Volos, a Small Star by the Sea

The winds of change are blowing in this central Greek town


The major draw of the bustling provincial town of modern Volos is that it offers the best of both worlds; small enough to offer true quality of life and large enough to offer something for all.

People seem to constantly roam about everywhere on foot, by car and bicycle, in a city that may look extroverted but in many ways is actually quite the opposite.

Built around the Pagasetic Gulf, Volos with its industrial past, and its major port, appears to be changing. The city’s beach area is impressive.

Volos is charming, not because of any sense of aesthetic uniformity but, rather through its anarchic collection of little architectural gems that gradually began to dot the town over the years.

Some places worth visiting while in Volos are the following:

1. Kontaratou hotspot

Nicknamed “Volonaki” – from Volos and the chic inner-Athenian district of Kolonaki – this nightlife hotspot, on Koumoundourou street and the pedestrianized Kontaratou, close to Agios Nikolaos church, is filled with café-bars and overflowing with people. If noise and bar-hopping is for you, this is it.

2. Bicycle rides

Quite obviously, bicycles are a key mode of transportation for locals. We saw scores of cyclists in the city, some casually cycling along the esplanade and others going about work at a faster pace. It makes sense for a city of this size. For Volos cycling routes, check out this Facebook page.

3. A museum with a past and future

The Athanasakio Archaeological Museum of Volos is a pleasant place to walk to. Its neoclassical building is set amid rich surrounding gardens, the interior is renovated and modern, and a new wing offers the museum improved functionality, all of which makes for a gratifying overall experience.

One of Greece’s oldest museums, it was built in 1909 and funded by Alexios Athanasakis, a cotton merchant, following the need to exhibit tomb stones discovered during excavation work led by Apostolos Arvanitopoulos at an ancient cemetery in Dimitriada, the region’s ancient city. The museum provides a wealth of archaeological information on the wider Thessaly region, from the Paleolithic Period to the Roman era.

[1 Athanasaki | Tel. (+30) 2421.025.285 | Open Tue-Sun, 08:00-17:00 | Admission fee: 3]

4. Coffee, food and desserts at Domotel Xenia Volos

The revamped historic Xenia hotel in Volos, nowadays known as the Domotel Xenia Volos, is a large facility built by the beach. It features dining areas for coffee, drinks and food. Menu items include French onion soup, grilled asparagus with fried eggs on multigrain bread, as well as exciting dessert offerings.

[1 Plastira, Τel. (+30) 2421.092.700. Contact the hotel for the operating hours of its various restaurants.]

5. Podilatissa for coffee

A corner shop with a large window front, Podilatissa café is a pleasant and hospitable hangout which, as we discovered, is also pet-friendly. Alexandra, one of the café’s co-owners, –  an avid cyclist, hence the shop name meaning cyclist in Greek – told us that students, from the locally-based University of Thessaly’s architecture faculty, turn up here in large numbers. The menu’s range includes coffee, chocolate beverages, freshly squeezed lemon juices, orange pie, raki (distilled spirit), and hot mulled wine.

[T. Ikonomaki & P. Mela | Τel. (+30) 2421.021.131 | Open from 10:00 until nighttime. Closed on Sundays]

6. Vienna touch

Further back in time, as a 24-year-old, Elli traveled to Vienna and gradually developed an understanding of Viennese cafes, realizing that they operate as extensions of homes. Many years later, she opened a Viennese-type café in Volos. Her menu features beverages, salads, cold snacks, spirits, sparkling wines, and apple chutney. There’s live music (piano and sweet-sounding bouzouki) on Saturdays, while it also occasionally hosts art exhibitions, poetry evenings, and tributes to Greek lyricists and composers. Don’t be surprised if you see the red-headed Elli make the odd guest singing appearance during the live music nights.

[29 Glavani | Τel. (+30) 2421.403.042 | Open daily from morning to night]

7. Family patisserie

Glyko-Styllas is a recently launched pastry shop run by three brothers who handle all the enterprise’s needs, from production to customer service. The space was previously occupied by two old confectionary stores. According to the brothers, all the selections are freshly produced on the day which is why the product range is limited to roughly 30 products, balanced between modern and traditional recipes, Greek and foreign.

