Maybe it’s the allure of the city having been the first capital of modern Greece; maybe it’s the combination of its breath-taking beaches and picturesque alleys; maybe it’s the fact that Nafplio carries the same aesthetic as Athens’ Plaka, only ten folds. Whichever the reason, Nafplio is arguably one of the most striking and romantic cities of Greece, dearly beloved by both locals and visitors, proving Henry Miller’s quote nothing short of true.
Table of Contents
On its -already excessive- pros list, being only 2 hours away from Athens is pretty high up, making Nafplio, the capital of the regional unit of Argolis, an excellent short getaway destination in Greece.
Ruled in the past by Frankish, Venetian, and Turkish conquerors, Nafplio offers a diverse landscape of medieval castles, fortified islets and striking beaches, perfect for your next Greek weekend getaway! Here, we present to you a list of the top things to do in Nafplio, if you fancy visiting it.
1. Climb Palamidi Castle
Palamidi Castle in Nafplio - credits: Inu/Shutterstock.com
Built in 1686 by the Venetians, Palamidi Castle, one of the most beautiful castles in Greece, stands 216 meters above sea level. If you’re up for the hike, 999 steps will lead you to the top, where stunning panoramic views await, as well as enchanting baroque-style archways along the way. The Palamidi hill, which owes its name to the Homeric hero Palamidis, hadn't been systematically fortified until the years of the Second Ottoman domination.
As a fortress, it remained impenetrable until the Turks occupied it in 1715. In 1822, the Greeks regained control of the castle when they achieved independence from the Ottoman Empire, making Nafplio the first capital of modern Greece until 1834. Palamidi Castle, preserved in excellent condition, is one of the most important achievements of the Venetian fortification architecture.
2. Explore the history of Nafplio
The Archaeological Museum of Nafplio - credits: wikipedia.org
There are many noteworthy museums in town that can provide further insight into the area’s culture and history. The Archaeological Museum of Nafplio exhibits important artifacts from the Prehistoric and Mycenaean Era, the War Museum was the former site of the first Military School in Greece, and the Komboloi Museum showcases an impressive global collection of worry beads, which Nafplio is especially known to produce.
Last but not least, Nafplio's War Museum, an annex of the Athens War Museum, has been operating since 1988 in an impressive building of Venetian architecture. Here's a fun fact to impress your friends and family with: the same building that now houses Nafplio's War Museum was chosen by Kapodistrias to house the Hellenic School in 1828.
3. Cook traditional recipes
Greek cooking class - credits: Alexxxey/Shutterstock.com
The local cuisine of Nafplion is as rich as one whould expect from a Greek region. The local dishes of Nafplion, such as bogana -milk lamb with whole potatoes, cooked in a hut and usually servedas the main course in weddings- and goges -handmade pasta of Argolida that is traditionally cooked during Greek Halloween- are deliciously unique and a must-try for visitors looking to eat their way through Greek culture.
Experience the best of the local culinary scene by joining a hands-on private cooking lesson in Nafplio led by an expert chef. Satisfy your palate with your own Greek salad and traditional appetizers, such as tzatziki and cheese pies. Situated on a private hilltop location with an inspiring view, prepare the main and dessert course coupled with a carefully curated wine or soft drink.
4. Take a Boat Ride to Bourtzi
Bourtzi - credits: Takis ks/Shutterstock.com
Bourtzi is another Venetian fortress, located on the islet of Agioi Theodoroi. A trademark of the city of Nafplion, originally in this islet, located in the middle of the harbor of the city, there was a Byzantine church dedicated to saint Theodoros.It was built to ward off pirates, and then later on, became a residence for executioners of Palamidi prisoners.
From 1930 to 1970, it was used as a hotel, where visitors could check into the castle overnight. Today, it mainly serves as a tourist attraction and the occasional host site for music festivals. You can reach the islet by boat, which regularly departs from Nafplio, especially during the summer months.
5. Swim in of Nafplio's magnificent beaches
Karathona Beach - credits: PitK/Shutterstock.com
Sandy or pebbled, busy or remote, Nafplio's beaches are definitely worth a visit, offering a refresing break to your cultured trip. Just a 10-minute walk south from Palamidi castle hill will lead you to Karathona Beach, a mesmerizing cove, dotted with cafes and traditional taverns along the water. At this 'Blue Flag' accredited beach, you can rest assured you’ll be swimming in some of the clearest waters you have encountered in your lifetime. Also popular in the area, are Arvanitia and Neraki Beach. Although widely known for the beauty and the culture of its city, the beaches of Nafplion are a happy surprise to visitors, one that you should all experience!
