Your trip to Peloponesse will certainly lead you to visit Nafplio. Lights twinkle gently, reflected in the bay’s clear waters as you stroll along a coastal road. You look up and see a majestic castle sitting atop a hillside like the crest of a wave. Follow our insider guide to Nafplio, and discover this beautiful city like a local.
History of Nafplio
Nafplio’s surroundings have been inhabited since ancient times, yet the sole remaining evidence is the walls of the Acronauplia. Throughout Classical Antiquity, the town served as a stronghold on multiple different occasions.
In the days of ancient Argolis, Nauplia (Nafplio), served as Argos’ harbour. It was located on a rugged peninsula that was joined to the mainland by a small isthmus.
Nauplius, the son of Poseidon and Amymone, is thought to be the source of the name of this ancient place.
Walls in the Acronauplia date back to the pre-classical age. Franks, Venetians, Byzantines, and Turks later added to the fortifications of these walls.
The French crusaders captured Nafplio in 1212. As one of their most significant locations in the Levant, it became a component of the lordship of Argos and Nauplia, which was sold to the Republic of Venice in 1388. The lower city was enlarged and reinforced during the next 150 years, and Acronauplia received new fortifications.
In 1540, the city was turned over to the Ottomans. Nafplio was once again taken over by the Venetians in 1685, and it became the capital of their “Kingdom of the Morea”. The construction of the Palamidi Castle, which was the last significant structure built by the Venetian empire outside of Italy, fortified the city. However, just 80 men were entrusted with guarding the city, and the Ottomans quickly retook it in 1715.
North of the ancient town, on a hill, is where you’ll find Palamidi. A fortress of great significance during the Greek War of Independence that was besieged for more than a year. Due to forced starvation, the town eventually surrendered. Because of its robust defences, it was used as the temporary headquarters of the Greek government and was named the official capital of Greece in 1829. Up until King Otto’s arrival and the founding of the new Kingdom of Greece in 1834, Nafplio served as Greece’s capital. Then, King Otto took the decision to move it to Athens.
Following the Greek Civil War, tourism began to play a significant economic role, and Nafplio was among the first regions on the mainland to establish mass tourism. It now ranks among Greece’s most popular tourist spots and draws a wide range of visitors.
If you want to learn more about the history of this fantastic city, enjoy a wonderful walking tour with an expert guide.
Wander – Places to visit in Nafplio
Most of the town is pedestrianised and this, as well as its narrow, winding streets, make it a place that was made for flâneurs. You might take an amble through the old town, where vibrant magenta bougainvillea cascades over the stone walls of the houses and neoclassical mansions perch alongside elegant Venetian houses.
The Akronafplia fortress, the oldest of Nafplio’s three castles, towers above the historical area of the city. Until the thirteenth century, it stood as a town on its own. The lower parts of the walls were constructed during the Bronze Age.
The town was confined to the area inside Akronafplia’s walls prior to the arrival of the Venetians. The Turks called it İç Kale (‘inner castle’). From 1936 through 1956, it served as a Greek political prison.
A fortress located east of the Acronafplia.It was constructed by the Venetians during their second rule of the region and is perched on the peak of a 216-metre (709 ft) high hill
Despite being a very massive and ambitious construction, the castle was completed in a relatively short amount of time between 1711 and 1714. Palamidi is a typical baroque fortress.
One of the eight bastions of the fortress served as a prison that once held Theodoros Kolokotronis, a hero of the Greek Revolution.
The twisting staircase leading from the town to the fortification has 913 steps. However, there are more than a thousand steps to climb in order to reach the fortress’s highest point, where you can enjoy the stunning view of the Argolic Gulf, the city of Nafplio, and the surrounding countryside.
Bourtzi is a small island in front of the port of Nafplio. It is named after the Venetial castle that covers it entirely. Prior to the Venetians’ arrival, the sailors used to call it Saint Theodore(Agios Theodoros).
The fortification of the island started in 1473 and kept on changing hands between the Turks and the Venetians until the Greek Revolution occurred. In 1865 the Greek King disarmed the island. From 1930 to 1970, the area of Bourtzi served as a hotel and accommodated a lot of celebrities during this first period of touristic growth in Greece.
Today, you can have a tour of the island, using one of the small boats located in the port of Nafplio.
