Built on a hill in the Peloponnese 42 km southwest of Corinth, with the composition of its land creating one of the most nurturing environments for the growth of vines, Nemea stands tall with its heritage apparent across every nook and crevice of the city.
The wider region of Nemea is the largest wine-growing area in Greece, where the famous homonymous wines are produced, earning international attention and praise. Nemea’s tradition in wine production is as long-standing as the city itself, and the city has been known for its wine since ancient times.
Although wine production is a big part of Nemea’s identity, it’s not all there is to it. As its name suggests, Ancient Nemea was the host city of the ancient Nemean Games in antiquity, while the King Lycurgus.
The region is known for its rich past, which is an integral part of its culture. Here, we suggest the top things to do in Nemea in order to transform your trip into an unforgettable experience.
1. Visit the ruins of the ancient city of Nemea
The ancient site of Nemea with the ancient Stadium, host of the Nemean Games - credits: Greeking.me
The archaeological site of Nemea lies where the ancient city of Nemea used to be, where the Panhellenic Nemean Games were hosted during antiquity due to its unique climate, and where, according to Greek mythology, Hercules exterminated the infamous Nemean lion.
The ancient site of Nemea gives a fascinating insight into the heritage of the region, with the temple of Zeus and the Stadium -in which the Nemean Games were held every two years- being the most significant monuments.
Upon arrival at the site, you cannot miss the temple of Zeus, which is located -much like in most other archaeological sites- right in the middle of the sanctuary.
The Doric-style temple was built in the 4th century B.C. on the ruins of an older archaic temple and is approximately 45 m long and 22 m wide, while the columns are -rather impressively-10 m high.
Furthermore, the Stadium was also built in the 4th century B.C., although probably in the latest years, as part of the sanctuary’s reconstruction, and was home every two years to the Nemean Games in honor of Opheltes, which were later relocated to Argos.
The judges of the games were clothed in black robes, while the winners of the Nemean Games were crowned with a wreath of wild celery leaves. It is worth noting that the wild celery leaves were imported from the town of Argos.
What's more, the Society for the Revival of the Nemean Games has established the Nemea Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to having the Nemean Games become re-erected.
The Stadium, which could host up to 40.000 people, is built on an advantageous point of the city overlooking the valley and offering its visitors a wondrous view. Rewarding as it is impressive, the visit to the archaeological site of Nemea is a must in order for you to appreciate the significance of Nemea’s past.
2. Try the -many- local wineries
Local winery in Nemea - credits: Greeking.me
Wine is one of the key elements of Nemea’s culture and tradition, offering the best excuse for you to indulge in its rich flavor; it would be nothing short of a sin to travel to Nemea and not try its delicious local wine varieties. To educate yourself on the wines Nemea produces, you can visit the -many- local wineries Nemea possesses.
‘Bairakratis’ winery is one of the most popular wineries in the region, founded in 2005 and housed in a contemporary building at the entrance of Nemea, close to the famous vineyards of Agiorgitiko.
Combining knowledge with experience and technology, ‘Bairaktaris’ has been devoted to producing high-quality wines from the first day of its establishment.
‘Palivou Estate’ winery is another excellent choice for your wine-tasting quest. Established in 1995 in the region of Ancient Nemea, a region that is best known for the production of its Name of Origin Agioritiko wine and 3,500-year-old heritage, Palivou Estate is one of the two largest vineyards in Nemea.
With more than 1000km of land planted with the varieties of Agiorgitiko, Rodites, Malagousia, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah, it satisfies all tastes and preferences!
The Gofa winery has passed the art of wine-making down to generations following its initial establishment in 1959, enhancing its traditional methods with the help of modern technology. Last but not least, ‘Lafazanis’ carries more than 70 years of experience in wine-making.
With the triptych of ‘consistency, respect, and honesty’ being the company’s guidelines in regard to its wine production, the winery offers mouthwatering varieties of wine produced with care and devotion to this ancient art.
Keep in mind that an annual 3-day wine festival in Nemea is held at the end of August or the beginning of September, so If you’re in the region around that time, make sure to take full advantage of it!
