Known as the Blue City and as the ‘Mecca of tobacco’, Kavala’s past and present sparkle with the first rays of dawn. You are in a city where for centuries Byzantines, Ottomans, Jews, merchants, tobacco workers, refugees and intellectuals mingled and prospered. Here in Macedonia, the sea-routes encountered the East-West axis, cross-fertilising both.
Kavala’s huge but decorative tobacco warehouses and elegant neoclassical buildings recall the city’s glorious past. See them and then enjoy the present with a meal and a drink in its lively centre under the eye of the city’s castle or around the port. Take the open bus up the hill to the Old Town and the Imaret, and step back in time. Welcome to Kavala, one of the most beautiful cities in Greece!
What to do in Kavala
The historical Imaret
It’s one of Greece’s most important Ottoman monuments. Imaret means ‘poor house’ though it is anything but. The impressive complex of lead-domed structures was built in 1817 by Mohamed Ali as a kulliye, a place for Islamic instruction, on top of an older imaret. A mixture of curved surfaces and spindly chimneys, enclosing three citrus orchards – one with a cistern – it is a magical place. Following centuries of mishaps and neglect, it was recently renovated by a well-known tobacco family to become a symbol of the city’s history and a modern monument.
Panagia, the old city of Kavala
Are you ready for a blast from the past? Panagia, Kavala’s old town, will take you back with its castle and acropolis and its imaret and the old lighthouse. There are so many sights and attractions to explore. There’s Mohamed Ali Square with his statue and his home, also restored by the Misirian family, the church of the Virgin, the Hussein Bey mosque, the 17th-century madrassa and Macedonian-style houses in fabulous colours. Every step will reveal new treasures from across the centuries.
The castle and the acropolis
The story is too long to fit in a few lines but the view can be captured in a single word; unbelievable. Spread out below you are the old and new town, picturesque bays and the wine-dark Aegean Sea.
Kamares: the aqueduct
These imposing arches are one of Kavala’s trademarks. Originally, they were part of a system that transported water to the rock of Panagia. Measuring 6.4km and uncovered, the aqueduct was constructed not on the principles of communicating vessels but rather on a very precise inclination. It took its present form in the time of Suleiman the Magnificent sometime between 1520 and 1530. Nearly half a millennium later it is just as impressive.
Hidden gems of Kavala
The flavourful meze of Kavala
If you follow the example of local working people and well-informed yuppies, you’ll take a table at the meze-bar in the old shipyard and other similar eateries to dig into the best food in Kavala. Washed down with raki, ouzo or wine, you’ll be served delicious fried red mullet, cod, smoked mackerel, grilled octopus, steamed mussels and fresh clams. Have we whetted your appetite yet?
Tobacco warehouses of Kavala
Scattered round town, the giant tobacco warehouses, imposing industrial monuments, date from the time Kavala was a tobacco hub. If you’re interested in the history of Kavala’s tobacco production, visit the excellent Tobacco Museum.
The old neighbourhood of Agios Nikolaos, with its many small shops and kafeneia, can be found near Eleftherias Square. You’ll discover the church of Agios Nikolaos here, which was transformed from a mosque into an Orthodox Christian place of worship. Outside the church is a digital presentation of its history and, on its southern side, is a wonderful memorial to the Apostle Paul, as Kavala is believed.
- The historical Imaret
- Panagia, the old city of Kavala
- The castle and the acropolis
- Kamares: the aqueduct
- Tobacco warehouses of Kavala
- Agios Nikolaos