Cosmopolitan Spetses, one of the favourite islands close to Athens, will make you want to return again and again. It’s an ideal destination for a quick retreat all year round and never fails to make you feel special – whether you are enjoying a leisurely coffee in Dapia, with a view of Kosta and Porto Heli on the mainland opposite, taking a romantic stroll along the Old Harbour, or learning about the island’s fearless heroine Laskarina Bouboulina.
Horse-drawn carriages, bicycle and walking will be your only modes of transport on Spetses – all the better to enjoy the well-kept captains’ mansions below Agios Nikolaos Monastery, the boatyards and Bouboulina’s Museum. And of course the ambience of the legendary Poseidon Hotel near the port, which has hosted royalty, politicians and dignitaries. Spetses has long been a favourite escape for high society, as reflected in the smart cafes, art stores and stylish boutiques.
What to do on Spetses island
Take a long stroll and enjoy the aristocratic ambience
Since the use of cars is restricted, horse and carriage or walking remain the preferred means of getting around on Spetses. So be sure to take a romantic evening ride in any of the horse-drawn carts that operate on the island, passing the picturesque Old Harbour, Agios Nikolaos and back to the main town, Dapia.
Listen to the tale of local legends and wartime heroines
The neoclassical captains' homes and cannons from the revolution of 1821 tell a story that is unique to Spetses. Indeed, this is an island steeped in history and locals are eager to tell the tales of their nautical victories and local heroes. Archaeological finds date back to 3000 BC and don’t miss the Bouboulina Museum, where a plethora of the War of Independence naval commander’s personal items are on display. The Mansion of Hatzigianni Mexi (the first governor of Spetses) is another must-see, as it’s one of the most impressive stately homes.
Enjoy the swanky scene as Spetses turns on the style
There’s no end to the festivities in the cosmopolitan neighbourhood of the Old Harbour. Candlelit tables, jetties and romantic terraces, gourmet dining and fine wine, soft music and lively conversation. You get the scene. And as the evening progresses, there are plenty of bars and clubs to choose from. Stylish, sophisticated Spetses.
Be schooled in the island’s literary past
Wander around the neighbourhood of Kounoupitsas and don’t miss the legendary Anargyrio and Korgialenio School. Take a stroll in its well-tended gardens and admire the beautiful neoclassical buildings on this side of the island. Did you know that among the English teachers that taught here was the award-winning writer John Fowles, creator of The Magus, based partly on his experiences on Spetses?
Experience the Armata, Spetses’ annual cultural treat
Thousands of visitors descend upon the island to experience the annual Armata – a week-long celebration in September in honour of the naval victories of Spetses, Hydra and Psara against the Turks in 1822. In addition to the impressive fireworks and religious rituals, it’s a week filled to the brim with cultural happenings, feasting and festivities.
Take a day cruise around the islands close to Athens
Hidden gems of Spetses island
The old boatyards
Spetses was the second-biggest shipping centre in Greece? In the heart of the Old Harbour, the boatyards are sure to impress you. You can still watch the builders practise their craft in time-honoured fashion. At the end of your stroll, under the lighthouse, you’ll find the work of acclaimed Greek sculptor Natalia Mela gazing out at the Argosaronic Gulf.
The name Sotirios Anargyros means a lot to the locals of Spetses, since the late-19th-century shipping magnate financed, among other things, the building of the Poseidon Hotel. His house is located behind Dapia, built in 1904 and one of the most beautiful neoclassical homes in Greece.
Agia Marina, Kouzounos, Ksilokeriza, Vrelos, Scholes, Zogeria … beautifully clear waters and secluded beaches with pebbles and sand and shaded by pines are just walking distance away. And at the beach of Agios Arnargyros, you’ll discover the impressive Bekiris Cave.