A Venetian fortress on a hill, testament to Nafplio’s long history and prime waterfront position, greets visitors of this charming port town as a fortressed islet, the Bourtzi, keeps watch in the distance.
As hoards of people visit Greece every summer, Nafplio, Greece’s first capital, is barely a blip on the radar for some, especially us North American travelers. All the more incentive to go! One of the reasons is because, as part of the Peloponnese, its mainland status is sidestepped for the famed islands but it doesn’t have any less charm… just less beaches.
Narrow, winding streets work their way through the town past Venetian homes and neoclassical buildings- those who know the beauty of Crete will appreciate the parallels in atmosphere and pace- especially with the flowers and waterfront bars and cafes!
Only 3 hours away from Athens, Nafplio is an ideal side-trip for a couple of days. Its frequent bus connections to Athens makes it easy to travel to, although I’d suggest visiting during the week if you want to avoid a crush of Athenians enjoying their time off on the weekend.
A few musts:
Walk aimlessly through the streets and lanes of this pretty town. Inevitably, you’ll find your way back to the town’s main square, Syntagma, whose surroundings include an Archeological Museum and a parliament building. There’s the cutest jewelry and souvenir shops and nice restaurants along the way- it’s especially nice to dine off a small side street on a beautiful night. Try anything with eggplant in it! Have a few drinks by the waterfront, too.
If you’re visiting Nafplio for a longer haul, check out the ruins of Mycenae, home of Agamemnon, a short bus ride away.
The most important attraction is the ‘Lion Gate’ (1250BC)- described as one of the oldest monumental sculptures in Europe, it is above the gateway to what was once a citadel. You can read more about it here: http://tiny.cc/jwe1n and click through the site for more on the following:
The Treasury of Atraeus- a beehive-like tomb, and the tomb of Clytemnestra, as well as a cistern you can walk down down into (but there’s absolutely nothing in there and you need light…) are some other points of interest. The rest of the time you’re in Mycenae, be warned that you’ll find yourself looking at foundations of this bronze age citadel and filling in the blanks.
If you’re not into that thing, it might be a very long day for you… but I really liked it! There’s a museum too!
I’d especially recommend Nafplio to the 40+