Known for its beaches and for the olives, Kalamata is often overlooked as a tourist destination. If you still decide to spend a couple of days in this city on the Messenian Gulf, you will be surprised to find out that it’s a vibrant city with a charming old town and a proud historical past.
You won’t find world-famous museums in Kalamata or striking architecture and still the city is worth visiting for its slow-paced life, great food, and a few hidden gems, like the Victoria Karelias Collection, the street art and the Archeological Museum.
Normally, I wouldn’t do that but in Kalamata I did it. I was on a mission to visit every single museum and attraction in the city. I’ve made a list of all Kalamata museums and attractions and ticked them all off. For some places I needed to do a lot of effort and got help from the local tourism board, others I discovered by pure chance, stumbling upon them when wandering around. So here’s my complete guide of everything you can see and do in Kalamata, that’s not the beach.
- 1. Admire the Victoria Karelias Collection of Traditional Greek Costumes
- 2. Learn about ancient history at the Archeological Museum of Messenia
- 3. Marvel at the view from the Castle of Kalamata
- 4. Taste the famous Kalamata olives and Kalamata olive oil
- 5. Try some of Kalamata’s specialties
- 6. See what you eat at the weekly farmers’ market
- 7. Explore Kalamata Old Town
- 8. Visit the Military Museum
- 9. Stroll along the Central Square
- 10. Go for a walk at the Municipal Railway Park of Kalamata
- 11. Go on a street art hunt
- 12. Go in search of fine art in Kalamata
- 13. Visit the Historical and Folklore Museum of Kalamata
- 14. Enjoy the silence at the Kalograion
- 15. Go hiking in the majestic Taygetos mountain
- 16. Stroll along the seaside promenade
DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase via one of those links, I will earn a commission at no extra cost for you.
My visit to the Victoria Karelias Museum was sponsored by the Tourism Board of Kalamata and the museum itself, as a tour offered during the TBEX conference in Kalamata. All sightseeing in Kalamata was organized and paid by myself. The opinions in this post are mine and do not reflect the policy of my hosts.
Use the map below when planning your trip or when already in Kalamata and looking for things to do. All attractions in Kalamata which I could possibly visit are mapped here. You can download the map into your Google maps and use it also offline, which is quite handy.
1. Admire the Victoria Karelias Collection of Traditional Greek Costumes
If I had to choose one thing to recommend visiting in Kalamata, this would be for sure the Vicotria Karelias Collection of Traditional Greek Costumes. I’ve been to so many world-class museums and yet this local museum in Kalamata made it to my top 5. Beside the fact that it just has a mesmerizing collection of Greek traditional costumes, the story of each costume and each region is told in a gripping way.
The permanent collection of the museum is based on the private collection of Victoria Karelia, famous for being a descendant of the Karelia family that owns one of the largest tobacco companies on the Balkans, and a current chairperson of the board of the same company.
In the museum you can see traditional costumes and jewelry from all ethnographic areas of Greece. I could stand there for hours admiring the craftsmanship and the elaborate designs, imagining who would have worn those costumes, how they looked like and what they did for a living.
Address: Stadiou 64, 241 00Kalamata
Admission fee: adults – 5 EUR, kids under 12 yoa – 3 EUR
Opening times: Tuesday–Saturday from 9 am to 2 pm, Wednesday & Saturday, from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm, Sunday, from 10 am to 2 pm
2. Learn about ancient history at the Archeological Museum of Messenia
The Archeological Museum of Messenia came as a nice surprise to me. Housed in the building of the former market halls, the museum is tastefully arranged and all artifacts are displayed in an intriguing way following the historical line. The museum is located on the lively historical 23rd March Square just behind the Church of Agioi Apostoloi (Church of the Holy Apostles).
Messenia is one of the 5 administrative regions of Peloponnese, together with Arcadia, Argolis, Corinthia, and Laconia, and Kalamata is the capital of Messenia. On its turn Messenia is divided into 6 municipalities: Kalamata, Mani, Messini, Oichalia, Pylos-Nestoras, and Trifylia.
