Volos is a coastal port city in Thessaly situated midway on the Greek mainland, about 330 kilometres north of Athens and 220 kilometres south of Thessaloniki. It is the sixth most populous city of Greece. It is the capital of the Magnesia regional unit of Thessaly Region. Volos is the only outlet to the sea from Thessaly, the country's largest agricultural region. With a population of 144,449 (2011), it is an important industrial centre, while its port provides a bridge between Europe and Asia.
Volos is the newest of the Greek port cities, with a large proportion of modern buildings erected following the catastrophic earthquakes of 1955. It includes the municipal units of Volos, Nea Ionia and Iolkos, as well as smaller suburban communities. The economy of the city is based on manufacturing, trade, services and tourism. Home to the University of Thessaly, the city also offers facilities for conferences, exhibitions and major sporting, cultural and scientific events. Volos participated in the 2004 Olympic Games, and the city has since played host to other athletic events, such as the European Athletic Championships. Volos hosted the 7th International Olympiad on Astronomy and Astrophysics from 27 July to 5 August 2013.
Built at the innermost point of the Pagasetic Gulf and at the foot of Mount Pilio (Pelion, the land of the Centaurs). The city spreads in the plain on the foothills of Mount Pelion, bordering the town of Agria to the east and Nea Anchialos to the south west. Volos' municipality includes both towns, along with many nearby villages, including Makrinitsa and Portaria. Volos is a major commercial port of mainland Greece in the Aegean sea (after Piraeus and Thessaloniki), with connection by ferry and hydrofoil to the nearby Sporades Islands, which include Skiathos, Skopelos and Alonissos. There are also connections to Limnos, Lesvos, Chios and Skyros.
In Volos is the seat of the University of Thessaly, which was founded in 1954 and gave new life to the city, the Municipal Regional Theater and the Center for Musical Theater. It has important sights, such as the archeological sites of Dimini and Sesklo, the Archaeological Museum, the Municipal Gallery, the Folklore Museums (Kitsos, Makri, Zogias, Theofilos), the modern Theater, the Art Center, as well as remarkable buildings and churches such as Agios Nikolaos and the Holy Trinity. Along the beach after the University, begins the park of Agios Konstantinos which ends at the church of Agios Konstantinos which was built in 1936 and is a monument to the city. Iasonos, Demitriados and Ermou streets with the vertical streets (many of which have been pedestrianized) are the heart of the historic center, where most of the commercial traffic and nightlife is concentrated. Other notable attractions are the Castle, the Bank of Greece, the Railway Station, the Municipal Conservatory, Achillion, Anavros Park and the City Hall. Volos is one of the four cities in which qualifying football matches were held at the 2004 Olympics organized by Athens, at the state-of-the-art Panthessalian Stadium.
To the east of the city of Volos is the Goritsa hill and it is a natural small hill about 200m. above sea level. At the top is the church of Zoodochos Pigi. Its position was exploited by the Macedonians from the 4th century BC. century BC on Philip II, where a city of 3,000-3,500 inhabitants was built and fortified. Gates were constructed in the north and east to control the passage of people and goods to the west to access the sea and the south to serve military purposes. The city was built on the basis of the Hippodamian system. This city was inhabited from 350-250 BC. and then abandoned because Demetrius the Forceur ordered the settlement of Demetrias. From this position the view is panoramic to the city and the port of Volos.
It is worth visiting the famous tsipouradika, the area where you will enjoy the standard tsipouro accompanied with seafood. The institution started by refugees from Asia Minor who settled in Volos, especially those working at sea and in port. Every afternoon after work they gathered in the harbor cafes and drank tsipouro with seafood that was served in small saucers. The afternoon meeting of the workers in the coffee shops of the port was a rite which very quickly became a daily habit. The groups and orders increased, the dishes became more and more sophisticated with the always dominant taste of the brine that Aegean and Pagasitikos fish offered. This tradition continues until today by introducing the tsipouradiko of the neighborhood or the beach the main meeting place of the locals but now not only for lunch pleasure. The reputation of these shops has spread all over Greece and abroad.
To the north and east, grows the imposing mountain range of Pelion, the mythical mountain of legends and Centaurs, one of the most beautiful and charming in Greece. On the mountain there are dozens of famous traditional villages built with the unique Pelion architecture (most from the 15th-16th century), while near the village of Chania there is a modern ski center. A wonderful experience is the route followed by the legendary "Moutzouris", the steamy train of Pelion, which covered the distance Volos - Milies for about 70 years. Today the train travels a shorter route connecting Ano Lechonia with Milies.
All land transport reaches Volos, while the International Airport of Central Greece in Nea Anchialos links the city to international destinations, and the Port of Volos provides links to the islands, mostly the Sporades, as well as to some destinations in Pilio. Volos is linked through Greece's E75 Highway Axis (most often known as PATHE) with Northern and Southern Greece. Beyond this, the Axis E65 will be the gateway to Western Greece and the port of Igoumenitsa, through the plains of inner Thessaly; this part of the E65 motorway will be completed by 2012.
The city of Volos, along with the rest of Central Greece, is linked to the rest of Greece and Europe by the Nea Anchialos National Airport. The airport has the second longest commercial runway in Greece after Eleftherios Venizelos. Volos is the first city in Europe to feature Seaplane Services through Argo Airways, which is based in Volos. The seaplanes connect Volos with Skiathos, Skopelos, Allonisos, Athens and Thessaloniki.
