Kavala is located in Macedonia, Northern Greece, approximately one hundred and sixty kilometers from Thessaloniki. It is ideally located for access to Chalkidiki, day trips to Thessaloniki, has a very reliable ferry network for Thasos, Lesvos, Samos and Samothraki and is just a twenty minute drive from the mountainous region of Pangaio, well worth a visit for its natural beauty including large expanses of forest, as well as for its monasteries and skiing during the winter. The reason why people refer to Kavala as the Blue City is clear; the dramatic old town is built upon a rocky headland which is surrounded by the blue and turquoise colours of the Aegean, creating a stunning backdrop for a city and reflecting the Mediterranean sun onto the colourful houses. The etymology of the modern name of the city is disputed. Some mention an ancient Greek settlement of Skavala near the town. Others propose that the name is derived from the Italian cavallo which means horse.
The old town of Kavala was formerly a colony of Thasos and called Neapolis. It was significant both strategically and economically due to its proximity to the road which connects Thrace and Macedonia. It has been discovered that the first inhabitants of Neapolis came from Paros and Thasos. Being ideally positioned to confront invasions from Thrace, Kavala also functioned as a very important port linking the west and the east. This role would have begun around 650 BC. The city’s name then changed to Christoupolis under Byzantine rule and Kavala under Turkish occupation. Historically, Kavala has functioned as an important base for the tobacco trade, a key fishing port as well as being suitably located for the movement of gold from the Pangaio Mountain.
Upon visiting Kavala, one realises immediately how the development through many periods of history has created the modern city of Kavala, with constructions such as the Town Hall, a combination of traditional Greek and neoclassical architecture and the houses in the area of Panagia which were built by Greeks, Jews and Turks in the early twentieth century. The most symbolic constructions, however, are the Fortress (Frourio), the Aqueduct (Kamares), built by the Turks and the Venetians in AD 1425, and the unique Imaret, an exceptional sample of Islamic architecture.
Kavala has an array of things to see and do, with a long coastline of white sandy beaches which begin at the ammolofi, an area of sand dunes backing onto the region of vineyards just under twenty kilometres west of Kavala. It is one of the few cities in Greece that has 4 organized beaches within its urban fabric. West, the beach of Rapsani, the municipal beach of Kalamitsa and the multipurpose area of Batis. Then if you follow this road you will find the wonderful organized or unorganized, big and small beaches of Palio and then of Nea Iraklitsa and Nea Peramos. On the east side of the city is the beach of Perigiali, the beach of Aspri Ammos followed by the one of Nea Karvali.
The most obvious place to visit in the city of Kavala is of course the fortress, with frequent live music performances as well as plays taking place during the summer, many of which are free of charge. Access to the fortress is through a cobbled street which runs through the old town past the old Turkish style houses.
The tour of the Old Town can be done by car, on foot but also by train of the Municipality of Kavala which is a means of transport which serves the residents of Panagia and tourists. The train starts at the National Bank of Greece, opposite Eleftherias Square.
Kavala is connected with all the islands of the Northern Aegean Sea with frequent itineraries of various ferry lines. Also the Kavala International Airport "Alexander the Great",27 km from Kavala, is connected with Athens by regularly scheduled flights and with many European cities by scheduled and charter flights. Kavala is not currently connected to the Greek rail network.
Northeast of Kavala, built at the foot of Paggaio, Eleftheroupoli, preserves the traditional Macedonian architecture. Important sights are the galleries of the ancient mines, the Forest village of Paggaio and the church of Agios Nikolaos that was destroyed by fire in 1972.
Nea Peramos is a tourist village, where in addition to the extensive beaches, one can visit the citadel and the ruins of ancient Oismi, and the churches of Taxiarches and Agios Athanasios.
Chrysoupoli is located in the center of the Nestos plain. Here is the very natural forest of the river Nestos, which is protected by Natura 2000 and the Ramsar Convention and hosts a rare variety of flora and fauna (300 species of birds, 11 amphibians, 21 reptiles, mammals and plants). Also noteworthy is the church of Agios Dimitrios, built in 1884.
