Kalamata is Messinia’s capital and the second-largest city in the Peloponnese. Most travelers blitz through it, only pausing to partake of its facilities and decent restaurants.
Built on the site of ancient Pharai, the city takes its modern name from a miracle-working icon of the Virgin Mary known as kalo mata (good eye). It was discovered in the stables of the Ottoman aga (governor), who converted to Christianity as a result of the miracles it was believed to have performed. The icon now resides inside the city’s oversized cathedral, the Church of Ypapantis.
Below the kastro is the small but attractive old town, which was almost totally destroyed by the Turks during the War of Independence, rebuilt by French engineers in the 1830s, then levelled again by an earthquake in 1986. A lively Saturday food market just to the west of the old town sells Kalamata olives and other local produce.
Must-see attractions of Kalamata
- The City Hall.
- The Modern Greek Art Gallery, with paintings, sculptures and carvings.
- The Benakeion Archaeological Museum (housed in the neoclassical building of the old Municipal agora) with findings dating from the Bronze Age to the Roman period.
- The spacious central Vassileos Georgiou (King George) square with many coffee shops, meeting places and strolling venues for residents and visitors. The pedestrian walkway of Aristomenous Street starts here with many stores and coffee shops to populate it.
- To the west of the square the neighbourhood unfolds around the picturesque railroad station with a network of pedestrian ways, small coffee shops, bars and tavernas.
- The Folklore and History Museum, which is housed in the Kiriakou mansion, with traditional objects and relics from the 1821 Greek War of Independence.
- The Municipal theatre.
- The Railways Park with exhibits of old motorcycles and railway wagons.
- The seaside road in front of the city’s extensive beach (4 km length with marvellous waters). On the seaside of Kalamata, people can swim in crystal clear waters and enjoy lace-like beaches, which have been granted the Blue Flag award of quality. Along the seaside, there are several tavernas, ouzo restaurants, cafeterias, bars, clubs, whereas beach aficionados can enjoy all kinds of water sports.
- The western beach with the city’s marina connected to the city centre via a cycle lane too.