Syntagma Square Nafplion
Syntagma Square, Old Town, Nafplio, Greece (Credit: Andreas Trepte, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons)

Nafplio, Peloponnese: Discover the first capital of Greece

Invaluable treasures, historical landmarks, knockout waterside location, splendid gastronomy


If you want to skip the overcrowded and touristy islands, then Nafplio, a coastal city located in Argolis (in eastern Peloponnese), only 2 hours from Athens, is for you. The first capital of the newly born Greek state between 1823 and 1834, Nafplio, is one of the most beautiful and romantic towns in Greece, famous for its aristocratic architecture.

Graced with ancient walls, impressive medieval castles, neoclassical mansions, historic churches, cobbled alleys, pretty squares, blue-green sea and a lovely seafront promenade, Nafplio will mesmerize you with its unique beauty and charm. It’s also full of taverns serving delicious Greek food, elegant cafés, renowned ice cream parlors, lavish boutiques, posh hotels and traditional guesthouses.

The town was founded in antiquity by Nafplios, the son of Poseidon (the god of sea) and the daughter of Danaus (Danaida) Anymone, according to mythology. Soldiers from here participated in the Argonautic expedition and the Trojan War alike.  The town declined during the Roman times but became an important seaport in the Middle Ages. Frankish, Venetian and Turkish conquerors left their mark in Nafplion. Under Venetian domination, the town was known in Italian as Napoli di Romania. During the Greek War of Independence (1821–32) it played a major role.

Map of the city of Nafplion (Napoli de Romania) in Greece, created in 1597 by the Venetian Giacomo (Jacomo) Franco (1550-1620) for his book Viaggio da Venetia a Constantinopoli per Mare. Uploaded from Flick on Wikimedia Commons licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

Count Ioannis Kapodistrias, first head of state of newly liberated Greece and one of the most distinguished politicians and diplomats of 19th-century, set foot on the Greek mainland for the first time in Nafplio on 7 January 1828 and made it the official capital of Greece in 1829. He was assassinated in 1831 on the steps of the church of Saint Spyridon. After his assassination, a period of anarchy followed, until King Otto of Greece arrived in Nafplion in 1833. A year later, he moved the capital to Athens.

Things to do while you are here

Visit key historic sites

Palamidi castle, Nafplio, Greece (Credit: Ken Russell Salvador, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

The most visited landmark in town is the Palamidi Castle, standing 216 m above sea level. Climb the 999 steps to the top  and you will be rewarded with a panoramic view of Nafplio and the Argolic Gulf. Built in the early 19th century, the castle features eight bastions. The famous hero of the Greek Revolution Theodoros Kolokotronis had been imprisoned in its walls.

The equestrian statue of Theodoros Kolokotronis at Kolokotronis park, Nafplion (Credit: C messier, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

The historic rock at the foot of Palamidi hill, Akronafplia, which the Turks named Its Kale (meaning inner castle) is the oldest part of the city of Nafplion. It consists of three levels, among which stand three independent castles. Until the thirteenth century, Akronafplia was a town on its own.

Bourtzi castle, Nafplio, Greece (Credit: V4lerios, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Another significant attraction in Nafplio, is the Bourtzi castle. Built in 1473 and shaped like an irregular hexagon, Bourtzi is standing on the rocky islet of Agioi Theodoroi. During the Venetian rule it was connected to Akronafplia through a huge metal chain that secured the port against enemy ship attacks.  The executioners of Palamidi prisoners once lived here. Now fascinating festivals take place on the “island fort”.

Kapodistrias’ murder painting by Charalambos Pachis (1844–1891) Corfu Municipal Library (Credit: Charalambos Pachis, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

The preserved assassination site of Kapodistrias (you can still see the bullet hole in the wall of Saint Spyridon church, where it happened), is another point of interest.

