Napflio, Greece: the Best Things To Do

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Nafplio was a discovery! I arrived in this seaside town in the Peloponnese during a leg of my ontheroad in mainland Greece. I am very interested in seaside towns. Maybe it is because I live in the Po Valley, but when I see the sea I smile and begin to admire it. If we also associate with it some warmth and smells of seafood cuisine, well, leave me there and never pick me up again.

All jokes aside, Nafplio, or Nafplio as it is known, is a charming seaside resort overlooking the Argolic Gulf. It is characterized by having a lived-in and I would say quite modern downtown. There is the right mix of tradition and state-of-the-art establishments. One can eat in a typical Greek taverna and then enjoy the after-dinner entertainment in one of the many pubs and clubs scattered around the center.

Usually, in seaside cities, cars and parking do not go hand in hand, but in Nafplio you will have no such problems. In the harbor area there is a large, no-fee parking lot that allows you to leave your car a stone’s throw from the center.

Nafplio I particularly recommend for couples, especially in the evening it has a warm and welcoming atmosphere. It helps that it is by the sea, although the city is mainly inland with the beautiful Syntagma Square, narrow streets, neoclassical palaces, and elegant Venetian-style buildings.

nauplia sera grecia

Brief history of Nafplio

Nafplio has been the subject of several dominations.

Venetians and Turks occupied the town at different times and the signs of their passage can still be found today in its most representative points. Just think of the Palamidi Fortress, built by the Venetians between 1687 and 1715. But this is relatively recent history. Even earlier, Nafplio was under Mycenaean and then Byzantine domination.

One would be inclined to say: it was a seaport. With good reason, being a sea town, one would not be wrong either.

Nafplio remained with the Venetians until 1540, when the Turks arrived and held it until 1686 when it returned under the Venetian flag. In 1715 the reverse happened, from the Venetians it went to the Turks again until 1822. In that year Greece became independent from Turkish rule, so that the city assumed the appellation of capital until 1834, in fact the first capital of Greece.

Where to stay in Nafplio?

If you are looking for a place to sleep, let me recommend the Pension Eleni (click HERE for the hotel). It has excellent value for money, and there is also ample free parking in the adjacent small square.

The elderly lady speaks a mixture of Italian, Greek and English. She will wait for you with a paper in her hand with your last name. She made me tender, I felt like I was talking a bit with my grandmother and I was smiling when she tried to express herself in I don’t know what language.

Would you like to get an overview of all the hotels in Napflio -> CLICK HERE.

The Things to To (and see) in Nafplio

The town is not large and you can visit it in a day while also taking the right breaks and, why not, even a rejuvenating swim at Arvanita beach just a stone’s throw from the center.

But, after this little tip, what are the things to see in Nafplio?

Syntagma Square and the center

Daily life takes place mainly in the main square i.e. Syntagma Square. It is the heart of Nafplio both culturally and socially. Numerous bars and clubs enliven this square. This is overlooked by the most important buildings that have shaped the history of the city including the first Greek parliament dating back to 1825.

nauplia grecia nafplio piazza syntagma

Also in Syntagma Square is the Archaeological Museum where you can see some artifacts found at nearby sites as well as other artifacts related to the Greek region of Argolis. I am not a particularly museum-oriented traveler, but I believe that, for those interested, this museum can be a good time to learn more about Greek history.

From the square are the main streets of Nafplio adorned with floral elements that make them very picturesque. Even the typical Greek taverns, although they have become overtly touristy, help to create that mixture of warmth/hospitality that makes you feel almost at home.

nauplia nafplio grecia

The Palamidi Fortress

Nafplio, as you may have guessed, has always been considered to be in a strategic location. This aspect can be seen simply by looking at how the city has developed. The huge rocky outcrops were essential for protection against enemy attacks.

Orography of the land and strategic importance were the factors that prompted the various populations to build not one but as many as 3 defense positions:

  • Palamidi Fortress
  • Acronafplia
  • Bourtzi Castle

The Palamidi fortress fascinated me. It is already a beautiful experience merely to walk down the steps leading to the main entrance. Step by step you can catch a glimpse of the city from countless different vantage points. If you visit on a sunny day, along the 940 steps leading to the 200-odd meters of the fortress you will want to stop again and again.

The number of steps is certified, source: the ticket office. I didn’t set out to count them eh!

nauplia fortezza palamidi nafplio grecia mare

To reach the entrance you can either walk down the steps or reach the entrance by car or cab. If your physique allows, don’t think twice, take the steps and you will be rewarded. The steps start near the bus station. There is a kiosk at the beginning of the steps; stock up on water or sugary drinks because the heat could be a major obstacle.

The Palamidi Fortress is a reminder of Venetian rule. It was built between 1687 and 1715, more precisely from 1711 to 1714. It is immense; it really takes a long time to go around it all. It is named after Palamedes, a hero of mythology who fought during the Trojan War.

nauplia fortezza palamidi nafplio grecia

There are as many as 8 independent bastions that we find inside the Palamedes Fortress. As we discover meter after meter of this imposing defensive construction, we can see how from the top the Venetians could have a 360-degree view and equally vast protection, both toward the sea and the mainland.

It is difficult to imagine how the city could have passed back into the hands of the Turks in 1715. Probably the breakthrough of the fortress occurred at the most fragile point, the Epaminondas bastion, which at that time had not yet been finished.

For those who love photography, the Palamidi Fortress is a great place.

nauplia fortezza palamidi nafplio grecianauplia grecia nafplio

Admission price: 8 euros (price summer 2021).

Be careful to check the times before starting the long climb, lest you arrive at the top and find your door barred.

Caution: in addition to the steps to get to the entrance, the fortress itself is also built uphill and the terrain consists of grass, rocks and boulders. Use appropriate footwear.

Akronapflia

Akronafplia is Nafplio’s fortress closest to the sea in a considerably less elevated position. This defensive structure was also built and enlarged by the various dominations and can be reached on foot in a few minutes from the main square. I did not go there but I am told it is very impressive at sunset because the sun goes down in front of the promontory on which it was built

Bourtzi

Finally, there is the small island called Bourtzi Castle, one of the symbols of Nafplio. It was built in the 1400s by the Venetians and, along with the other fortifications, was intended to protect the city from attack by sea. The fortress can be visited during the summer period via boats that leave from the nearby port of Nafplio.

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