Santorini is the iconic Greek destination with the most fascinating sunsets and postcard-pretty cliff houses carved on the slopes of the caldera, coated in sparkling white, which contrast with the light cobalt blue of the church domes and with the vivid magenta of the bougainvillea in bloom. It’s an island with a rich past, albeit checkered at times, a brilliant example of human endurance in challenging conditions. So, we’ve rounded up eight of the must-see museums in Santorini that show some of the historical trials that make the island great.
The Monastery of Profitis Ilias stands on the highest peak of the island at an altitude of 567 meters above the sea level. It is located three kilometers away from the village Pyrgos in Kalliste, in the southeastern part of Santorini. You’ll reach it within 40 minutes when you drive from Santo Maris Oia Luxury Suites & Spa.
The Lignos Folklore Museum is located in Kontochori, just a short 30-minute drive from Santo Maris Oia Luxury Suites & Spa. It occupies a traditional cave house that dates from 1861. The house survived the earthquake of 1956 and was restored in 1976.
The Tomato Industrial Museum is a fascinating attraction at the Santorini Arts Factory, which is a multi-purpose gallery and cultural space in Vlichada. It is a recent addition to the cultural stage of the island, as it opened its doors in 2014.
The Naval Museum of Thira in Oia opens at the beginning of April every year and welcomes visitors until the last day of October. Located in an old mansion, especially restored to fit its new purpose, the museum documents the maritime history of the island from ancient times to the XIX Century.
The Museum of Minerals & Fossils is one of the main museums of Santorini, albeit not as known as the Museum of Prehistoric Thira in Firá. The museum is managed by the Cultural Society of Thira, and is located in Perissa.
The Museum of Prehistoric Thira is a Santorini attraction you shouldn’t miss. It is less than half hour drive from Santo Maris Oia Luxury Suites & Spa, in the capital of the island, Fira.
The ancient Akrotiri is a Minoan Bronze Age settlement in a village in the southwestern part of the island, less than an hour drive from Oia, and only 15 km drive from Fira, the capital of Santorini.
Seven thousand years ago the Santorini as travelers know it today was a vastly different human habitat. What must have begun as a collection of Stone Age fishing and farming villages, soon became a trading center between Minoan Crete and Cyprus sometime after 3000 BC.
Scholars think that ancient Santorini became significant because of its strategic location first, and later because of critical trading with goods like copper. For these and other reasons, Santorini and its most famous ancient settlement of Akrotiri must have been a shining example of culture and civilization. Today visitors can still see remnants of paved streets, a cutting edge (for the time) drainage system, multistoried buildings, and artifacts of indescribable beauty and innovation. As part of the Minoan Civilization, Akrotiri and ancient Santorini flourished for more than 500 years, until the catastrophic eruption of Thera sometime between 1642–1540 BC.
Archaeologists estimate the first settlements on the island date back to the Post Neolithic Period. Akrotiri today is a kind of time capsule, not so different from the Roman city of Pompei, where the volcanic matter that covered the city and the whole island ended up protecting and preserving the buildings. Some historians contend that Santorini was the inspiration for Plato’s story of Atlantis, as mentioned in his dialogues Timaeus and Critias.
When visiting the island, travelers should be aware there are actually two settlement sites from ancient antiquity. Akrotiri is the oldest known settlement, but Ancient Thera (Αρχαία Θήρα) on top of Messavouno dates to the time of the Spartan settlers who came to the island during the 8th century BC. It is from this high dwelling place that Santorini tourists will capture the most stunning views anywhere on the island.
We also recommend visiting Fira, where you will find several museums that are worth seeing. First, the Prehistoric Museum holds many exhibits from Akrotiri and other archaeological sites on Santorini. There’s also the Archaeological Museum, that presents findings and artifacts from Ancient Thera. Also, a must-see is the Gyzi Megaron and the Museum of Local History, situated in the Kontochori Quarter.
Finally, there is indeed something magical about Santorini, and something more than the visual of a vanishing sun in the West. Certainly, the dramatic landscape of jagged hills plunging into the blue Aegean is stunning, and the picturesque whitewashed houses with blue roofs create a living postcard for visitors. Great people and remarkable cuisine make the island special too. However, one cannot help but sense there is something more here. Something magnetic that compelled those adventurous settlers to make the journey into what would become the new world.
Maybe an ancient Greek myth serves to explain the island’s distinctive character. According to old Greek stories, Santorini was formed out of a miracle connected to the famous Argonaut expedition. According to the legend, Jason and his shipmates were on their way home, when they landed on Anaphe, a small island of the Aegean Sea.
It was here that Euphemus had a vision of making love to a nymph, a siren who was the daughter of the messenger of sea god Triton. After their union, the woman told him she had become pregnant with his child and chided him over how her father would be angered. She begged for a place to hide so that she might escape the wrath of the god, to which Euphemus responded by throwing a clod of dirt into the sea. This speck miraculously re-emerged from the vacant sea and turned into an island. Euphemus named it Calliste, which means the most beautiful, but the name “Thera” is from his son of the same name, who was born there. And so, it seems clear that Santorini has been beloved by the gods from the dawn of times.
Santorini is not known for a choice of entertainment opportunities beyond its lively nightlife. But there are some excellent options for culture buffs who want to experience the island doing something else. The key to navigating the entertainment scene of Santorini is knowing a local, of course. You can ask your concierge at Santo Maris Oia Luxury Suites & Spa for recommendations when you stay with us too. We’ll know the seasonal programme and we are happy to help. Besides, we have our own highly-acclaimed entertainment offer too, including saxophone, piano, or harp concerts under the skies, dance nights, thematic evenings, and more.
Villaggio 3D Cinema
Villaggio 3D Cinema at the Kamari Shopping Center is the right address for action-packed international blockbusters, but also for Greek movies. Offseason they screen in Greek, but during the summer they also showcase movies in English. Their stage hosts occasional concerts, theater, and other events too. Their current programme is available on their website.
Santorini Arts Factory (SAF)
The Santorini Arts Factory is another destination for entertainment on the island. The have a rich plan of activities, with various workshops for children and adults alike, exhibitions, concerts, sewing workshops, fairytale readings, and much more. This is alsoo the site of the Tomato Industrial Museum, one of Santorini’s must-see attractions.
Live music under the full moon every summer
Most of the live events on Santorini are advertised with posters on trees, walls, and light poles. Check them out to find out where the next event takes place. Nevertheless, as a rule of thumb, every full moon in the summer is celebrated with a live concert, and no words can quite capture the atmosphere. The breathtaking views of the caldera under the moonlight are the perfect accompaniment to the music. International and Greek artists perform, although, more often, the singers will be Greek.
White Door Theatro Firá
This is one of the most acclaimed entertainment venues of Santorini, famous for its Greek Wedding Show. This is not just a show to watch, but an interactive performance with actors, dancers, singers, musicians, and you. Children are welcome.
Atlantis Books in Oia
Atlantis Books is one of the worlds’ most beautiful bookstores, yes, but it is also an entertainment venue. Their summer readings on the balcony are famous among culture buffs, but they also host fancy events, like an annual International Tzatziki Festival, an Arts & Literature Caldera Festival, and even live music (in October, The Steams performed live at the bookstore).
As you see, although there are not many entertainment opportunities outside of bars, restaurants, and clubs, Santorini still has plenty to offer. Plus, the occasional street performers under the colorful sunsets of Oia will enrich your experience too.