There are definitely far more than 20 things to do in Nafplio, Greece to experience the wonder here, but if these are my recommendations to get you moving around the city to see the sites, taste the best of the food, and start making memories in this beautiful medieval Greek port city.
Nafplio, Greece is a picturesque coastal village with clifftop ruins, seaside walkways, quintessentially quaint streets with narrow cobblestoned roadways and gorgeous old buildings, too many restaurants to possibly fit into a week or even a month, and shops offering everything from handmade soaps to high-end designer clothing. This is a great city to explore, and you will find something wonderful around every corner.
For inspiration, here are 20 things to experience in Nafplio. Most of the things to do listed below are free or very low cost. Enjoy!!!
Walk the Famous Round of Arvanitia – a stone walkway along the peninsula coast
If you have to pick only one thing to do in Nafplio, make it this scenic coastal walk (approximately 1 mile in distance) that wraps around the tip of Nafplio with breathtaking views in all directions of the bay. This gorgeous walkway is a wide, easy-to-walk stone pathway that circles from Arvanitia Beach on the south shore of the peninsula all the way past the Arvanitia Lighthouse until it meets up with the restaurants along northwest shore of old Nafplio. On one side of this path is the steep incline of the Acronafplia Hill, and on the other is the rocky sea coast and the clear blue water of Argolic Gulf. There are stone pathways leading down to the shoreline from the walkway and picture-worthy views at every turn. The path extends about 2 km (1.25 miles) total if walking from the beach to the tip of the peninsula and around to the restaurant row by the harbor.
Have a Specialty Coffee at Iliostasio to Watch the Sunset
The next favorite thing to do in Nafplio is centered around coffee and sunset views. I highly recommend timing the walk on the Round of Arvanitia to end at Iliostasio to enjoy a coffee as the sun is setting over the mountains across the bay. My personal favorite drink at Iliostasio was the Chocolate Lovers Coffee – perfectly decadent without being too sweet. The outdoor tables have an unimpeded view of the Bourtzi Castle, which is a fortress built on a tiny island just a stone’s throw off the coast of Nafplio.
Take a Swim at the Secluded Arvanatia Beach
If you are looking for something to do in Nafplio that involves sand and water, Arvanatia Beach is a quick walk from the old section of town. On the southern shore of Nafplio where the peninsula meets the mainland is a beautiful pebble and sand beach with crystalline blue waters and amazing views of lush green hillsides plunging down to the rocky coastline on either side of the beach. The water here is warm and clear, attracting sun lovers, snorkelers, and swimmers. Go for a leisurely float on the calm waters of the Argolic Gulf, or get some exercise with a longer swim along the breathtaking shoreline (did I mention that sharks are extremely rare near mainland Greece!). There is a large parking lot at the beach, and it is walking distance from old Nafplio, but it still feels secluded due to the dramatic shoreline with very few buildings to mar the natural beauty.
Climb the 999 Steps Up to the Palamidi Fortress
It’s a steep climb up to the Palamidi Fortress, but the zig-zagging stairs built into the side of the mount make it manageable. The view from every step is sweeping and vast and there are plenty of places to stop for a rest and to take photos along the way. And the reward at the top is a vast fortress to explore. Even if you choose not to enter the fortress, the climb is definitely something to experience in Nafplio for the views of the peninsula and bay.
Make sure your camera/phone is fully charged because every turn reveals a new landscape and every step improves the view.
Explore the Palamidi Fortress
Palamidi Fortress is the first thing you will see as you enter Nafplio whether during the day or at night, but car or by water, and touring it is definitely one of the more popular things to do in Nafplio. The fortress spreads across the top of the mount overlooking the ancient city of Nafplio, the entire peninsula, and the bay for as far as you can see. Built in the early 1800s during the Venetian occupation, the architecture of the fortress is quite impressive. It was occupied by the Turks for some time, and finally seized by Greek rebels fighting for independence in 1822. The views of the surrounding land are spectacular, as expected, and the ruins of the fortress are intriguing to walk through and climb over.
Have a Celebratory Drink at Kontrabasso After Descending the 999 Steps from Palamidi Fortress
Directly at the base of the 999 steps leading to Palamidi Fortress is the quaint Kontrabasso pub offering celebratory drink specials and a much needed rest for your legs. They offer indoor and sidewalk seating, and have accommodated for the steep slant of the sidewalk by cutting the legs of the stools and chairs unevenly to match the slope, thus providing an even seat! The outside tables are comfortable and shaded, and the inside of the pub is cozy and musically themed. Your legs will definitely agree that stopping for a drink after climbing up the mount and back down is something you must do while in Nafplio.
