Fira, also known as Thira, stands proudly as the capital of Santorini, offering one of the best starting points to explore the rest of the island.
Unlike Oia, Fira is an authentic town with a myriad of things to do. Its spacious streets comfortably accommodate visitors, and the budget range of restaurants and cafes varies widely.
In this guide, I’ll provide you with a comprehensive list of the best things to do in Fira and all the information you need to plan a delightful stay.
Visit the Three Bells of Fira
One of Fira’s most iconic spots and a must-visit upon arrival is the “Three Bells,” located to the north of the town. Easily accessible by a short walk from the city center, these bells have a history intertwined with the devastating earthquake of 1956, which destroyed much of Santorini. The bells are the remaining part of the Evangelistria Church, which succumbed to the earthquake.
This spot is where iconic photos are captured, with the three blue-domed bells set against the beautiful backdrop of the Aegean Sea and the volcano. It has become a symbol of Fira, making it a great place to start exploring the city.
Admire the View of Fira and the Volcano from the Caldera Path
On your way to the Three Bells, you’ll walk along the Caldera Path, hugging the cliffside, passing all the beautiful white houses of Santorini. As the path ascends and crosses the Caldera, you’ll be treated to panoramic views of Fira and all the cliffside houses you glimpsed on your way to the Three Bells.
From here, you can see all the domed churches and white houses of Fira, as well as the views of other towns and surrounding areas in southern Santorini. It’s truly a breathtaking sight, so don’t forget to snap some photos. Undoubtedly, one of the best things to do in Fira.
Visit the Catholic Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist
On your way back to the city center, you’ll pass by the Catholic Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist, one of the most iconic buildings in Fira. Visible from various parts of the city, its striking dome rises above most of Fira.
Perched on the cliffside, overlooking the Caldera, the cathedral not only provides stunning views of Fira but also serves as a serene spot away from the crowds and the intense Greek summer heat.
The exterior of the cathedral and its bell tower is painted in a mix of yellow, white, and gray-blue, creating an unmissable appearance. The interior of the cathedral is adorned with murals unique to Santorini. I highly recommend exploring the inside of the cathedral while wandering through Fira.
Visit Santorini Old Port
Santorini Old Port, or Gialos, lies just below Fira and was the primary commercial port of the entire island until a few decades ago. As the city transformed into a tourist destination and the port was relocated to the southern tip of the island, the old port was revamped into a tourist haven, complete with various restaurants, shops, and cafes to enjoy by the waterfront. Most boat tours departing from Fira also set sail from here. Be sure to explore the available activities for a glimpse of what you can do in Fira.
To reach Gialos, you can descend a steep staircase or take the cable car from Fira Cable Car Station. The cable car provides a breathtaking downhill journey, offering beautiful views of the Caldera and the Aegean Sea. The one-way fare is approximately 6 euros per person, and it runs every 10 to 20 minutes.
Explore the Interior of the Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Stylianos
At the southern edge of the city, you’ll find the Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Stylianos, one of Fira’s largest Greek Orthodox churches known for its beautiful Byzantine architecture, stunning murals, and intricate mosaics.
The history of the cathedral dates back to the 19th century when the original church was built at this location. However, it was destroyed in the 1956 earthquake and subsequently rebuilt to its current form.
The exterior of the cathedral is entirely white, blending seamlessly with all the white houses and structures of Santorini. Situated in the heart of the pedestrian area, it’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in Fira.
The interior of the church is also adorned with colorful murals depicting stories from the Bible, a common feature in most Eastern Orthodox churches. It’s worth exploring the inside of the cathedral during your exploration of Fira. The cathedral is open to visitors year-round, and entrance is free.
Stroll around Fira Main Square
If you’re looking for a place to have lunch, check out Fira Main Square. This bustling city square is surrounded by various restaurants and cafes, offering a range of dining options.
Unlike Oia, where everything is commercialized and prices are high, Fira provides a variety of restaurants to fit different budgets. From budget-friendly quick bites to high-end restaurants serving seafood dishes, many are located around this square.
This might be one of the liveliest and vibrant places in the city, with street performers and artists congregating around the square, creating a social hub for people to gather and enjoy their time. If you’re looking for a great spot for lunch or dinner, be sure to check out Fira Main Square.
Shopping in Fira
While in Fira, take some time to explore some souvenir shops on Ipapantis Street, a pedestrian street lined with stores selling a variety of unique mementos.
From handcrafted trinkets and artifacts to paintings by local artists and statues of locals dressed in traditional attire, there are plenty of fantastic items to purchase. If you’re looking for souvenirs to bring back for your family, be sure to stroll around Ipapantis Street and explore the unique souvenir shops exclusive to Fira.
Hike to Imerovigli
For those seeking more active pursuits, consider hiking from Fira to Imerovigli, another beautiful cliffside town to the north.
Via the Caldera Path, you can walk approximately 30 minutes from Fira to Imerovigli. It shouldn’t be too challenging if you start earlier in the day to avoid the hottest hours. There’s little shade along the way, so make sure to apply sunscreen and carry water before embarking on the journey.
Once in Imerovigli, you can visit some of the most interesting sites, such as the Resurrection of the Lord Cathedral, providing an even better view of the Santorini coastline. Skaros Venetian Castle, a 13th-century fortress built by the Venetians on the cliff, or you can hike to the top of Skaros Rock for an even more incredible view of Santorini.
In summary, Imerovigli has plenty of breathtaking spots to explore. If you have half a day in Fira, make sure to head to this cliffside town and hike up to Skaros Rock.