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Five beautiful towns of the Peloponnese

02 November 2014 / 23:11:22  GRReporter
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Greece’s largest peninsula is a popular destination for summer holidays. But it welcomes plenty of visitors in other seasons as well, in its towns, villages and mountains alike. And since many people prefer to spend their vacation in an urban setting, here is a selection of five towns in Peloponnesian colours.

Patras: all roads lead to the sea

With its population of 214,000 inhabitants and the largest port on the peninsula, Patras has a major role among the Peloponnese cities. As the capital of the Achaia region, Patras has an explicitly urban spirit, but differs from Athens for being much smaller in area and population, and situated much closer to the sea. The city is divided into the upper and lower town, connected by the Gerokostopoulou steps. The lower town is on the seafront whereas the upper one harbours the old residential areas along the town wall.

The medieval Patras Castle is atop Mount Panachaikon; the Roman Odeon and the nearby Roman Amphitheatre, the 1872 Apollon Theatre  (the oldest indoor theatre of recent times) and Hamam Patron Baths built during the Venetian rule, are just some of the many attractions in the city. Stroll through the squares (Agios Georgios, Olgas, Psilalonia) for some nice surprises; if you visit on 17 January and stay up to Clean Monday you will experience such a string of carnival events as you've never seen before.

Sparta: the mythical city ... without stage effects

Zack Snyder’s 300, with Gerard Butler as Leonidas, might have presented the place to the whole world, but the hub of Laconia, with its glorious past, does not need all these stage effects to be famous. Built south of the eponymous ancient city’s centre, today’s Sparta, amidst a green, wooded plain, with the towering Mount Taygetus and the Parnonas forest area in the background, with its squares, neoclassical buildings and tree-lined roads challenges the conventional idea of an urban centre. Two museums, of archaeology and of the olive, are a must. Sparta is not short of nightlife either, especially in the Kleomvrotou pedestrian zone and around the central square.

Kalamata: a key player in the Mediterranean diet 

The second most populous city of the Peloponnese, with 75,000 inhabitants, Kalamata is the capital of the Messenia region. It is known for its delicious olive oil, olives, and other local products that give a good name to the Mediterranean diet. Kalamata Castle, offering a panoramic view of the town, tops the list of attractions; the railway museum, the biggest one in Greece, was awarded by the European commission, and is another favourite of visitors. The Benakeion Archaeological Museum is a good proposition for exhibits from the Messenia region. Do not miss the city’s talisman – the Holy Apostles, a small Byzantine church with frescoes from the 14th century. Apart from olive oil, Kalamata is known also for its entertainment. In winter, people gather in various restaurants and bars in the historic centre, while in summer they move closer to the sea, in the Verga beach bars and clubs, at the foothills of the local mountain.

Aigio: a neoclassical atmosphere

With about 26,000 residents, Aigio is the second largest town of Achaea, known as the ‘Balcony of the Corinthian Gulf’. Most tourists are impressed by the old part of the city, with its early 20th century architecture. The beach, the train station, and the Panagia Tripiti church are other favourites. The town has a few remains from the antiquity period scattered all over. Aigio’s Archaeological Museum presents its history, with plenty of important buildings having been destroyed by quakes or invaders. The neoclassical architecture gives a special atmosphere to Aigio, and walks across its squares and parks will let you feel its pulse and colour. Don't forget to tuck into raisins, a linchpin of the local economy.

Tripoli: a journey into Peloponnese’s heart 

the largest settlement of the Arcadia region - Tripoli – is bang in the middle of the Peloponnese, near Mount Mainalon. It is a modern town with an active cultural life and plenty of attractions, which place it firmly on the tourist map. Tripoli’s archaeological museum presents artefacts from the antique settlements of Arcadia. the Aghios Vasilios metropolitan church stands in the central square, occupying the place of the former Bekir Pasha mosque. The markets in Plateia Petrinou (Petrinos Square) and the most commercial street Ethnikis Antistaseos are worth seeing, not only for shopping purposes. Some more leisurely time can be spent in a trip to the Agios Georgios grove within walking distance from the town. Tripoli’s open-air theatre events, musical evenings, and the fragrance of its nature are other aspects to be enjoyed. Try the local recipes in the town’s various restaurants.

Tags: Peloponnese cities Patras Sparta Tripoli Aigio Kalamata
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