One of the most historic cities in Greece, is located in the eastern part of Peloponnese and has a population of 15,000 inhabitants, according to the last census. It owes its name to the founder of the ancient city, which according to mythology was called Nafplios. In addition, there are findings that show us that this area has been inhabited for more than 300 years and has been part of one of the most important civilization in the ancient times, the Mycenaean.
However, Nafplio is best known for the role it has served over the last two centuries. The most interesting fact, that probably you haven't heard of, is that it has been the first permanent capital of the independent state of Greece, from 1828 to 1834. During these 6 years two important political figures of modern Greece, Ioannis Kapodistrias and King Otto, lived here, as well as Harilaos Trikoupis who was born here and became later one of the most successful politicians in Greece. Nowadays, the main revenue comes from the tourism and the agricultural products of the wider area of Argolis.
When you reach the city, the first point that you may want to visit is the Syntagma Square. It is one of the most crowded places in Nafplio, where you can see everything : children playing in the middle of Square, old people enjoying a coffee in the nearby cafeterias, couples having an ice – cream or snack and many others. Over the years it has changed several times before getting its current shape during the 70's. The neoclassical buildings, influenced by the Venetians and the Franks, as well as the colourful small streets that lead here, will definitely be on your camera (as I have also done! ). The most characteristic building is the National Bank with the red Mycenaean columns at its entrance.
As said before, Nafplio is full of small and picturesque streets that “challenge” you to explore them. Most of them are cobblestone and they lead you in front of mansions where you can find beautiful and sweet – smelling plants such as roses, bougainvilleas and gardenias. But this city is also full of interesting places. Like the church of St. Spyridon where Ioannis Kapodistrias – the first governor of Modern Greece – was murdered, the first Greek Parliament close to it (known as “Vouleftikon”) and the City Hall that also hosted the first high school in Greece. Besides that, I would suggest to visit the following museums if you have any spare time : the Archaeological, the Folklore, the War (which was the first Officer Cadet School of Greece during the 19th century) and the unique chaplet museum. It is run by the Evangelinou family and includes hundreds of exhibits from all over the world.
After a nice visit to the city, it's time to move a little bit further to the Palamidi fortress. It was built in 1687 and except from its primary use, it has also served as a prison. You can approach it by car, but if you like the adventure you can choose to climb up the 857 steps to the top (or 999 according to the legend). But the stunning view will definitely reimbursh you, as you can see not only the city from above, but also a big part of Peloponnese. At the same time if you go around you will learn more about the history of this place. I mention two points that impressed me: the small church of St. Andreas, built by the Venetians, and the cell in which Theodoros Kolokotronis – one of the most iconic heroes of the revolution against the Ottoman Empire - spent 11 months as a prisoner. It definitely worth a visit, even though you will not spend more than 1 hour there.
Nafplio is not a very big city, so you can do the above activities in just one day. However, it would be a good idea to spend 2 or 3 days there, so you can visit the archaelogical sites of Mycenae and Tiryns, the ancient theater of Epidavros (the most famous back then) and the beautiful islands of the Argosaronic Gulf, especially Spetses and Hydra. So if you are looking to visit a place close to Athens that doesn't look like a metropolis and will impress you with its architecture, history and serenity, then Nafplio is definitely the answer for me.
*Some of the photos are from the following pages : discovernafplio.gr, hotel-adiandi.com, ellines.com