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Things to see in Nafplio Greece

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Wondering if there are enough things to see in Nafplio to stay for a day or two? Well, we think there are. From the ancient ruins to the lively old town centre and beautiful harbour Nafplio has a lot going for it.

Nafplio a Gem in Greece’s Peloponnese

When we were planning our 2-week road trip around the Peloponnese, Nafplio was a place that kept on catching our eye. It is hailed as one of the most beautiful towns in Greece, and it’s easy to see why. Designed by the Venetians, it has quite a different look from other parts of the country. The abundance of grand buildings also tells of its importance historically.

This history, the pretty waterfront and the fact that it made a good first day’s rest stop after collecting our car in Athens meant it made the list.

This is a great city to sit back and soak in the local culture. Being just a few hours drive from Athens makes it a great stop if you don’t have time for a longer trip exploring the Peloponnese.  If you can squeeze a few days in here, try to visit midweek to avoid the crowds who head down from Athens on the weekends.

The History of Nafplio

Nafplio was the capital of Greece for 11 short years from 1823-1834 after they won a war with the Turks. In 1831 the first president of the country, Johannis Kapodístrias, was murdered here and there was a period of unrest until the new the leader arrived in the form of Greek King Otto. He arrived in Nafplion in 1833 he was not so enamoured with the city and one year later moved the capital to Athens.

Did you know – Nafplio is named after Nafplios, the son of the god Poseidon

Nafplio is a charming town with cobblestone streets, pretty squares and more than its share of ruins and historic sites. It’s the perfect base for exploring some of the regions UNESCO sites such as Mykines, Tirintha, Epidavros and Mystras which are all in easy driving distance away.

How to get to Nafplio

By Car: Nafplio is 136km from Athens, and the drive takes about 2 hours. Be sure to have money ready for tolls.  If you leave Athens early, you can consider stopping at the Corinth Canal on the way.

By Public Transport: Buses from Athens leave from the Kifissos bus station. The trip takes about the same as driving time

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Key Historic sites in Nafplio

Palmidi Fort Fortress of Palamidi

Sitting 216 above Nafplio, high on the hill as you drive into town the fort was built by the Venetians in the 1680s to protect the locals from invasion by the Ottoman Empire.

Palmidi Fort Nafplio

We felt this fort was one of the most impressive in the Peloponnese. The views are spectacular; don’t let the 857 steps you will read about put you off, they are not too bad. We did them quite easily and found they were worth the effort. You can also just drive up to the eastern entry and avoid them if you need to.

I recommend trying to arrive before the heat of the day as you are exposed to the sun here for most of your visit. Tour buses also tend to arrive mid-morning so best miss those if you can.  Wear decent footwear, the ground is uneven, and it would be easy to sprain an ankle!

Where: Eikostis Pemptis Martiou, Nafplio
When: 8am to 8pm in summer, winter sees reduced hours 8.30-3pm
How: Drive to the eastern gate or take the famous steps that start at the Grimani bastion.

Bourtzi: The castle of the throne

Bourtzi, which translates to island fort, is a castle on an island in the middle of Nafplio Harbour. There are usually tours of the property, but it is currently under renovation so ask before you head over. Built in 1473 this is one of the best-known landmarks of the city. The fort makes a fantastic photography subject, especially at sunset. If your fitness is up to scratch, you might like to take a kayak tour that gets you nice and close to the castle.

Bourtzi Nafplio Greece
The fort is currently under renovation

Where: Where: Eikostis Pemptis Martiou, Nafplio
When: 8am-8pm
How: You can visit the island by boat from the harbour.

Nafplio Churches

Aghios Georgios

Metropolis of Argolis is one of the oldest churches in the city, also known as the church of St George has a pretty impressive history. Built in the 16th century the church was turned into a mosque after the Turks invaded. It was returned into a church in 1686, when the Venetians arrived, and then back to a mosque before finally becoming orthodox in 1822.

St. George Church, Nafplio
St. George Church, Nafplio

Inside the church, you will find the throne of King Otto and a copy of the Last Supper on the ceiling.

Other churches you might like to visit include

  • Church of Panaghia
  • Catholic Church of Metamorphosis Tou Sotiros
  • Ieros Naos Evaggelistria

Napflio Museums

There are several museums in the city, we only managed a few, but if you are staying longer, you could dig up several others.

Archaeological Museum

Housed in a former Venetian mansion that was built in or before 1715.  This museum features two floors of exhibits and an audio guide is included with your admission ticket.

Archaeological Museum of Nauplion
Archaeological Museum is in Syntagma Square

The displays have English signage and feature jewellery, vases and decorative items and full armour.

Where: 22 Leoforos Amalias, Nafplio
When: 9am-5pm (Closed Monday)
Cost: approx €6 

War Museum

Nafplio War Museum Pelopennese
War Museum in Nafplio

With a collection that covers the 1800s through to World War 2, the War Museum features weapons and uniforms and other memorabilia. There is an English translation on most of the displays.

Where: 22 Leoforos Amalias, Nafplio
When: 9am-5pm (Closed Monday)
Cost: approx 4€

Komboloi Museum

Possibly the most unusual site in Nafplio, this museum houses a collection of worry beads from over 200 years.  They have strings of beads from both Greece and other countries where these are a popular accessory including Turkey and the Middle East.  They also sell beads; we bought a lovely set for my father in law.

Where: 22 Leoforos Amalias, Nafplio
When: 9am-5pm (Closed Monday)
Cost: approx 4€

Nafplio Beaches

While beaches are not really a reason to visit the area, there are several beaches in Nafplio for when you fancy cooling down.

Town Beach in Nafplio Greece

Arvanitia Beach, aka Town Beach is the closest to the old town. You will find it in the south near Akronafplia, walking distance from the centre. Not the most comfortable spot to lay as the beach is more pebbles than sand, but there were plenty of chairs about on our visit. Showers, toilets and cafes available.

