On your way to Thessaloniki, Meteora or Halkidiki, stop in Larissa to discover an impressive eco-friendly town with excellent places to eat, drink and enjoy coffee. Here are 5 things not to miss out on on your city-break
1. Walks, bike rides and… parkour
Located just south of Mount Olympus in the heart of Greece, Larissa (population 145,000) is the fifth biggest city in the country after Athens, Thessaloniki , Patras in the Peloponnese and Heraklion in Crete. It is a lively city with a rather extroverted populace who love to go out, shop and drink coffee for hours. Indeed, it is often referred to as “Coffee City” thanks to its cafes that are numerous even by Greek standards.
After getting your caffeine fix, it’s worth taking a stroll through the city center and around the its outskirts. Locals enjoy strolls and runs through the centrally located and lush Alcazar Park. Further out, the Aisthitiko Alsos is another green space popular among bike riders. Alternatively plan a route that will take you by Blana Square where teenage boys gather in the evenings to practice parkour over the remains of Byzantine walls, the Bezesteni (the old Ottoman market), the First Ancient Theater of Larissa and the Pappas Mill – a former flour mill that now hosts cultural events of all kinds.
2. Star parties every Thursday
A little way outside the town is the Municipal Observatory of Larissa, founded in 1972, which deals with the observation of the moon, planets, sun and records solar as well as seismic activity in the region. The Observatory is regularly visited by schools, and once a week stargazers from Larissa gather here for “star parties”.
During these star-gazing events, the guides print a map depicting the sky on that night and will show you how to read it. If the atmosphere is clear, you can observe the planets, stars and nebulae through the telescope.
Weekly events are held every Thursday after 8 pm. for more information call: (+30) 2410.591.000.
3. Figurines and idols at the Diachronic Museum of Larissa
Larissa is a city with a history traceable all the way back to the prehistoric era. There is no better place to get a complete picture of its past than at the Diachronic Museum of Larissa which is comprehensive without being overwhelming. Some of the more striking exhibits are the Neolithic pottery figurines depicting pregnant women, an anthropomorphic menhir-type column from the Bronze Age and the vast collection of coins.
Mezourlo Hill, Larissa. Tel. (+30) 2413.508.242. Open Tuesday-Sunday.
4. Wine and jazz overlooking the ancient theater
Until a few years ago, on the corner of Venizelos and Ifaistos there stood an infamous hotel named Lido, a site of questionable recreational activities and only one toilet on each floor. Today Lido has closed and in its place stands the unique Klimax.
Klimax is essentially a thoroughly modern cultural and start-up hub – three stories high with a terrace, a wine bar, a concert venue which regularly hosts local jazz bands, it also has co-working space for start-ups, all located directly opposite from the ancient theater. Come for the wine, stay for the jazz and maybe even set up office!
2 Ifaistos and Venizelos, Tel. (+30) 2410.251.108, www.linto.gr.
5. Culinary surprises
Three of the finest places to eat in Larissa are Nikodimos, the Akamatra and Bukowski.
Nikodimos is housed in a lovingly preserved, listed neoclassical building dating to 1904 that was once a general store (and before that, a wine shop). The philosophy here is to preserve the atmosphere of old Larissa, so don’t be surprised if you feel you are transported to a wine shop in the 1950s. Here you can try aubergines with garlic, Armenian pie with sour cheese, fried olives and peppery steaks.
Akamatra has a different style and a colorful interior – something between Morocco and Peru, and serves fusion food like Argentinian empanadas with chicken and vegetables, tenderloin with sweet and sour sauce, and mushroom risotto with truffle oil and parmesan. A plus point is that smoking is strictly prohibited in the main area – it is only allowed on the patio in the winter and in the courtyard during the summer.
Meanwhile, Bukowski, is a gastro-pub open from morning to night, serving Mexican burritos, couscous salad, veal steaks, fresh tortellini and plenty of alcohol (as you’d expect from a shop named after Charles Bukowski). Weiss beers and dark lagers, brandy, bourbon, malt whiskey, gin, rum, liqueurs, spirits, cocktails and mocktails are all to be found here.
– Nikodimos: 2 Karaiskaki and Farmakidou, tel. (+30) 2410.535.042. Open Monday to Saturday.
– Akamatra: 5 Vyronos, tel. (+30) 2414.003.803. Open every day except Monday.
– Bukowski: 11 Panos, tel. (+30) 2410.536.729. Open Monday to Sunday.