Updated: Jul 8
Kavala is a scenic town in Northern Greece, located on the shores of North Aegean Sea in the region of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace*. The town is a major seaport and capital of Kavala prefecture.
(*Macedonia is a historical-geographic region on the Balkan peninsula, Southeast Europe, with a long and reach history dating back to around 7000 BC. Its geographical boundaries have seen significant changes over the years and centuries. Nowadays, the region is split between several Balkan countries: Greece ( Aegean Macedonia - West, Central and Eastern Macedonia and Thrace ), Republic of North Macedonia / with this name since February 2019 / ( Vardar Macedonia ), Bulgaria ( Pirin Macedonia ), and small parts belonging to Albania, Serbia and Kosovo. )
Founded in the 7th century BC, Kavala is built like an amphitheatre on the slopes of Mount Symvolo, and has a rich history dating back to Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman eras.
With many well-preserved Byzantine and Ottoman buildings, remarkable castle, aqueduct structure, and the archaeological site of Philippi, Kavala is a great travel destination and one of the most picturesque cities in Greece. The town also features several beautiful and peaceful beaches - Rapsani beach, Kalamitsa beach and Perigiali beach.
Being a seaport, Kavala serves regular ferries to and from some islands of the North Aegean group like Thassos, Lemnos, Lesbos, Chios, Samos and Ikaria.
The surroundings around Kavala are splendid with many natural cliffs and coves, sandy beaches with clear waters, pine forests and mountains. The most popular beach destinations near Kavala are Paleo, Nea Karvali, Nea Iraklitsa, Nea Peramos, Ammolofoi beach, Keramoti, and of course the island of Thassos.
The city has a laid-back atmosphere with all attractions being close to each other ( except the site of Philippi ).
The Castle ( Kastro )
A must visit place, the ancient Castle ( Acropolis ) is located on the top of the Old Town. From its viewing platform, you can enjoy breathtaking panoramic views of the city, port and sea. Due to these amazing views, Kavala people fondly refer to their city as ‘The Monaco of Greece’ and I can confirm that the comparison is worth it.
The Castle was built around the first quarter of the 15th century on the remains of the Byzantine Acropolis of Christoupolis (former name of Kavala) which was destroyed in 1391, incorporating parts that survived from it. The various fortification interventions are quite obvious and were carried out by Byzantines, Venetians and Ottomans.
Today, visitors can see a circular tower and a few buildings which used to function as a prison, arsenal storage and cistern.
The castle is gated and entrance fee is applied.
The Old Town ( Panagia )
In order to reach the Castle, you need to pass through the Old town of Kavala, known as Panagia. Built amphitheatrically on a small peninsula, you can enter it from a few places and wander in the alleys until you reach the castle.
Due to its tiny and steep streets, it's actually advisable that you take the small "train" or a taxi to the Castle first and then seeing the Old Town while going downhill. It's not recommended to bring your own car there as driving and parking is difficult.
The Old Town is a beautiful neighbourhood with lovely colourful houses, cafes and several historical attractions including the Castle, Mohammed Ali's House and Imaret Hotel.
Mohammed Ali's House
In the Square named for Mohammed Ali (1769-1849), his residence and statue can be found.
The founder and ruler of modern Egypt Pasha Mohammed (or Mehmet) Ali was born and lived in Kavala.
Built around 1780-90, the two-storey house is set in its own gardens and is considered one of the most characteristic surviving examples of 18th-century Ottoman architecture in Greece.
Today, Mohammed Ali’s house functions as a museum and recreate how the Pasha would have lived in the late-18th century. The interior decoration is simple. The house had separate apartments for men (selamlik) and women (harem). At the time it was built it was the largest house in Kavala, and the only home with running water. The house remains the property of the Egyptian Government, and the Greek and Egyptian flags hang over the front gate.
The bronze equestrian statue of Mohammed Ali that dominates the square was created in Paris by the Greek sculptor Konstantinos Dimitriadis, commissioned by the Greek communities of Egypt and offered to Mohammed Ali’s hometown.
