No matter how much you travel Greece, cities like Kalamata will be hard to find. Rarely a city with “normal” life can give such an intense feeling of a holiday destination. And it is even rarer for this city to have its feet dipped in the sea, to have as a… crown a beautiful castle, in her heart a doll-like historical center filled with neoclassical buildings and cobbled streets and in the air the smell of permanent summer.
On your way to Kalamata…
An almost perfect straight road connects Athens to Kalamata making the 223 kilometers between them a matter of two and a half hours. The most popular season to visit is apparently summer (but you have to be resilient to its heat waves) so that you can dive in its beaches. The city, as the entire region around it, is suitable for everything: from the lacey coasts of the Messinian Mani to the southest cliffs and gorges of Mt. Taygetos, and from the natural wonder called Polilimnio to the city of Ancient Messini, the wonder of antiquity, you will find it difficult to choose what to do and see first.
The “must visit” places of Kalamata
There are two places where every newcomer begins his/hers first strolls in Kalamata: the beach, Navarinou Avenue as the official name is, and the historical center. We will start from the later.
The historical center
Between the squares of 23rd
March and Ypapantis spreads a net of alive walkways and picturesque alleys that you can’t get enough of walking them. Filled with beautiful neoclassical buildings with tiled roofs and architectural influences that start from the Italian renaissance and reach the art nouveau, the German classicism and the folklore architecture of the 19th
century, creating an outdoor museum of History and Architecture in the heart of the city. Among them, there are stone-build churches and interesting museums (the Historical, the Folklore, the Archaeological and the Military museum with exhibits from the Greek National Revolution) that offer plenty of stops for the history lovers.
It is the coastal avenue of the city and the place where its heart beats the summer nights- that lasts more months than you can imagine if you’re coming from the north. Something more than three kilometers in length, Navarinou spreads from the marina of the city till its first beaches- another unique characteristic of Kalamata: In which other Greek city can you go swimming ten steps away from its central avenue? Its wide sidewalks are decorated with palm trees and are offered for long strolls every hour of the day and night, while on the tables of the shops at the beach they serve, from morning till night, coffee along with cakes and biscuits on the house, ouzo with meze (finger food) and colorful cocktails.
It dates back to the Byzantine years, but it owes its current form to the Franks and in particular to Godefridus I Villehardouin, founder of the Principality of Achaea, that was renovated in 1208. Later, the Venetians that conquered it added their own details, like the sculpted lion of St. Markus that decorates the central gate. The phantasmagoric view of the city from up there, especially at dusk were the city lights are turned on one by one, is a reason all by itself to climb the stone steps of the pine covered hill.
The Railway Park
The kids will love it but so will the grown-ups that find trains and their stories charming. One of the most interesting museums in Greece is in fact a big, green park that spreads in 54 acres and tells the long story of the railways through their machines and the wagons of different time periods. This picture is supplemented by mounds, lakes, playgrounds, fountains, the two floors building of the old station “Kalamata-Limin” and the specially designed educational walks. The entrance to the park is free.