Kavala GREECE
Kavala Greece (Credit: CeeGee, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Kavala: Cultural crossroad between East and West

Significant archaeological sites, Byzantine monasteries, architectural landmarks, traditional villages, sandy beaches, nature-rich wetlands, wines

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OVERVIEW

Kavala regional unit is the easternmost within the region of Macedonia. The imposing Pangaio mountains, reaching 1,957 m are situated in the west. The river Nestos, protected by the Natura 2000 and the Ramsar Convention, flows along the east. The regional unit is mostly known for the charming city of Kavala, the principal seaport of eastern Macedonia, situated across from the beautiful island of Thasos. Kavala, built amphitheatrically, is known as the Blue City and as the “Mecca of tobacco” on the Aegean coast. The historic seaside city is full of beautiful heritage monuments and buildings, Byzantine walls, a lively harbour, organised beaches, mouthwatering cuisine. Amazing places to discover are at a short distance: Nestos River supports a wonderful variety of flora and fauna. At Mt Paggaio you will come across lush nature and picturesque villages like Moustheni and Mesoropi. The ancient sites of Philipoi and Dikili Tash, the Sacred Baptistry of St Lydia, are also some of the reasons for visiting Kavala regional unit.

AT A GLANCE

Regional unit’s capital: Kavala Regional unit’s area: 1,728 km2  Regional unit’s population (2021): 115,974 Density: 67/km2 Climate: Predominantly Mediterranean

ADMINISTRATION

The neighbouring regional units are Serres to the west, Drama to the north and Xanthi to the east.
The regional unit Kavala is subdivided into three municipalities.

MUNICIPALITIES

KAVALA     NESTOS     PANGAIO



MUNICIPALITY OF KAVALA

Area: 351.4 km2 Population (2021):  66,376  Density: 190/km2 Postal Address: Kavala City Hall, Kiprou 10, Kavala, 65403, Greece Website: https://kavala.gov.gr Municipality’s touristic website: https://www.visitkavala.gr/ Tel: +30 2513 500100, 104, 169

HISTORY

The city of Kavala was founded in the late 7th century BC by Thassian settlers who exploited the rich gold and silver mines, especially those located in the nearby Pangaion mountain. The city’s significance throughout the years is mainly due to its port and its location next to the military Roman road Via Egnatia which helped commerce to flourish. The city appeared in different eras with different names: Neapoli (meaning “New City”, like many Greek colonies; 7th century BC), Christoupoli (meaning “City of Christ”; 8th century AD) and Kavala (from 1500 AD). In Neapoli, Brutus stationed his fleet before the Battle of Philippi (42 BCE) and here the Apostle Paul landed during his first voyage to Europe to preach the word of Christ. Kavala was part of the Ottoman Empire from 1387 to 1912 when it joined the kingdom of Greece. Bulgaria occupied Kavala three times: 1912–13, 1916–18, and 1942–44. From the mid-nineteenth century until 1950, Kavala was the largest center for the processing and exporting of tobacco in the Balkans. The city is still an important commercial port.

KAVALA
Kavala, Greece (Credit: Neptuul, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

POINTS OF INTEREST

Aqueduct: Once the city’s lifeline and now one of Kavala’s landmarks, the grand Aqueduct (also known as Kamares) streches over 280 m, has 60 arches (“kamares” in Greek) in four different sizes and a maximum height of 25 m. While the aqueduct is considered to most likely be of Roman origin, the present structure dates to 16th century, during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent. It was repaired by MohammedAli in the 19th century and supplied part of the city with water until 1930.

Imaret: The Imaret, a religious, educational, and charitable institution, was built by Mehmet Ali (founder of the last Egyptian dynasty) in his hometown of Kavala,between 1817 and 1821. The impressive complex of lead-domed structures covers an area of 4,500 sq. m. The imaret later used as a refugee house and has now been converted into a luxury hotel.

The arsenal and the food storage in the castle, Kavala, Greece (Credit: Batr41, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Old Town: Step back in time in the peninsula of Panagia. Cobblestoned streets, traditional Macedonian style buildings, multi-coloured mansions, flower-filled courtyards and the grand medieval Fortress. Built in the 15th century, and variously ruled by the Lombards, Franks, Byzantines and Ottomans, it dominates on the acropolis and has sublime sea and town view. In the district of Panagia you will also find the square with the bronze statue of Mohammed Ali and his family house.