Tiryns was a hill fort that had been inhabited since seven thousand years ago, long before the Bronze Age. Between 1400 and 1200 BC, when it was at its most significant, it rose to become one of the most significant centres in the Mycenaean world, particularly in Argolis. The palace, the Cyclopean tunnels, and mainly the walls were the city’s most distinctive features.
As the hero’s home during his labours and according to some traditions, his birthplace, Tiryns came to be connected with the mythology relating to Heracles.
The archaeological site is located 6 minutes away from the city of Nafplio by car or, for the ones that want to explore the area a little deeper, 50 minutes away on foot.
The Venetian Warehouse of the Fleet, which now serves as the Archaeological Museum, the parliament, the former Aga-Pasha mosque, and last but not least, the Allilodidaktiko School, also known as the “Trianon,” are just a few of the significant historic structures that can still be seen in the square today.
The square, which is the centre of Nafplio, is beautifully enclosed by gorgeous buildings, most of which are in the neoclassical style.
Pay a visit to one of the oldest churches in Nafplio, Agios Georgios, inside which you can gaze upon a magnificent replica of the Last Supper, painted by one of Da Vinci’s apprentices.
Don’t miss the Sandalopoieio, a fascinating sandal workshop fashioning traditional handmade leather sandals created according to the methods of the old shoemakers. There’s also the Sxizas Art Gallery, where the eponymous brothers showcase their marble sculptures and oil paintings.
Regardless of where you are headed, make sure to tie your laces tight because Nafplio is best explored on foot.
Dine – Where to Eat around Nafplio
Thankfully, in Greece, you are never too far from a café and Nafplio offers plenty of places to rest in between all that pavement pounding. For breakfast, try Kalimera: a tiny spot where the owners serve pots of jewel-coloured homemade jams made from local fruit alongside buttery pastries, yoghurt and granola. Another place you have to try for breakfast is ArKo, a fantastic little bakery, tucked away in the streets of the old city. Here you will find the most delicious, made with love, pastries.
For a lunchtime feast head to Aiolos Tavern, located in a picturesque alley of the old city. Enjoy some traditional Greek food with a twist. Order some local wine and tuck into Greek classics such as Gigantes(giant beans), cheese pie, fava, and saganaki.
Pidalio Tavern is situated in the winding streets below the Palamidi. The love for good, both in taste and quality, food was the driving force behind the creation of this wonderful restaurant. Order some of the traditional Greek dishes like moussaka or lamb with roasted potatoes and choose from a variety of vegetarian, fish, or meat ‘meze’.
Just 3km away from the city’s centre, a place of recreation, creativity, and expression. Fougaro Art Center is home to an art’s library, children’s library, exhibition rooms, art workshops for every age, and a café-bistrot. This café-bistro has been awarded multiple times for its exceptional Greek cuisine. Selected, local ingredients compose a menu of Greek and Mediterranean flavors, inspired by the four seasons of the year.
Finish your evening with a delicious meal at I Folia, where the owner will advise you on the day’s freshest choices. Delights such as ‘Garidomakaronada’(shrimp pasta), delicate zucchini fritters, and stuffed vine leaves(dolmadakia) await in this local favourite.
A wonderful visit to Nafplio is completed only once you’ve indulged in one of the town’s sweet treats. Circle back around to Syntagma square, where the choice is yours between a velvety ice cream from legendary Antica Gelataria Di Roma or a typical Greek dessert of loukoumades – doughnuts dripping in luscious honey or smooth chocolate – from the Kentrikon café.
Or, after all that walking, why not have both?
Be Active – Things to Do in Nafplio
Round off the morning with a trip to the bountiful Farmer’s Market, which takes place on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. The land around Nafplio is incredibly rich and this is one of the best markets in the country, full to the brim with glistening rows of fresh fish, juicy local oranges, and lemons as well as some divinely salty, crumbly feta cheese.
Is it Sunday night? The sun is setting and you, like so many other of the town’s residents, are participating in the weekly volta: a Sunday evening promenade typical in the Greek town of Nafplio.
Perfect location for people that love hiking. You can choose between a walk in the picturesque alleys of the old city of Nafplio and a stroll by the beautiful blue waters of the sea. For nature lovers, consider hiking from Arvanitia to the beach at Karathona. Otherwise, explore the old city and learn all about its secrets. Get some relaxed shoes on and enjoy!
Explore the stunning beaches
The beaches of Argolida attract ardent admirers who favor them not only for their easy access but mainly because they are immaculate and frequently resemble the nicest beaches of the Greek islands.
