Nafplio

The Town

This town has it all! Nafplio is the most popular city in northeast of Peloponnese, ideal for romantic weekends, families, history enthusiasts, nature lovers as well as for those who want to spend their time in some beautiful beach sunbathing, swimming and practicing water sports. Nafplio is a picturesque old city known to be the first capital of the newly formed state of Greece after the Greek War of Independence. It was the capital of Greece from 1828 until 1833, when Athens became the new capital.

As soon as you get here, you will definitely stop to photograph one the most popular monuments of Peloponnese, Bourtzi. Bourtzi is the islet just across the seaside street of Napflio, with the homonym Venetian fortress. The seaside street of Napflio is full of all kinds of restaurants and cafe bars where you could enjoy your meal or coffee while gazing at the beautiful view of this little island.

Except Bourtzi, other notable features of this city are, of course, the two famous Venetian castles, the Acronafplia and Palamidi, both with beautiful view of the city and the sea. Visiting Palamidi can be done by two ways, the easy and the hard one. The easy one is by car and the hard one is by climbing the- according to tradition- 999 stairs which lead to the imposing castle. Some claim that the stairs are in fact 857, so for those who want a challenging activity, finding out the truth is definitely a good one!

The well-preserved old city, also known as Lower City, with the signal architecture will astonish you. While walking in the old city you will feel the historical breeze. You will come across many early neoclassical and neoclassical houses and a few Venetian or Turkish houses. You can’t miss the historical Syntagma square, the core of this historical settlement, where you will find important historic buildings like the Warehouse of the Venetian flee which today houses the Archaeological museum with findings from the prehistoric and the Mycenaean Era. You will also encounter the old parliament of Greece “Vouleftikon”, the “Trianon” and many more! Around this area, you will find a plenty of restaurants and cafeterias to visit. The old city as well as the wider area of Nafplio offers a lot of options for your accommodation, from big luxury hotels to small traditional guest houses which satisfy every taste.

The History

According to Greek mythology, Nauplius, who was the son of the Greek god Poseidon and Amymone, established the town. The descentant of Nauplius, Nauplius Junior was a Greek hero known for this participation in the Argonautic Expedition and was also considered as a founder of this town. The Venetian castle of Nafplio, Palamidi took its name from the son of Nauplius Junior, Palamedes. Palamedes was one of the Greek representatives during the Trojan War who asked from the Trojans the return of the beautiful Helen in the beginning of the war.

Nafplio was initially known as “Nauplea city” and was established on the top of the hill of the peninsula during the Mycenaean Period. Since the 7th century BC Nafplio was the harbor of Argos which was a powerful city during those years. Like the other Mycenaean settlements Nauplea was also fortified by the imposing “Cyclopean Walls”.

Nafplio was gradually developed into an important harbor and trading centre during the Late Byzantine Period. The lord of Nafplio since 1200 was Leontas Sgouros who expanded his domination and managed to reach the Larisa city in 1204. Between 1210-1212AD the Franks stopped his expansion and occupied all the areas he had under his control including Nafplio.

The Franks built a castle on the top of the hill very close to the castle already existed since antiquity. In 15th century, the Venetians who occupied Nafplio after the Franks linked the two castles and formed the acropolis of the old city known today as Acronauplea. In Acronauplea they also built a castle next to the existing Frankish castle. This castle was named “Castello di Toro”. A small part of land at the north side of the Acronauplea was occupied by Greek fishermen and was named “Psaromachalas” which means in Greek the area of the fishermen. At the east side, Venetians constructed an artificial hill where they built the Napoli di Romania which is today known as the old city of Nafplio. This area was also called Lower City in order to distinguish it from the old city with the castles of Acronauplea. In addition the Venetians also built the fortress of Bourtzi at the small islet across the harbor.