Municipal tobacco warehouse: Built in 1910 by the businessman and tobacco merchant Kizhi Mimin. The building is a combination of Ottoman architecture with neoclassical elements. Since 1970 it belongs to Kavala’s Municipality which refurbished it and now houses a wide variety of cultural activities and events. More emblemaric tobacco warehouses adorn the city’s centre.

Via Egnatia: The military Roman road called “Via Egnatia” constructed by the Romans in the 2nd century BC passed through the city and helped commerce to flourish in the area. St. Paul used it to get from Neopolis to Philippi when he made his first landing in Europe. Kavala became a Roman “civitas” in 168 BC.

Philipi: Just 16km northwest from Kavala, the archaeological site of Philippi named after the city founded in 356BC by the Macedonian King Philip, II is a UNESCO World Heritage Monument. The remains of this walled city lie at the foot of an acropolis, on the ancient route linking Europe and Asia, the Via Egnatia. The city developed as a “small Rome” with the establishment of the Roman Empire in the decades following the Battle of Philippi, in 42 BCE.  The site combines important remains from the Greeks, the Romans, and the first Christians, dating from mid-4th century BC to the 6th century AD. Highlights include the walls and their gates, the Hellenistic theatre, the funerary heroon (temple), the Roman forum and later remains of the basilicas that rose here once Philippi became an important centre of early Christianity, following the visit of the Apostle Paul in 49-50 CE.

Archaeological Site of Dikili Tash:  The site of Dikili Tash is a 17-metre-high tell formed by the accumulation of occupation layers, dating mainly from the Neolithic period and Bronze Age. The analysis of residues collected from ceramics at the site suggests that wine was made in Europe as early as the 5th millennium B.C.

Emblematic architecture: Kavala’s City Hall (1879), a miniature Hungarian tower, the Great Club building (1909) with manor-style halls whose ceilings exceed a height of 10 meters, the Wix Building (1906), the Tokos building (1879).

TOP BEACHES

Kalamitsa beach, Kavala, Greece (Credit: Xristoupolitis, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

The most popular beaches are Batis, Tosca, Kalamitsa (a long stretch of sand), Perilgiali, Rapsani (blue water and golden sand) Pretty Palio (home to cosy beach bars and traditional tavernas). Nea Irakleitsa, Nea Peramos, Cape Vrasidas, the exotic Ammolofoi, Tower of Apollonia and Ammoglossa Keramotis are also not to be missed.

GASTRONOMY

Kavala’s cuisine is rich and has been also influenced by the refugees from Pontus and Asia Minor. Fresh fish and seafood prevail, as well as meat. Delicious sardines, fried red mullet, cod, smoked mackerel, crab with rice, mussels with rice, grilled octopus, steamed mussels and fresh clams, herring “saganaki”, gilt-head bream, sea bass, anchovies wrapped in grape leaves, loggerheads, shellfish, you name it. For meat-lovers, try lamb with spinach, a renowned recipe. For vegetarians, there are fantastic spiced pilafs. Have a sweet-tooth? Kourabiedes (almond-based biscuits covered with icing sugar) from Nea Karvali, are a must.

WINES & DRINKS

Kavala has a rich wine tradition that dates back centuries. Under Mt Paggaio large tracts of fertile land and fine vineyards spread out. There are internationally recognised wineries of Kavala producing PGI  wines. Small distillers produce excellent ouzo and tsipouro (pomace brandy).

SHOPPING

The commercial heart of Kavala beats in Omonia street but the city is filled with shops from Eleftheria Square to the town hall. The district of Agios Nikolaos is ideal for Greek souvenirs for eveybody. Along the Megalou Alexandrou pedestrian Street, you will also find the Shopping Mall of Kavala.