The museum takes a more traditional approach and represents the 4 original regions within Messenia: Kalamata, Messini, Pylos, and Tryfilia. In the museum you can read about the history and geography of these regions and see some of the major archeological sites there with the most important archeological finds being displayed.
This is the best place to learn about the history of the area starting from the prehistorical times up to the Byzantine period.
Address: Agiou Ioannou 3, Kalamata 241 00
Admission fee: 1 November – 30 March (winter), 2 EUR; 1 April – 31 October (summer), adults – 4 EUR, reduced – 2 EUR
Opening times: winter, daily, from 8 am to 3:30 pm, closed on Tuesdays; summer, daily, from 8 am to 8 pm, Tuesdays, from 12:30 pm to 8 pm
3. Marvel at the view from the Castle of Kalamata
This is the place to go to if you want to have some amazing views of Kalamata and the Messenian Gulf. Just a short climb from the Old Town, you will find the ramparts of the stronghold that once played an important role in Peloponnese history, then known as Morea.
After the 4th Crusade (13th century) the Franks conquered Kalamata and on the ruins of a Byzantine fortress they built the castle of Kalamata. Kalamata became the personal fief of Geoffrey of Villehardouin and was part of the Principality of Achea. In the 15th century the castle became part of the Byzantine Despotate of the Morea and it witnessed a succession of rulers, including the Venetians and the Ottomans.
Between 1685 and 1715 (2nd Venetian Empire) the castle was in Venetian hands. In the 18th century it lost its strategic importance and by the beginning of the 19th century the castle was abandoned. In 1825 the castle and the whole town was heavily destructed by the army of Ibrahim Pasha.
Tip: For the exact location of the entrance to the castle, have a look at the map above. I had some difficulties finding it as in the guides which I had, it wasn’t clearly indicated and Google maps wasn’t also much of a help.
Address: the entrance is at Vileardouinou Street
Admission fee: 3 EUR
Opening times: closed on Tuesdays; 1 November – 30 March (winter), daily, from 8:30 am to 4 pm; 1 April – 31 August (summer), daily, from 8 am to 8 pm; 1 September – 31 October, from 8 am until sunset
4. Taste the famous Kalamata olives and Kalamata olive oil
Where I come from, there are olives and there are Kalamata olives. The name of Kalamata for me, personally has always been synonymous to the large, meaty and tasty olives I grew up with. So you can’t visit Kalamata without tasting these plump, rich in flavour olives. And as you can imagine, the olive oil tastes equally amazing.
I have never done olive oil tasting before, so I loved discovering the subtle differences depending on the manufacturing process or the additives.
While you can taste olive oil with each meal you have in Greece, I can highly recommend that you do a tour of an olive farm with a visit to an olive oil mill. These tours are paired with olive oil tasting and food sampling. This is the best way to learn about the production process and the food-pairing options.
Here are 2 tours that I recommend:
As these activities can depend on the seasonality, check out the availability here:
5. Try some of Kalamata’s specialties
Besides Kalamata olives and Kalamata olive oil, Kalamata is also famous for the production of raisins and dried figs. The local type of white brine cheese is the sfela. You can find it in salads but it can be also eaten fried or grilled.
If you have a sweet tooth you should try the pasteli, a sweet made from sesame and honey. Another sweet treat is the diples, thin dough fried in olive oil and dipped in honey syrup and dusted with ground walnuts, traditionally eaten for Christmas and weddings. There is also lala(n)ghia – thin strands of dough twisted and fried in olive oil, eaten for example with sfela.
One of the best ways to get to know a city is through its food, so why not do a food tour of Kalamata, or even better, why don’t learn how to cook some famous Greek specialties! Here is a selection of tours:
6. See what you eat at the weekly farmers’ market
Talking about food, there isn’t a more vibrant and colorful place than a local farmers’ market in Greece. I stumbled upon the weekly farmers’ market in Kalamata by accident and I loved it immediately!
The farmers’ market takes place on Wednesdays and Saturdays at the Central Food Market of Kalamata. You can find there more than 450 stalls with products from potatoes, to olives, and cheese, aromatic herbs from the Taygetos mountain, and fishmongers selling their catch of the day.
