Top Things to Do in Nafplio

Top Things to Do in Nafplio

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. 

**Updated March 2017

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.

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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.

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Get some exercise in Nafplio at this historic castle.

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One of the top things to do in Nafplio is enjoy the views from Palamidi Castle.

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Another view from the castle/fortress.

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.

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View of Bourtzi Fortress from Palamidi Fortress in Nafplio.

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.

Photo courtesy of Fougaro

 

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.

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When in Nafplio, have some fresh seafood.

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.

Nafplio Museums

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.
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With Timi in front of the Archaeological Museum in Syntagma Square, Nafplio.

Athens City Pass

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.  

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Beautiful beaches.

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:

    • Epidavros
      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.
    • Delphi
      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.
    • Nemea
      Another important archaeological site which was once a religious sanctuary where pan-Hellenic athletic games were held every two years during ancient times.
    • 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. I recommend hiring through Avis Car Rental.

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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I'm a travel writer and journalist from New York. Join me on my travels as I explore Greece, Europe and beyond.

Comments

  1. That is a very comprehensive guide of Nafplio Marissa. It is one of the most beautiful cities in Greece and makes the perfect day trip from Athens

  2. Thanks Marissa for the excellent overview. I think Nafplio is a wonderful place to visit for all those who seek to understand the modern Greek state and Harvard University has a program that brings students to see and study in this truly authentic Greek provincial city. For me the main drawback about Nafplio is its proximity to Athens. Weekends and Greek holidays really generate crowds as do the increasing number of Cruise Ship stopovers. I strongly advise staying overnight and avoiding weekends if folks can arrange their visit appropriately.

    • Hi Alec, Thanks for stopping by! That is very interesting about Harvard’s program. I haven’t been when it was so crowded with cruise ship folk. I am sure it can gets craz full. That’s great advice. Big crowds can be an annoyance for some, so it would be ideal to plan ahead. Thanks for that advice 😀

  3. Looking forward to follow your website and blog. Your photos, travels, and style are so refreshing !!! I’m a Greek culture, food, wine, and language admirer. My great uncle was a sponge diver in Tarpon Springs, FL, the home to many Greek Islanders for over 100 years.

    • Hi there! Thanks for stopping by and for the nice compliments. I think we have a lot in common 😉 Also, I love Tarpon Springs. I used to live in Orlando at one point and loved visiting from time to time. I had my first galaktoboureko there. Very cool that your uncle was a sponge diver there.

  4. Thanks a lot for all the info, your blog is soooo nice! Greece is amazing! I have 3 days in July, arriving in Athens.:)
    I would like to go on a island to swim and sunbath, with romantic escapes and a bit of fun in the evening (terrace, maybe a summer club). What do you recommend? – to accomodate in Athens and take daily trips or to go directly to island?
    I searched on forums and people are saying that Aegina. Poros, Hydra are also close to Athens. What you will choose for 3 days? I dont want to get bored…:)

    • Hi Andreea, Thanks for stopping by! I am glad you like the blog and even better… you are coming to enjoy Greece. Fabulous. I would say for just a few days at an island you would need to go to the closest islands called the Saronics — the ones you mention. I think Hydra is the best option. It is so charming and walkable. You can even go island hopping to each one — so you can probably see two of the Saronics if you wanted. But Hydra is my favorite of all of them. You can easily do all three days in Athens and spend them on the Athenian Riviera for the beach experience… I have a post here about that. There are beautiful beaches and clubs here too — like you are on an island. 😀 for example you should go to Island, a beautiful club on the sea down the Athenian Rivera… You’ll have a great time!

  5. Thanks for this comprehensive guide! I’m actually a Harvard student going on a study abroad where we’ll be spending 3 weeks in Nafplio! (Harvard owns and operates the Harvard Center for Hellenic Studies in Nafplio). The other two weeks of the program are in Thessaloniki, with day trips to Olympia, Mycenea, and Athens!

    I was just wondering what your experience with air conditioning was like? I have lung problems and since we’re going in peak summer I was worried about getting heat breaks! Did you find that air conditioning was readily available? Thanks, Marissa! Loving the blog 🙂

    • Hi Elsie, Sounds like a fabulous experience. Thanks for the nice comments. I think in touristic areas that won’t be a problem. You can always choose restaurants with indoor air conditioning. However, I found that if you find shade and by the sea, at an eatery, it is cool enough and quite pleasant even in mid August. The shade always makes a huge difference. Also, pick a hotel with the amenities you want such as air conditioning. Always have water with you. Wear a hat. The sun is strong. Wear sunscreen. You should have a great time!

  6. Lisa Henderson : July 5, 2016 at 2:51 pm

    Thanks for the great post. I’ve been there twice and I wish I could visit again soon. The last time I visited Nafplio, my friends and I had a cooking class with a local and that was an amazing experience which you should try if you ever visit again.

  7. Thanks for this great info. Me and my husband want to visit Nafplio at November for three days. Does it will be nice during this time of the year? What is the best to do?

    • Hello Erman, Thanks for stopping by. The weather in Greece remains pretty nice and sunny throughout the fall. It won’t be terribly hot like the winter but rather cool sunny autumn days perfect for exploring. Beaches are possible depending on the temps and what kind of swim you like to have… The post outlines the best things in town 🙂 Hope it helps. Let me know how it goes.

  8. Hi Marissa,
    I have a free week in March from the 17 onward. I can go anywhere I want and would love any suggestion how to find one place to stay and go out on day trips and do some casual biking. I was thinking maybe flying into Athens and then figure out how to get to Spetses and stay there and take the day trips from there.? Maybe instead I should fly to Crete? To Rhodes? I just get the idea the islands don’t have such great weather in March and most everything is closed up. Or maybe I should go to Croatia? Not really a big beach person but love to stay by the sea. Any ideas? thanks much.

    • Hi Jack, Great! Spetses is easy to get to from Athens. Quick ferry ride. It may be shut down as an island, like you say. Yes, it will be chillier on the islands but depends what you can tolerate. I think Crete is a great idea. It won’t be totally shut down since there’s a big local population. I’d recommend Chania or Rethymnon. Crete is a fantastic island for nature lovers. The sea will be beautiful to experience even in March. Happy travels!

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