Updated September 4th, 2022, by Travel the Greek Way
Nafplion is one of the most beautiful and romantic towns in Greece. As it is located deep in the Argolic Gulf in the Peloponnese, Nafplion gives the sense that you are on a Greek island that looks a lot like Plaka in Athens.
Nafplion became the first capital of Greece right after the end of the War of Independence against the Ottomans in 1821. Before that, Venetians, Franks, Romans, and the ancient Greeks left their impressive cultural traces on Nafplion.
The charm of Nafplion is enhanced by its three imposing Castles, the narrow cobblestone alleys with neoclassic mansions covered in bougainvillea, the modern and stylish hotels, and the traditional taverns.
Whether you’re planning a romantic retreat for Valentine’s Day or a single weekend or full-scale summer or winter vacation, treat yourself to a visit to Nafplion’s dreamy and historical destination in Greece.
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You can go to Nafplion by public bus(KTEL from Kifisos in Athens) but the easiest way is to either rent a car and drive through the Peloponnese or book a private transfer from Athens airport to Nafplion.
Interactive Map to Nafplion
Get your interactive map of Nafplion here, to drive to any of the places listed on our things to do in Nafplion.
Up next I am going to tell you about 14 of the best things to do in Nafplion, Greece!
Best Things to Do in Nafplion Greece
1. Wander in Old Nafplion Alleys
The old part of Nafplion is car-free so strolling is one of the best things to do in the town. Some parts of Nafplion are connected with stairs that lead to higher neighborhoods of the town.
The narrow alleys house tourist shops, cafes, taverns, the koboloi (beads) shops, bars, and hotels in a harmonious sequence. Nafplion has many neoclassic mansions, built between 1828 and 1920, some of them quite impressive, that are used today as hotels, shops, or residences.
2. Have a Greek Coffee on Syntagma Square
Syntagma Square is the main square in Nafplion, paved in marble and surrounded by popular restaurants and cafes. You will also find Greek banks, the Archaeological museum loaded with ancient artifacts, and the Vouleftikon building, an Ottoman mosque that served as the first Greek Parliament.
Meters away from Syntagma Square stands another Ottoman mosque that is used nowadays as an events center under the name Trianon while right across stands the Xenon Inn Hotel, a beautiful boutique hotel, housed in an impressive historic building and with breathtaking views of the Palamidi Fortress.
A pedestrian’s only area, Syntagma Square is the heart of Nafplion, and everyone, both locals and visitors will pass by the square at least once a day.
Find a table, order your first Greek coffee (I always take it with some sugar), and enjoy the view of the people wandering about.
3. Walk up to Palamidi Fortress
For a little extra adventure and aerobic exercise, walk up the 857 steps to the Venetian Fortress of Palamidi built in 1687. The tradition says that there were 1000 steps but Kolokotronis’ horse – Kolokotronis was one of the leaders and a general of the War of Greek Independence – knocked down one step, and now 999 steps remain (remains historically unexplained why the horse destroyed the step 😀 )
If climbing all those stairs sounds like a huge task – I have done it and then my legs were shaky for quite some time from the strain – then consider taking a taxi to the top or booking a professionally guided tour of the Fortress.
When you get to the top of Palamidi Fortress, let the spectacular view of Nafplion, Acronafplia, and the eastern Peloponesse amaze you. Don’t miss to visit the imposing bastions, the historic church of Agios Andreas, and the impressive reservoirs that still collect the rainwater of the hill.
General Entrance 4 Euro, Open Daily between 08:00-18:00. Take with you your sunscreen, hat and a bottle of water.
Popular Guided Tours in Nafplion
4. Take the Boat to Bourtzi Castle
Take the small boat from Nafplion’s port on a few-minute trip to Bourtzi Castle, Nafplion’s famous landmark. Built by the Venetians in 1473, underwent various additions and alterations by all the conquerors of Nafplion.
Enjoy the stroll around the small castle and take photos of Nafplion from its Bourtzi’s top terrace.
5. Go to Acronafplia Castle and swim on Arvanitia beach
The rocky peninsula of Akronafplia (the Acropolis of Nafplion) was the walled settlement of Nafplio from antiquity until the end of the 15th century.