Next to the statue is the large Greek Orthodox Church of the Virgin Mary.
In 1813 Mohammed Ali launched the construction of an impressive Imaret, as a donation to his hometown, which functioned as a Koranic school, charitable centre and hostel for students. The edifice supported the educational, social and religious needs of the Muslim population and ceased its operation, after their departure from the area. Located below the fortress in the lower part of the Old Town, Imaret is a rare example in Europe, a masterpiece of 19th century Ottoman Baroque style.
Left empty for decades, in 2001, following an agreement with the Egyptian government, a private investor undertook the task of restoring the house of Mohamed Ali and Imaret, in order to achieve a contemporary use, compatible with their identity, cultural significance and history.
Today, beautifully restored, Imaret is a luxurious five-star hotel with a superb location and great views that combines original Ottoman architecture with a touch of the orient and modern luxury.
Guided tours are offered for tourists and locals to get a sneak peek of the remarkable architecture of the hotel. ( unfortunately, during my visit it was not available, maybe due to the pandemic ).
Worth seeing in the Old Town is also Halil Bey or Hussein Bey Mosque.
The Port & Promenade
Going out of the Old Town you will find yourself in the port area from where a magnificent view is revealed towards the Castle and the Old Town.
A stroll on the Promenade is a very pleasant and relaxing experience. There are restaurants and cafes where you can sit and dine while watching the fishing boats and ferries arriving and departing. High palm trees line a section of the promenade with a few benches to rest.
Park Falirou and the Archaeological Museum are at a short distance from the promenade,
You will notice the arches walls of a solid ancient structure near the center and the Old Town. It spans across 280 meters and reaches height of 28 meters at some places.
It is thought that an aqueduct was first built here during the late Roman or Byzantine period and destroyed in the 14th century. During the mid 16th century it was remodelled by the Ottoman Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent to aqueduct which transported water from a mountain spring to Kavala, supplying public fountains and buildings.
A nice view of Kamares is revealed from the Castle.
In the city center, there are a few more buildings and places that will draw your attention:
The Town Hall
Probably the most beautiful building in Kavala where the local municipality is housed. In front of the building, there is a nice park and square that features a bronze statue of Nike (the Greek goddess of Victory) made by Cretan sculptor Yannis Parmakelis in 1970.
The Municipal Tobacco Warehouse
Another impressive building in the city center with a pink facade featuring Ottoman, Neoclassical and Baroque elements.
Originally built around 1900, the building was used as a tobacco warehouse by the Turkish tobacco merchant Kizi Mimin. Nowadays, the renovated “Tobacco Warehouse” is acquired by the Municipality of Kavala and is used as a venue for cultural events.
It is also the home of the Maritime Museum of Kavala.
Eleftherias Square - a central square with busy narrow streets where you can find traditional bakeries, fast food restaurants, small hidden taverns, and a shopping center.
Archaeological Site of Philippi
One of the most significant attractions related to Kavala is the Archaeological Site of Philippi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, located about 18 km to the north of the city.
The site features monuments from the Hellenistic, Roman and Early Christian periods.
The ancient city of Philippi was colonized by the people of the island of Thasos, who established the city of Krinides in 360 BC. In 356 BC the Thassian colony of Krinides was renamed after Philip II of Macedon (father of Alexander the Great) who conquered it and saved it from a Thracian invasion.
The excavations on the site of Philippi began in 1914. The finds from the excavations are housed in the Museum of Philippi. The most important monuments of the site are the Walls and the Acropolis, the Theatre which was probably built by King Philip II around the middle of the 4th century BC, the Agora (Forum) which was the administrative centre of Philippi in the Roman period, the Prison of Apostle Paul, and more.
The site was also the place where Apostle Paul, in 49 AD first preached the teachings of Christianity in Europe and where the first European Christian woman, Lydia, was baptized.
Kavala is situated 150 km east from Thessaloniki and about 680 km from the capital Athens. The nearest airport is Kavala International Airport "Alexander the Great" (27 km /17 mi) from Kavala.