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Kalamata is a charming coastal town in the Peloponnese and you have no doubt heard about it before without realizing it. Of course, I am talking about the world-famous Kalamata olives! Their name comes from the city of Kalamata, a place that can offers visitors a lot more than an excellent jar of olives or a bottle of extra virgin olive oil.
Kalamata is perfectly located for those that want to explore the area around the Peloponnese as it is only a two and a half hour drive from the capital, Athens. The fertile land around the Messinian Gulf and the imposing mountain range that envelops the city create the ideal year-round destination. Visitors are able to enjoy both the endless charming coastline and excellent beaches of the area, as well as the hiking and mountain activities in nearby Mt Taygetus. Talk about the best of both worlds.
In addition, there are countless day trip options, whether you are after a small coastal village, impressive archaeological spaces or a farm excursion to learn more about the production of olive oil in the region.
If you are looking for the best things to do in the city of Kalamata, this is your guide to food, accommodation and activities.
Where to eat and drink in Kalamata
Kalamata may be the second largest city in the Peloponnese, but in terms of its size it is still a small city. However, what it lacks in size it makes up in enthusiasm. Walking around the old historical centre or the waterfront, you will be amazed by the number of adorable coffee spots and eateries. Whether you are after a traditional taverna, a semi-formal dining experience or a modern lounge bar.
The Best Cafés and Bars in Kalamata
Stolidi means ornament in Greek and this is the way locals have come to feel about this coffee spot in the centre of the city. Located on the corner of a residential street, surrounded by high apartment buildings, you are guaranteed to miss it until someone points you to the right direction. If your first impression after entering through the iron fence gates into the spacious garden area is that you are in someone’s home, then you are correct.
This house turned coffee shop retains the comfort and relaxation of a house and adds excellent coffee, great desserts and friendly staff. In summer, a seat in the garden would be ideal, but for the colder months wander around the rooms inside and find the spot that most appeals to you.
My dessert of choice was excellent and highly recommended, ekmek kantaifi. For those uninitiated, this is a layered slice of heaven, with kantaifi dough (syrupy shredded phyllo), custard and whipped cream, garnished with a healthy dose of pistachio and cinnamon. The crispy dough in the bottom was still warm, evidently having just been put together for me. Fresh and delicious!
One of the most popular spots in Kalamata, Luna Lounge is centrally located and has plenty of seating whatever the occasion. An atmospheric and well-designed space with an extensive wine list and spirits and an eclectic menu of dishes for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
At the corner of the main street in the square, Bistroteca stands out amongst the many establishments in the area and is undoubtedly popular with the locals. Lovely and relaxed atmosphere, elegantly decorated and with multiple levels and cosy corners for quiet coffee dates or people watching outside.
The Best Food and Restaurants in Kalamata
These are some of the best restaurants and places to eat in Kalamata, from fancy dinners to street food.
A timeless local spot in Kalamata that has survived through earthquakes and multiple generations of owners, Oinopantopoleion first opened in 1958 and has remained the go-to This is one of those spots in Kalamata where locals used to gather to share the news of the day and home-made mezedes. Nowadays you will find a modern establishment, with local Messinian products and producers from all around Greece. A quiet and relaxing spot in the morning that welcomes young and old until late in the day.
Very close to the historic centre of the town and right next to the weekly food market you will find Nikitas Souvlaki. The corner shop is quite small and easy to overlook, but locals will tell you this is the spot for amazing souvlaki and they are correct. Emphasis on extra virgin olive oil, a special marinade for the souvlaki, and fast and friendly service.
One of the most well regarded pâtisserie shops in Kalamata and all of Greece, the Athanasiou Pâtisserie brands has come to stand for tradition and quality when it comes to pastries and traditional sweets. You will find them all around Kalamata, from the waterfront spot on Navarinou Street or the just out-of-town establishment when you are heading back to Athens, just in case you forgot to stock up!
Versallies is a “mageirio”, not quite a taverna or restaurant but a place where you can have great home-cooked style food. Mageiria (the plural) specialize in ladera (vegetable dishes cooked in olive oil and tomato) and other traditional dishes you usually will make at home. You will instantly feel comfortable with the laid back style and friendly owners that seem to know everyone that comes in as well as their favourite dishes. The menu changes often and is inspired by both the local cuisine and ingredients on offer. We tried garbanzo beans with vegetables as a refreshing salad, pumpkin soup, traditional cod with greens and tender chicken with broccoli. There was also plenty of dessert for anyone that still had space.
Kardamo in its current location by the Railway Station Square has been operating since 2013. A combination of tradition and high-end Greek cuisine, here you will find interesting dishes, an elegant atmosphere and friendly service. If you get the chance try the grilled green beans with carob rusks and feta cheese cream as a salad, the handmade cheese pie with local cheese and caramelized leeks and the mouthwatering crispy pork burger, a signature dish and Kalamata must-try, with a light yoghurt sauce, cabbage, carrot and crunchy onions. The menu does change occasionally, but you are sure to have an amazing experience whatever you try!
