Old Town Kalamata, to the north of the city, just below the castle, is a sprawling sprawl of churches and artisan shops, all hidden in a maze of cobbled streets. Head in any direction and you’re bound to stumble across authentic scenes of Peloponnesian life.
It is home to some of the most important churches in the region. The Church of Agioi Apostoloi has a long and complex history. This is where the revolt against the Turks began in 1821, and the walls are covered with paintings and icons, many of which are centuries old.
The Ypapantis Cathedral dominates the old town and is a local favorite for baptisms and weddings. Make sure you get into the convent next door. Seventeen nuns live and work there, producing silk veils on traditional looms.
There are also many museums in the old town. The Archaeological Museum provides a good overview of the region’s history, displaying artefacts from important sites such as the ancient city of Mesini.
The War Museum documents the tools and methods of combat from all ages. The Folklore Museum showcases the traditional arts and crafts that the region is famous for.
Built in 371 BC by the Theban general Epaminondas, the ancient city of Messini was intended to protect the locals from the Spartans. A nine-kilometer wall was built along the ridge, surrounding a thriving town that included an amphitheater, a treasury, and a sanctuary dedicated to Artemis Ocia. The ruins are as vast as those of Olympia and Epidavros, but there are few tourists.
The picturesque ruins are situated on the hillside below the village of Mavromati and are best visited in the morning or afternoon when the sun is less intense.Stroll in the Grand Theater, stop at Now (market), marvel at the giant columns in the Sanctuary of Asclepius, or sit in one of the most complete stadiums in Greece.Excavations are still ongoing, and each year more treasures are revealed from the city’s 2300 years of history revealed.
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Kalamata itself is surrounded by nearly four kilometers of golden sand, easily accessible from the city center and lined with bustling beach bars, lively restaurants and all the architecture of a popular seaside town. Water sports are also available, including guided snorkeling tours and PADI-approved scuba diving lessons.
The city’s central location on the spectacular Messinian coastline means that the region’s other famous beaches are within easy reach. Some are in secluded coves, such as Foneas Beach in Simani. Others, like Velika, are much longer.
A beach well worth a visit is Voidokilia Bay near Pylos. It forms the perfect Omega logo, a white crescent of sand surrounded by rocky hills. It also appears in Homer’s famous epic, Odyssey.
Kalamata’s castle, located on a small hill behind the old town, is one of the town’s most popular tourist attractions.Built by Francs in the 13th centuryThroughout the 20th century, it provided refuge for locals during the 1821 revolution against the Turks and survived the 1986 earthquake largely intact. It’s a haven of peace and tranquility, and one of the best spots in the city to watch the sunset.
For an area with such a turbulent history, the area around Kalamata is dotted with impressive castles and well worth a visit. Methoni Castle occupies a small island near the port town of the same name and is fortified by an octagonal tower. It is protected by the sea on three sides and is reached by crossing a stone bridge with 14 arches.
Nearby Pylos also has its own castle, perched on a hilltop near the city centre. It was also built by the Franks to provide protection for the inhabitants of this part of Navarino Bay.
Olive trees have been cultivated in this part of Greece for over 3,600 years. The trees, with their tangled trunks and silvery leaves, outnumber Kalamata’s inhabitants nearly 100 to one.
The local Kalamata black olives are the most famous variety, so visiting a local producer to taste the olives and buy a bottle of extra virgin olive oil is a must. Most of the local producers are still small and family run, which makes it a really authentic experience.
Or you can simply visit Kalamata’s incredible Central Market. Every Wednesday and Saturday, more than 450 producers and vendors set up stalls selling a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, including Kalamata olives. You’ll also find other local delicacies, including Sing cheese (semi-hard cheese made from sheep’s milk or cow’s milk), pastelsHoney, Raragia (a type of fried dough) and Poliani apples.