Short History of Akronafplia
- In Akronafplia you will find traces of a prehistoric settlement, while in the western part of the acropolis, parts of its ancient polygonal walls are from the 4th century BC.
- In 1210-1212, the Franks occupied Nafplion and started building the walls and the castle
- The castle was taken by the Ottomans in 1540 and renamed Its Kale(Iç Kale)
- The Venetians overtook the Ottomans in 1686 (in 1687 they bombarded Acropolis Hill in Athens)
- The Ottomans reoccupied Nafplion in 1715 and
- Finally, in 1822 it became Greek territory again
In 1961, the Xenia Hotel was built in Acronafplia, a very ambitious state-financed touristic plan that went bankrupt and closed by the end of the 70s. The relic still exists in Akronafplia and awaits the Greek authorities to decide upon either being demolished or rebuilding it.
The Xenia hotel overlooks the popular and easy to access beach Arvanitia, where you also see traces of the old Xenia beach facilities.
The waters are clear although I prefer to swim to Karathonas Beach, which is some 2 miles down the coast (see activity 8).
Exciting Guided Tours (hassle-free) in Nafplion Town
6. Enjoy the beautiful Sunset at Arvanitia Promenade
The “Promenade of Arvanitia”, is the favorite walk of Nafplion residents. The promenade starts after the end of the beach and ends at Arvanitia square, at a total distance of about one kilometer.
The whole route is dominated by the rocks of Acronafplia with its imposing walls and wonderful views of the Argolic Gulf.
Just before the middle of the promenade, you will find the small church of Panagitsa, or Santa Maria Della Grotta, a favorite pilgrimage for both the inhabitants and its visitors. I really love this walk, especially when the sun sets, it is one of the most romantic things to do in Nafplion!
7. Stay in 3 Sixty Hotel & Suites
Why should you stay in this beautifully renovated neoclassic 4-star exceptional hotel? For three main reasons:
3 Sixty Hotel & Suites boast classy spacious rooms with linens and regal furnishings that remind us of Nafplion’s old charm and rich history.
It has some of the best chefs, specialized in premium, organic meat and Greek cuisine with a twist, and has a fantastic wine list to choose from.
It is centrally located, within walking distance of all the best things to do in Nafplion.
8. Hike the Karathonas Beach to a Remote Chapel
At Arvanitia parking lot starts a beautiful trail going all the way to Karathonas beach, which is two miles east of Nafplio.
The coastal trail is very easy to follow with fantastic sea views. Karathonas sandy beach is where most of the locals go, there are cafes and four fish tavernas to have lunch or have a beer looking at the beach.
At the end of the beach, there is the white Church of Agios Constantin. Wander in its yard and the nearby houses where people and many cats live.
If you continue a few meters towards the main road you will see that another trail begins. If you follow this easy and short trail – and undeniably this is by far my favorite hike in Nafplion – you will get to the small seaside chapel of Agios Nikolaos Krasoktistos.
You don’t want to hike to Karathonas? Take a taxi to drive you there, it is very close to Nafplion.
9. Discover the Leon of Bavarians
Between the church of Agion Panton and the current cemetery of the city, you can visit a monument of exceptional art sculpture, and one of the most important asr items of the 19th century in Greece, known as the Lion of Bavaria, dating from 1840 to 1841.
The sculptor of this beautiful monument is the German Christian Ziegel, who was the first professor of sculpture at the Technical University of Athens. The model for Ziegel’s work was the Lucerne Lion by the famous Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen.
10. Visit the UNESCO Archaeological Site of Tiryns
8 km far from Nafplion lies the World Heritage Mycenean Acropolis of Tiryns.
You will see the Western Bastion which is an exceptional achievement of Mycenaean architecture, the famous Cyclopean walls that raise the question even today about their size, the Lower Acropolis, and the Geometric Temple.
According to mythology, the king of Tiryns Eurystheus ordered the feats of the hero Hercules. The finds from the excavation of Tiryns are exhibited in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens and the Archaeological Museum of Nafplion.