[135 Iasonos | Τel. (+30) 2421.024.555 | Mon-Sat: 10:00-24:00, delivery: 15:00-23:00.]

8. Organic fruit and vegetable market

An organic fruit and vegetable market attracting producers from the wider Thessaly region is held every Saturday next to the fish market. Compared to the rowdier fruit and vegetable markets of Athens, this market is far smaller, quieter and family-oriented. No more than five to ten minutes are needed to check all the benches before starting to shop.

[Next to the fish market, Saturday mornings (roughly 07:00-14:00)]

9. Rowdy Me Zen

Another spot for tsipouro and meze, Me Zen, blending traditional and modern culinary ways, offers dishes prepared in their entirety by its proprietors, from the curing of meat and seafood offerings to all the ensuing stages. Me Zen also offers an extensive range of tsipouro spirits produced throughout Greece, from Thrace in the northeast to Crete in the south.

[8 Alonnisou & Dimitriados | Tel. (+30) 24210.20844 | Open daily, 12:00-24:00.]

10. Demiris for tsipouro

Having retired from a Greek music career, Nikos Demiris, a man with a diverse background, including Anatolian roots, launched a traditional “tsipouradiko”, serving tsipouro (distilled spirit) and delicious assorted seafood meze dishes. We opted to visit this place because of Demiris’s Anatolian ancestry. The influx of these ethnic Greek refugees in the early 20th century introduced tsipouro to Greece.

[23 Efremidou | Tel. (+30) 2421.065.559 | Open Tue-Sun, midday and evenings.]

11. Jazz at Alter Ego

Unlike the usual bars in Volos, Alter Ego, launched in 1987, boasts qualities linked to a bygone era. Fans of jazz, rock, blues and swing music should take the time to visit. Vinyl records still rule here. Also, local and Athenian bands occasionally perform.   

[38 Agiou Nikolaou (behind Agios Nikolaos church) | Tel. (+30) 2421.109.113 | Open from 20:30 until very late]

12. Tsalapatas multi-space complex

The Tsalapatas multi-space complex, located on the west side of the city, has the Nikolas and Spyridon Tsalapatas Brickworks Museum as its nucleus. The Tsalapatas siblings were Volos-based entrepreneurs, who established a brickwork factory in the 1920s. It operated for fifty years, reflecting the city’s industrial development. Nowadays, it serves as a museum. LabArt, a space hosting concerts, plays, stand-up comedy, and bazaars, was recently launched at the complex.

The Brickworks Museum is open daily (except Tuesdays), 10:00-17:00. The admission fee is 3. For further information on LabArt events, check their Facebook page.

13. Prominent city buildings

Extremely interesting buildings in Volos are interspersed among the more mundane constructions.

The Volos Railway Station building, constructed in 1882 and designed by railway engineer Evaristo De Chirico, the father of artist Giorgio de Chirico, is superb for provincial Greek standards.

The Thessaly Railway Museum is housed on the first floor but some luck is needed to find an official who may open the space to visitors for a look around. We missed out.

The listed Bank of Athens (Trapeza Athinon), a restored building dating back to 1925, now houses the University of Thessaly’s Central Library (2 Metamorphoseos).

Directly next door, the Volos Municipal Conservatory, housed in a 19th century neo-classical building, is also worth checking out. It was originally built to house the Epirus-Thessalia Bank and, later on, the National Bank of Greece. A series of earthquakes that struck the region in the 1950s, took a devastating toll on the town’s   numerous architectural gems, including this building, whose first floor was eventually demolished. It was restored in the 1980s.

The sparkling building next to the municipal conservatory is the Giorgio de Chirico Art Centre.

A synagogue is located close by. Towards the sea, the Ahilio cinema theatre (Koumoundourou and Iasonos), designed by Volos architect Konstantinos Argyris, has become a local landmark. It was launched over 90 years ago, on November 15, 1925.


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