Fira is the charming capital of Santorini. It is located on the western cliffs of the island, right across the volcano and the volcanic island of Palea and Nea Kameni. Due to its central location, Fira is the biggest shopping and cultural center. It features numerous retail therapy options and remarkable museums where you can step back in time and learn about Santorini’s significant history. In Fira, you can also find the main bus station in Santorini. Luxury hotels, upscale restaurants, and vibrant cocktail bars add to the capital’s cosmopolitan side.
Fira has become the capital of the island since the early 19th century. It was when the old capital Skaros in Imerovigli village was abandoned by the inhabitants after strong frequent earthquakes. The name ‘Fira’ is an alternative to the island’s ancient name Thira.
Fira was nothing like the modern capital that it is today. Most of the land was covered by vineyards and canaves (traditional wineries). In 1956 a 7.7 magnitude earthquake destroyed 85% of the island’s buildings. Fira and Oia had the greatest amount of damages due to the soft rock that they were built on. This catastrophic phenomenon forced most of the island’s population to leave. The reconstruction of the island along with the expansion of tourism in the 70s resulted in the growth of the economy and population. Fira bounced back since then. The capital was built again maintaining its typical Cycladic architecture with Venetian style influences.
What to do in modern Fira
Stroll through the shopping district
The market of Fira is a wonderland for shopping lovers. Find yourself surrounded by magnificent views and exquisite shops as you wander through the cobblestoned alleys. The ‘Gold street’ of Fira, or Ypapantis Street, is where the main shopping action begins. It impresses with exclusive jewelry collections made by Greek and foreign designers, elegant clothes, shoes, handmade leather sandals, accessories, and all kinds of memento souvenirs and postcards. Apart from that, you can find natural cosmetics made from unique products such as lava extracts, donkey milk, and Greek olive oil. The capital has an equally important artistic side. Explore gorgeous art pieces from some of the island’s top artists in Fira’s art galleries and studios. At Fira, you may also find a department store! At the store, you can find a variety of necessities such as perfumes, sunscreens, cosmetics, swimwear, etc. from Greek and well-known international brands.
Visit a museum
The Archeological Museum: Located near the cable car station, the Archaeological Museum of Fira contains findings from Ancient Thira’s and Akrotori’s excavations. The main collections include Byzantine works of art, pottery, and clay figurines, from the Geometric to the Hellenistic periods as well as sculptures and inscriptions dating from the Archaic to the end of the Roman period.
- Signage in Greek and French
- Open: 8:30-15:00 (Monday closed)
- Tel: +30 22860 22217
Museum of Prehistoric Thira: A perfectly formed museum steps away from Fira’s main bust station. The Prehistorical Museum houses rare archeological findings from Akrotiri, Ancient Thira, and other Cycladic islands. The exhibition is structured in four units. The units include the history of research at Thera, the geology of Thera, the island’s history from the Late Neolithic to the Late Cycladic I period, and the heyday of Akrotiri (mature Late Cycladic I Period, 17th century B.C). Colorful wall paintings such as the ‘Ladies and Papyri’ or the ‘Blue Monkeys’, fossil plants, artifacts, pottery, clay vases, sealings, and a rare golden ibex figurine are exceptionally preserved and supported by clear signages in Greek and English.
- Open: 8:30-15:00 (Tuestday closed)
- Tel: +30 22860 23217
Megaro Gyzi Museum: The historical building of Megaro Gyzi Museum is located near the Catholic Cathedral and it is one of the few 17th century-old family mansions that survived the earthquake of 1956. The Megaro Gyzi Museum’s permanent exhibitions are the following: An exhibition of authentic engravings with maps, landscapes, and dresses of the Cycladic islands from the 15th to 19th century, an exhibition of old manuscripts from the late 16th to 19th century, and a collection of paintings and photographs of Santorini. Megaro Gyzi building hosts a range of cultural events such as music concerts theatrical performances and film views.
- Open: 10:00-16:00 (Sunday closed)
- Tel: +30 22860 23077
Explore the vibrant nightlife
At night, Fira transforms into the most vibrant evening hotspot. Whether you seek a place on the edge of the caldera to relax and enjoy a drink under the stars or a club to party all night, Fira has many options to satisfy all needs! Famous Greek and international DJs make appearances in the summer. You can find and dance to all kinds of music playing from jazz to mainstream hits. The main clubs of Fira are located close to each other inside the town and many cocktail bars on the caldera side. Most of the clubs require an entrance fee which includes your first drink. After your night out, walk to the main square of Fira and enjoy a quick bite of Greek-style street food and other delicacies in one of the little places that stay open until late.
If you happen to visit Santorini in early September, make sure to watch the spectacular Ifestia festival. Ifestia (from Greek word ηφαίστειο or volcano) is an imitation of the volcanic eruption done by fireworks. The celebration usually begins with traditional dancing, music concerts, local food, and more. Locals turned an unfortunate event into a majestic festival! It’s their way to show gratitude to the power of nature that gave Santorini its ethereal raw beauty. Fira has the best view of the firework display as it is located right opposite the volcano. Reserve a table with a view of the volcanic islands or find a spot in Fira’s alleys and enjoy a true spectacle in the sea that awes all people gathered to celebrate the history of the island.
Useful tips & info
- Fira does not have any beach, the closest one is 15′ driving.
- Follow the path towards the cable car and have a short and scenic 15’ walk to the village of Firostefani.
- Visit one of the famous churches like the Metropolitan Cathedral or the Catholic Church of the Dormition (Three Bells of Fira) for picturesque views.
- The old port of Fira used to be the main commercial port of the island and it can be reached by cable car or by a path of 600 stairs.
- The cable car of Fira serves mostly for reaching the old port where the cruise ships arrive or to catch the excursion boats going to the volcanic islands.
- Eat a meal at a classic Taverna.
- Reach the capital by bus because finding a parking space can be a challenge during the summer months.
- Fira is ideal for walking. Wear comfortable shoes and sunscreen and explore the beautiful capital on foot.