FEASTS, FESTIVALS & EVENTS

Ancient theater in Philipi, Kavala, Greece (Credit: Carole Raddato from FRANKFURT, Germany, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Philipi festival: The second oldest festival in Greece (only after the Festival of Epidaurus), first took place in 1957 in the Ancient theater of Philippi. It is held mostly in the ancient theatre of Philippi, from July to August. Even so, many events and productions take place within the town as well. Performances of ancient and modern plays, classical dance and concerts.

Cosmopolis: Held since July 2000, the Municipality of Kavala and the Public Benefit Organisation of Kavala “Dimofelia” have held the Cosmopolis festival. An alternative music, sport and outdoor festival that takes place each year at the beginning of the summer.

Wood Water Wild Festival: The Environmental Path of old Kavala is the space of the events of Wood Water Wild Festival, an alternative music, sport and outdoor festival that takes place each year at the beginning of the summer.

RELIGIOUS SITES

The Sacred Baptistry of St Lydia: Constructed in 1974, the baptistery of St Lydia commemorates a founding event in Christian history:  Apostle Paul baptized the first Christian of Europe, Lydia Philippisia in 49 or 50 AD in the River Zygaktis, west of ancient Philippi. Every year in celebration of St. Lydia (on May 20) Cristians are baptized at the same place.

Agios Nikolaos church: Located in the old district of Agios Nikolaos, near Eleftheria square, it used to be the main mosque in the Old Town of Kavala. In the 1920s the mosque was converted into a church for Christian worship, dedicated to Agios Nikolaos (Saint Nicholas), the patron of the seas. Outside the church there is a 35 m2 mosaic depicting the arrival of Apostle Paul in the port.

Holy Monastery of Agios Syllas:  In the monastery there is a marbled slab, which is where the Apostles Paul, Silas, Timothy and Luke sat down to rest, during their visit to Neapoli. The monastery celebrates on 30 July, the commemoration day of St Apostle Silas.

The Holy Temple of the Holy Trinity and the Five Holy Martyrs: Founded in 1950 and located in Polystylo, Kavala.The Sacred Relics of Saints Eustratios, Auxentios, Eugenios, Mardarios and Orestes are kept here.

Holy Church of the Assumption of Panagia (Holy Mary): The church was built in 1957 on the site of the old one, which dates back to the 15th century. The district of Panagia took its name from this very church.

KEY MUSEUMS

A painted cist grave Votive funerary banquet. 4th c. BC, image from the Archaeological Museum, Kavala, Greece (Credit: Macedonian Heritage, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Archaeological Museum: Probably the most important archaeological museum in Eastern Macedonia. It showcases prehistoric finds from the surrounding area (Kavala, Amfipoli, Aisyme) and other parts of Eastern Macedonia.

Museum of Tobacco: A small thematic museum honoring Kavala’s history as a major tobacco producer in the region. Objects used for cultivating and producing tobacco, archive material, photographs, rare documents, books on tobacco, exhibition on the processing of Oriental tobaccos-the latter not found in any other museum in the world.

House of Mohammed Ali: Located in the Old Town, it operates as a museum, and is considered one of the most characteristic surviving examples of late 18th-century Ottoman architecture in Greece.

ACTIVITIES

Water: The coastline is ideal to explore and enjoy water sports. Scuba diving, sea kayaking, snorkeling, stand-up paddle (SUP), and many more.
Land: Enjoy land-based activities, such as mountaineering, climbing, trekking, mountain biking, canyoning, horseback riding. Check out the Hellenic Mountaineering Association Kavala site for information on hiking routes.

ACCOMMODATION

When it comes to accommodation, Kavala offers a plethora of options that cater to the traveler. Plenty of 5 star luxury properties, boutique hotels and also budget-friendly hotels to suit all needs.

TRANSPORTATION

By air: “Megas Alexandros” Airport in Chrysoupoli (30 km from Kavala) is connected with Athens by regularly scheduled flights and with many European cities by scheduled and charter flights. By sea: Kavala is connected with all the islands of the Northern Aegean Sea with frequent itineraries of various ferry lines. By bus: The city is connected with all of the large Greek cities such as Thessaloniki and Athens via Interregional Bus Lines (KTEL). By car: European route E90 runs through the city and connects Kavala with the other cities. The Egnatia Motorway (A2) lies north of the city.


TO DO & TO GO