Discover the Best Things To Do and See in Kalamata, Greece!
Kalamata, the capital of Messenia, is located approximately 240 km from Athens. It ranks as the second-largest city in the Peloponnese, surpassed in size only by Patras. With a population of around 54 thousand inhabitants, Kalamata is renowned for its Kalamata olives, but it has much more to offer to its visitors.
The city boasts a growing airport and easy road access from Athens, making it an attractive destination for both Greeks and foreigners seeking a perfect getaway.
Wondering what to see and do in Kalamata? Well, there’s an abundance of experiences waiting for you, including beautiful beaches, majestic mountains, rich cultural heritage, vibrant nightlife, excellent shopping, and delectable cuisine – all available year-round.
Additionally, Kalamata serves as a convenient starting point for exploring other Peloponnesian attractions.
Architecturally, Kalamata seamlessly blends Byzantine, neoclassical, and Renaissance styles, which you can admire in its stone churches, charming streets, and alleys within the historic center, as well as its pristine beaches, all with the stunning backdrop of Mount Taygetus.
So, have I piqued your interest in visiting Kalamata?
Continue reading this article to gather all the essential information you need before embarking on your journey to this region in Greece.
Best Things To Do and See in Kalamata, Greece
Here are my top recommendations for things to do and places to visit in Kalamata, Greece.
I’ve curated a diverse selection of activities, ranging from indoor and outdoor adventures to cultural experiences and leisurely pursuits.
In short, I’ve put together a delightful bouquet of ideas to help you craft a truly exceptional itinerary in Kalamata!
Climb to Kalamata Castle
Kalamata Castle, with its first historical reference dating back to the 13th century, underwent several changes of ownership until it was eventually conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1460, marking the end of its medieval rule.
During the early modern period, it became a frequent battleground between Venetians and Turks, resulting in extensive destruction. In 1685, joint forces managed to expel the Turks, but this victory came at the cost of destroying the gunpowder stores, leading to significant damage.
The Venetians initiated repairs and partial reconstructions during their second rule from 1686 to 1715. However, throughout the 18th century, the castle lost its strategic significance and gradually declined, eventually falling into neglect in the early 19th century.
In the early 19th century, thanks to the contributions of Zaccharia Papantoniou, the Castle area was transformed into a park.
By 1936, the city’s water reservoir occupied part of the outer ward, and in the 1950s, a small open-air theater was added for cultural events.
Simultaneously, the Church of the Annunciation of the Virgin was built within the inner ward.
In simpler terms, the Castle stands proudly today, retaining its medieval form with two concentric walls encircling the hill.
Towards the northern edge of the hill, you’ll encounter a formidable fortified keep and an arched cistern, both bearing the weight of centuries of history.
Additionally, a second, more extensive enclosure safeguards the eastern slope.
Your entry point into this historic site is through a barrel-vaulted tower door, elegantly adorned with the Lion of Saint Mark, a Venetian addition made during the period from 1685 to 1715.
In essence, this monument is a treasure trove of history and significance, making it an absolute must-visit in your Kalamata, Greece itinerary.
Exploring Kalamata’s Historic Center: A Hidden Gem Beneath the Castle
Discovering the historic heart of Kalamata is a rewarding experience. Located beneath the castle, this compact area is easily explored on foot, although cars are a common sight.
Initially, I was under the impression that the historic center was quite distant from the beaches. However, I opted for a leisurely walk instead of calling a taxi, and the stroll proved both enjoyable and cost-effective.
Within Kalamata’s old quarter, you’ll find a wealth of attractions, including numerous churches, monasteries, and museums. I made it a point to visit as many churches as I could, and trust me, there are plenty.
While the typical tourist highlights often steal the spotlight, I’d recommend dedicating some time to appreciate the old mansions that grace the historic center. These grand family homes, most in excellent condition, boast captivating architectural details.
Although they might not typically feature on Kalamata’s must-visit lists, these beautiful houses deserve your attention.
Explore the Rich Ecclesiastical Heritage of Kalamata
While wandering through Kalamata’s historic center, take the time to discover these beautiful places of worship.
