With a population of around 16.000, Nafplion thrives as both a seaport and weekend getaway from Athens.
The red-roofed town didn’t rise to prominence until the Middle Ages, when the Venetians transformed it from a sleepy fishing village into a trade entrepot protected by the massive Acronafplia and Palamidi fortress, which lie on a rocky ridge overlooking the harbour in 1829, the city became the first capital of independent, modern Greece.
While Nafplion didn’t hang on to the reins of power for very long, much of the city’s character dates from that era, in particular the neoclassical mansions and public buildings of the old town.
Although nearby Argos was an ancient city-state, Nafplion is a relative latecomer in the annals of Greek history.
As a result, locals tend to pride themselves in more recent events, in particular the early 19th-century Greek struggle for independence, when the town became an epicenter for both homegrown patriots and enthusiastic ‘philhellenes’ from overseas who gave their time, money and even lives towards the cause of Greek freedom.
Among the latter was British poet Lord Bayron, who died from a fever contracted during the Ottomans’ siege of Messolonghi, and is among those immortalised at the Catholic Church of the Metamorphosis (Potamianou Street).
Today, Nafplion remains a city of thinkers and intellectuals, the hometown of many famous, writers, and the location of one of the nation’s most distinguished learning centre the University Of Peloponnese School Of Fine Arts, renowned for theatre, dance and stage design.
Named after the son of Poseidon, the city still retains its intimate relationship with the sea; its port shelters fishing boats and a fleet of mega yachts, and boasts a picturesque harbour.
The charming ambience and thriving cultural scene have long attracted foreigners to Nafplion- some stay for a season, others stay for longer than that.
As a result, the town is imbued with a cosmopolitanism that is seldom found in other Greek cities of this size.
Syntagma Square in Nafplion
Syntagma square is a charming place to sit and simply watch the world pass by, or indulge in a long afternoon of window shopping.
Much of the city’s best shopping is found just a short stroll from the leafy square, with boutiques selling locally-designed jewellery and clothing.
White trinkets such as worry beads, amulets, textiles and ceramics also abound.