Karathṓna Beach is next up at about 5km from town. This is a well-organised beach with bars and cafes. It’s not the cleanest of beaches, but with 3km of sand, you can find a good spot if you look.

Tolo Beach was our favourite; it was lovely and clean and seemed to be very popular with locals rather than visitors. It’s about 8km from the old town and well worth the drive. You can rent two sun loungers for 8€ a day, and there are plenty of bars and cafes around. You can choose this as a base and visit Nafplio from here.

Where to eat in Nafplio

Where to eat in Nafplio

Kalimera

This breakfast cafe has a deal with our hotel, so we ate our morning meal here each day. and it was excellent. Kalimera is all about breakfast and closes at 2pm. We loved the cute signs outside the cafe.

Kalimara Cafe Nafplio

With a traditional Greek breakfast of bread, fruit and yoghurt most popular you can also order scrambled eggs and omelettes. The jams and preserves were delicious, and the bread excellent. Servings are generous. Everything is locally made, and the service is very friendly.

Where: Plapouta 1, Nafplio

O Vasilis taverna

We grabbed a late lunch here one day, and it was delicious. We ordered lamb and potatoes cooked in a clay pot and a fried cheese dish. Both were delicious. Located on one of the main popular streets, it’s not as cheap as some spots, but it was lovely, and we would go back.

Where: Staikopoulou 22, Nafplio

Taverna Paleo Arhontiko

Located in a pretty street off the square we enjoyed our evening meal here. Friendly staff with a lovely family feel. We just ordered off the specials menu, a lamb and a pork dish with an excellent salad. Had a lovely chat with our waiter on a quiet Wednesday evening and would love to go back.

Where: Athanasiou Siokou 6, Nafplio

Take a food tour in Nafplio

Taking a food tour or cooking class when you arrive in town is a great way to learn more about the local food scene and make a list of places to try for the rest of your stay.

The Best Day trips from Nafplio

There are many day tours to the nearby UNESCO sites Tirintha, Mykines, Epidavros (and Mystras)

Epidavros Ancient Site

Dating back to the 4th century BC the theatre at Epidavros was originally built to hold ceremonies to honour the god Asclepius. Asclepius was a healer who worked out of a building on the site. This is the most famous ancient theatre in Greece.

The theatre is in excellent condition and in the summer performances are hosted on the site. It is famed for its acoustics, so many tourists try standing in the centre and singing for their family and friends. At least half a dozen “preformed” during our visit. Despite much coaxing, Charlie would not join in.

The remains of the healing centre are nearby, but I have to be honest, in the heat, we rushed through them in an effort to get back to the car – bad tourists. We did, however, enjoy the small museum that has statutes and other items uncovered on the site. Allow about 20 minutes to explore.

We headed to Epidavros and its famous theatre on our first morning. We drove there in about 30 minutes and easily found parking. If you don’t have a car, there are about five buses a day that leave from Nafplio. The journey takes about 40 minutes.

Where: Epidavrou, Tripolis 210 
When: Summer 8am-7.30pm Winter 8:30am-3pm
Cost: 12 €

If you don’t have a car or want to learn more about the history of the area it’s a good idea to join a tour.

Mycenae

Mycenae and Tyrins are usually talked about in tandem. Mycenae was once a major centre of Greek civilization, and back in 1350BC, the town was once home to 30,000 residents.

Tomb of the Kings, in Mycenae
Tomb of the Kings, in Mycenae

Excavation began in the mid-1800s when the Lion’s Gate was found and restored. Other key sites include the Treasury of Atreus which is also known as the Tomb of Agamemnon, a burial chamber and the circle graves. The view over the landscape from the circle graves is worth the uphill walk.

To get the most out of your visit, we suggest (or our guidebook did) that you start with a visit to the museum. This was excellent advice as it really did help put the site into perspective.

It’s about a 20-minute drive from Nafplio (25km). Buses depart from the bus station at 8 Syngrou Street Nafplio.

When: 8am to 8pm in the summer, 8am to 3pm other seasons.
Cost: approx €12.

Ancient Tyrins

Tiryns is a UNESCO World Heritage Site the according to mythology was founded by Cyclops. The city had it’s heydays in 1200 BC and is best known as the place where mythical hero Heracles completed his 12 labours. This site is not as well excavated as Mycenae but is still worth checking out while you are in the area.

Tyrins is only 5km from Nafplio town centre, so if you are short on time, you can still squeeze in a quick visit.

Where to Stay in Nafplio

Althaia Pension 

Located just 200m from Sygmata Square this pension was in a gorgeous old building above a bookshop. We enjoyed our stay here, the bed was comfy, the aircon worked a treat, and the breakfast was divine.

The entry to the Althaia Pension

There were two flights of stairs to reach our room so it may not be for everyone, but the staff were very friendly and helped to carry our bags up the stairs for us. The antique furnishings throughout the property were lovely. There was also a great wifi signal.

Our room at Althaia Pension

Check prices and availability at Althaia Pension on Booking.com

Pension Dafni 

We had initially booked Dafni but when we had to change our dates it was no longer available. This small family-owned property is just 200m from Arvanitia Beach. It was recommended to us by family, and we were really looking forward to our stay. The rooms are beautifully decorated and, the breakfast is apparently excellent.

Check prices and availability at Pension Dafni on Booking.com

Leto Nuevo Hotel

If you are looking for a little luxury, maybe a special occasion celebration or you just want to spoil yourself, this hotel is a lovely choice. Beautifully furnished the rooms are all nice and bright and many have views over the bay or of the old town centre.

Check prices and availability at Leto Nuevo on Booking.com

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