Infuse your trip with Greek history and culture, starting with a visit to Palamidi Castle and its hilltop acropolis. Next, climb 999 steps to the top of Akronafplia for a view of the sea that inspires legends.
Nafplio’s narrow cobblestone streets are lined with vintage cafes and impressive historical buildings. It’s a place where romanticism is interspersed with neoclassical balconies and majestic Venetian structures.
1. The Old Town
As you stroll around the cobblestone streets and narrow pathways of Nafplio’s Old Town, you will be enchanted by its unique atmosphere. There are many pretty balconies to ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ at, colorful bougainvillea draped across neoclassical buildings and numerous cafes, taverns and high-end shops to entice you in.
The city has a long history and its architecture bears the marks of all the conquerors that ruled it. Venetian, Ottoman and Turkish styles are all present here. The town was a major naval, trading and commercial center during the second half of the 19th century.
The most important sites in the Old Town include Bourtzi and the Palamidi Fortress. The latter is a must-see attraction as it offers stunning views over the city and the Acronafplia castle. It also includes the windowless stone prison cell where General Kolokotronis was held captive. The Church of Saint Spyridon is another must-see, as it is one of the oldest churches in the city. It was initially constructed during the Venetian period in the 15th century and then expanded around 1700.
2. The Beaches
One of the best things about Nafplio is the pristine beaches nearby. You can soak up the sun and enjoy a refreshing swim in the crystal clear waters of the Argolic Gulf. A short walk from the city center will take you to a number of sandy beaches.
There are a number of great beach bars in the area that offer food, drinks and shade. A favorite is the beach at Kandia where you can lounge beneath tamarisk trees and enjoy a drink or meal in the sea breeze.
If you want to shop in Nafplio, there are a number of cute streets and alley ways that offer everything from upscale boutiques to local crafts like komboloyia (a circular chain with beads) and leather sandals. The town is also known for its wine and there are a number of wineries nearby where you can buy a bottle to enjoy with dinner.
Palamidi Fortress is a must-see attraction when visiting Nafplio. The imposing castle was built by the Venetians in the 1700s and was later seized by the Greeks during the War of Independence. It is now one of the most important sites in Greece.
3. The Archaeological Site of Mycenae
Located a short distance from Nafplio, the archaeological site of Mycenae is one of Greece’s most significant and fascinating. Known as a key player in classical Greek history, it was the center of a powerful kingdom during the Bronze Age that produced some of the earliest written texts.
From the colossal walls that enclose the acropolis to the massive shaft graves found in Grave Circle A, Mycenae is an incredible display of ancient architecture and power. The walls are so large that even the people of classical times couldn’t believe how their ancestors had managed to construct them, and so they named them Cyclopean.
Once past the Lion Gate, a grand road leads to the palatial citadel, which was the home of the Mycenaean king. Here, the tombs of Agamemnon and his wife Clytemnestra—as well as a number of treasures such as the Cup of Nestor, Golden Mask of Agamemnon, and Silver Siege Rhyton—are on display. Admission tickets to Mycenae can be purchased at the site entrance. Reduced admission tickets are often available for students, seniors, and EU citizens.
4. The Akronafplia Fortress
Stroll around the castle walls of Akronafplia to immerse yourself in thousands of years of history. Located on the rocky peninsula, this oldest of Nafplio’s castles was once an independent town on its own. The western part of the castle’s walls were constructed in the Bronze Age, while other parts were developed and amplified by Romans, Franks and Venetians.
When visiting the fortress, be sure to climb up to Palamidi for impressive views over the Argolic Gulf and the city of Nafplio. This stunning citadel is a masterpiece of military architecture.
When in Nafplio, it’s also worth checking out the Archaeological Museum of the city. This impressive museum features a wide range of artifacts from ancient times, including statues, coins and ceramics. Afterwards, take a stroll along Vasileos Konstantinou Street to sample the city’s delicious cuisine and see its elegant Neoclassical buildings. Nafplio’s lively market is another must-visit, where visitors can shop for fresh produce and traditional souvenirs. The city is also home to a range of cafes and restaurants to cater for all tastes.
5. The Church of Saint Spyridon
One of Nafplio’s most recognizable landmarks is the Church of Saint Spyridon. The plain facade belies its ornate interior, which contains a spectacular iconostasis and ceiling murals depicting scenes from the life of the saint. It is said to contain more silver chandeliers, candelabras and thuribles than any other church in Greece.
The locals have deep faith in Agios Spyridon, who is a patron saint of Kerkyra (Corfu) and credited for saving the Ionian island four times from disasters including famine, plague and a Turkish invasion. Throughout the year, a brass candle holder outside the church receives a steady stream of offerings. Inside, the saint’s remains lie in a double Casket. The casket is opened on four occasions a year – Palm Sunday, Easter Sunday, 11 August and the first Sunday of November.
Nafplio is a magical town of old narrow streets, steep stairs and tavernas serving delicious Greek food. The imposing Palamidi and Bourtzi castles, a shady waterfront promenade and wide paved squares add to its charm. It is less than two hours from Athens and offers enough sights to fill a week.