Another restaurant on the waterfront of Kalamata with a great view of the Messinian Gulf great coffee and modern decorations. The upper area has both inside and outside seating and is ideal for larger gatherings and groups of people or a leisurely coffee break in the morning when it is quieter.
A traditional ouzeri style café, where locals will gather to indulge in coffee, ouzo and of course roast piglet with crackling. It is best to visit on a weekend afternoon and experience the casual atmosphere, with live Greek folk music and try as many of the mezedes dishes as you can.
The Best Hotels and Places to Stay in Kalamata
These are some options for hotels and places to stay in Kalamata city that I got to see firsthand.
This is a luxury city hotel located on the waterfront and ideally located for exploring the town. The rooms and suites on offer are modern and have a strong emphasis on natural wood with views over the Messinian Gulf. If you so wish there are rooms with private pools as well. A Spa and Wellness also operates on the premises with a variety of treatments. Fury friends will need to stay at home as pets are not allowed.
Elite is a four star city resort that operates year-round. The rooms are modern and follow a minimal aesthetic with earthy colours an of course an emphasis on Aegean blue. For your accommodation you have a choice of the Elite City Hotel or the Elite Villas which are ideal for families or those seeking a bit more privacy. You will also find three restaurants with modern Greek and European cuisine. The pool bar and restaurant is another great option for relaxing moments but you can always jump across to the beach bar as well.
Elektra Hotel can be found on the junction of Psaron and Bouboulinas, with the Messinian Gulf on one side and the mountain peaks on the other. Often a point of reference for locals, Elektra has been welcoming guests since 2008. Guests can also enjoy the rooftop bar and restaurant with one of the best views around the city. Unique cocktails, refreshing Mediterranean flavours and lively music complete the idyllic setting.
Galaxy is a modest city hotel that is perfect for those wanting to be in the centre of town, especially if you are visiting outside summer. The lobby area located right next to reception is comfortable and elegant and the breakfast is a clear winner with guests, with an extensive variety of cold and hot dishes on offer every day. Galaxy Hotel is surrounded by cafés, restaurants, and churches so there is no doubt you will find something to do in Kalamata.
Other Activities and Things to Do in Kalamata City
This is a small but very interesting museum with a modern layout. There are exhibits from as far back as the 14th century BC with impressive mosaics and ceramic ritual objects. The findings are presented by geographical area and you can read more about certain villages and areas of Messinia. The building was renovated in the early 2000s after previously housing the farmer’s market and is located in the historical centre of the town.
The Museum of Traditional Greek Costumes in Kalamata houses the private collection and life work of Victoria Karelias, a founding member of the Lyceum Club of Greek Women of Kalamata and well known figure in the city. A very impressive and modern space, this is a unique museum that honours the traditional clothing of Greece with garments for men and women from all regions. The interactive displays guide visitors through the history and significance of the textures, designs and fabrics and showcase a part of Greece few are even aware of. The staff are knowledgeable and friendly and there is also a small gift shop on site.
The quite small but beautiful and well-maintained castle of Kalamata is easy to spot from around the city but a bit harder to find around the narrow alleyways. The location of the current castle housed an ancient citadel, way before the Trojan Wars, however, not much is known about during this era as the city. The remains evident today are from the 13th century during the Frankish occupation after which Kalamata became part of the Byzantine Despotate of Mystra. On the castle grounds is also where musical performances, concerts and theatre productions take place each summer.
Explore the Churches
The old town of Kalamata is also where a lot of must-see churches are located like the Byzantine church of the Holy Apostles and the cathedral of Ypapantis.
The church of the Holy Apostles is a landmark monument located in the main square directly opposite the new Archaeological Museum of Messinia. This is where the revolution against the Ottoman Empire began from on the 23rd of March in 1821 which led to the liberation of Greece. In addition to its modern significance, the church has archaeological significance have been constructed during the Byzantine era.
Another church to explore in Kalamata is the Church of Saint Nicholas, protector of sailors that is remembered and celebrated on the 6th of December. The vivid blue colour of the exterior makes it stand out against the grey buildings of the neighbourhood and create a Cycladic island feel in the centre of Kalamata.
Go to the beach
Cosmopolitan or secluded, with sand or pebbles, whatever beach you are looking for can be found in or around Kalamata and if possible you should try to experience at least a few of them during your visit.
Train Station Park
The train park stands at the centre of Kalamata, a small distance from Aristomenous street and relatively close to the waterfront. While it definitely has seen better days, I would say it warrants a stop even if just to touch base with that part of the town’s history. The antique trains, locomotives and steam engines will be familiar to those that grew up in the area. This is the only open-air museum of its kind in Greece and is open to all visitors. The old railway station “Kalamata – Limin” now operates as a bar/cafeteria for refreshments and snacks.
Kalamata has so much to see and do, not just in the city but also the whole region of Messinia. Whatever you do, or wherever you start from you will have an amazing time!
Have you ever been to Kalamata?