Today, the city is served by direct lines to the rest of Greece, and the railway complex houses facilities for train maintenance. Volos is directly linked with Athens once per day, with Thessaloniki twice per day, and with Larissa 15 times a day. In the past Volos was served by railway lines of three different gauges, the metre gauge line of Thessaly Railways to Kalampaka, the standard gauge line to Larissa and the 600 mm gauge line to Pelion. Remnants of triple gauge lines still exist near the station. Currently, the Pelion railway line operates for touristic reasons every Saturday, Sunday and public holiday from mid-April to the end of October. The train runs every day during July and August.
Modern Volos is built on the area of the ancient cities of Demetrias, Pagasae and Iolcos. Demetrias was established in 293 BC by Demetrius Poliorcetes, King of Macedon. Iolcus, or Iolkos, was known in mythology as the homeland of the hero Jason, who boarded the ship Argo accompanied by the Argonauts and sailed in quest of the Golden Fleece to Colchis. To the west of Volos lie the Neolithic settlements of Dimini, with a ruined acropolis, walls, and two beehive tombs dating to between 4000–1200 BC, and Sesklo, with the remains of the oldest acropolis in Greece (6000 BC). The mound of Kastro/Palaia in western Volos is the site of a Bronze Age settlement, including a Mycenaean palace complex where a couple of preserved Linear B tablets have been found.
Iolcus is still attested in the early Byzantine period, but was eclipsed for most of the Middle Ages by Demetrias. The Slavic tribe of the Belegezites settled in the area during the 7th century. Volos first appears again in 1333, as one of the cities captured by the Byzantine general John Monomachos in Thessaly, under the name "Golos". The name is of Slavic origin, from golo, "barren". Another theory derives the name from Slavic golosh, "seat of administration". Two alternative theories allude to a Greek origin through the words throw, as fishermen threw their nets into the sea from that area, and piece of land but the Greek scholar G. Hatzidakis considers them to be paretymologies at best. The modern form of the name is first attested in 1540.
The walls of medieval Golos follow the traces of the fortifications of ancient Iolcus, and many remnants of the ancient city have been found in the medieval citadel. Along with the rest of Thessaly, Volos fell under Serbian rule in 1348, governed by Gregory Preljub. After Preljub's death Thessaly passed under the brief rule of Nikephoros II Orsini, followed by the Serbian rulers Simeon Uroš and John Uroš. After the latter's death in 1373, Thessaly returned under Byzantine rule for twenty years, until its conquest by the Ottoman Empire under Sultan Bayezid I.
Ottoman rule was not yet firm. The first period of Ottoman control lasted from 1393–1397, followed by another c. 1403, but it was not until 1423 that Volos was definitively incorporated into the Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans strengthened the town's fortifications against a possible Venetian attack, and installed not only a garrison, but also Muslim settlers from Anatolia. The local Christian population in turn moved to the slopes of Pelion. From this time on, Volos became the chief settlement on the Pagasetic Gulf. The city began to spread outside its walls in the late 16th/early 17th centuries, coinciding with a growth in commerce, helped by the citys famed twice-weekly local fair and the first works at the waterfront harvour. The fortress was captured by the Venetians under Francesco Morosini in 1665, during the Cretan War, but recovered and refortified by the Ottomans.
In May 1821, at the beginning of the Greek Revolution, the Greek rebels of Mount Pelion tried to capture the fortress but failed. On 8 April 1827, the Greek fleet, under the command of the British philhellene Frank Abney Hastings, captured five Ottoman ships in the city's harbour and forced the local garrison to evacuate the fortress. The provisional government of Greece claimed Volos as part of Greek national territory, but the Treaty of Constantinople (1832), which established a Greek independent state, set its northern boundary along a line running south from Arta to Volos. Volos was incorporated into the Greek Kingdom in November 1881 with the rest of Thessaly.
After its incorporation into the Greek Kingdom, the town had a population of only 4,900, but grew rapidly in the next four decades as merchants, businessmen, craftsmen and sailors gravitated toward it from the surrounding area. In the 1920s a large influx of refugees to the settlement took place, especially from Ionia, but also from Pontus, Cappadocia and Eastern Thrace. In 1882, Andreas Syngros established the Privileged Bank of Epirus and Thessaly, which the National Bank of Greece acquired in 1899 after its founder's death. Volos was occupied by Ottomans on 8 May 1897, during the Greco Turkish War.
The city had a vibrant Jewish community in the early 20th century: from ca. 500 in 1896, it rose to ca. 2,000 in 1930, before falling drastically to 882 members in 1940, because of emigration to the great cities of Thessaloniki and Athens or abroad. During the Axis occupation of Greece, the prompt actions of the local chief rabbi, Moshe Pessach, and the Greek authorities, saved about 700 of the local Jewish community from deportation to the Nazi death camps.
After an aerial attack by Italian troops in November 1940 and another one by the Germans in 1941 many of the city's inhabitants took refuge in the villages of Pelion. Abandoning Volos after Italy's capitulation in September 1943 the Italians left storerooms full of food, arms and ammunition. Large quanties of this material was transported with the Pelion railway to the mountain village Milies and under the supervision of the ELAS loaded on mules and taken to secure hideaways. When the Germans set off a column to Milies an officer and a soldier were killed by restitance fighters. In reprisal nearly the whole village was burnt down by German occupation troops on October 4, 1943. According to the official report of the municipality the Germans executed 25 men and three inhabitants died in their houses by the flames.