Fira is the capital of Santorini, also called Thira, and is a small village with characteristic paved alleys where the colors of white houses, blue doors and windows and blue domes of churches dominate.
It is located in the western part of the island, 10 kilometers from the main port, and offers a large number of hotels, many of them with swimming pool and beautiful sea views.
Perched on a cliff of the caldera at 260 meters above sea level, at every corner suddenly reveals beautiful views: the exceptional views, primarily those of the submerged volcano, have made over the years to Santorini a large number of tourists from all over Europe and overseas and have sprouted in a few years an impressive number of stores and boutiques. It is likely that soon there will be more high fashion stores and jewelry stores in the downtown street than in all of Via Condotti in Rome!
Orientation in Fira is very easy: the main square is Theotokopoulou Square and is intersected by odos 25-Martiou (25th March Street), the street that goes up to the upper part of the village. To get to the sea you can take the paved alley at the corner of the Pelikan Travel agency. Day and night activity is concentrated in five or six small streets.
Fira is the only center of Santorini where you can live at night. The other villages are quieter, both during the day and at night…. Undoubtedly the more romantic will prefer Firostefani, a small quiet hamlet further north, right on the scenic road.
It is fascinating to watch Fira from afar: the houses built directly in the pumice, one leaning against the other and tastefully decorated, follow one another as far as the eye can see. Even more beautiful to wander through the narrow and steep streets, in search of quiet and peaceful corners.
Crowded at any time of day or night during the middle of July and August, but never so much as to be annoyed, Fira is beautiful in the evening when the city lights up in contrast to the dark sea.
Fira conjures up thoughts of idleness and fun, things like having a drink soaking in the water of an infinity pool, watching the sunset from a vantage point, or spending boozy evenings from club to club.
But that’s just a portion of the things you can do: in Fira you can also visit interesting museums to learn about the long history and rich cultural heritage of the island of Santorini or take relaxing walks along the caldera.
Here are the attractions not to be missed in Fira.
The caldera is the top attraction of Santorini, and even for those staying in Fira is the first in the list of things to see and do: a funnel-shaped basin created as a result of the sinking of the volcano on which stands the island.
To see on the caldera at Fira there is the unique panorama that has made Santorini an island famous throughout the world: the blue expanse of the Aegean Sea at the foot of steep walls of dark volcanic rock, interrupted only by scattered islands and islets and made even more spectacular at sunset by the play of light created by the setting sun.
The things to do offered by the caldera are walks along the alleys of the historic center in search of the most beautiful panoramic view, aperitifs at sunset and exciting excursions by sailboat, catamaran, speedboat or even galleon.
One of the best viewpoints is on Nomikou Street more or less at the height of the conference center. For the aperitif you will be spoiled for choice among the many bars and hotels with panoramic terrace. Also the proposals for boat trips on the caldera are really many, with prices that vary enormously depending on the itinerary and the services offered. The most romantic and suggestive, and not by chance the most requested, are those at sunset with aperitif or dinner.
The old port is one of those places in Fira that everyone wants to see, it will be for the irresistible charm of the ships or for the fun way in which it can be reached.
There are two, actually, and of these the most characteristic is aboard mule, an animal that is a bit of a symbol of the island. The other is the cableway that leaves from the center of Fira: it allows you to admire a beautiful view without struggling, but it is the preferred solution by most tourists, so the queues to get on are almost always very long.
There is also a third possibility, recommended only to those who love walking or those who want to save money at all costs: descend the 500 and more steep steps of a staircase with hairpin bends. Remember that after going down you must also go up!
Greek city you go, archaeological museum you find. This also applies to Fira: on display at the city’s archaeological museum you can find ancient artifacts from the Hellenistic period including vases, sculptures, ceramics plus some Byzantine works and remains from prehistoric times.
It is located in a small square near the cable car and the Catholic church. The Archaeological Museum of Fira also houses impressive frescoes and sculptures from the Hellenistic period, Byzantine works and some remains from the prehistoric era.