Get acquainted with Nafplio’s Old Town

One of the quaintest and best-preserved towns in Greece where you can admiring the gorgeous architecture. Wander around the pedestrianized alleys and discover stunning neoclassical mansions and nostalgic alleys, smell the vibrant flowers bougainvillea climbing up walls.

Located in the center of the Old Town, Syntagma Square paved in marble and surrounded by historic buildings – Trianon, the Archaeological Museum and the National Bank of Greece- is the most historically important square in the town.

Nafplio, Greece (Credit: Angelika on Pixabay)

Take a stroll around “Arvanitia Promenade”

One of the most beautiful walks (1 km in length) that Nafplion has for everyone. Walking beneath Akronafplia Hill is offering amazing views of the Argolic Gulf. The promenade starts in Nafplio and ends on Arvanitia Beach, a popular place for a swim.

Enjoy an unforgettable culinary journey

Traditional Greek flavors meet modern culinary innovation. Flavorful dishes like shrimp “orzotto”, grilled octopus, stuffed and grilled squid are being served at family-run tavernas and stylish restaurants that showcase the best of Greek and Mediterranean cuisine. Nafplio also has some excellent wines from nearby Nemea and Mantineia to complement your food.

Explore museums

The Archaeological Museum is located in a renovated Venetian mansion built in 1715. Features items found during excavations in Argolida.

The War Museum features weapons used by soldiers of the historic town, uniforms and more with a collection that covers the 1800s through to World War 2,

The Komboloi Museum houses an extensive collection of over 1,000 unique and intricately crafted Komboloi (worry beads) Kompoloi is a string of beads manipulated with one or two hands and used to pass time in Greek and Cypriot culture.

Naflio view from Akronafplia (Credit: Andreas TilleThis image is the original work of Andreas Tille. More images can be found at his image gallery, with this image being hosted at, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Take a swim

If you want a sun & beach holiday, Arvanitia Beach, is the closest to the old town, making it the most convenient beach to visit if you’re staying in the area. It is partly sandy and partly pebbled with some tourist facilities. Karathonas is a wide sandy bay about 5km from the town with many tourist facilities and watersports. Tolo Beach is about 8km away. It is loved by families for its shallow waters and soft sand. There are also many watersports centres along the coastline. Neraki is a small secluded beach with pebbles, completely unorganised, located between the end of the beach promenade and Karathona Beach.

Karathonas Beach, Nafplio (Credit: Pepnafplio, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

There more lovely swimming spots to search out. Kiveri, on the opposite side of the Argolic Gulf, is ideal for those who want to enjoy the view across to Nafplio. Kandia, 20 kilometres from Nafplio, is famous for its beach bar and watersport rentals. Kondyli (also known as Agios Nikolaos) is a large wide beach, sandy with Blue Flag awarded waters.

Nearby Attractions

From Nafplio, it only takes half an hour to get to Epidaurus, the largest and one of the best-preserved ancient theaters in Greece. The former sanctuary of Asclepius, the ancient god of medicine and healing, is also a must-see.

Greek su
Lion Gate, Mycenae, Peloponnese, Greece (Credit: Joyofmuseums, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Head to Mycenae (25 km from Nafplio)- one of the most famous archaeological sites in the country- and centre of Mycenian civilisation, which dominated the eastern Mediterranean from the 15th to the 12th century BC. Twenty km south of Mycenae lies Tiryns, an unfairly underrated Mycenaean acropolis, where you will be impressed by the mythical Cyclopean walls and the galleries.

Ancient Nemea, a significant winemaking region, is another fascinating place to visit, with great archeological interest. Explore also the ancient city of Corinth and the impressive Acrocorinth.

Whatever time of year you visit, Nafplio has it all: a blend of Greek history, culture, natural beauty and a particularly sunny and mild climate even by Greek standards.

Nafplio, Greece (Credit: Despina Galani on Unsplash)

Useful info

Administrative Region: Peloponnese Regional Unit: Argolis Municipality area: 390.2 km2 Population (2021): 32,625