3. Delve into Nemea's heritage
Exhibits found at the Archaeological Museum of Nemea - credits: Greeking.me
Apart from the imposing archaeological site of the region, Nemea’s long-standing history is put on display through its museums, which celebrate the two most significant aspects of the city -its ancient monuments and its wine production.
The Archaeological Museum of Nemea was founded by the University of California to support the research of the University’s excavation project at the sanctuary of Zeus.
Following the excavations, the University of California donated the museum to the city of Nemea, which subsequently opened to the public in 1984.
Although most of the museum’s exhibits come from the excavations held at the sanctuary of Zeus, the museum also carries findings from other archaeological sites in the wider region of Nemea that cover the span from the Early Neolithic to the Byzantine times.
If you’d rather leave history behind and you’re far more interested in Nemea’s wine-making tradition, the Museum of Wine in Nemea will make all your dreams come true. Nemeni Estate was founded in Nemea by the oenologist and third-generation winemaker Giorgos Vassiliou, who also has an important wine-growing activity in Attica.
Within its premises, you can find a small wine museum overlooking the vineyard of Nemea, which educates its visitors on the history and process of wine-making. In addition to its ancient Greek roots and wine-making production, the Greek Orthodox religion came to be a big part of Nemea’s history.
Explore the religious tradition of Greece with a visit to the Monastery of Panagia of Vrachos, the monastery that is built on top of a steep and rocky cliff, Polyphegos.
On the southern part of the cliff, you can find a unique medieval settlement, the remnants of which show that the houses were built tangentially to one another, while at the root of the rock, there is a reservoir of water apparently for the water supply of the settlement.
The ruins of the old church of Panagia of Vrachos are found inside a cave and are a sight not to be missed! The monastery thrived since the beginning of the 19th century, and during the Revolution of 1821, it provided important services to the locals.
4. Explore Nemea's connection to the first labour of Hercules
Hercules defeating the Nemean lion - credits: Lucian-Milasan-shutterstock.com
Hercules' first labour was to kill the Nemean lion. This terrible lion had been raised by Hera. His skin was so hard that the iron arrows did not pass him. It had its nest in a cave with two entrances on the slope of a mountain near Neidea.
Every day he went down to the plain and devoured animals and people. The inhabitants were desperate and did not dare to go out into the countryside.
Hercules, going to Nemea, passed through the sacred grove of the city, cut a wild olive tree, and made a heavy bat from its core. Then he went and waited near the lion's nest, and when this was seen, he hit it first with his arrows.
The arrows fell to the ground without injuring it, and the lion attacked Hercules. He hit it with the bat. The lion was in pain and hid in his nest.
Hercules then picked up large stones, closed the entrance, and fell from the other. The animal roared and shook the whole mountain. He stared at the hero, and they fought for an hour.
Finally, Hercules wrapped his arms around his neck and strangled the lion. Then he took the lion's skin, put it on, and returned to Mycenae.
5. Take a day trip to Nafplio or Corinth
Nafplio city from above - credits: Olga Kot Photo/Shutterstock.com
Nemea is not only just an hour away from Athens, but it is also close to some of the most beautiful cities in the Peloponnese. Therefore, if you have enough time on your hands, grab the opportunity to discover even more of Greece’s allure with a day trip to either Nafplio or Corinth.
Nafplio is one of the best short getaway destinations in Greece, with tons of things to do and see, while the dearly beloved city is known for being one of the most romantic places in Greece.
Treat yourself to a Nafplio walking tour and spend a couple of hours with our fun and expert licensed guide on an iconic tour of Nafplion, exploring the town through a unique walking route!
The city of Corinth is the region’s main administrative, commercial, financial, and cultural center, decorated with beautiful parks, scenic squares, and a picturesque port straight out of a fairy tale. Don’t miss the chance to wander around its pedestrianized road and oblige to a coffee stop at one of its cozy cafes, shopping, and fascinating sightseeing around the city.
Often neglected by visitors, the region of Nemea allows people to see a different side of Greece, one that is a lot less busy and touristy but equally as exciting.
Explore Nemea, the region that would make Dionysus -the god of the grape harvest, winemaking, and wine- proud and indulge in delicious wines, historic sights, and fun times!