Oraia (beautiful) is the word Greeks use to describe Nafplion. The town's old section, on a peninsula jutting into the gulf of Argos, mixes Greek, Venetian, and Turkish architecture; narrow streets, often just broad flights of stone stairs, climb the slopes beneath the walls of Acronafplia. Tree-shaded plazas surround neoclassic buildings. The Palamidi fortress—an elegant display of Venetian might from the early 1700s—guards the town. Nafplion deserves at least a leisurely day of your undivided attention, and you may want to spend several days or a week here and use the city as the base from which to explore the many surrounding ancient sights.
Odyssey, perched on one side of Syntagma Square, is the best place in Nafplion for newspapers and books in English; the owners are very helpful if you need advice or directions.
Peloponnesian Folklore Foundation Museum Shop
The Peloponnesian Folklore Foundation Museum Shop, on the ground floor of the excellent museum, stocks an appealing array of merchandise that includes jewelry, candlesticks, and other gift items.
Agynthes showcases handwoven and naturally dyed woolens, cotton, and silks, some of which have been fashioned into chic scarves and other apparel.
A seaside promenade skirts the Nafplion peninsula, paved with reddish flagstones and opening every so often to terraces planted with a few rosebushes and olive and cedar trees. Along the south side of the peninsula, the promenade runs midway along a cliff—it's 100 feet up to Acronafplia, 50 feet down to the sea—and leads to Arvanitia beach, a lovely place for a dip. Here and there a flight of steps goes down to the rocky shore below. (Be careful if you go swimming here, because the rocks are covered with sea urchins, which look like purple-and-black porcupines and whose quills can inflict a painful wound.)Ayia Panagitsa. Before you reach the very tip of the peninsula, marked by a ship's beacon, there is a little shrine at the foot of a path leading up toward the Acronafplia walls above. The tiny church of the Little Virgin Mary, or Ayia Panagitsa, hugs the cliff on a small terrace and is decorated with icons. During the Turkish occupation the church hid one of Greece's secret schools. End of promenade, Nafplion, 21100.
Whether in harsh sunlight or under floodlights at night, the Palamidi fortress is a beautiful sight, with red-stone bastions and flights of steps that zigzag down the 700-foot-tall cliff face. You can drive up the less-precipitous eastern slope, but if you are in reasonable shape and it isn't too hot, try climbing the stairs. Most guidebooks will tell you there are 999 of them, but 892 is closer to the mark. From the top you can look down on the Old Town and the entire Argive plain beyond and also look across the gulf to Argos or down its length to the Aegean. Built in 1711–14, the Palamidi comprises three forts and a series of freestanding and connecting defensive walls. The name is taken from the son of Poseidon, Palamedes, who, legend has it, invented dice, arithmetic, and some of the Greek alphabet. Sculpted in gray stone, the lion of St. Mark looks outward from the gates. The Palamidi fell to the Turks in 1715 after only eight days, allegedly because the Venetians assumed the fortress was impregnable and saw no need to garrison a large number of troops within the walls. After the war, the fortress was used as a prison; its inmates included the revolutionary war hero Theodore Kolokotronis; a sign indicates his cell.
Peloponnesian Folklore Foundation Museum
This exemplary small museum focuses on textiles and displays outstanding costumes, handicrafts, and household furnishings. Many of the exhibits are precious heirlooms that have been donated by Peloponnesian families, and several rooms are painstaking re-creations of 19th-century Nafplion homes. The gift shop has some fascinating books and a good selection of high-quality jewelry and handicrafts, such as weavings, kilims, and collector folk items such as roka (spindles) and wooden koboloi (worry beads).
Syntagma (Constitution) Square
The center of the Old Town is one of Greece's prettiest platias (squares), distinguished by glistening, multicolor marble paving bordered by neoclassic and Ottoman-style buildings. In summer the restaurants and patisseries on the square—a focal point of Nafpliote life—are boisterous with the shouts and laughter of children and filled with diners well into the evening.
Above the harbor at the western edge of town are the ruins of a fortification known as the Five Brothers, the only remaining part of the lower wall built around Nafplion in 1502. The name comes from the five guns placed here by the Venetians around 1690; they remain in place, all bearing the winged lion of St. Mark.
The fishermen's quarter is a small district of narrow, alleylike streets running between cramped little houses that huddle beneath the walls of Acronafplia. The old houses, painted in brownish yellow, green, and salmon red, are embellished with additions and overhangs in eclectic styles. The walk is enjoyable, but keep a low profile to respect the privacy of the locals.Ayios Apostoli. The pretty, miniature whitewashed chapel of Ayios Apostoli, perched near the top of the neighborhood, has six small springs that trickle out of the side of Acronafplia. Off parking lot of Psaromachalas, 21100.
St. Nicholas Church
This church near the waterfront was built in 1713 for sailors by Augustine Sagredo, the prefect of the Venetian fleet, and is furnished with a Venetian reredos and pulpit, and a chandelier from Odessa.
St. Spyridon Church
This one-aisle basilica with a dome (1702) has a special place in Greek history: it was in its doorway that the statesman Ioannis Kapodistrias, the first president of an independent Greece, was assassinated in 1831 by the Mavromichalis brothers from the Mani, the outcome of a long-running vendetta. The mark of the bullet can be seen next to the Venetian portal. On the south side of the square, opposite St. Spyridon, are two of the four Turkish fountains that remain in Nafplion. A third is a short distance east on Kapodistria street, at the steps that constitute the upper reaches of Tertsetou street.
Now known as the Vouleftiko (Parliament), this former mosque was where the Greek National Assembly held its first meetings. The mosque is built of carefully dressed gray stones, and legend has it that the lintel stone from the Treasury of Atreus was used in the construction of the large, square-domed prayer hall.
The closest sandy beach to Nafplion is Karathona, about 3 km (2 mi) south of town by road or a pleasant walk first along the seaside promenade and then a dirt track (you can also get there by bus). The pine-backed sands are favored by Greek families with picnic baskets. This is an ideal spot for kids, since the waters remain shallow far out into the bay. The resort town of Tolo is a short bus ride (€1.20) from the main station in Nafplion (service every hour) or a reasonably priced taxi ride (about €17); beware, though, that the beach at Tolo is packed solid with sunburned northern Europeans in the warm months.
Arvanitia beach is not really a beach but a seaside perch made of smooth rocks and concrete platforms and backed by fragrant pines. This is a good place for a quick plunge after a day of sightseeing. You can walk to Arvanitia by following the seaside promenade that hugs the cliffs beneath the Acronafplia south of town, and, if you're up for a hike, from there follow a dirt track along the coastline past several coves that are nice for swimming all the way to Karathona.