Just hours away from Athens, with regularly scheduled buses departing from Kifissos Bus station, there’s no excuse to skip on a trip to Nafplion. Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, or a beach lover, Nafplio has a little something for everyone in an idyllic and romantic setting.
6. Take a Private Walking Tour in Nafplio
Overview of Nafplio - credits: encrier/Depositphotos.com
Nafplio, the capital of Argolis, is one of the most popular and charming cities in Greece. According to Greek mythology, the city owes its name to the settler of Nafplion, the son of god Poseidon. During antiquity, Nafplio was upstaged by Argos, serving as its port from the 7th century BC. Today, however, Nafplio stands tall on its own attracting thousands of visitors every year. A fun introduction to the area, our Nafplio private walking tours include expert guides, who will lead you through secret passageways while showing off the main sights of the most romantic city in Greece.
If you follow along with the guide’s descriptive narration, the town will come alive with stories from the past, such as the infamous murder of Ioannis Kapodistrias, the Prime Minister of the First Hellenic Republic, while you will visit the very place the assassination took place. The tour also includes a stop at the renowned Italian gelateria of Nafplio and concludes at the Acronafplia, the acropolis of Nafplio, which offers a breath-taking view of the sea.
7. Take a Day-Trip to the Surrounding Regions
Delphi ancient ruins - credits: elgreko/Shutterstock.com
When visiting Nafplio, you cannot pass up the opportunity to also visit its fascinating surroundings and get to know the beautiful places the Greek countryside has to offer that are in close proximity; we’re all about killing two birds with one stone! Thankfully the Peloponnese is one of the most beautiful regions in Greece and nearby Nafplio you can find the magnificent regions of Epidaurus, Nemea, and Mycenae.
A Delphi Day-Trip will introduce you to the mystical world of the fascinating archaeological site that has been included in the list of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites. Along with your designated licensed guide, you will gain insight into the navel of the ancient world and discover fascinating tales of Greek mythology. What’s more, with a Mycenae & Nafplio Day-trip, you will get to visit the ancient town of royal Mycenae, stopping on your way there at the arresting Corinth Canal. With the help of your expert guide, learn all there is to know about the ancient civilization that is one of the very firsts in the world and marvel at monuments that have stood the test of time, such as the Cyclopean Walls and the Treasury of Atreus. Last but not least, by joining our Nemea Myth and Wine Experience with Wineries visit & hearty dinner, you will treat yourself to an adventure that will introduce you to the beauties of Greece and the riches of its local cuisine. Visit Nemea to get acquainted with organic grape farming and balsamic vinegar production, before enjoying delectable varieties of wines at two prestigious vineyards. At the end of the adventure, you’ll get to enjoy a 5-course dinner accompanied –of course- by award-winning wine.
8. Sail across the magical coast of Nafplio
A couple sailing across Greece - credits: goodluz/Shutterstock.com
Being a seaside town, Nafplio is the ideal destination from which you can enjoy a sailing tour that will upgrade your trip to a whole other level. Embark on a Semi-private Nafplio Sailing Adventure and admire the impressive coastline of Nafplio while being treated like royalty. Take in the impeccable romantic ambiance Nafplio is known for and swim in striking beaches you wouldn’t otherwise get to visit. For the more adventurous travelers, you can even enjoy fun watersports, such as snorkeling. In true Greek fashion, this luxurious experience wouldn’t be complete without food! Taste the excellence of Greek cuisine through local snacks, traditional dishes, and fresh, seasonal fruit offered onboard. Sailing across the coast of Nafplio will be one of your highlight experiences during your time in Greece!
9. Stroll the Arvanitia Promenade
A favorite walk of the visitors of the city but also of the locals is the Arvanitia Promenade, which leads the walkers from the edge of the port to Arvanitia square, next to the homonymous beach. The distance of the promenade is not long, far from it; it is just about 1 km-long. This, however, doesn’t mean that it isn’t enjoyable and exciting. The road is paved and has on one side the imposing Acronafplia and on the other the waters of the Argolic Gulf. A breath from the center of the city, the hustle and bustle disappear and all you can hear is the wave crashing from below. Almost halfway, the steps lead to the beautiful church of Our Lady of the Cave - Santa Maria Della Grotta, which, built in the rocks of Akronafplia, offers excellent sea views that will leave you in awe. This walk is perfect at any time of the day, although during sunset the colors of the sky and their reflection in the sea offer a once-in-a-lifetime experience you wouldn’t want to miss.