The Church of Agioi Apostoloi, the city’s oldest church, dates back to the 11th century. However, the most prominent among them is the majestic Ypapanti Church, also known as the Metropolitan Church of Ypapanti-Kalamata.
The present church stands on the site of a Byzantine temple that suffered destruction at the hands of the Turkalbans in 1770. A new church was erected but met a similar fate in 1825, this time at the hands of Ibrahim.
During Greece’s struggle for independence, the church was reconstructed but was damaged once more in the earthquake of 1840. It was painstakingly rebuilt in 1854.
However, in 1886, another earthquake caused substantial harm, necessitating restoration work completed in 1894. Unfortunately, in 1986, the Ypapanti Church endured the devastating Kalamata earthquake.
Today, the church has been fully restored and is one of the most visited sites in Kalamata.
Approximately 120 meters from this church, you’ll find one monastery established in 1796.
The Holy Monastery of Saints Constantine and Helena holds the distinction of being the first functioning female monastery in the I. Metropolis.
Over the years, it has weathered the challenges of time, including earthquake damage.
What truly sets the Monastery of Saints Constantine and Helena apart is its historical significance in the realm of silk production.
The monastery played a pivotal role in cultivating and processing silk, giving rise to the renowned Kalamatian silk scarf and other exquisite silk products.
Today, the monastery is home to six dedicated nuns who are primarily responsible for its upkeep, preserving its rich heritage for future generations.
Explore the Museums of Kalamata and Dive into the Region’s Rich History
Kalamata boasts several captivating museums that offer a glimpse into the area’s fascinating history and culture.
Among the noteworthy options are the Military Museum, the Historical and Folklore Museum of Kalamata, and the Traditional Greek Costumes Collection by Victoria Karelias.
In my limited time, I had the opportunity to visit the Military Museum, and I’ll primarily discuss this museum in this article.
However, I’ll provide you with essential details about the other museums in Kalamata, so you can make an informed choice on which ones to explore. I hope you find this information helpful!
The Kalamata Military Museum
The Kalamata Military Museum is a well-structured institution that offers guided tours to enhance your understanding of the displayed artifacts.
The museum’s exhibits cover the history of the revolution against the Ottoman Empire and extend to Greece’s participation in more recent NATO operations, including conflicts in Afghanistan and North Korea.
Apart from the indoor exhibition rooms, the museum’s outdoor area showcases artillery pieces like battle tanks, PAO cannons, and F5 planes that were involved in various conflicts.
Location: 10 Metropolitanou Meletiou, Kalamata 241 00, Greece.
Ticket price: Admission is €6 for adults. However, entry is free on the following occasions: every 1st Sunday of the month (from November 1st to March 31st), March 25th (National Day), October 28th (National Day), November 21st (Celebration of the Greek Armed Forces), May 18th (International Museum Day), April 18th (International Monuments Day), and the last weekend of September each year (two-day European Heritage Days).
The Historical and Folklore Museum of Kalamata
Opened in 1973, the Historical and Folklore Museum of Kalamata houses a valuable collection related to the Greek Revolution of 1821.
On the first floor, visitors can explore a reconstructed townhouse and a historic print shop.
It’s worth noting that most of the information in this small yet fascinating museum is available only in Greek.
However, this should not deter visitors from appreciating the museum’s offerings.
Location: Agiou Ioannou 12, Kalamata 241 00, Greece.
Ticket price: Admission is €6, but it’s unclear whether there are days with free entry
The Archaeological Museum of Messinia
Housed in the old Municipal Market of the city, the Archaeological Museum of Messinia features a permanent exhibition divided into geographical units, covering Kalamata, Messinia, Trifylia, and Pylos.
Temporally, it spans the cultural history of the Messinia region from the 5th millennium BC to 1453.
Location: Agiou Ioannou 3, Kalamata 241 00, Greece.
Ticket price: Regular admission is €4, but entry is free on the following days: March 6 (in memory of Melina Mercouri), April 18 (International Monuments Day), May 18 (International Museum Day), the last weekend in September (European Heritage Days), October 28th (national holiday), and every first Sunday of the month from November 1st to March 31st.