Wander the Streets of Old Town Nafplio from the Harbor to the Hilltop Ruins
To truly soak in the charm of Old Town and experience Nafplio, I recommend taking a long, meandering walk, and don’t forget your camera! The streets here are charming with vibrant flowers, brick buildings, colorful doors, and hidden alcoves. On one edge of town is the harbor with a view of Bourtzi Castle and moored sailboats floating on the calm waters. Cafes, coffee shops, and bakeries face the harbor with cobblestoned streets leading into the inner areas of Old Town. The buildings are quaint and colorful, draped in flowers and often guarded by a watchful cat. As you wind through the city, the narrow streets and walkways start to climb toward the ruins at the top of the Akronafplia Hill and the buildings fade away to stone walls and arched gateways. Don’t be afraid to venture into the wide stone stairways as you climb the hill. They may look like they are leading to nothing but they bring you to the gorgeous pathways, flower-draped stone walls, and old guard towers with sweeping views of the city below. Walking and exploring is a simple thing to do in Nafplio and an experience that will be richly rewarded if you are willing to be just a little adventurous.
Explore the Acronafplia Castle Ruins at the Top of the Hill
As you wind up the walkways at the backside of Old Town, you will inevitably end up on the pathway that joins the winding road up to the Acronafplia Castle Ruins. The road is not very long and there is a sidewalk that climbs the hill along with the road. The first site as you come out of the pathway from town and onto the road leading up to the ruins is an old abandoned hotel – don’t let the graffitied skelaton of the building turn you off as it is definitely worth continuing the trek. There are interesting ruins and breathtaking views in all directions from the top of the hill which stretches to the tip of the peninsula. I almost didn’t push beyond the abandoned hotel and the parking lot, but I would have missed out on another fantastic set of ruins and more breathtaking views, which is why I insist this is one of the best things to do in Nafplio and worth the perseverence.
Try One (or More!) of the 150 Greek Wines at Alkioni Wine Bar
Alkioni Wine Bar is something to experience in Nafplio because it allows you to explore the many wine regions of Greece without leaving your table. The varied terrain of Greece from the mountains to the Mediterranean produces a vast array of Greek wines, and you could spend many enjoyable weeks traveling the country tasting all of the wines from the various regions. Or you can spend an evening, an entire day, even days at Alkioni Wine Bar enjoying more than 150 different Greek wines, by the glass or by the bottle. Sit at the long bar inside the restaurant, a cozy indoor table, or relax al fresco in the warm night air of Nafplio while sipping on wines from all over the country. The staff here are knowledgeable and eager to assist in choosing the perfect wine for your taste and it is one of the many things to do in Nafplio that gives you a taste of all of Greece.
Indulge your senses at Naias Handcrafted Bath Products Shop
Naias Handcrafted Bath Products shop is one of the things to do in Nafplio that is completely indulgent and perfect for self-care (something most of us need to do more of!). This little shop tucked into Alexandrou Street is full of light, flowery aromas and everything you need to pamper yourself. The soaps are hand-made on-site behind a wall of windows separating the showroom from the production room. The shelves and rows of colorful soaps are as beautiful as gems all lined up in batches on the shelves. Everything in this shop will make for a perfect gift at very affordable prices. I purchased all of my thank you gifts from here without breaking the bank. And don’t forget to treat yourself – you won’t regret it!
Take the perfect Old World Charm Photo at a Sidewalk Cafe
Sidewalk dining is something to experience in Nafplio. There are rustic wood tables with colorful chairs, or tables dressed in soft pastel linens with candles, or high-top tables with comfortable stools, or cushioned couches around low coffee tables. Each one is exactly as you imagine open-air dining in Greece to be – quintessential, romantic, inviting. There is something for every taste, whether classic and romantic or contemporary and sleek, and each one is picture-worthy.
Photograph a Cat Perched in a Window or on a Shelf
Cats are a common sight in every village and city in Greece and to truly experience Nafplio, take a moment to appreciate the felines. They wander the streets, often perching on window sills and shelves, in doorways, and under tables waiting for crumbs to drop. The cats are well cared for by locals, even if the streets are their home, and quite contented. And they are very happy to pose for photos!
Disclaimer: The pungent scent of cats can accost your senses at times, but it quickly passes. And some of the cats of Nafplio are the smartest ever as they have learned to squat over the street grates to relieve themselves, thus keeping the streets clean and fresh smelling! Let’s hope this catches on and soon all the cats of Nafplio will follow suit.
Tour Bourtzi Castle Built on a Tiny Island in the Argolic Gulf
Bourtzi Castle is something to experience in Nafplio whether you just look at it from shore or venture out in a boat to explore it in more detail. It was built in 1471 on a tiny bit of island in the Argolic Bay just a stone’s throw from Nafplio. At one point in history, a chain was stretched between this Venetian castle and Acronafplio Hill to be raised as a means of thwarthing enemy ships threatening the port city. It has served as a castle home, a protecdtive fortress, a prison, a hotel, and a tourist organization. During the summer season, musical and cultural events are performed at Bourtzi Castle, and can be reached by boat within minutes from Nafplio. Even if you visit Nafplio sometime other than summer when there are events to experience at Bourtzi Castle, exploring it is still one of the top things to do in Nafplio.