The Site is open daily between 8.00-20.00. The usual ticket costs around 4 euro but if you get the combo ticket which is 20 euro you can visit within 3 days the following sites:
- Archaeological site and Museum of Mycenae
- Byzantine Museum of Argolida
- Acropolis of Tiryns
- Archaeological Museum of Nafplio
- Palamidi Fortress
- The archaeological site of Asini
11. Stay in Amymone Suites overlooking Nafplion Coast
The Amymone Suites is simply a gorgeous hotel. The rooms are so beautifully decorated that it makes you sad to leave the room!
However, I love this hotel for less artistic reasons and more for the delicious, fresh, homemade, huge, and mouth-watering breakfast they serve! Their breakfast is really unbelievable and another reason to spend a lot of time at the hotel.
Check availability and prices in Booking.
12. Learn about Greek Modern History in Nafplion National Gallery
The National Gallery is housed in a beautifully renovated neoclassical building and keeps a large and quite unique collection of paintings and rifles of the heroes and events of the Greek War of Independence of 1821.
Ticket: 3 euros (general admission), every Monday free. Open Mon., Thu., Fri., Sat. 10: 00-15: 00, Wed. 10: 00-15: 00 & 17: 00-20: 00, Sun. 10: 00-14: 00, Wed. closed
13. Have a Traditional Greek Meal at the Palm Promenade
Walking towards the Nafplio seaside part, you get to a series of paved areas where you can have a very romantic meal.
The walking area has many cafes, restaurants, and fish taverns to choose from, and it is adorned with beautiful palm trees, giving Nafplion seaside an exotic Miami-kind look.
Right across from your table lies the Bourtzi castle which is impressively lit at night – as are all the castles in Nafplion.
14. Explore Nearby Nafplion Sites
If you are staying longer in Nafplion then you will be spoilt with choice of what else to do:
- Go to the small traditional village of Tolo for a swim and Greek old-fashioned taverns
- Visit the Sanctuary of Asklepios in Epidavros. From Epidavros you can drive to volcanic Methana and hop onto Poros island.
- Travel to Archaeological sites of Mycenae and Nemea
- Go all the way south to Porto Heli, jump on a ferry, and spend a day or two on Spetses island
- And if you are up for a bigger adventure, Sparta, Mystras, and Monemvasia will definitely thrill you
- Book your ferry tickets in advance with no-hidden-fees with FerryScanner or FerryHopper
How to Get to Nafplio from Athens
There are public buses from Athens going to Nafplion but I always get around a new area with a car from RentalCars.com as it offers the freedom to explore Nafplion and tour the region in depth.
Alternatively, book a new Mercedes private transfer from Athens airport to Nafplion with the professionalism and expertise of Viator local tourist agents.
How to Get to Greece
Like most visitors to Greece, you will probably have to fly to Athens or Thessaloniki International Airports to get to your final destinations. For the Cheapest, Fastest, Best Worldwide Flights, I highly recommend the Skyscanner search engine site.
If you prefer to avoid the hassle of public transport and wish for some luxury pampering, you should book a private transfer with an English-speaking driver from Athens International Airport to Piraeus Ferries. Check availability and prices on Viator here
Where to Stay in Athens
Looking for the Best Hotels near old Athens Plaka and Acropolis Parthenon?
Or would you like to stay at a beachfront hotel (Athens Riviera)?
Perhaps you are more in-budget hotels or Plaka Budget Apartments interested? Whichever your preferences I have collected the best options for your staying in Athens below:
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Some of my Favorite Travel Resources for Greece
- Ferries to the Greek Islands: Book your ferry transfer with FerryScanner or FerryHopper, and get the best prices in the market with no hidden fees
- Athens Metro Website (timetables and tickets info)
- Map of Athens Metro
- Trains (Hellenic Train)
- Public Buses KTEL
- Booking.com: I use Booking.com because I can get the best deals on both hotels and apartments, free cancellations, and great prices!
- Get Your Guide: For all your day or multi-day tours and city guide needs, I use Get Your Guide
- COVID INFO FOR GREECE: Ministry of Tourism Official Website
- Emergency Numbers Anywhere in Greece: AMBULANCE 166 – FIRE 199 – POLICE 100– EMERGENCY NUMBER 112