The Victoria Karelias Collection of Traditional Greek Costumes
Initially a private collection, the Museum of Traditional Greek Costumes (Victoria Karelias Collection of Traditional Greek Costumes) showcases 50 years of collecting unique traditional Greek clothing, jewelry, and accessories from various regions of Greece.
Location: Stadiou 64, Kalamata 241 00, Greece.
Ticket price: €5 for adults, €3 for children.
Take a Daytime Stroll on the Promenade
In Kalamata, there’s a promenade stretching from the Municipal Railway Park to the Grecotel Filoxenia, offering nearly 4 km of scenic views along the seafront.
During the day, it’s a popular spot for families, couples enjoying leisurely walks, and athletes engaging in physical activities.
The promenade is also lined with numerous bars, restaurants, and beachside terraces.
As the evening sets in, the atmosphere becomes livelier, with groups of friends heading out for a night on the town.
Relax on the Magnificent Beaches
Kalamata boasts legendary beaches characterized by tranquil waters, mild temperatures, and excellent amenities, including bars, restrooms, parasols, and sun loungers.
For those seeking a more secluded spot, there is ample space to lay out your towel.
It’s worth noting that Kalamata’s beaches offer a mix of sandy and pebbly areas.
While some parts feature fine sand ideal for sunbathing, others have rocky terrain, which may pose a challenge, especially for families with children.
Discover Voidokilia Beach: One of the Most Stunning Mediterranean Beaches
Voidokilia Beach, located in Messinia, has earned its reputation as one of the Mediterranean’s most beautiful beaches.
This distinction isn’t just my opinion; numerous magazines and tourism websites have praised its natural beauty.
What makes Voidokoilia beach unique is its distinctive omega shape, beside the equally paradisiacal Gialova Lagoon.
It holds the title of an Area of Special Natural Beauty and is a part of the Natura 2000 Network.
While getting there, you have the option to take your car via dirt roads or, like I did, enjoy a scenic walk.
It’s important to note that Voidokilia Beach lacks infrastructure due to conservation efforts. Visitors are responsible for bringing their own food, water, sunscreen, and other essentials while ensuring the area remains clean and pristine
Cycling, Hiking, and Trails in Costa Navarino: Exploring Nature’s Paradise
The Peloponnese region is a haven for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers, with Costa Navarino being a standout destination.
My time in Costa Navarino was an absolute delight! While some in my group chose to explore the area by bike, I opted for a leisurely walk.
I highly recommend exploring the outdoor activities offered by Navarino Outdoors in Costa Navarino..
Our trail started at The Westin Hotel, which I had the chance to explore briefly at the end of our journey.
The experience was so memorable that I’m already planning to return and stay at one of the Costa Navarino resorts. If you ever have the opportunity, don’t hesitate!
Our walking path followed the stunning coastline, with our first stop being the Chapel of the Prophet Elijah—a charming white and blue chapel.
It was at this moment that I caught my first glimpse of the renowned Voidokoilia beach. The chapel itself is simple, but it’s set against a backdrop of stunning natural beauty.
Inside the chapel, you’ll find a small bell. However, it’s important to resist the temptation to ring it. The ringing of the bell is a signal of danger, often used to warn of forest fires.
Continuing along the path, I reached Gialova Lagoon, a usual habitat for flamingos, and from there, I made my way to Voidokoilia beach. I took a refreshing swim in the sea to recharge before starting the return journey.
Pro Travel Tip: If you are near Costa Navarino, make a reservation for Barbouni Restaurant. Expect fresh fish, grilled meats and delicious dishes accompanied by surprising Greek wines. Furthermore, the undulating roof and views of the Ionian Sea help create a unique experience.
Taste the famous Kalamata olives
In Greece there are more than 60 different varieties of olives, each with its own unique characteristics.
Olive trees in the region have larger leaves than other varieties and Kalamata olives are often used as table olives, preserved in wine vinegar or olive oil.