At one of the food tours I went to, they told us that Greek food tastes amazing not because they have unique recipes, like you can eat this type of food all over the Balkans and even beyond, but because food in Greece is cooked with the freshest produce with the shortest possible farm to table journey. And I couldn’t agree more with this.
Address: Spartis 31, Kalamata 241 00
7. Explore Kalamata Old Town
Kalamata Old Town with its narrow streets, lovely squares and traditional restaurants (tavernas) is a nice place to stroll around.
The heart of the Old Town is the 23rd March Square with the Byzantine Church of the Holy Apostles (Agioi Apostoloi). The church was initially built in the 11th-12th century and enlarged in the 17th-18th century during the Venetian occupation. Its fame, however, the church thanks to the fact that the Greek War of Independence against the Ottoman Empire was proclaimed there on 23rd March 1821. Hence, the name of the square.
It is in the Old Town where you will find most of the museums and attractions in Kalamata: The Archeological Museum, The Folklore Museum, The Military Museum, The Vicotria Karelias Collection, and at the edge of the Old Town – the Castle of Kalamata.
Another famous square in the Old Town is the Ipapanti Square with the The Metropolitan Church of Ypapanti (Presentation of Christ). This is the most important church in the city of Kalamata.
8. Visit the Military Museum
I wouldn’t normally visit a military museum but for the sake of ticking off my Kalamata bucket list, I did visit the one in Kalamata. I was nicely surprised that actually the museum was quite interesting.
It covers Greek history from the revolution in 1821 up until UN operations in the Cold War where Greece participated.
Address: Mitropoliti Meletiou 10
Admission fee: 3 EUR
Opening times: daily, from 9 am to 5 pm
9. Stroll along the Central Square
The Central Square along the Aristomenous Street is a place where the locals go out for a drink, to meet friends, or to have a bite with their family. It’s a modern square, lined up on one side with lots of restaurants and cafes and on the other side with shops and administrative buildings.
You can find there the Bistroteca, the Platea and the Bodega, all nice places to enjoy your breakfast, lunch or dinner with drinks. I tried all 3 places and can recommend all 3 of them.
The square is used for various gatherings or events and during celebrations and is the focal point of the city. If you are for a first date, you would meet up at the fountain on the south end of the square.
Fun fact: Depending on the political situation, the square has changed its name 12 times in the last 100 years! The last name, Square of King George the Second (Vasileos Georgiou II Square), is a kind of a record-holder as it hasn’t been changed since 1992!
10. Go for a walk at the Municipal Railway Park of Kalamata
If you start walking from Kalamata’s main square towards the sea and the marina, you’ll pass through the Municipal Railway Park of Kalamata. The old railway station of Kalamata has been turned into an open-air railway museum, where you can see original steam locomotives, old carriages, railcars and a number of freight wagons.
Industrialization came to Greece somewhat late and the railway system in Greece in 1880 reached only 260 km. The meter-gauge line from Athens to the Peloponnese, which served Kalamata, was the first long-distance line in Greece and opened between 1882 and 1902.
Following the financial crisis in Greece in 2009 the meter-gauge line stopped functioning in 2011 and today it’s only used for excursion trains.
The park is really nice to walk around. There’s a cafe with an outdoor space, a large children’s playground, a small pond with a bridge. I was surprised to see the park was full with running kids and people walking out their dogs.
11. Go on a street art hunt
Starting with a large mural on the 23rd March Square in the Old Town, you will be surprised how many street art hidden gems there are in Kalamata.
If you venture just outside of the main street, in the side streets you will find impressing street art and graffiti by urban artists like the local artist Kostas Louzis, aka Skitsofrenis.
Too bad, they aren’t offering a street art tour in Kalamata, so that you see all of it.
12. Go in search of fine art in Kalamata
If you are an art lover, Kalamata will disappoint as it doesn’t have large art museums or impressive art collections, besides the street art murals, of course. I would have almost left the city without being able to see at least one painting. There should have been a Contemporary Greek Art Gallery at the Public Library, but when I went there, no one knew anything about it.
