ESCAPE YOUR WORLD | The best things to do in Fira, Santorini

ESCAPE YOUR WORLD | The best things to do in Fira, Santorini - Castellamare

Fira is the capital of the Greek island of Santorini. If you’ve seen photos of Santorini in the past, with its whitewashed rectangular buildings overlooking the contrasting, rich blue hues of the Mediterranean – well, then, this is where you can find that same enchanting scenery.

Fira is not only beautiful and filled with cultural landmarks, as it’s also a hub of activity on the island. Fira is where you’ll find most of Santorini’s best shopping, dining, nightlife and art. Picking the best things to do among all the available options can seem overwhelming. However, if you’re looking for a quick hit of the top spots to see and things to do in Fira, you’ve come to the right place.

1. Theotokopoulou Square

Grab a coffee and hang out with the locals

Plateia Theotokopoulou is the main square in Fira, the largest town on Santorini. It’s the place where locals come to meet up and chat, sometimes grabbing a bit of fresh produce from the small street market, or just sitting on one of the benches and enjoying the fantastic view across the caldera. At the back of the square is the imposing Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral. It’s a lively spot, particularly during the peak season, with many narrow alleys and staircases leading off to other parts of town.

2. Fira Old Port

Take the 587 steps down to the Old Port

Fira Old Port sits more than 200 metres below the city, but you can easily reach the small neighbourhood, filled with restaurants, tavernas and great views. You just have to take nearly 600 steps from Fira to the Old Port, passing quite a few cruise ship passengers along the way, as well as donkeys.

While the walk down is definitely a workout for your calves, you’ll be rewarded with amazing cliffside views of the water and shoreline, and with a frosty drink at one of the charming tavernas at the bottom of the hill. Don’t worry if you can’t take the stairs – there’s a cable car that can ferry you to and from Old Port.

3. Three Bells of Fira

See one of the most photographed spots in Santorini

The Catholic Church of Koimisi Tis Theotokou is where the 3 Bells of Fira are housed. 

The current church was built in 1757, though several other religious structures found their homes on the same cliff over the centuries. It’s easy to see why – the views are absolutely awe-inspiring. The structure holding the iconic bells provides a natural frame for looking out across the Santorini Caldera.

4. St. John the Baptist Cathedral

Santorini’s first Catholic cathedral

St. John the Baptist Cathedral was built in the early 1800s, but its history stretches back much further than that. It represents Santorini’s diocese, which was originally founded in 1204. The baroque architecture incorporates the classic Santorini style you’ll see throughout the island. Tiny, charming and altogether peaceful, the cathedral is a nice respite from the heat, as well as the crowds, offering a calm spot to reflect and contemplate while enjoying the views of the harbour.

While entry is free, the cathedral does take donations and, while travellers are more than welcomed, remember to be respectful and remove any head coverings upon entrance.

5. Folklore Museum of Santorini

Learn about Santorini's history and handicrafts

The Folklore Museum of Santorini isn’t dedicated to folklore in the traditional sense. The focus isn’t necessarily on stories or fables. Instead, the museum focuses on the very real lives of historic populations on the island and their means of making a living.

The museum, which is situated in a cave house, features displays on carpentry, barrel-making, wine, art and more. Learn about famous artists who depicted Santorini in their work, the traditional handcrafts of the Santorini people and even the geological processes which occurred to put Santorini on the map in the first place. A garden and courtyard offer a pleasant outdoor space and there's also a chapel and belfry to explore.

6. Archaeological Museum of Thira

Brush up on your knowledge of Greek history

The Archaeological Museum of Thira sits in the city centre of Fira, making it very easy to reach during your explorations. The small museum is split into 3 sections: sculpture, inscriptions, and vases and clay work. The collection includes items from the Archaic, Roman, Geometric and Hellenistic periods, with most items removed from archaeological excavations on Mesa Vouno Mountain and in the ancient cemetery of Fira.

The museum is a convenient place for travellers to learn a little more about Fira's and Santorini’s histories while observing actual artefacts from those histories. Since the museum is on the smaller side, it doesn’t take long to get through and is an easy cultural addition to most itineraries.

7. Museum of Prehistoric Thira

Learn about early human life in the Greek Isles

The Museum of Prehistoric Thira is located in the middle of Fira and is dedicated to educating visitors on the history of Santorini before it was Santorini. The island was heavily shaped by an ancient volcanic eruption, but before this eruption occurred, the island was home to a population living in what is now known as Ancient Akrotiri.

See artwork and everyday items from these individuals’ lives, with some artefacts dating back as much as 5,000 years or more. Travellers interested in Santorini’s history, archaeology, culture or art will all find this small museum a worthwhile stop.

8. Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral

Admire one of the most eye-catching buildings on Santorini

The Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral isn't difficult to spot. The large church, built in 1827, can be seen not only nearly everywhere in Fira, but across many places in Santorini. The lovely white church offers views of Santorini’s caldera, but the church itself is just as breathtaking to look at. It features mosaics and a bell tower for those just admiring the exterior.

For those who venture inside, you’ll find amazing frescoes created by a local artist, as part of an overall ornate decor. When touring the interior, don’t forget to look up – some of the most impressive work is on the ceiling.

9. Fira art galleries

See why Fira is Santorini’s art capital

Fira is not only Santorini’s capital of government and tourism, but it’s also Santorini’s art and culture capital. Walk the streets of Santorini and you’ll come across tons of eye-catching art galleries and shops.

One of the best known is Mati Art Gallery, which is difficult to miss thanks to the art installations that literally spill out onto the street. The artwork by internationally acclaimed Yorgos Kypris includes a lot of glass and metal, with nautical inspirations. Ceramic Art Studio more than your average pottery; the ceramic artwork is the handicraft of Andreas Alefragkis, who has been fine-tuning his methods for decades. For woodwork, stop by Eduart Gjopalaj Gallery for lovingly created pieces you’ll have a hard time believing are actually made from wood.

10. White Door Theatro

Catch a show for a night of festive fun

The White Door Theatre (or White Door Theatro) hosts a regular Greek Wedding Show, immersing travellers of all ages in Greek wedding festivities in a performance that includes plenty of dancing, singing, music and audience interaction. You’ll be learning about Greek culture, but won’t even notice thanks to the great time you’ll be having (even if that great time can be a little cheesy).

Your show ticket comes along with wine and traditional Greek finger foods. Put on your acting hat, get ready to interact with the characters and maybe even get the chance to try out some Greek wedding dances or participate in a favourite Greek wedding tradition: breaking a few plates.