Larissa, Greece
Ancient Theater I, Larissa, Greece (Image credit: dimitrisvetsikas1969 Pixabay)

Larissa: The unparalleled beauty of nature of Greece’s breadbasket

Ancient history, imposing mountains, rivers, valleys, tradition, agricultural products of excellent quality

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OVERVIEW

The regional unit of Larissa, the second largest regional unit in Greece, is part of the region of Thessaly and covers about one-third of the region. Its capital is the city of Larissa which means ‘citadel’ in the language of the first inhabitants, the pre-hellenic Pelasgians.  Mount Olympus, the legendary home of the Olympian gods and the tallest mountain in Greece (2,917 m) is situated in the northeastern part of the regional unit. Mount Ossa (or Kissavos) is situated in the east, at the Aegean coast. The Vale of Tempi, the narrow pass between two mountains, is one of the most picturesque sites of the country. The regional unit of Larissa is blessed with unique natural beauty, beaches, lush valleys, large fertile plains crossed by Pinios River, a source of irrigation making the plains suitable for growing many types of crops: cotton, grains, vegetables, and wine and tsipouro are only some of the area’s agricultural products. The regional unit is rich not only in long tradition in agriculture -being the breadbasket of Greece- but also in ancient history.

.AT A GLANCE

Regional unit’s capital: Larissa Regional unit’s area: 5,381 km2 Regional unit’s population: 269,151 Density: 50/km2 Climate: Larissa has a mainly Mediterranean climate but is often the warmest area in Greece in summer and the coldest in winter. 

.ADMINISTRATION

The regional unit Larissa is subdivided into seven municipalities.

. MUNICIPALITIES

LARISSA    AGIA    ELASSONA    FARSALA   

KILELER    TEMPI    TYRNAVOS

.MUNICIPALITY OF LARISSA

Area: 122.59 km2 Population (2021): 164,381 Website: https://www.larissa.gov.gr/en/the-city

.HISTORY

Larissa is a city with a profound history of millennia, having been inhabited for almost 8.000 years, from the Neolithic era. The Pelasgians, by land clearing the rich valley of Peneus River set their first crop lands. The name Larissa is in origin a Pelasgian word for “fortress”. Larissa was a polis (city-state) during the Classical Era. The city was repeatedly conquered. Under Philip II, it belonged to the Macedonians. In 196 BC it became an ally of Rome and was the headquarters of the Thessalian League. In the late 5th century, the city was sacked by the Ostrogoths and rebuilt under the Byzantine emperor Justinian I. In the Middle Ages, the Byzantines, Bulgarians, Normans and Latins owned the city in turn. Larisa came under permanent Ottoman control in 1423 and remained in Ottoman hands until Thessaly became part of the independent Greek kingdom in 1881. During the Greco-Turkish War of 1897, the city was the headquarters of Greek Crown Prince Constantine. After WWII the city was expanded rapidly. Today Larissa is the fifth largest Greek city and due its central location has always been a welcoming, multicultural city with both commercial and social dynamics.

.POINTS OF INTEREST

Frourio Hill: The historical acropolis of the city. As the fortified citadel of the ancient city of Larisa in antiquity, as well as in Byzantine times, it features a number of important archaeological sites. Among them, an ancient theater, an early Christian basilica dedicated to Saint Achillios(Saint Achilles, the patron saint of the city), an early Byzantine bath, remnants of the early Byzantine walls constructed under Justinian I (r. 527–565), a middle Byzantine church and the Bedesten.

The Ancient Theatre of Larissa: On the southern slope of the Frourio Hill, the largest theater in Thessaly, with a seating capability of 10,000 persons can be found.  The major open-air theatre was founded in 3rd century AD and was in use for six centuries. In close proximity to this theatre, was recently discovered an earlier ancient theater dating from the 2nd century AD.

Bedesten (Bezesteni of Larissa): At the centre of the Frourio hill, during Ottoman years, Bedesten was a covered market and Larisa’s central square. In the 19th century, it was turned into a fortress, giving the area its modern name.

Monument of Bucephalus: Located in the city’s center this Interesting modern statue is a tribute to the Thessaly horse of Alexander the Great. In antiquity Thessaly’s plains
were known for their strong horses and Alexander picked up his here.

Alcazar Park: The contemporary urban park of Larissa stretches along the Pinios river and is serving both as a relaxation place as well as a training area for the city inhabitants. The park includes ornamental ponds, an outdoor theatre, café and a mini golf course. A true oasis.

The Mill of Pappas: An important industrial facility evolved into a culture hive. Built in 1883 this renovated architectural complex is a five-storey milling industry building which hosts numerous cultural and educational activities: A Dance School, visual arts workshops, a theater, the Philharmonic of the City, a summer cinema and a puppet theater. On the ground floor of the building you will also find the fascinating Grain and Flour Museum.

