adyton), the priestess oracle sat, dispensing divine advice. We learned that the priestess was usually a woman from a rich family of the nearby village chosen to stay at the temple for the rest of her life. Although the oracle of Delphi is long gone, we felt the special energy of the place.
The Pythian Games were not just about sports. At Delphi, the emphasis was music and drama competitions – winning playwrights were crowned with ivy wreaths. This 4th-century theater is beautifully preserved, although you can’t sit in the seats and pretend you’re watching the show. From above the theater, there’s a wonderful panorama of the valley below. Have a look!
Follow the path up the hill to the stadium, where sports events were held. The stadium looks familiar, a long dirt field with bleachers on either side for the spectators.
Don’t miss the stone starting blocks, where the athletes positioned themselves for the start of the race.
Delphi Archaeological Museum
After visiting the Delphi archaeological site, we went to the nearby museum. The museum is located at walking distance from the site. In the Delphi Archaeological Museum, your family can admire unique treasures such as the Naxian Sphinx, the Statue of Antinous and other masterpieces of classical Greek art.
We saw many exquisite pieces found in the ruins at Delphi. Most stunning is the Charioteer, a 5th century BC bronze statue of a chariot driver – such incredible detail, you can even see the man’s eyelashes. There’s also the bronze feet of the Charioteer’s horse, plus a marble copy of the omphalos, bronze shields, and sculpture from the Sanctuary of Apollo.
The museum displays maquettes and explanatory material, making it an interesting visit for kids too.
Book a private guided tour
If you want to book this private guided tour and read what is included, click here: Delphi Guided Walking Tour and Admission Ticket.
The UNESCO Site of Delphi is set in a beautiful location, and your kids imaginations can run wild as they explore this ancient place. Be sure to have plenty of battery power and camera space – there will be lots of videos and photos taken this day!
Your guide will also show you around the accompanying museum and explain in a fun and informative way the significance of the exhibits and artefacts there. At the end of this tour, you will all know a lot more about Ancient Greece, the role of the Oracle, and perhaps find some deeper meaning behind the Greek Gods and Mythology.
Tips for visiting Delphi with Kids
- If you visit Delphi from Athens, the journey is around 2 hours drive each way from Athens
- Buy water before you enter the site
- Bring a hat and sun cream. Especially during summer months, the sun is very hot and there are only a few shady spots
- If you visit in summer, it is best to avoid the site around noon
- Wear sports shoes in the outside archaeological area
- The site is not stroller friendly. Following a request, the north gate of the Ancient Theatre can be opened to allow a basic view of the site
- Food consumption is not allowed
- For guided tours, you need to arrange for a private guide before your visit. There are no guides at the museum or at the archaeological site.
- If you visit with your own car, you need to park at the side of the road. Be careful crossing the road with kids.
Where to stay in Delphi?
Delphi village is a well organized tourist town with many family hotels and other types of accomodation. Click here to find hotels and price information for accomodation in Delphi.
Day trips to Delphi from Athens
If your base is Athens, consider a day trip to Delphi. For families, I recommend an organized tour with transport included. Have a look at the following tours:
Delphi Full-Day Tour from Athens
If your kids are love Greek Mythology, they will already know the Oracle. Visiting Delphi will be a real treat for them! This tour starts in the morning at a meeting point in Athens and includes a stop for a stretch and refreshments. In Delphi, your guide will show you around the site, and explain all about the myths and legends associated with it. Did you know, for example, that Hercules first consulted the Oracle before setting off on his 12 Labors?
Included is a visit to the Delphi Museum and free time for lunch before boarding the bus for your return trip to Athens.
From Athens: Private Road Trip to Delphi
If your family prefers a private tour with a more flexible schedule, I recommend the From Athens: Private Road Trip to Delphi. Your pick up is from your hotel and you will visit Delphi by private car or minivan. You will be accompanied by your driver, a guide is not included in this private tour.
A trip to Delphi with kids is a must-visit when in Greece. The special energy in Delphi can be felt everywhere. The amazing scenery and views, as well as the thrill of watching world-famous monuments, is something I recommend every family in Greece to experience!
PS. If you love Ancient Greece as much as we do, you will also like the Ancient Theater of Epidaurus. Have you been to Delphi or Epidaurus? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear from you!
Celeste was born and raised in the Netherlands but lives in Greece for 25 years. She studied at the Dutch Institute of Athens underneath the Acropolis and currently lives with her family in an Athenian suburb. Celeste is the founder of Family Experiences Blog. Whether you and your family live in Greece or are visiting, this blog will show you the very best ways in which to celebrate family life here.