Nafplio, First Capital City of Greece

View from Nafplio of the Bourtzi fortress. Credit: Greg O’Beirne

Nafplio in the eastern Peloponnese region of Argolis on mainland Greece may not seem to be an ideal spot for a holiday, and perhaps that is so for beach-lovers. It has a rich and interesting history, as it was the first capitol city of Greece between 1823 and 1831, after the end of the Turkish Occupation. According to legend it was founded by the son (Nafplios) of the sea god Poseidon and Anymone the daughter of Danaus. The city sent soldiers to Troy and sailors from here went sailing with the Argonauts. The seafaring traditions of Nafplio are shown on its official seal, below.

The Bourtzi fortress taken from Nafplio. Credit: Bgabel

You can sit on the promenade near the harbour and sip an ouzo while taking in the view of the Bourtzi, the small Venetian fortress on the tiny isle of Agioi Theodoroi (Saint Theodore), which is probably the most-photographed place in modern Nafplio. I used to prefer the old sea front area with its traditional fish stalls and ouzeris with awnings to keep fish on slabs and people shaded from the sun. That is no longer in existence, and in its place is a promenade with benches facing the sea. I once met an old Greek fisherman who was bemoaning the fact that the city had changed so much. I knew what he meant.

There are beaches around Nafplio and these include those at Arvanitia, Karathonas, Nea Kios, Miloi and Kiveri. Nearby Tolon also has a beach and good eateries.

The Palamidi castle/fortress towers above the city. Credit: Angela Monika Arnold, Berlin

You can visit the island by boat in summer and see where the executioners lived in 1860. They were employed to execute the prisoners who were incarcerated in the Palamidi which towers above the city. In summer festivals are held on the island. It is beautiful when illuminated at night.

Inside the Palamidi castle, Nafplio. Credit: Lord Makro at el.wikipedia

The Palamidi fortress or castle is situated high above the town, and there are allegedly 999 steps hewn out of the rock which you used to have to climb to get up to it. Now you can drive up to it and the views of the Gulf of Argolis and the plain of Mycenae are spectacular. Theodore Kolokotronis, one of the heroes of the Greek Revolution was imprisoned in it.

View of Nafplio old and modern, from the harbour. Credit: Bgabel

The mediaeval cobbled streets of the old town of Nafplio are great for wandering around and getting lost in. There are bric-a-brac and antique shops and modern craft shops as well as a kombouloi (worry beads) museum. (This is just one of the museums in Nafplio, but I think it is unique.) You will see Ottoman fountains, Italianate buildings as well as traditional Greek architecture all of which show modern-day tourists the history of this city. It was once under Venetian rule, then there were the Ottomans.

Seal of Nafplio

Seal of Nafplio (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are many places to stay in Nafplio and it is a good base for exploring the Peloponnese and Mycenae. It is much cheaper to stay here than it is to stay in Athens, and the views are arguably better! The fish and seafood is fresh and the prices are better than in Athens and Mykonos, for example.

I love chilling out in Nafplio, if only for a few
hours or for a long weekend. It is easy to get to by bus from Athens!


About lynnee8

I have travelled extensively both for business (I am a teacher and teacher-trainer of English as a Foreign Language) and pleasure. I have just come back from Pakistan where I lived for 4 years. I love Greece and have lived there for more than 10 years although not all at one time.
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4 Responses to Nafplio, First Capital City of Greece

  1. Pingback: Agamemnon’s Palace, Mycenae, Greece | Writing and Travel

  2. Pingback: Epidauros, the Ancient Theatre, Peloponnese, Greece | Writing and Travel

  3. Nessy San says:

    I really appreciate that you give details not only in history, but as well as the prices , hahaha! Since you said it’s cheaper than Athens, would love to go to Nafplio than Athens. 😀 Thanks alot. It would be great to visit this place and sweat on that 99 stairs !


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