Table of Contents
General information about Fira
Fira is the capital of the island and the Santorini archipelago. It is the cultural, entertainment and commercial heart of the island and one of the most visited places in Santorini by tourists.
Fira is in the central-western part of the island, at an altitude of 200 to 300 metres above sea level. It is worth noting that Fira is not located directly on the seashore (which may be surprising for some tourists) and has no direct access to any beach. It is situated on top of the caldera cliff, and its western part descends into a vast plain.
Fira belongs to the administrative unit of South Aegean, the regional unit (municipality) of Thira. On the north side it is next to the village of Imerovigli. The nearest villages on the south side are Karterados and Mesaria.
Fira is 5 km from the airport and 8 km from the Santorini main ferry port Órmos Athiniós.
The name of Fira derives from the ancient name of the entire island (Thira).
Population and society of Fira
Fira is a small city inhabited by about 1600 permanent residents (according to the 2011 census). During the holiday season, however, thousands of tourists from all over the world (mainly Europe, the United States and Asia) flock to Fira.
Residents of Fira find employment mainly in the tourism sector (as employees and owners of accommodation facilities, restaurants, cafes, attractions) and commercial sector.
The very sight of Fira is impressive. It is built on the edge of a cliff falling into the sea, and its slope is covered with snow-white residential buildings and churches (buildings of this type are characteristic of many villages in Santorini).
Car traffic in the very tourist part of Fira (promenade, streets with souvenir shops and restaurants) is limited, so you can safely walk peacefully without worrying about being hit.
Monuments and attractions of Fira
There are many interesting objects in Fira that are worth seeing. Unfortunately, not all of them have survived in their original form – some of them were seriously damaged during the earthquake in 1956. However, many of them have been rebuilt.
This was the case, among others, with the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral – one of the largest and most distinctive churches on the island.
In the northern part of Fira there is another famous church – the Catholic Cathedral of St. John. Its reconstruction took almost 20 years.
Also worth visiting are interesting museums – the Museum of Prehistoric Thera showing the civilizational achievements of the Cyclades in the prehistoric period and the Archaeological Museum, where objects from various historical epochs, mainly antiquity, are exhibited.
During the holiday season, the ethnographic museum Megaro Gyzi is also open to tourists, where exhibitions and concerts are also organized.
Very interesting is the Folklore Museum with its original winery. The very seat of the museum is intriguing, because it is in a building from the nineteenth century hollowed out in the rock.
One of Fira’s biggest attractions is the cable car, which takes you down (and later back up) to the Old Port. From there start one-day trips to the volcano located in the middle of the caldera, to the hot springs and to the neighbouring island of Therasia. There is also an old road leading to the Old Port – stone stairs.
While walking around Fira, you can relax in many pubs or sit on a bench and admire the fabulous views of the caldera. Especially beautiful are the views from the highest (northern) part of the town and from the promenade running along the cliff.
History of Fira
The city of Fira was founded in its present location in the second half of the 18th century. After a strong earthquake that had destroyed part of the fortified city located on Skaros Rock, the inhabitants decided to move to another place.
Districts of Fira
- Firostefani –northern district of Fira (literally translation: Crown of Fira). Full of white houses and churches district is located on the banks of the caldera.
- Kontochori – north-western district of Fira. Here, among others, the Folklore Museum is located.
- Frangomahala – a district full of neoclassical villas – houses of wealthy merchants and captains of ships, built mainly in the 19th century.
- Kato Fira (lower part of Fira) – a less crowded district, located in the south. You will find here, among others, the churches of Agios Minas and Agios Ioannis, the Museum of Prehistoric Thera and the city park.
Accommodation and catering
Fira is a bustling town living off tourism. You can easily book accommodation in hotels of quite different quality, luxury apartments, private accommodation and hostels.
You can go to Fira throughout the year because the air temperature is almost always above 15 degrees Celsius. The greatest heat and crowding are from June to September. Those who want to avoid it should decide to travel in other months. Then the prices of accommodation fall, the room can be rented from 25 euros per person per night (in the high season it is difficult to find accommodation for less than 50-60 euros). Accommodation in luxury hotels and villas is much more expensive and starts from 250 euros per night.
Due to the lack of easy access to the sea and beaches, many accommodation facilities of a higher standard offer private mini-pools and jacuzzies.
On the charming, narrow streets of Fira there are many food premises, which serve mainly Greek cuisine and seafood. You can also find places with European or Asian cuisine, as well as many fast foods serving gyros, bureks, burgers or pizzas.
Fira also offers its guests entertainment in many discos and clubs, which are open until dawn. Fira is the undisputed entertainment centre of the island.
Fira is geared towards mass tourism, including wealthy tourists accustomed to luxury. On the tourist avenues there are shops of well-known world brands such as Chanel, Dior, Prada, Gucci, Rolex. Fira is the perfect place to spend a luxury holiday. During walks through its streets, you can meet many famous actors and celebrities from around the world.
There are also many small souvenir and jewellery shops in Fira. The most popular is jewellery made of lava. Local artists sell their products in many mini art galleries and handicraft shops.
Fira is the central transport hub of the island, and you can easily get from it to the nearby beaches or other interesting places on the island by public transport. The main bus station is located between the Prehistoric Thera Museum and the Hospital of Fira.
The beaches closest to Fira are those found on the eastern side of the island – Exo Gialos (3.3 km from Fira), Karterados (4.5 km from Fira), Monolithos (7.5 km from Fira) and a famous, long and well-prepared beach and tourist resort of Kamari (8 km from Fira).
Motorized tourists can leave their car in one of the many car parks found on the outskirts of the city.
Top attractions of Fira
The funicular in Fira on Santorini is an alternative way to get to the old port – the other way is to go on foot (or on a donkey) up and down the long and steep stairs (the elevation here is over 200 m). Passengers of large cruise ships are frequent users of the railway.