In 1540 Nafplio was occupied by the Ottoman Empire and the town had many privileges during this period until the middle of 17th century. Moreover Ottomans declared Nafplio as the capital of Peloponnese during their occupancy. Venetians reoccupied Nafplio during 1686-1715 and constructed the second famous Venetian castle, Palamidi. The Lower City/Old city was fortified by walls and on the east side of the walls there was the Land Gate, which was the only access to Nafplio through the land. According to the historic sources the Land Gate closed after the sunset and whoever didn’t manage to come in time stayed outside the walls probably in the nearby area Pronoia. The visitor of the city can visit the reconstructed gate with the sculpture of a lion on the top. In addition, during the second Venetian occupation the Grimani Bastion was constructed. The bastion is in good condition until today and can be seen by the Land Gate or Staikopoulou Park. During this period in Acronauplea the only people that were allowed to live there were the soldiers. So, in 1713 the Sagredo Gate was constructed in order to make it easier for the soldiers to move from the castle of Acronauplea to the Lower City.

In 1715 Nafplio was under the Ottoman occupancy again but under poor conditions this time. After the Turks declared Tripoli instead of Nafplio as the ottoman capital of Peloponnese, the decline of the city started. Mainly Turks and only a few Christians from Psaromachala district continued to live here. According to historic sources, many houses were abandoned and the harbor was full of garbage.

After the outburst of the Greek War of Independence, in 1822 the Greeks under the command of Staikos Staikopoulos took over the city from the Turks. The city started to flourish again and many people settled here. During 1828-1833 Nafplio was the first capital of the newly formed state of Greece after the Greek War of Independence. Ioannis Kapodistrias was the first minister of Greece and arrived in Nafplio in 1828. A few years later, in 27th of September in 1831 Ioannis Kapodistrias was murdered outside the church of St. Spiridonas in Nafplio. In 1833 Othonas, the first king of Greece, arrived in Nafplio and stayed here until 1834 when the capital of Greece was transferred in Athens. Nafplio protested against Othonas in a revolution which is called “Nafpliaka” in 1862. Today Nafplio is a popular destination throughout the year which preserves its traditional elements in harmony with the modern city.

Sightseeing

Palamidi is one of the two Venetians castles of Nafplio. It can be reached either by car or on foot through its famous 999 stairs. Take advantage of the view this castle offers and get some of the nicest, most memorable photos! Wander through the castle walls and visit the prison cell where Theodoros Kolokotronis (the Greek general of the Greek War of Indepedence) was imprisoned. In the castle you will also find the historical church of St. Andreas.

Acronafplia was the fortified settlement of Nafplio from antiquity until the 15th century. During the archaeological researches the prehistoric settlement and the acropolis had been identified. The Franks built their own Frankish castle in 1210-1212 close to the castle which already existed since the byzantine period. The Frankish castle was inhabited by lords of the Franks while the existing one was inhabited by Greeks. The Franks connected the two castles in order to control the communication between the two castles. At the east side of the Frankish Castle the Venetians enhanced the fortifications by building the “Castello di Toro”. Castello di Toro is a well preserved castle open to visitors. During the Ottoman Empire, Acronafplia was slightly modified by the Turks who named the castle “Its Kale”, which means internal castle. In this area during this period only the commons lived whereas the officials lived in the area which is today known as Old or Lower City. During the second Venetian occupancy the castle of Acronafplia was inhabited only by soldiers. After the liberation from the Ottoman Empire, Ioannis Kapodistrias constructed in Acronafplia military facilities and hospital. The prison of Palamidi was transferred in Acronafplia in 1926 and operated until 1960. Later the prison, the military hospital and other parts of Acronafplia where demolished and a hotel complex was built in this place. Acronafplia was built at the foot of Palamidi hill and like Palamidi, offers an astonishing view.

Bourtzi is the islet just across Nafplio with the Venetian fortress which was constructed in 1473. Bourtzi played an important part during the battles due to its strategic position and operated as a fortress until 1865. Afterwards it was the place where the executioners of the Palamidi prisoners lived. You can get there by the boats which you will find in the harbor.

“Trianon” is a monument in the Syntagma squere. It is the oldest mosque and was probably build in the second half of the 16th century. During 1828-1833 it was a mutual teaching school and the best students undertook the teaching. Later this building was used as a cinema and took the name Trianon. Today the building houses the municipal theatre of Nafplio.

