When it comes to vacation, Kalamata is one of the hidden gems of Greece with many families choosing the city as a holiday destination all year long and especially in the summer. Kalamata is the second largest populated city of the region in southern Greece and also the capital and central port of Messinia.
Many people choose Kalamata over other popular Greek islands and that is because by visiting Kalamata you can admire its natural beauty and its indented shores, sandy beaches, fertile valleys and archaeological monuments along with other landmarks. The city sits between sea and mountains, at the foot of the majestic mountain named “Taygetos”.
Kalamata also benefits from its great Mediterranean climate and low prices, that make the city a considerable option for family vacation. Moreover, it is worth mentioning that the city is easy accessible by plane, car or boat. Lastly, there are many things a family can see and do in Kalamata and only a brief walk through the city’s center can prove it. For more details, just continue reading!
Things to do:
The Railway Park-Museum is one of Greece’s first theme parks and it includes exhibits of old motorcycles, railway wagons, steam locomotives, diesel engines and a two-storey central station making it really pleasurable to visit and the perfect place for kids to play and have a good time. The park also includes a water tower with a cylindrical base, embarkation platforms and a long metallic foot-bridge. All this makes the railway park an interesting destination for great amusement.
Exploring the old city:
The old city is situated in the northern part of Kalamata and its narrow alleys and neoclassical buildings make it worth visiting. Furthermore, the old city is a contrast to the new city, due to its traditional buildings with whitewashed walls and terracotta-topped roofs. The tour in the old city can start by visiting the 13th-century castle. It was constructed in 1208 by Geoffroi de Villehardouin, a Frank knight who conquered Achaea that time. Also, the castle miraculously survived the powerful earthquake in 1986 which destroyed the city and led to dozens of deaths. Unfortunately, the earthquake damaged the castles foundations so they can’t be accessed, but a brief walk around it will reward you with an astonishing view of the city below and you will marvel at the beautiful stone work of the castle.
Going down the old city, we can also see the marvelous Church of Ypapanti with its silver domes, which stands there since 1839 and is home to the icon after which Kalamata takes its modern name.
Furthermore, the old city includes the historic March 23rd Square. It is named this way, because on this date in 1821 the clans met and began the counter-attack in order to repel Turkish occupation. It is a high crowed area which offers lots of amenities, from traditional taverns serving authentic Greek food to markets and bakeries.
Lastly, on the Square there is also the historic church of Agii Apostoli, built around a much older Byzantine church.
Kalamata contains lots of museums and all of them are of high importance. Firstly, we have the museum of traditional Greek costumes which opened in 2007 after a generous offer by Victoria Karelia, who donated her collection of Greek costumes to a group called “Lyceum of Hellenic Women of Kalamata”.
Moving on, the History and Folklore Museum of Kalamata, housed in the Kiriakou mansion, holds an elegant collection of traditional objects such as tools, household items and clothes from the past of Kalamata.
Moreover, the Benakeion Archaeological Museum holds findings from the Bronze Age dating back to the Roman times; it is situated in the neoclassical building of the old Municipal agora.
To end with, if you are interested in the journey Kalamata has made from the past until now, you can visit the Military Museum and take a close look at the paintings reflecting the Greek military history from the Turkish occupation and the Greek resistance up to the Nazi occupation.
It is highly suggested that you take a tour through the museum and have a fascinating dialogue with the men providing the tour, who are by the way ex-servicemen and currently serving men.
To add up, Kalamata is the city in which many events take place throughout the year. To start with, the Kalamata International Dance Festival is held in July every year and its role is to promote the art of dance through research, education, artistic activities and creativity. Also, an integral part of the festival are the dance seminars, workshops and talks with dance students.
The dart-war is also an interesting event which is revived every Easter Sunday evening at 20:30 at the old Slaughterhouses on the west coast of Kalamata. Its purpose is to show the heroism of the Greeks fighting the Turks, and especially the Messinians, who were able to stop the Turkish cavalry with explosive-filled darts. The participants are divided into two groups, all of them wearing traditional costumes and armed with handmade darts filled with gunpowder. Once the signal is given, night becomes day and the sideshow is astonishing. Furthermore, the liberation of Kalamata is celebrated every year and lasts three days. The celebrations include a representation of the battle and a parade along with concerts and a doxology at the church of Agii Apostoli in the heart of the historical center.
Moreover, Festival Miden is an open event which is held in Kalamata’s historical center in July. It is the first Greek video art festival to be presented in open public spaces since 2005. The main purpose of this festival is to promote, present and develop Greek and international video art and new media art.
Additionally, other events worth mentioning are some cultural events, theatrical performances and concerts at the amphitheater of the Castle during summer time. The carnival events with the traditional “gaitanaki” (maypole dance) are also very known and take place in the city’s central square. In addition, an exciting carnival takes place in Messene on the last Sunday of the Carnival with the happenings escalating to the “hanging of the old fig lady” on Ash Monday.
Lastly, we need to mention the horse racing events which are held in Plati (16 km NW of Kalamata) on Easter Monday.
Visit the beach:
Κalamata is considered as one of the cities with an amazing coastline that reaches up to 5 kilometers, starting from Verga up to Kalamata port, and has great tourist activity every summer. The beach has a lot to offer whether you are looking for a place to relax or someplace for the kids to play. You can try Greek food while sitting on the beach under the Greek sun. Nothing more stress-relieving than that.
Also, the beaches of Kalamata have been granted the Blue Flag award which means that people can swim freely in the crystal-clear waters. Along the seaside people can visit numerous taverns, bars, cafes, hotels and even an amusement park for our little friends to play.
Last but not least, a good idea would be to take a short trip to the neighboring beaches at Verga (8 km E), Mikri Mandineia (10 km SE), Avia (12 km SE) and Kitries (17 km SE) and give the crystal waters a try.
Visit ancient Messene:
If you are interested in learning the history of the region, then you could visit ancient Messene and take a closer look at the 2.300 old ruins that stand there. Messene is just 30km north of Kalamata and was established around 4th century BC. By visiting the place you can see the outstanding perimeter walls that stand there, its huge Arcadian gate and lastly its eight surviving towers.
Try the food:
Kalamata is considered to be a city with lots of flavors which are ready to be discovered. Take a walk through the city and pay a visit to the historical center to try some authentic local food. The beach is an excellent choice as well because there you can sit near the sea and enjoy the wonderful sea food. Moreover, you can visit the large food market across the bridge from the KTEL Messinia (bus station) and try local product such as the famous Kalamata olives, Kalamata olive oil and figs. Just don’t forget to take some with you on your way out of Kalamata.
Lastly, if you are looking for an on-the-go snack, a good idea would be to try the pita with roasted meat and tzatziki sauce (souvlaki) which you can find literally everywhere in Kalamata.
To sum up, Kalamata has many sides worth to be discovered. The city attracts thousands of tourists every year. Everything mentioned above explains why the city is so popular as a holiday destination. The city is full of surprises and all a family got to do is pack up their things and get ready for a wonderful time in Kalamata!