It is important to highlight that the name “Kalamata olives” is protected and can only be used for those originating from the Kalamata region.
The Kalamata olive is known for being large in size, dark in color, fleshy with a soft texture and pointed pit.
I have to say that I love Kalamata olives, and in this region of Greece, there hasn’t been a single day that hasn’t had olives on the table. It was a party!
Liquid Gold: The Art of Olive Oil Tasting in Kalamata
Greece is the third largest producer of European olive oil (Spain first, Italy second), but Messenia is a leading producing area in terms of Extra Virgin olive oil.
In the Messenia region, the most common type of olive tree to produce olive oil is the Koroneiki, which has a small fruit that starts out green in color and changes until it turns black as it ripens.
Experts say that the Koroneiki variety has the perfect balance between the positive attributes of olive oil: Fruity, Bitterness and Pungency.
Olives are harvested in October, when they are still green, because it is at this time that they have the greatest amount of antioxidants and polyphenols, which gives the oil a healthy character.
Extra virgin olive oil is a product sensitive to air and light. Therefore, the bottles must be dark to prevent light from entering, and they must be small to have little space for oxygen.
To get the most out of olive oil tasting, follow these steps:
- warm the oil by cupping your hands around and over the top of the glass and swirling gently to the release the aromas.
- bring the glass to your nose, remove your hand from the top, smell the oil and make a note of the aromas.
- sip a small amount of the oil while slowly sucking in some air to help release the flavors.
- close your mouth and exhave through your nose to increase the perceptions.
Accommodation in Kalamata, Greece
For me, the best area to sleep in Kalamata is on Navarinou Street, that is, on the seafront promenade.
Don’t look for hotels in the historic center, as in this case it won’t be worth it. In fact, it is next to the sea that the main hotels in Kalamata are concentrated.
I stayed in two hotels, which are very different from each other. So, if you value comfort and amenities in hotels, my suggestion is the Elite City Resort (4 stars).
Breakfast is always included and is well worth it.
However, if you are looking for more affordable accommodation, the Flisvos Hotel (2 stars) has simple but affordable rooms.
In any case, if you prefer to explore other hotel options in Kalamata, I suggest you check availability and prices on the link and map below.
Restaurants in Kalamata
There are so many restaurants in Kalamata, Greece, with such delicious food, that the hardest part is choosing which one. I ended up almost always going to the same ones!
Thus, Da Luz Bar &Grill Kalamata has freshly prepared food, very generous portions, and super friendly and cheerful staff. Going to Da Luz always goes well, whether for a quiet Sunday lunch or to go out in groups.
Half a dozen steps away, Mythos Kalamata is another trendy place to hang out with friends. Expect fresh fish and seafood, souvlaki (kebabs) but also pasta and salads.
What to do around Kalamata?
You have a few extra days and are looking for suggestions on what to visit near Kalamata? You’ve come to the right place, as I have several incredible places not far from Calatama to share with you.
So, in Kardamyli (35 km) you can explore the ancient city or dive on the beautiful beaches.
The archaeological site of Mystras (100 km), also known as “Wonder of the Morea”, not far from the city of Sparta, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a simply surprising place. You really have to see it!
Also, a place I really liked was Nafplio (140 km) which was the first capital of Greece and the main tourist attractions are the Palamidi Fortress and the Bourtzi Castle.
Find out more: read the full article about Best Things To Do and See in Nafplio.
Rent a car in Kalamata, Greece
It’s worth renting a car in Kalamata, as bus connections are not practical and drivers don’t always know how to speak English.
To rent a car, I always use Discover Cars, which usually has good prices and different types of cars. In Kalamata the roads are reasonable and the signage is good, so an economical car is sufficient.
The car rental companies’ counters are outside the airport, meaning that to sign the documents and collect the keys, you need to go outside the airport, right after the taxi stop.
Remember that you need a valid driving license, citizen card and a credit card in the driver’s name to pick up a rental car in Kalamata, or anywhere else in Greece.
If you are traveling with children up to 12 years old, remember that they must always travel with seats appropriate to their age and height, and if you do not take them on the plane with you, you can rent them directly from the rent-a-car company.