Hippocrates Monument: At the outskirts of the city, the tomb of the Father of Medicine
was discovered in 1826. Hippocrates, the most famous doctor of the ancient times
spent his later life in Larissa. Look for the marble tablet with his oath and aphorisms.

.GASTRONOMY

The city offers very interesting culinary options. Exceptional milk, yoghurt, butter, variety of cheeses, vegetables and excellent meat. Local specialities include Batzina (pie baked in the oven), Pita (traditional pies with pasta phyllo, baked in the oven), Plastos pie, Lahanopsomo (cabbage bread), Halva Farsala, a jelly halva with buttery caramel flavor.

.WINES & DRINKS

Larissa is known for its first-class wineries, tours to which are also very popular among travelers. Limniona is a red Greek grape native to Thessaly with great elegance and finesse
producing powerful, aromatic wines. Thessaliko tsipouro (tripouro from Thessaly), is another Greek alcoholic drink, a result of a multiple distillation process of grape extracts that are collected from exceptional grape varieties of the Thessalian land. Larissa has also been known as Greece’s “coffee city” and coffee shop chains born in Larissa have managed to spread out of the city. Try a Greek, espresso, or a cold coffee of your choice!

.SHOPPING

Larissa’s busy commercial centre is developed in a wide net of pedestrian zones and squares. Visit Kouma and Rousvelt Street as the majority of shops are located here.

.FEASTS FESTIVALS & EVENTS

Peneus river festival: Every summer, the municipality of Larissa organizes a frstival full of music , dozens of artistic & educational actions & sports activities.

.RELIGIOUS SITES

Metropolitan Church of St. Achillios: A beautifully preserved church structure built in 6th century. The church is St Achillios tomb,  Saint Achilles of Larisa was also known as Ailus, is the town’s patron saint. The great hierarch and miracle-worker was present at the Christian First Council of Nicaea from May-June AD 325. He died in Larisa in AD330.

Church Of St. George: A new church on a hilltop with new icons and decorations
Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus: Larissa was briefly a Latin archbishopric in the early 13th century,Today there is a Catholic church in the city (Sacred Heart of Jesus).

Etz Hayyim(“Tree of Life”) Synagogue: Tucked within the old city walls this the only one of the seven pre-WW2 synagogues in Larissa to survive. It was constructed in 1860.

Yeni Mosque: A 19th century structure that was being used as a mosque till 1924. From 1939 to 1941 it hosted a small archeological collection and the Municipal Library, while from 1957 to January 2012 it hosted the Archeological Museum of Larissa.

.KEY MUSEUMS & ART GALLERIES

Diachronic Museum: Inaugurated in 2015, the museum with a showroom of 1,500 sq.m., in a 54 acres area in Mezourlo, is filled with exquisite artefacts that range from Neolithic effigies and archaic, classical, but also Ottoman tombstones to early Christian mosaics, numerous coins, and jewels as well as 19th-century wall paintings. The collections of the Archaeological Museum of Larissa – which were previously housed in an Islamic mosque constructed in the 19th century – are also housed here.

Folklore-Historical Museum: The largest folklore museum in Thessaly as well as one of the largest and most interesting museums of this kind in Greece  owes its existence to the tireless activity of the Folklore Society of Larissa. Its collections currently number to a total of over 20,000 objects dating from the 15th to the mid 20th century.

Municipal Art Gallery: The second and most important gallery in the country was founded in 1983 and operates in a modern building since 2003. Admire more than 150 artworks of the 19th and 20th century of the most famous contemporary artists of Greece.

Museum of Grain and Flour: Located on the ground floor of the Pappa’s Mill, the museum’s permanent exhibition presents the phases of the technological development of the Mill as well as the stages of the industrial process, from the moment the grains arrived in sacks until the final product of flour was dispatched to the market.

.MAJOR EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS

Faculties of the University of Thessaly (with over 20,000 students)
Technological Education Institute of Larissa

.TRANSPORT

The closest major airport to Larissa is Nea Anchialos National Airport in Volos ((about 60 km). You can easily access Larissa by car or bus from Athens and Thessaloniki. Athens is 210 km away while Thessaloniki is 150 km. There are daily train itineraries that connect Larissa with Athens, Thessaloniki and other cities around Greece. There are also frequent national bus (KTEL) connections.

.ACCOMMODATION

There is a great selection of hotels and accommodation in the city, providing visitors with an ideal base from which they can venture out and explore places of cultural, historical and environmental interest in the vicinity.


TO DO & TO GO