Nafplio is by far one of the most beautiful and romantic towns on Greece’s coast, an easy day trip or weekend getaway from Athens.
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**Updated March 2020
Nafplio: The First Capital of Greece
One of the prettiest village day trips – or weekend – trips I can highly recommend within easy rach from Athens is Nafplio. Located in the eastern Peloponnese, Nafplio is around a two-hour drive from Athens. I fell in love with it picturesque bougainvillea clad lanes and lovely sunny squares. As a history buff and Grecophile, it was fantastic to explore a place that is so important to Greek history.
Nafplio was the first capital of the newly born Greek state between 1823 and 1834. You might like to take a Full Day Trip to Nafplio from Athens.
Nafplio is Full of History
Here’s a bit of background, of course, stretching back to ancient times. In Greek mythology, Nafplio took its name from its founder Nafplios, the son of god Poseidon and the daughter of Danaida.
The seaport town rose and flourished throughout the centuries under the influence of Frankish, Venetian and Turkish rules. All conquerors left their influence. That’s why Nafplio is a culture vulture’s dream to explore. You can find yourself walking along ancient fortification walls, pop in and out of wonderful museums and snap some shots of fantastic monuments.
Top Things to Do in Nafplio
We just had one day to check out the sights but accomplished a lot! So, if you have limited time on your hands, you can definitely fill it up with the best this stunning port town has to offer.
Here are the top things to do in Nafplio no matter how long you will be staying in town.
Explore Palamidi Fortress
The climb up 900 plus steps to the top of this historic fortress is worth it if you love stunning views. The Venetians built it in 1686. What’s fascinating is it was so well designed all attempts to conquer it were unsuccessful. Until the Greeks came and managed to take it over in 1822 during the Greek Revolution, surprising the world at the time. Independence was won against the Ottoman Empire. Greece was a new free state. Nafplio was named capital. You might like to take a Walking City tour of Nafplio.
Besides Palamidi, Nafplio has other castles to explore if you have more time including Bourtzi (below) and Acronafplia.
Tips for Walking up Palamidi Fortress in Nafplio:
- Open Daily 8:30-15:00.
- Remember your sunblock.
- Take along a bottle of water.
Visit the Bourtzi Fortress
Take the taxi boat from the harbor front promenade. The boat will cross over to the Venetian fortress that seems to float in the middle of the sea. I didn’t have enough time to go to Bourtzi Fortress, but it was pretty clear that the trip would offer incredible views to the old town.
Stroll Nafplio Town
I’d say Nafplio looks like a stunning little Italian city at first glance. However, it is a mix of styles, including Venetian, Byzantine and Ottoman.
Admire the many old buildings that date back two hundred or so years. Part of the old town also sits on a peninsula that juts out onto the gulf. Walk among the picturesque bougainvillea clad streets and just enjoy the day.
If you need a break from walking, ride on the colorful city tour train or tour the old town on a fun bike. Also be sure to enjoy the seafront promenade. Sunsets color the bay in hues of orange and red.
Visit the Fougaro
In recent years the Fougaro has become a new modern landmark. The word means smokestack and the place was once a tomato canning plant with a big one. It’s been smartly and impressively renovated into a creative arts and cultural space perfect for taking in some local artwork, relaxing with a lovely meal or for sipping a coffee. There are all kinds of neat community events going on for all ages including workshops, book readings and concerts, just check the website to see what is new.
- Asklipiou 98, Nafplio 211 00; +30 27520 47300; www.fougaro.gr
Have a Traditional Greek Meal
One of the top things to do in Nafplio, like any other Greek destination, eat delicious Greek food! Be sure to dine at some of the lovely taverns in the town or by the sea.
Also check out these foodie experiences: Beekeeper for a day in Nafplio where you will get to visit a bee farm and taste delicious honey and sweets, and 4 hour cooking class in Nafplio, where you will visit a scenic location with a local chef and learn for to cook traditional Greek recipes.
Go Shopping in Nafplio
Walking the town, you’ll find all types of Greek products to buy. The town specializes in kombolois which are Greek worry beads.
If you are into museums, one of the top things to do in Nafplio would be to visit one and learn about the area’s interesting culture and history. For a little town, there are many museums to choose from.
- The Archaeological Museum is on Syntagma Square, in a Venetian building dating back to the 18th century.
- The War Museum served as the first military school in Greece. Located on Amalias street.
- The Komboloi Museum is an interesting one. It has an impressive collection of worry beads from Asia Minor, Greece, Syria, Egypt, Turkey and Persia that date from 1700 to 1950, all made of various precious and rare materials.
- The Peloponnese Folklore Foundation Museum has a permanent exhibition about Nafplio as it was between 1822-1922.
Enjoy the Sea
Karathona beach is a gorgeous circular sandy cove just south of Palamidi castle hill (10-minute walk). It boasts a Blue Flag accreditation meaning its super clean and beautiful. Also popular is Arvanitia Beach.
Take a Day Trip from Nafplio
If you are staying longer in Nafplio, there are many great day trips (within an hour or so drive away) to consider including:
Two modern towns bear the name Epidavros: Palaia (Old) Epidavros and Nea (New) Epidavros. The ancient theater of Epidavros is famous for its perfect acoustics, symmetry and beauty is also used today for drama festivals. Opt for a day trip from Nafplio to Mycenae and Epidavros
Delphi is one of the most popular and most important archaeological sites in the country, once considered the center of the earth and once the home of the most important ancient Greek oracle.
- Mycenae and Tyrins
Mycenae was a powerful citadel town in its glory days. It was so influential, it lended its name to an entire historical period called the Mycenaean period.
Another important archaeological site which was once a religious sanctuary where pan-Hellenic athletic games were held every two years during ancient times. Check out this tour: Nemea Vineyards Wine Tour
- Porto Heli
A very beautiful summer resort town on the Peloponnese coast.
How to Get to Nafplio
The drive is about 1.5- to 2-hours from Athens.
By Bus: At least a dozen daily buses connect Nafplio with Athens. They leave from Terminal A in the Kifissos bus station. The journey is two hours and costs € 20-25 with return.
There are also buses to/from Thessaloniki and other Peloponnese cities.
By Boat: If you are coming by hired boat or yacht, Nafplio has a nice protected port which can host several yachts with facilities.
Have you ever explored Nafplio? If so, would you add anything to my top things to do in Nafplio list?
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