A walking tour of Nafplio’s romantic Old Town
When it comes to romantic escapes, there’s one town that springs to mind for Greeks: Nafplio, the Venetian’s ‘Naples of the East’, built on a small peninsula in the Peloponnese’s Argolic Gulf.
To spend a day in the Old Town is to relive some of modern Greece’s most important events. It was the first capital after independence from the Turks and the scene of both the crowning of the country’s first king and assassination of its first prime minister.
At the same time, its Venetian influences have the ability to sweep you off your feet. You’ll feel it all the way from the lofty fortifications (Palamidi Castle is an experience in itself) to the gelato you’ll enjoy whilst strolling down the narrow cobblestoned alleyways.
With tavernas serving local dishes with an undeniable finesse, atmospheric monuments and neoclassical mansions, Nafplio has a compelling story to tell. So whether you’re on a romantic stroll or exploring with the kids, plot your route or just let your feet guide you… either way, prepare to fall in love.
The Land Gate and Church of Agios Spyridon
Passing through the Land Gate (the original entrance to the Old Town, the first landmark you encounter is the Church of Agios Spyridon, where Ioannis Kapodistrias, Greece’s original head of state, was murdered in 1831. Look for the bullet hole in the wall.
The heart of the Old Town and your gateway to many of its most important buildings, it was known as Platanos Square in the 19th century, due to the huge Plane Tree that still exists.
Originally built as a mosque by the Turks in the 18th century, this impressively restored building became Greece’s first parliament in 1825. It’s not usually open to the public, but it does host concerts and other events.
The Trianon (Old Mosque)
Taking its name from the cinema once housed here, the Trianon is the town’s oldest surviving mosque. It’s believed to have been built by the Turks in the 16th century but its architecture shows strong Byzantine influences.
The Archaeological Museum
The Archaeological Museum gives you the opportunity to delve into the region’s deeper past. It houses around 1,500 artefacts from the Prehistoric era to the Bronze Age, including bronze body armour discovered at the Mycenaean cemetery of Dendra, dating to the 15th century BC.
As you arrive at the waterfront, you’ll catch a first glimpse of Bourtzi, on its islet in the gulf. The Castello dello Soglio, as the Venetian castle was first called, has had a mixed past (from prison to hotel to concert venue) and is worth visiting by boat. But just gazing at it is enough to form a postcard-perfect memory of Nafplio.
The Five Brothers
As you start your stroll along the waterfront, you’ll come across the “Five Brothers” – the five cannons that once protected the western side of the town and the entrance to the harbour. It’s the only Venetian bastion that escaped destruction.
Sunset at Akronafplia
The oldest castle in Nafplio was adapted by each of the town’s settlers, with the result that it is effectively three different castles in one. It’s the perfect end-point to your walk, not least if you time your walk to end with the beautiful sunset over the Argolic Gulf.
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- By car: 140km (1hr50min)
- By bus (KTEL): Regular daily service.
- By car: 146km (1hr45min)
- Nafplio is wonderful all year round, with each season offering something different. However, many consider spring and autumn to be the best times to visit, with the changing colours adding to the aura.
- It’s best to avoid weekends, which is when Athenians tend to visit, so that your experience is as personal as possible.
- Museums and monuments:
Archaeological Museum of Nafplio
- Seasonal opening times apply.
- Tickets: €6 (€3 reduced)
- Suitable for visitors with disabilities. More info
- Bourtzi Castle is currently closed for refurbishment. However, boats to the island operate all year round, allowing you to admire the castle from the outside.
- During summer months, the crossings continue until late. In winter they stop in the afternoon.
- Tickets: €4.50
- Organised walking tours last about 2-3 hours (longer if a visit to Bourtzi is included).
- You can also explore independently and spread the experience over an entire day.
Let’s all try to keep the magic of Greece’s villages, towns and cities alive for future generations.