You will be impressed by Arvanitia beach, located just behind the city center, under the Castle of Palamidi. Its crystal clear waters and easy access will easily convince you why this is one of the favorite beaches of the locals.
Another of the favorite among locals is Karathona beach. Situated a few minutes’ walk away from Arvanitia beach, this is the ideal place for families. Try the famous walking path from Arvanitia to Karathona and you will be rewarded.
At Tolo, 12 km away from Nafplio, you will find “Psili Ammos” beach. Its clear and shallow waters make it perfect for families, but also for the ones seeking some adventure near the sea. Choose from a variety of watersports or rent a small boat and explore the two small islands facing the beach.
A few kilometers further away, you will find yourselves at Kondili, the most famous beach in the area. A long sandy beach with beach bars, and water sports, but also plenty of space for the ones that seek some privacy.
Cycling has been popular in recent years. You may simply rent a bike in Nafplio from many locations and explore the city to its fullest. All you have to do is register, bring your ID, and pick up your bike. Explore the city or travel to adjacent towns for those who seek adventure. The majority of the territory is flat and ideal for leisurely cycling.
Go Out to Sip
Nightlife in Nafplio is very active, mostly around the bars at the waterfront and around the tiny little cafes around Syntagma Square. If you want to get a little outside of Nafplio, head to Tolo, where the beach is lined up with beautiful bars.
When you visit the town of Nafplio in the afternoon, take a walk along to Arvanitia Beach, whose white pebbles contrast magically with the rippling topaz waves. Take a seat at the buzzing Blublanc beach bar and sip a cocktail between delicious dips into the azure water.
Head back to the town and visit Allotino Coffee & Bar. Cocktails made by professionals, great vibes, and a beautiful atmosphere await you in this beautiful street of Nafplio.
Mediterraneo wine & deli is the best wine bar in town. Sit back, relax, unwind and let the different flavors travel you around Greece. The waiters will guide you through a great variety of wines.
Nemea, one of the most significant wine-producing regions in Greece, is about 40 minutes from Nafplio. Visit the region and sample the wines. Take a trip to the wine world while enjoying the well-known Agiorgitiko and Moschofilero wine types. Discover the history of wine and observe the various steps in its production.
Stay in Nafplio
For your trip to Peloponnese, there are many wonderful boutique hotels to plan your stay. You can stay by the seaside or may prefer to head to the countryside and the hills of Argolis to enjoy panoramic views of the valleys.
The winding alleys of Nafplion transport you to a different world where life is slow and colourful, framed by turquoise seas and undulant mountains. Follow the cobbled lane to Carpe Diem Boutique Hotel to strike a balance between old-world charm and contemporary flair.
Carpe Diem Boutique Hotel is nestled in the heart of the ancient part of Nafplio, the perfect location for those who want to explore the charming city on foot.
High above the coastal city of Nafplio, perched atop a verdant hillside is the Perivoli Country Hotel and Retreat. A sanctuary of tranquillity so divine that it doesn’t seem real. The landscape is undeniably breathtaking, but the hotel itself is not easily outshined.
Perivoli Country Hotel & Retreat can be found in the tiny village of Pyrgiotika, a privileged location that feels remote and peaceful while being only a 10-minute drive from the city of Nafplio.
Choosing to stay at Impero Nafplio Hotel & Suites offers you the chance to enjoy a spectacular view of the Aegean Sea and Bourtzi fortress. Impero is located in the centre of the old town.
If you want to enjoy the countryside surrounding Nafplio visit Andrews Luxury Residence, which is located in the area of Aria, about 2 km from the old town center. The location provides you with an amazing view over the Palamidi castle and the city of Nafplio.
Nested in the area of Karathona, Anthemion Suites and Villas is a traditional guest house, five minutes drive from the town of Nafplio, that guarantees an atmosphere of serenity and relaxation.
Nafplio is located 165 km away from Athens and does not have its own airport.
It is roughly a 2.5 hours drive away from Athens, by car.
Discover the best available prices for renting a car, and combine your visit to Nafplio with a road trip in the breathtaking Peloponnese
You can use the Public Bus (KTEL Argolida) and the journey will take around 3 hours, going via Corinth/Isthmos and Argos.
Visit Nafplio on a day trip from Athens, although we strongly recommend spending more time at this beautiful, romantic destination.