Shop at Night
Many of the stores stay open late well into the evening in Nafplio. A leisurely stroll back to the hotel after a late dinner often included stopping to browse in the shops. It seemed that as long as the customers keep coming in, the stores keep their doors open. The stores aren’t less crowded at night, so if you like personal service, this is the time to try on that beautiful dress you’ve been eyeing in the window of a shop, or browse through the handcrafted leather bags that feel like butter to the touch. Shopping is definitely one of the top things to do in Nafplio, and fortunately you can shop day or night so you don’t miss out on anything!
Dine Under a Canopy of Bougainvillea on Alexandrou Street
I love the fairytale feel of branches heavy with green leaves and colorful flowers draped above me as I explore the streets, and dining under the lush canopy is one of my favorite things to do in Nafplio. There is a lovely little restaurant on Alexandrou Street with tables under a canopy of purple and red bougainvillea and fantastic food that should not be missed. The restaurant has an exterior of rich golden yellow with cinnamon-colored doors and window frames, and a cheery and welcoming interior. The name of the restaurant is often translated into English as Vyzantio, and if my limited knowledge of Greek is correct, the actual name means Taverna of Byzantium, offering Greek and European cuisine with daily specials written on a large chalk board on the outside of the building. We would have been contented to dine here every day while in Nafplio, despite the many other truly fantastic restaurants in the city. The setting is as warm and romantic by day as it is by night.
Order a Gyro at O Meraklis XXL
With all of the fantastic food to sample in Greece, it would be easy to overlook the basic gyro, but it would be a mistake not to experience this traditional Greek meal. A warm pita topped with shaved pork or chicken, tomato, cool tzatziki sauce and a few french fries is a perfect combination of textures and tastes. For the best gyro experience in Nafplio, I recommend O Meraklis XXL. But fair warning – the hand-tossed pizzas are as popular at O Meraklis XXL as their gyros, and your mouth will be watering for a slice after the constant parade of fresh pizzas from the kitchen.
Order the Baked Feta Cheese Drizzled in Honey at Aktaion Overlooking the Bay
My husband’s favorite Greek food is baked feta cheese, usually wrapped in phyllo crust, and drizzled with honey. As you bite into it, it oozes with the ultimate mixture of savory and sweet. Aktaion is one of the best places to eat in Nafplio with sheltered outdoor dining just a few steps from the sea, and has our favorite version of baked feta. Their baked feta with black sesame crust drizzled in honey goes great with a glass of wine and a view of the bay, making it one of the most enjoyable things to do in Nafplio. Even if you don’t think you like cheese, or you’ve never been a fan of feta, you must try this amazing dish.
Confession – We love the baked feta so much that we always devour it before taking a photo of it!
Indulge in the Apple Pie Turnover and Peppermint Tea at Illy
We discovered this wonderful little shop one night on our way back to our boutique hotel after another fantastic Greek dinner and a long stroll by the seashore. I had noticed the shop several times during our days in Nafplio, and the same woman was always there no matter the time of day. When she wasn’t chatting with the customers, she was kneading dough or mixing batter. The apple pie turnover was delicious and not too sweet. The crust was thick, but not heavy, and melted in the mouth. The light dusting of confectioner’s sugar was just the right amount of sweetness to compliment the apple and walnut filling. The powdered pastry with a cup of hot peppermint tea was the perfect nightcap to another perfect day.
Indulge in a Crepe, Either Sweet or Savory
Crepes are popular with Greeks, making them experts at preparing them, which is why eating a crepe is on my list of things to do in Nafplio. Many of the restaurants offer crepes on the menu as appetizers or desserts, and some restaurants specialize in crepes only, stuffing them with every imaginable flavor. The dessert crepes are amazing, but if sweet is not your thing, they also offer savory fillings. This is much more than just a think pancake and shouldn’t be skipped while in Greece.
Enjoy a Coffee and a Pastry Anywhere!
My favorite thing to do in Nafplio each morning was to discover a new coffee shop and savor a pastry I’ve never tried before. There are coffee shops with baked goods in abundance on nearly every corner in Nafplio and I recommend trying any of them. I did my best to get to as many as possible (a task I take very seriously and enjoy immensely!), and was never disappointed. The Greeks love their coffee and sweets, and they do both very well. The only difficulty is trying to choose the perfect pastry to go with a steaming cup of coffee from the rows and rows of beautiful, colorful delectables.