The other historical museum in Fira is the Museum of Prehistoric Thira, considered by many to be more interesting than the archaeological museum: if you only have time (or patience) for one, choose this one.
On display you will find objects of daily life of the third millennium BC and some primitive artworks; the highlight of the collection are the frescoes found in Akrotiri.
More known as a cultural center than as an exhibition space, the Megaro Ghizi Museum is housed in an ancient patrician home that once belonged to a wealthy Venetian family.
The eclectic collection traces the history of the island of Santorini with photos, manuscripts and memorabilia; there is also a section dedicated to the late eighteenth century engravings of Count Choiseul-Gouffier, one dedicated to local artists and one to Byzantine icons.
Much loved by locals and tourists alike are the concerts and shows that are organized every summer (many with free admission).
The most photographed church of Fira is the Orthodox Cathedral, a characteristic white church with an imposing dome located in the center of the town. Built in the first half of the 19th century, it was almost completely destroyed by the 1956 earthquake and rebuilt.
Inside it preserves some interesting frescoes, but what fascinates tourists is the majesty of the dome and its typically Cycladic exterior.
Less famous but no less interesting is the Catholic Cathedral dedicated to St. John the Baptist, easily recognizable for its architecture in contrast to the typical Greek churches. If you still doubt, you’ll be sure you’ve found it when you see the bell tower with clock.
It is a corner of peace in a mundane and congested island like Santorini: don’t miss it; from its terrace you can enjoy a breathtaking view without having to scramble with other tourists.
Located in the village of Kontochori, a short distance from Fira, the Emmanuel Lignos Folklore Museum will show you how people lived on the island in the early twentieth century, long before Santorini became a chic (or snobbish, depending on your opinion) resort. The house survived the 1956 earthquake and is still very faithful to its original appearance, despite a renovation in 1973.
Named after journalist Lignos, a fervent advocate of the importance of passing on the island’s cultural heritage, it is considered one of the most important folk museums in all of Greece and is a pleasant detour from boutiques and infinity pools in search of the island’s authentic soul.
Another way to enjoy the beauty of Fira without the hustle and bustle of mass tourism is to take the seaside walk from the center to Oia.
The full path is almost 10 km long and takes about three hours to complete, but it is not necessary to walk it all to admire breathtaking views: the first stretch to Imerovigli is enough to fall madly in love with Santorini.
It is a pedestrian path within everyone’s reach: well marked, mostly uphill but with only one steep section, it is exposed to the sun but well ventilated. Of course, a bit of fatigue must be put into account, but you will be amply rewarded by the incredible views of the sea, luxury resorts, churches scattered in the nothingness and quiet, which is a commodity a bit ‘rare in Santorini.
Hiking boots are not necessary but sandals and flip-flops should be avoided. Protect yourself from the sun and bring water supplies with you.
In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article
In Fira, the capital of the island, there are many tourist facilities: the hotel offer is high-level, if your budget allows you can reserve a room with pool overlooking the caldera, otherwise you can always choose a traditional hotel or apartment, choose Fira as a base to tour the island is a great idea, given the location of the city and the nightlife it offers.
Getting toFira from the airport is very easy: the airport is located at the same height as Fira on the other side of the island at a distance of only 4 km.
It is connected to the center of Fira by local buses, frequent and cheap, but it is better to rent a car at the airport in order to move freely throughout the island, booking online you can take advantage of low cost rates very convenient.
Only cruise ships and tourist boats dock at the port of Fira. Ferries and hydrofoils from mainland Greece and other islands arrive at the port of Athinios, which is located about 5 km away. Again, you can use local buses, but a rental car is definitely more convenient.
Finding a cab to/from the airport or the port is not difficult, but usually the fares are very high.
Fira is located on the west side of Santorini, directly overlooking the caldera. It is located about in the middle of the island, so it is an excellent base to reach any location.