Where is Kalamata and how to get to it?
Calamata is in the Peloponnese region, that is, about 240 kilometers from Athens, the capital of Greece.
At the moment there are no direct flights from Portugal to Kalamata, but don’t let that small detail stop you from exploring this magnificent region.
So, you have some options to get from Portugal to Kalamata. Easyjet has direct flights from Lisbon Airport to Athens Airport, in which case you can expect a journey of around 4h25.
On the other hand, Aegean Airlines has direct flights from Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport in Porto to Athens, and the direct journey takes approximately 3h45.
Arriving in Athens, the most convenient option is to rent a car and continue your journey in total freedom to Kalamata.
See how much it costs to rent a car in Athens.
Do I need travel insurance for trips to Greece?
While travel insurance isn’t a mandatory requirement for UK and US citizens traveling to Greece, it’s strongly advisable to always have insurance in place.
This recommendation is especially important because in Greece, medical care is provided by the National Health System, which can lead to significant waiting times and potential language barriers.
In the event of an emergency, you might be directed to a central hospital or local health centers where English-speaking staff may not always be available.
Therefore, even if you possess the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), it may not cover all your needs.
I personally opt for travel insurance from providers like IATI Travel Insurance, which offers comprehensive coverage and competitive rates. Plus, there’s no need for upfront payments with subsequent reimbursement claims.
Do a simulation and confirm how much travel travel insurance for Greece costs.
Additional Information about Kalamata, Greece
Is Kalamata worth visiting?
Absolutely, Kalamata, Greece, is an incredibly worthwhile destination to explore. With its stunning beaches, rich historical sites, intriguing museums, and friendly locals, there are virtually no downsides to traveling to Kalamata.
Is Kalamata safe?
Kalamata is a safe city, both day and night. I have traveled both solo and in groups, and I have never felt unsafe during my time there.
When is the best time to visit Kalamata?
If you want to enjoy the beaches, the bathing season typically runs from June to September, although you can still find people swimming in April, May, and October.
But, if your focus is on exploring monuments and archaeological sites, the cooler months from November to March are more suitable.
Personally, I visited Kalamata in May and found it to be an excellent time with good weather and fewer crowds.
How long does it take to visit Kalamata?
You can explore the city of Kalamata itself in just one or two days.
However, if you want to fully enjoy the surrounding area and all it has to offer, I recommend staying longer.
During my visit, I spent a total of ten days in the region and felt like I could have easily stayed for another six days to explore everything it has to offer.
What is the closest airport to Kalamata?
Captain Vassilis Constantakopoulos Kalamata International Airport (KLX) is the nearest airport to Kalamata, situated approximately 9 kilometers from the city center.
Despite being the largest airport in the Peloponnese region of Greece, it is relatively small in size. The airport’s facilities are somewhat dated, and it offers limited connections to nearby cities aside from taxi services.
Fortunately, taking a taxi from the airport to the center of Kalamata is a reasonably priced option, and you will find several taxis waiting outside the airport terminal. I personally had a positive experience with Theodore Geogakilas, a friendly taxi driver who operates 24 hours a day. The taxi fares are agreed upon in advance, ensuring there are no unexpected surprises during your journey.
During my week-long stay in Kalamata, I even contacted him via WhatsApp to arrange transportation to the neighboring city of Messinia, and he was very accommodating. You can reach him at +30 6972212950.
It’s important to note that ride-sharing services like Uber are not available in Kalamata.
How to get from Athens to Kalamata?
If you’re considering how to travel from Athens to Kalamata, it’s important to note that the distance between the two cities is approximately 240 kilometers, resulting in a drive of roughly 2 hours and 40 minutes via the A7 motorway.
To make this trip, renting a car is a convenient option.
Alternatively, KTEL Messinias offers direct bus services connecting Athens and Kalamata, with a journey duration of approximately 3 hours and 15 minutes.
It’s worth mentioning that, at the time of writing this article, there are no flights operating between Kalamata and the capital city of Greece, Athens.
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