Kavala is a very lively port, a
gateway to the islands in the North East Aegean and northern Dodecanese, and a
holiday resort in its own right with some good beaches either side of the
centre. It has several good museums too, illustrating the historical and
cultural interest of the town and surrounding area. Immediate impressions may
not be favourable, as it is big and busy, but it is well worth spending a few
days to explore the main town in eastern Macedonia.
History of Kavala
Kavala has been a port since
ancient times, and was founded in the 6th century BC by emigrants from the
island of Paros. St Paul first set foot on European soil here before travelling
to Philippi in 49AD, and it has been fought over ever since. At varying times
it was occupied by the Franks, Turks, Venetians, Normans and others, including
the Bulgarians during both the First and Second World Wars.
The Turkish occupation had the
biggest impact, as they were here from 1371 to 1912, and among their legacies
is the town’s aqueduct, which dates not from the Romans but from the 16th
century. A citadel dominates the eastern end of the harbour, and its imposing
walls were built mainly in the 10th and 16th centuries. It makes an impressive
sight when floodlit at night, and inside the walls is the area of town known as
In Panagia, Kavala's Old Town
Panagia is a terrific place in which to get lost, filled as it is with meandering streets and 18-19th century houses. Among these is the birthplace of Mehmet Ali (1769-1849), who became the Pasha of Egypt. The house can be identified by the nearby bronze statue of Ali on horseback, and has been preserved as a museum.
The most notable building is known as the Imaret, and overlooks the harbour on the right-hand side of one of the main streets as you enter the citadel area. This is the largest Islamic building in Europe, and was founded by Mehmet Ali. It originally housed theological students, and provided them with cheap meals, though after standing derelict for many years it was recently refurbished as a restaurant where the meals are less cheap but the setting overlooking the harbour is superb. If you merely want to take a look round the interior, there is also a simpler bar set around the courtyard.
The View from the Old Town
The harbour at Kavala is a busy place, with hints of the eastern bazaar in the market area just behind it. You can be sure of a good fresh fish meal in the many restaurants that line the front, although if you want somewhere more unusual and Turkish-influenced, head into the Panagia area at night.
Kavala has several museums, large
and small. At the far side of the harbour is the excellent Archaeological
Museum, which draws on the finds from the several classical sites
nearby, including Philippi. Some of the best exhibits are from Avdira, and
these include an exquisite dolphin mosaic, and a huge sarcophagus, unusual in
that its paint has survived. The site of Amphipolis, west of the town, is also
represented, including some fine laurel wreaths made of pure gold in the 3rd
century BC, looking far too delicate to have survived for over 2000 years.
There are also extensive collections of ceramics, jewellery, coins, statues and
many other items.
The Folk and Modern Art Museum, also known as the Municipal Museum, is a superior example of its kind, not dealing
just with the past but also finding space for displays of more modern Greek
art. Amongst the best are several sculptures by an artist from the island of
Thassos, Polygnotos Vagis (1894-1965). In other rooms there are the usual displays
of traditional folk costumes, as well as many household and agricultural items,
though the collection is very eclectic and well worth an hour or two of
browsing. Note that the museum has been closed for renovation so check whether
it has re-opened or not.
There are several other museums
including an Olive Museum, a Tobacco Museum (tobacco is a big crop in eastern
Greece), a Wax Museum and a Navy Museum.
Where to Stay in Kavala
Other Macedonia pages
The ten best day trips from Thessaloniki include visits to Mount Athos and Mount Olympus, and to archaeological sites such as Dion, Pella, and Vergina
Halkidiki is a three-pronged peninsula near Thessaloniki in Macedonia which comprises Mount Athos and the holiday resorts on Kassandra and Sithonia.
The Greek city of Thessaloniki in Macedonia has an array of wonderful museums and art galleries, and here's twelve of the best.
The archaeological site of Vergina in Macedonia is famous for the royal tombs which were the burial place of King Philip II, father of Alexander the Great.
The capital of Macedonia and Greece’s second city, Thessaloníki has a lovely situation by the water, a wealth of history, many good museums, and good food.
The Prespa Lakes in northwest Greece is one of the most beautiful parts of Greece with abundant wildlife and also many ancient churches.
The churches of Thessaloniki are remarkable and include UNESCO World Heritage Monuments, Byzantine masterpieces, and a church dating from the 5th century.
Scenic Drives in Northern Greece, Ioannina, Meteora, Kastoria, Prespa Lakes
Philippi is an ancient archaeological site near Kavala in East Macedonia and Thrace and is famous for being the place where the apostle St Paul was imprisoned.
Pella in Macedonia is famous for its mosaics and was also the birthplace of both King Philip II and his son, Alexander the Great.
The Bradt Guide to Northern Greece is a detailed guide to Thessaloniki, Halkidiki, Macedonia, Thrace, The Pelion, The Sporades and the rest of Northern Greece.
Mount Olympus is the highest mountain in Greece and is in the Mount Olympus National Park in Macedonia, with Litochoro being the best base.
Visiting Mount Athos in Greece requires a permit, but you can see the monasteries on a boat trip around the peninsula, known as the Monks' Republic.
Mount Athos boat trips are very popular with visitors to Halkidiki in Greece, as they are the only way most people get to see these spectacular monasteries.
Macedonia and Thrace are the regions in Greece where travelers will find Thessaloniki, Mount Athos monasteries, Halkidiki and sites like Dion and Pella.
Kastoria is a lakeside town in West Macedonia which prospered with the fur trade and today has some handsome mansions, museums and many Byzantine churches.
Dion is a rather wonderful archaeological site in Macedonia, not far from Thessaloniki, with an archaeological museum nearby in the town of Dion.
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