Then there is the Kalamata Municipal Art Gallery A. Tassos, which each time I walked by was always closed. I had also hard time finding the entrance of it (for the exact location, see the Google map above). Towards the end of my stay in Kalamata I had luck that the art gallery opened for just a half day, which was kindly arranged by the Kalamata Tourism Office, so that I could visit it. It has an interesting collection of local artists from the 1980s and a large collection of engravings from the famous Messenian engraver A. Tassos, after whom it was named.
Walking aimlessly in Kalamata I stumbled upon the 3rd place where you can see art in Kalamata – the A49 Art Gallery at 49, Anagnostara Street. This is a nice art gallery with changing exhibitions, which is free to visit. When I visited there was an exhibition of engravings by the Greek artist Vaso Katraki (1914-1988).
13. Visit the Historical and Folklore Museum of Kalamata
Housed in the beautiful Kyriakou mansion from the 19th century, this museum has a lovely ethnographic exhibition, featuring thematic sections about the rural and city life, with local agricultural crafts, weaving, and pottery.
There is also an interesting exhibition about printing and bookbinding, as the first printing house in liberated Greece opened in Kalamata. It was in Kalamata where the Proclamation of the Rebellious Greeks was printed and subsequently sent to the European Courts, and which marked the beginning of the Greek War of Independence from 1821.
Address: Agiou Ioannou 12
Opening times: Wednesday-Saturday, from 9 am to 1 pm; Sunday, from 10 am to 1 pm; closed on Monday and Tuesday
14. Enjoy the silence at the Kalograion
I stumbled upon the Kalograion when I was wandering the streets between the Frankish castle and the Ypapanti Church. This convent of nuns turned out to be a real oasis of peace and calmness in the middle of the city. The convent was established in 1796 and played an important role in the social life of Kalamata. There was an orphanage in the convent and the nuns would care of the sick and poor, and it was always a safe place for those in need during the many tumultuous periods of the Peloponnese history.
But this is not what made the convent dedicated to The Holy Constantine and Helena popular across the country. There is this famous Greek folk dance kalamatianos which derives its name from Kalamata, and one of the songs to which it’s danced is Mandili Kalamatiano (Kerchief from Kalamata) and it goes something like this “You wear a Kalamata scarf around your neck, you shine and radiate like the star of dawn… If you go to Kalamata and you come back, bring me a handkerchief to put on my neck…”
The scarves they are talking about, are the famous silk scarves, known to be among the finest in the world, manufactured once by the nuns from the Kalograion convent. The nuns don’t make scarves anymore but at the convent you can see the workshop with the looms.
Address: You can enter either from Patriarchou Prokopiou 11-19 or from Mistra Street.
15. Go hiking in the majestic Taygetos mountain
The Taygetos range together with its highest peak Mount Taygetos, also known as Profitis Ilias (Elijah), dominates the skyline of Kalamata. If you are an outdoorsy type, put on your hiking boots and hit the mountains. The mountain was mentioned in the Odyssey and is named after the nymph Taygete, one of the Pleiades, who was a companion of Artemis, and a “Mistress of the animals”. Mount Taygetos was her haunt.
Profitis Ilias with its 2,405 m (7,890 ft) is a popular hiking destination and a part of E4, the longest of the European long distance paths that spans from Portugal to Cyprus.
Well, you don’t need to do the whole 10,000 km (6,200 mi) of E4 but you can go on a day hike to Profitis Ilias. This moderate hike (about 6-7 hrs) with a mountain guide will take you to an altitude of about 1,550-2,400 m.
You can book this adventure here:
16. Stroll along the seaside promenade
Well, last but not least Kalamata is a seaside town and I promised you 16 things to do in Kalamata that are not the beach, but you can’t visit Kalamata without strolling alongside the beach and the sea. The seaside promenade makes for a lovely walk, even if not for the beach. There are also lots of beach restaurants and cafes, where you can enjoy a drink or grab a lunch or dinner.
If you want to walk from the city centre, let’s say from the Central Square all the way to the beach front and then along the promenade and back, you should be prepared for some serious walking. From the Central Square to the beginning of Navarinou street it is about 1,6 km and then the whole promenade up to Filoxenia resort is another 3,2 km. And that’s in just one direction. So my advise will be to take the city bus somewhere to the Navarinou street and go for a stroll from there.