The Philippi Archaeological Site is the most important town in Eastern Macedonia and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which had important privileges during Macedonian rule. However, the Battle of Philippi in 42 BC would lead to its transformation into a completely Roman town. The archaeological site includes, among others, an archeological museum, a Paleolithic settlement, an ancient theater, an acropolis, part of the ancient market, a sanctuary of Egyptian deities and the prison of the Apostle Paul.
In historical times the people of neighbouring Thassos established a colony in the mid 7th century BC on the same hill. It was named Neapolis and was primarily intended to secure commercial control of the straits between Thassos and the mainland and to exploit the gold of Mt. Pangaion. Because of its privileged position and, above all, its commercial harbour, Neapolis enjoyed great prosperity. It acquired economic independence from the island and minted its own coins, maintaining friendly relations with Athens, the major power in the region, as a member of the Athenian League. In the years of Macedonian domination of the region (4th century BC) the city lost its independence and became the port of the neighbouring Macedonian city of Philippi. In Roman times the city continued to enjoy considerable prosperity as a major commercial station along the Via Egnatia, as well as the port of Philippi.
During the Byzantine period, probably during the 8th-9th centuries AD, the city was re-named Christoupolis, reflecting the spread of the new faith after St. Paul’s visit to the city in 49-50 AD. Remains of the Byzantine fortifications can still be seen at many points on the hill of the Panayia neighbourhood, as-well as the imposing Castle, within which a large circular tower has also survived. Christoupolis was prey to numerous assaults by Slavs, Franks, Venetians and Turks. In 1391 it was’ seized by the Ottomans and from the end of the 15th century was known by its current name, probably because as an important station on the Via Egnatia it served as a resting point for the travellers and their horses. The Turks repaired the Castle and walls of Kavala and in around 1550 constructed the large and imposing aqueduct (Kamares) which has survived in excellent condition. It was the work of Suleiman the Magnificent 11520-1566], built on the traces of the old Byzantine walls, consists of 60 arches of four different sizes and at its highest point stands 52 metres high.
Kavala was the birthplace, in 1769, of the founder of the last Egyptian dynasty, Mehmet Ali. He lived in the city for many years and his home is now a museum, standing at the top of the Panayia district hill, close to the church of the same name. Mehmet Ali was a great benefactor to the city, erecting the poorhouse (Imaret) in 1817, which also functioned as a religious school and boarding school. A remarkable example of Islamic architecture, the building now belongs to the Egyptian state and is now being converted into a luxury hotel. Visitors can admire it as they ascend the hill towards the Castle.
In the Asia Minor Catastrophe of 1922 some 25,000 Greek refugees settled in Kavala, swelling the population of the city significantly. At the same time the city was enjoying great economic prosperity as a major centre for the processing of tobacco and its sale throughout the whole of south-eastern Europe. Numerous foreign tobacco merchants settled in the city, building homes and warehouses. A fine example of the houses they built is the residence of the Hungarian tobacco merchant Baron Pierre Ertzoch, dating from 1890, which now houses the City Council offices on Kyprou St., behind the War Memorial.
Next to the Town Hall is the home of the city’s Social Club, which was built in 1909 and now houses the public library. Further along the same street is the mansion of the tobacco merchant D. Tokkos, built in 1879 and now home to the 12th Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities.
1. The Mohamed Ali Square
2. The Hussein Bey Mosque
3. The Kamares
4. The Acropolis
5. The Castle
6. The Imaret
7. The Municipal Tobacco Warehouse
8. Τhe Tobacco Museum
9. The House of Mohammed Ali
10. The Lazariston monastery
11. The Tokos Hall
12. The Old Girls’ School
13. The Megali Lesxi
14. The City Hall
15. The Wix Hall
16. The Catholic Mission
17. The Archaeological Museum