You know, the more I travel around the world, the more I realise my hometown is really beautiful...this feeling of wandering around and seeing familiar things with fresh eyes. Do you experience this when you go back home? It's something to do with how much I've changed since I was living there.
Keep on reading to find out what I love about Kavala and the things that I'd recommend for any visitor to try or do.
I used to laugh when I'd hear a local describing Kavala as the Monte Carlo of Greece (I don't anymore, but still think it's a notch too far!). I believe it's a true hidden gem though. The history of the town is quite interesting and different to other places someone might visit in Greece. It's a town built on a really green hill with a dramatic castle at the end of a colourful old town - overlooking a 'Monte Carlo' type marina and harbour.
You see, during the Ottoman empire years, Kavala was ruled by an Egyptian ruler who was very well respected by the citizens - not something you'd say for many other places in Greece during those years. This Egyptian ruler was called Mehmet Ali and you'll still see an outstanding memorial to him in the old town. Hence, the old town of Kavala has a beautifully preserved Middle Eastern architecture, much different to what you see in France or Spain or Istanbul, as it's been really blended with the Greek culture.
It's funny I feel so much at home when I'm wandering around the old town - more than I do in the actual neighbourhood I've lived most. It's because when I was a kid, up until the age of 4-5, we used to live in the old town and as a toddler I loved running around these alleys. So, in the back of my mind, I still get this feeling of excitement when I step my foot there, like I'm so looking forward to see what is just around the next corner or in this backyard or just behind this wall.
Going back to history, Kavala is a 10min drive from the actual hometown of the father of Great Alexander, Filippos. The old theatre of his hometown and some remnants are just outside the city. Next to there, are also the mud baths of Lydia, another historic area with dark clay therapy pools that many visit for body therapy reasons. The theatre is still hosting plays and concerts. If you can visit one, I'd totally recommend it.
This past summer, I developed a ritual of climbing up the hill of Kavala right after work to watch the sunset. It's a beautiful trail that has a fairy light route all the way to a little white-washed church. From there you can watch a dramatic landscape comprised by the whole city, the sea and the islands at the front.
If you want to experience authentic Greece off the beaten path, I totally recommend you visit Kavala.
Below is a checklist of things to do - feel free to drop a note on the chat with any questions and I'll be happy to make recommendations.
Try to time your visit to one of the summer festivals, like Cosmopolis, as you'll get to experience a concert in the castle of Kavala or underneath the ancient aqueduct.
Visit Imaret Hotel for an evening drink. You'll have to book in advance, just give them a call and they'll usually be able to accommodate you on the day except for very popular summer days, like 15th August.
Taste kourabie cookies - they are these amazing cookies covered in icing sugar and, usually with almonds inside. You can get them also in a chocolate variation with walnuts inside at Konstantinos which is across the road from Imaret in the old town.
Enjoy fish by the sea - my favourite place is Balaouro, a little outside the centre but it's a 30-40min seaside walk.
Eat ice-cream from Hasoulakis. The only better ice cream I've tasted than this is the Bacio gelato in Rome. My favourite since I was 10 years old.
Get lost in the cobbled streets of the old town. Start at the front and end up at the back. Go to the rocky beach underneath.
Enjoy a coffee with a view. My favourite is cafe Briki at the top edge of the old town and Naval cafe bar (this one changes names every time ownership changes but it's the upper bar at the jetty next to the city's funfair).
Eat bougatsa for breakfast. My favourite since I was a kid is Lemonidis right on the edge of the old town. My preference is the cream one but you can also take a cheese one if you prefer a savoury breakfast.
Enjoy the beach. Kavala has some really beautiful beaches. You can enjoy the communal beach of Rapsani - together with people watching. Or you can also visit the the beaches in the vicinity of Kavala like Palio - a 10min drive from Kavala or Iraklitsa - 15min drive in the same direction. There are many new ones that I discover every year so do ask locals.
Go on a nature hike to Agios Panteleimonas. If you put this spot on your map, it will take you through the beautiful fairy light trail. Best to do this in the afternoon when the sun has lowered - especially if you're visiting in the summer.
Combine your trip to Kavala with a visit to the Thassos island. I like going on a daytrip and going all around the island - to my favourite places and returning back for the night.
Give the clay therapy pools of Lydia a try. They do wonders to your skin. It's a very interesting experience and really a bargain. In 2021, the entrance fee was 5 euros as they are managed by the council. Just make sure you wear a bikini you don't mind ruining. And be prepared to feel like a little piggy in the mud in the beginning.
Do you feel the same about your hometown? Do you explore it like a tourist and what would be the top thing you'd recommend to a visitor to do in your hometown? Let us know in the comments below.
These are some of the experiences that inspired the Made of Stories 'Welcome to Greece' Collection which you can find here.