Exploring the capital of Santorini – Fira (Greece)

Exploring the capital of Santorini – Fira (Greece)

Thinking about the cosy boutique hotels, captivating views over caldera and the shimmering blue waters of the Aegean Sea, paved alleys full of bougainvillea trees, blue domed churches, white-washed houses, taverns from which you can smell lip-smacking Greek food and colorful shops, Fira is a true paradise. Located on the western part of the island, the capital of Santorini derived its name from the island’s former name, Thira. The main square of Fira, Plateia Theotokopoulou is flanked by a number of gift shops, boutiques, restaurants, museums, galleries and a shopping center.

PLACES OF INTEREST WITHIN FIRA (AND NEARBY)

Churches
Built in 1827 and revamped in 1956 after the earthquake, the Orthodox Metropolitan Church sits on the main square of Fira and boasts a stunning architecture with mosaic flooring, beautiful murals and a striking bell tower. This church is a popular tourist attraction and from its location, you can enjoy a splendid view of the caldera. Another magnificent church, Saint John the Baptist Cathedral, was constructed in 1823 and then restored as well after the 1956 earthquake. Three bells of Fira is a Greek Catholic church built in 1757 which is best known for its three bells and blue dome. 

Cable Car Ride
One popular thing to do in Fira is to take the cable car that attaches the old port to the capital. The short ride of 3 minutes offers captivating views over the island. Those who don’t like cable cars can pave their way to the old port via the 587 steps or a donkey ride which might be less preferred.

Museums and galleries
The Prehistoric Thera Museum will fascinate history enthusiasts being one of the prime museums in Greece. The four different sections of the museum beautifully portray the evolution of the Greek island, paintings and artifacts. Other than the Prehistoric Thera Museum, you can visit the other smaller museums like Megaro Gyzi Museum, Lignos Emmanuel Folklore Museum (exhibition on life in Santorini) and galleries such as Santozeum, Mati Art Gallery, Ceramic Art Studio, Eduart Gjopalaj Gallery (woodwork) and Tzamia-Krystalla Art Gallery. Orion Art Gallery houses unique pieces by some of the island’s renowned artists. 

Bars
Undoubtedly Fira is the most happening part of Santorini with an eclectic nightlife, many trendy bars and nightclubs. The famous names are ‘Two Brothers, The Highlander, Murphy’s, PK Cocktail bar, Tango bar, Franco’s bar and Koo Club’. As much as these are famous for drink-dance-and-feast-your-way, some people prefer chilling at the outdoor bars to laze the day away while savouring the sweeping views of the island.

If you feel a little adventurous, dive in the 10 km scenic hike from Fira to Oia passing by Imerovigli. It should take around three hours to get to Oia. Equip yourself with a good pair of walking shoes for paved streets. Otherwise, a shorter alternative is the 3 km walk to Imerovigli town jutting out blissful views of this charming island.

Pamper yourself at the Fish Spa Kagal Wellness Center. This spa is loved by many who like to indulge in spa treatments such as facials, massages and therapies by the experienced and caring staff.

The nearest outdoor cinema to Fira is the ‘Open Air Cinema of Kamari’ which is located on the main road to Fira town next to the bus stop. There is an entrance fee. The outdoor cinema entails modern sound and projection. There is also an indoor cinema within Kamari shopping centre deemed as the best theatres among the Greek Islands.

Wine lovers can visit SantoWines which is the closest winery to Fira. It focuses on preserving the traditional cultivation and production of wines and other products. They offer guided tours on the wine making process as well as wine tasting. It is visited by more than 600,000 people every year. 

FOOD

Santorini is famed for Greek dishes such as Souvlaki, Saganaki (fried cheese topped with honey), Baklava (thin filo pastry in syrup), Fava with pitta bread (more or less like hummus), Keftedes (meatballs), zucchini fritters, tomato fritters, Gyro, Moussaka and Greek Salad. The main streets of Fira are lined up with a number of restaurants.

We had dinner two days in a row at the authentic Greek Restaurant – Ladokolla which is situated opposite Fira’s post-office. While this might be less preferred for it does not come with the best views but the food is reasonably priced and above all fresh and delicious. The ambiance is amazing and the owners will come around to interact with customers. It offers indoor and outdoor seating. We tried its risotto, grilled chicken and traditional Greek appetizers which were the best Greek food we had on the island.

NEARBY TOWNS TO FIRA

IMEROVIGLI
Another iconic place for sunset watching besides Oia is Imerovigli town which is close by to Fira. As a matter of fact, Imerovigli was formerly the capital of Santorini before Fira took the title. It is also known as ‘The balcony to the Aegean’. This village is perched on the cliffs some 300 meters above sea level. To skip the crowd of the bustling Oia and Fira, the beautiful town of Imerovigli is a peaceful oasis with breath-taking cave hotels and magical views of Caldera and the Aegean Sea. You will also find the iconic Skaros Rock which was the most significant fortress out of the five fortresses, protecting the island from pirates. Skaros Rock is an easy hike except for the top part.

PERISSA
Located around 13 km away from Fira, the lively Perissa village is honeycombed by a stunning black sand beach and gorgeous blue water stretched across an array of taverns, sunbeds, umbrellas, beach bars, diving centers and souvenir shops.

To conclude
If I have to choose between Oia and Fira, I’d definitely choose the latter. While most people say that Fira is the most touristy and busiest place of the island, I found it a lot better to navigate around and less crowded than Oia. Unfortunately, there are no beaches in Fira, but you can stroll off to the nearby beaches in Perissa and Kamari. There is no dearth of picturesque views in Fira. Every nook and cranny offer delightful vistas of the volcano and nearby islands. I promise that your memories of this incredible island will blaze bright long after you’ve left its shores.




I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this post.
Cheers,
Ashna

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