“Vouleftikon” is also a very important monument of the history of Nafplio. It was built in 1730 during the second Ottoman occupancy and was initially a mosque. According to tradition, the mosque was built by a Turk dignitary in order to redeem himself from his sins. Two young people from Venetia had arrived in Nafplio during the Ottoman years in order to look for a treasure their father had hidden here when Venetian Empire was still in charge of the area. The Turk dignitary found the treasure and killed the two young people in order to keep the treasure for himself. Overwhelmed with remorse and guilt he used the treasure to build the mosque which is known as the mosque of Aga-Pasas. Later the building was reformed and housed the first parliament of Greece during 1825-1826. It was then when the building finally took the name Vouleftikon. Today you will find the municipal art gallery of Nafplio with interesting collections of paintings.

The Five Brothers Bastion (“Promachonas”) is the only bastion of the fortifications in the Lower City that is preserved. The bastion protected the west part of the Lower City and the harbor.

The oldest church that is preserved until today in Nafplio is the byzantine church Agia Sofia. During the Ottoman occupancy in 1715 there weren’t allowed the liturgies in the churches inside the walls of the city, including the church of Agia Sofia. The only church that was still operating was the chapel of Agion Panton in the nearby area Pronoia. During 1779-1780 the church was given back to the Christians for their church attendance and was then the only church inside the walls that had the permission to operate.

The Cathedral of St. George is a church of great historical importance. It was built during the first Venetian occupancy in the beginning of the 16th century and was reformed into a mosque by the Turks in 1540. When the Venetians won the battle against the Turks and reoccupied Nafplio, the winner generalissimo Francesco Morosini was welcomed in the Cathedral of St.George and the glorification took place here. During the second Ottoman occupancy the cathedral was reformed again into a mosque until the liberation of the city in 1822 when the church was handed finally to the Orthodox Church. Inside this church you will see a representation of the Last Supper which is actually a replica of the famous artwork of Leonardo Da Vinci. The funerary ceremonies of prominent figures of the Greek War of Independence were performed here. Also the funeral of Ioannis Kapodistrias was performed in this cathedral. Inside the church you will also see the throne of Othonas, where he was sitting during the liturgies.

The church of St. Spiridonas became famous in Greece for being the place where the first prime minister of Greece, Ioannis Kapodistrias was murdered in 1831. The church was built in 1702 during the second Venetian occupancy.

The church of Panagia (Virgin Mary) dates back in the 15th century during the first Venetian occupancy. In 1700, during the second Venetian occupancy, the church was reformed into its final form. It is one of the most beautiful churches of Nafplio. Inside the church you will see the wood carved iconostasis (templo) of the 19th century. The church is known for the procession of the Epitaph around the Psaromachala district.

The Transfiguration of Jesus Catholic Church also known in Greek as “Fragkoklisia” was build from the Franks and probably was used as a nunnery. During the Ottoman occupancy the widow of Aga-Pasas reformed the church into a mosque and the features of the mosque are still visible. The king Othonas in 1839 handed the building to the Catholic Church in order to please all the Catholics who helped during the Greek War of Independence. Othonas was responsible for the fact that the church is dedicated to the Transfiguration of Jesus in order to symbolize the transfiguration of Greece after the liberation from the Ottomans.

Komboloi/ Chaplet museum is one of a kind! Here you can find a collection of around 1000 chaplets from all over the world. There are chaplets from 1700 until 1950. The museum was founded in 1998 by Evagelinos family.

Activities

Even though walking is a fantastic way to meet Nafplio, biking can be even better! The city of Nafplio with the limited streets that are accessible to cars couldn’t be better for the bike lovers. Take the bike and make a round trip along the coast to enjoy the magnificent scenery. For those who would like to bike even more you can even go by bike to Karathona beach or even further, like Tolo.

If biking isn’t exactly the ideal way for you to visit the town you can choose either traditional carriages or the tourist trains that make a circle of the town around some of the most important monuments of Nafplio.

For those who love water sports, here is your area! Karathona beach and Tolo beach offer a great variety of water sports.

Cruises in the Argolic Gulf as well as sailing are some of the alternative activities visitors can enjoy in this area.