Nafplio Itinerary: How to spend 2 days in Nafplio
Here, we suggest how to spend two days in Nafplio like a local!
Palamidi Fortress at Nafplio - credits: saiko3p/Shutterstock.com
Kick off your first day in Nafplio with a luscious breakfast made with fresh, Greek ingredients, to fuel yourself with the energy you will need for the long day of exploration ahead. From trendy avocado on toast to healthy yogurt and granola bowls, 'Gallika Salon de The & French Bakery' has it all and then some! Its hospitable staff and cozy atmosphere add to its overall merit, making it a must-have culinary experience.
Following your breakfast, it is time to infuse your trip with Greek history and culture; both elements that can be found in abundance in Nafplio. Visit two of the most historically significant and culturally emblematic castles in Greece, Palamidi and Akronafplia. Palamidi is built on a high hill in the east of Akronafplia at a height of 216m. It was fortified by the Venetians and resembles a typical Baroque fortress. In 1715, the castle was occupied by the Turks until 1822 when Greeks earned it back. You can access Palamidi either by car or, for the more adventurous, by climbing up the legendary 999 steps from the center of the city (which are actually 857).
Once you’re there, don’t forget to explore the castle, the Venetian fortress of the early 18th century, St. Andrew's Church, and the prison where national Greek hero Theodoros Kolokotronis was held in 1834. Akronafplia’s castle is on a rocky peninsula that used to be the Acropolis of Nafplion in antiquity. It is accessible only from the north through an artificial historic ravine called Arvanitia. The current form of Akronafplia's castle, albeit quite altered by contemporary interventions, came to be between the 13th and 16th century. Akronafplia, however, carries a much longer history, which is evident through its walls, part of which are cyclopean.
In the shadow of Palamidi, right at the base of the infamous 999 steps, one can find Nafplio’s farmer’s market every Wednesday and Saturday, from 7 am to 2.30 pm. Don’t miss the opportunity to browse through the local products and even buy some to taste or take with you back home.
After you’ve explored the riches of the Greek land, enjoy a long, unwinding walk along Nafplio’s seaside. The striking view of the sea along with the salty breeze will lull you into a state of complete and utter relaxation; exactly what you need from your weekend getaway. The walk around Arvanitia towards Karathonas bay is about 3 km (one hour) long and it starts from Arvanitia, the edge of the beach, and goes around the rock Akronafplia.
By now, your stomach must be rumbling and we can't possibly let this be! Pay a visit to one of the most picturesque taverns of Nafplio, ‘Psiras’, in the districts of Provonia, in a beautiful narrow street at the foothills of Palamidi. 'Psiras' is a family tavern and it also tastes and feels like one! Delicious Greek homemade delicacies wait for you to try them, with the fresh tomato sauce meatballs, crispy pork chops, and mizithra cheese pie being our personal favorites. Good food, delicious local wines, and reasonable prices; you just can't go wrong!
Syntagma Square, Nafplio - credits: Lefteris Papaulakis/Shutterstock.com
After some much-needed rest, get ready to embark on a night adventure in the magnificent city of Nafplio, which reaches fairytale status lit up under the night sky. Since we all agree that all the walking has earned you the right to indulge in dessert, don’t hesitate to grab an ice cream and take a night stroll around the old Parliament of Nafplio, the Syntagma Square and the 'Trianon' theater, finding your way through the city’s narrow streets, where you can also do some souvenir shopping.
The popular ice cream shop in Anapli, called ‘Antica Gelateria di Roma’, offers handmade ice cream made from fresh ingredients, rid of nasty fake colors and conservatives. If you’d prefer to go for something a bit more traditional, you can have delicious loukoumades -a traditional doughnut-like Greek dessert- drenched in honey or chocolate at ‘Kentrikon’, located at the central Syntagma square. Your walk around Nafplio’s streets is going to be filled with beautiful scenery and evidence of the city’s rich history. Syntagma Square is the most central and historical square of Nafplion, where you can gaze at important historic buildings, such as the Venetian Warehouse of the Fleet, where Nafplio’s Archaeological Museum, the old Parliament, and ‘Trianon’ theater are housed.
‘Trianon’ is one of the original Ottoman mosques built during the first Ottoman period. Having been used as a mosque, a Christian temple, and the first all-male school in the past, in 1915 it was transformed into a conservatory and theater, and then to a municipal cinema under the name ‘Trianon’. With Nafplio being the cultural center of Argolis, don’t forget to take full advantage of its various events, plays, and concerts.
