Town of Fira, the capital of Santorini
The town of Fira Santorini is situated on the west side of the island, precisely in the caldera center. The inhabitants built the capital on steep rocks at an altitude of 260 meters from the sea surface. For the visitor who arrives at Santorini by boat, Fira will give the island’s first delightful impression. The view offers you a breath-taking picture blending the caldera rocks’ wildness with the calm sight of the whitewashed dwellings that the locals built precisely upon the brow of the precipice.
As the ship approaches Athinios, the beauty of the landscape overwhelms us. The small harbor of Santorini facilitates tenths of thousands of visitors all year-round. The port is not far from the capital. The access to the town Fira from Athinios is performed by land and does not last more than 20 minutes.
History of Fira Santorini
Fira owes its name to the mispronouncement of the word “Thera” that prevailed in the late 18th Century when piracy stopped existing in the Aegean. The native inhabitants abandoned Skaros, one of the island’s castles, and chose a land exactly opposite their previous one.
The locals carved their cave houses in the soft volcanic rock in a descending way and following the rocks. Larger built-up dwellings constructed for the castles’ rich landlords began to appear speedily as the inhabitants from all over the island would flock to Fira. The inhabitants developed their marketplace on the road to Gialos. The Catholic descendants of the wealthy Santorinian families have settled in the Frankish or Catholic neighborhood. You will be able to find it in the north of the city.
Today, cobblestone roads, low-rise whitewashed houses with wooden doors, and window frames painted in soft colors to obstruct the northerly wintery wind’s attacks and keep the interior cool on the hot summer nights. The churches at Fira Santorini are numerous, the Orthodox and Catholic cathedrals being the most interesting ones.
Places to visit in Fira Santorini
Before parting with the marvelous view of the sea from the rocks of Fira, you should organize a descent to its old harbor. Whether you will choose the funicular railway or the traditional donkeys for this purpose, the point is that you will be fascinated by the view on your way down. Using the stairs- at least for the descent- is another alternative way to do so. In any case, you need to put on sports shoes and the appropriate socks to feel comfortable.
Should you choose to go hiking to Gialos later on, keep strolling along the narrow cobblestone streets of Fira in Santorini. You can move either north in the Catholic Convent direction and the Megaro Gyzis (Gyzis’Mansion) or to the Prehistoric Thera Museum from the funicular railway.
The museums of Santorini’s Fira
The moment that you exit the building of the cable car, you can reach in two minutes the Archaeological Museum of Fira. It houses the multi-century of the island. Collections of sculpted objects, vessels, and clay figurines are most of the exhibits arrayed in front of us.
Moving south, near the coach station (KTEL) of Santorini, we reach the Prehistoric Thera Museum. A modern museum hall is full of drawings, representations as well as numerous explanatory comments. It also exhibits the masterpieces of the Aegean prehistoric art of the Aegean Sea. It houses the frescoes and the urban center’s portable findings during its peak (17th Century). The fact that all the exhibits are in excellent preservation is also remarkable. In essence, the museum dealing with antiquity: the Archaeological Museum and the one of the Prehistoric Thera, are two interconnected destinations. They bring us into contact with the Cycladic Civilisation. Combining a very early morning visit to ancient Thera near Kamari to avoid intense heat with the visit to the two museums mentioned above afterward. It is a successfully tested idea.
Cathedrals and Convents of Fira
We move northwards and arrive at the Catholic neighborhood or Frankish Quarters in Santorini Fira. We come across the Catholic Convent of Rosaria. Twelve nuns, whose presence there the Santorinians have always accepted and respected despite the difference in their denomination from theirs since a very long time ago. Indeed, it is a well-known fact that the native inhabitants came into contact very early in history with Roman Catholics. They have been coexisting harmoniously with Roman Catholics for many generations ever since then.
In a small street situated next to the Catholic female convent in the same neighborhood, we encounter the Gyzis Mansion. It is a building whose interior copper-engraved pictures cover the island’s history from the 16th to the 19th Centuries. At the same time, it exhibits manuscripts old photographs of the island before and after the destructive earthquake of 1956. The Gyzis Mansion is one of the few ancient buildings dating back to the 17th Century. It revived the earthquake attack in 1956. Fortunately, the Roman Catholic Bishopric of Thera has put it at the local Cultural Center’s disposal. Since that time, the Mansion hosts many artistic events festivals. You will also attend concerts and exhibitions of pictorial arts creations held in this building every August.
St. John the Baptist Cathedral
We also come across the Catholic Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, which is situated in the Catholic neighborhood in the center of Fira. According to the Baroque architectural style, the locals built it, and it stands out because of its elegant bell tower. The great earthquake has seriously damaged the Cathedral, and it has been restored subsequently.
The Greek Orthodox Cathedral has an impressive view of both the caldera and the volcano. The locals built the church of the Ypapanti of Theotokos or Panagia of Belonia in 1827. The destructive earthquake of 1856 caused severe damages to the original building. Nowadays, it has its old brilliance.
Why stay in Fira Santorini- Golden Ibex tips:
You are in the heart of the island, an alive village in Santorini, especially during the night. Plenty of cafes, restaurants, and hotels look out onto the caldera in Fira. Lively small souks (market) full of affordable shops, various hotels, and plenty of places where you can taste Greek souvlaki or enjoy Mediterranean cuisine and local recipes. Though Fira in Santorini is busier than Oia throughout the day, it is quieter than Oia during the sunset.
- Fira town in Santorinihas excellent views of the caldera.
- In Fira, most cliff hotels have a pretty direct view of the sunset over the caldera.
- Fira town has good sunset views (though the best are in Imerovigli).
- More accessible to explore the island from: Fira is more central and makes getting to the southern parts of the island more manageable and faster.
- Town of Fira is the transportation hub for all bus routes on the island. You can access the beaches, and you can explore the whole island with no need to change buses.
- Taxi station is also located near the main square of Fira. Renting a car is also an economical option that makes your time more valuable. Don’t forget, after all, Santorini is a small island. It is difficult to get lost.
- Fira is close to the airport: 10 minutes and to the ferry port: 20 minutes with a direct bus service.
- Finaly, it has far more nightlife, bars, and clubs than Oia.