The Beach

Arvanitia beach is the closest and one of the most popular in the area. It is an organized pebble beach with turquoise water. At the right side of this beach starts a paved street which is the beginning of a beautiful route called “The round of Arvanitia” and offers a great view of the Argolic Gulf.

Just 3km from Nafplio there is the Karathona beach. Karathona beach is a beautiful sandy beach ideal for families and also for those who love practicing water sports. Around the area there are beautiful chapels, like Agia Paraskevi, Panagia Katakekrimeni and Agios Nikolaos Krasoktistos.

A little further (about 7Km) you will find a beautiful seaside location, Nea Kios which offers a chance to swim or taste some fresh fish.

About 11,5Km southwest, Miloi, is a little harbor with a beach. It is a picturesque location, ideal for walking. In Miloi you can also visit the traditional village to taste fresh fish and “ouzo”, the famous Greek spirit. Also in the Miloi settlement you will find Lerna, which was an importand ancient seaside city known for its big amount of water. According to mythology, Lerna was the location where “Lernaia Hydra” lived. Lernaia Hydra was the mythical monstrous creature which Hercules defeated.

About 12,5Km away from Nafplio you could visit Vivari beach. The turquoise water of this organized beach attracts more and more tourists every year. It is a sandy and relatively small beach with cafeterias and traditional taverns.

If you feel like driving a little more, continue to Kondili beach/St.Nikolaos, which is an organized pebble beach considered by many one of the most beautiful in the area. Next to the beach you will find the St. Nikolaos chapel.

Last but not least, Kandia beach is another great option for swimming. This pebble beach is organized and popular among young people as well as families. In this beach you will also find a lot of options to drink your coffee or enjoy your meal.

Places to Visit

Just outside the town (about 4,3Km) there is one of the most important archaeological sites of Argolida, Ancient Tiryns. Here you get a chance to see the famous cyclopean walls which were built around the 14th and the 13th century BC. Except the acropolis and the surrounding walls, in the sight you can see the whole city which extended around the acropolis with the public buildings, the warehouses and the residence complexes. In the wider area there is also a Mycenaean vaulted grave which can be visited.

Tolo is an old fishing village near Nafplio, around 12Km away. It has a a golden sandy beach of over 1km length just in front of the village. The beach is well organized and you will find beach bars with sunbeds and umbrellas. In its sparkling sea you will be able to enjoy swimming, fishing and every kind of water sports such as sailing, windsurfing, waterskiing or scuba diving, rent a motorised boat, go fishing, go on a barbeque or hire a pedalo. The village is a popular touristic destination and offers a great deal of choices in terms of accommodation. Don’t forget to visit the traditional restaurants and taste fresh fish and local specialties.

Near Tolo you will find Ancient Asini or Kastraki. This ancient city was inhabited already since the 5th millennium BC until the 6th century AD. From the Homeric Poems we know that Asini was one of those cities that participated in the Trojan War with a large fleet. You could take the opportunity to visit this sight and then enjoy swimming in the nearby pebble beach of Ancient Asini. It is a small organized beach with relatively deep water ideal for those who enjoy peaceful moments. A little further from this beach you could also find the unorganized beach Kastraki. Just make sure to take everything you need with you and enjoy this pebble sandy beach.

Just 12,5Km away from Nafplio is the town Argos. Argos might not be the most popular town among the tourists, it is however a city of great historical importance. In this town you could visit the Archaeological Museum which hosts great findings from the Geometric Period, findings from the excavation of Lerna , statues from the Roman Period and many more. Also, in this town you will find the archaeological site of Agora and the Ancient Theatre of Argos, one of the biggest in Greece. Just outside Argos, you could visit the famous “Heraion of Argos” , an important monument dedicated to the ancient Greek goddess Hera.

If you only have time for one archaeological site, make sure it is Mycenae! Mycenae was the legendary kingdom of Agamemnon and the most important palace of the Late Bronze Age in Greece. You will be amazed by the grandeur of this ancient city which was the cradle of the Hellenic nation. After passing the Gate of Lions you will constantly stare at those imposing ruins of the ancient city where many epochal events took place. Here was the place where Agamemnon started organizing the Trojan War, as described by the Homeric Poems.

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