The caste of Bourtzi, Nafplio - credits: Alberto Loyo/Shutterstock.com
Your second day in the city of Nafplio will be just as adventurous and exciting as your first one, so a rich breakfast is once again due. This time, we highly suggest you try ‘Kalimera’. The small, cozy place with a warm atmosphere and a name that means ‘good morning’ in Greek, is definitely worth a visit for breakfast, with only a few tables and a small -yet delicious- traditional Greek menu ensuring a sweet start to your day.
After you’ve filled your belly with mouthwatering treats, it’s time for a boat ride to Bourtzi, the Venetian castle located on the islet of Agioi Theodoroi in the middle of the port of Nafplion, about 400 meters from the pier. You can reach the islet easily by boat, which you can find right in front of Nafplio’s port. The boat ride is about 10-minutes long, while the experienced captains are friendly and will generously offer you advice and tips for your trip.
Bourtzi ceased to be used as a castle after the arrival of King George I and in 1865 it became the place of residence for the guillotine executioners, something that displeased the locals and caused outrage. In the 1930s the castle was turned into a hotel (sad but true), which resulted in the construction of the monument changing drastically. Further to the damage that Bourtzi has gone through already, it was also bombed during World War II. After the end of World War II, Bourtzi was repaired and -once again- operated as a hotel until 1970. Today, Bourtzi hosts various cultural events while a part of it is regularly used for conference purposes.
Tip: The boats leave approximately every 10 minutes and the two-way ticket costs 4.50 €.
Following your return from Bourtzi, you can explore the variety of museums Nafplion has to offer. The Koboloi museum in Nafplio is the first-ever museum for worry bead across the world, founded in Nafplio in 1998 by the Evangelinos couple. The museum exhibits consists of a historical collection of worry beads -or koboloi in greek- that have origins in Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Catholic, and Greek cultures. The museum’s objective is to conserve the traditional Greek koboloi, having attracted more than 150000 visitors from the day of its establishment. The Museum is housed in a privately-owned two-story building in the old town of Nafplion.
The exhibition area is located on the upper floor, while on the ground floor you can find the museum's workshop, as well as the shop of the museum where the works produced in the workshop are sold. The Archaeological Museum of Nafplio is another fascinating museum that’s worth your time. It is housed in an impressive Venetian building, built in 1713, which dominates the western side of Syntagma Square and is one of the best-preserved buildings of the Venetian era in Greece.
The most significant exhibit of the museum is the Mycenaean armor of the Dendras dating back to the late 15th century B.C, which is the brightest example of Mycenae weapons that has survived to this day. Last but not least, the Peloponnesian Folklore Foundation will give you insight in both the Greek culture and more specifically the Peloponnesian everyday life across the centuries, along with information on the traditions and customs of the region. The collections of the foundation were set up in 1974 with the initial donation of 6,000 items by Ioanna Papantoniou, while today the exhibit counts 45,000 items directly related to both folk and modern Greek culture.
Before heading to your chosen accommodation for a rejuvenating nap, visit Noulis, a meze tavern that is heaven on earth for every foodie out there. Homemade traditional dishes that will leave you stunned to silence, affordable prices and an old-time cook house aesthetic make for an unforgettable Greek gastronomic experience and many great memories for you to take back home.
One of Nafplio's picturesque alleys - credits: lulu and isabelle/Shutterstock.com
Your last night at Nafplio should be as laid-back as it gets. Therefore, leave behind your curious nature and the long, tiring walks, and enjoy a drink -or two- either at Nafplio’ port with a view of the lit-up, beautiful as ever, Bourtzi, or at Syntagma Square, where the heart of the social life of Nafplio beats.
'Mediterraneo wine & Deli' is an excellent wine bar, where you can enjoy a wide selection of local varieties of wine. Hidden in a narrow, picturesque alley, 'Mediterraneo wine & Deli' offers the services of an experienced sommelier along with a selection of local, high-quality cheeses and cold meats in a unique, visually-aesthetic environment! If wine is not your thing, opt for 'Black Cat', one of our favorite bars and not just because it has a resident ‘pub cat’ often found sleeping on the counter. Its tasteful decor and friendly staff contribute to its inviting quality, while the delicious cocktails and good music contribute to its visitors always having an excellent time!
Due to its close proximity to Athens and its unmatched beauty, Nafplio is one of the best weekend getaway destinations you can find in Greece, with tons of things to do and see. Hurry up and book a trip to the majestic Nafplio; you won't regret it!