Heading to the world-famous island of Santorini? Well, then you’ll know doubt come across the town of Fira! Fira is the sprawling capital that is set perched high on the cliffs and where much of the action takes place. You’ll find epic views, amazing restaurants, and a fun nightlife scene waiting to be explored. Here are some of our favorite things to do in Fira Santorini and a few facts you might not know about this popular town in Greece!
12 Fun Facts About Fira Santorini
1. Fira is Part of a Volcano
You may notice Santorini’s unique shape from Fira and that’s for a reason! The island is actually a caldera that was created during a massive volcanic eruption over 3,000 years ago. It decimated the Minoan population of Santorini and all of the nearby islands.
Looking down from the cliffs of Fira town you can see 2 smaller volcanic islands sitting in the middle. Boat trips are run regularly here from the old port below Fira if you’re interested in seeing some geothermal activity.
The last eruption was in 1950 and there was a serious earthquake in 1956 that destroyed many buildings on the island.
2. Early History of Fira Santorini
Fira is such a modern spectacle and tourist destination that it’s sometimes easy to look past its incredible history. After one of the world’s largest volcanic eruptions in prehistoric times, the island went deserted for some centuries.
Around 13th Century BC, it would be inhabited by Phoenicians, followed by the Dorians who started the settlement of Ancient Thera. The first church was constructed somewhere during the 3-4th century when Christianity arrived on Santorini.
Yet, it wasn’t until the early 1200’s that the Venetians made the island a part of their Catholic empire in the Aegean. They would choose nearby Skaros as their capital and build a castle town on the famous rock.
From the late 16th century until 1821, the island was under Turkish rule. It was after this time that Santorini truly began to flourish with trade routes.
However, constant earthquakes would plague the old settlement of Skaros. This is what shifted the move to Fira and was the beginning of the large town you see today!
3. Nightlife in Fira Santorini
After all that history it is kind of wild to see what Fira has turned into today. And while nearby Mykonos may get all the shine, you should know there is plenty of exciting nightlife to experience in Santorini! Many fun bars line the cliffs of Fira and you can even get takeaway drinks to walk around with.
The best area to go out in Fira is near Theotokopoulos Main Square where you’ll find hip bars and clubs that are open late into the night. From the square, stroll down the small walking streets for more places to eat and drink.
4. Fira Santorini Shopping
Another fun thing to know about Fira town is that it’s the best place to go shopping on Santorini! Boutique shops line the streets and mix elegantly with the restaurants, bars, and viewpoints. The designer clothing and jewelry are definitely present but you can also find locally made goods and traditional Greek souvenirs.
5. Stunning Churches of Fira Santorini
Seeing the architecture is no doubt one of the best things to do in Fira, and all of Santorini. While the colorful homes built into the cliffside may grab your attention, also keep an eye out for the many historic churches around Fira town!
The Orthodox Metropolitan Church was built in 1827 and is one you can’t miss as it sits in the Fira central square. However, our favorite would have to be the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist! This is the first catholic church in Santorini and built in 1823.
6. You Can Hike from Fira Town to Oia
Did you know there’s a hike between Santorini’s two most beautiful villages? The incredible 10km hike starts from Fira town and goes around the caldera to Oia. This is such a fun and unique way to get to the island’s other most famous village.
7. Fira Was Not Always the Capital of Santorini
If you didn’t know, Fira is the bustling capital of Santorini island. Yet, many years ago it was the village in the mountains! Pyrgos is the highest town on Santorini and for good reason. In ancient times the Venetians wanted to be far away from the shores, clear of pirate and enemy attacks.
Today you can visit Pyrgos and the beautiful castle above the town. Not only is this one of the most traditional villages in Santorini, but you’ll have epic views of Fira, Oia, and beyond.
8. Fira or Thera?
For English-speaking visitors, the name of Fira Greece might be a little confusing. I know it was for us at first! Below we break it down in the simplest way possible.
- Fira: The capital and main town of Santorini.
- Thera: The Greek name for the entire island of Santorini.
9. Old Port & Cable Car to Fira Santorini
Also known as Skala, the old port of Santorini now serves a bigger purpose than the shipping trade from centuries ago. That’s because Santorini attracts millions of visitors each year and that includes an insane amount of cruise ships in the summer.
Since the port is so tiny the cruise ships can’t pull up, passengers are brought over on smaller transfer boats. From there, you can take the cable car up into Fira Santorini.
If you can believe it, in the peak months there are over 80,000 visitors a day! Many of these tourists come through the small old port to get up into Fira town.
10. Museum of Prehistoric Thera
Looking to learn more about Fira Greece and the island of Santorini? Well, one of the best things to do in Fira for history lovers is to go to the Thera museum. Here you can see exhibits that will blow your mind!
The artifacts date back to the Neolithic period and include items uncovered from the Akrotiri ruins. It’s really amazing to see how humans lived on Santorini before and after the big volcanic eruption.
This can also be a great activity to get out of the hot sun during the summer months. If you have time, we recommend checking out the Archaeological Museum of Fira and the MATI Art Gallery as well!
11. Firostefani and Imerovigli
Although Fira Santorini and Oia might get all the attention, don’t forget about these two other beautiful villages! Firostefani is located directly to the north of Fira town and often feels like they are one and the same. There are some cheaper accommodations even with sea views in this area facing away from the main caldera.
Imerovigli is a gorgeous village directly to the right of the capital. This area doesn’t have the restaurants and nightlife of Fira Santorini but carries its own charm and beauty. The iconic Skaros Rock sticks out from Imerovigli and is a great place to watch the sunset!
12. Better Sunset Than Oia??
While we’re on the topic of sunsets… Our last fun fact about Fira Santorini is something that is highly debatable! While most tourists head to magical Oia for sunset on the far end of the island, we’ve actually had a better experience in Fira. Why might you ask??
Well, the fact is Oia is small and often crowded… Especially in the peak summer months. When the cruise ships are in town during July and August good luck finding a pleasant spot to watch the sunset.
There’s no doubt that Oia is a truly special place. Yet to us, it’s just as nice sitting on the walls of Fira watching it set over the volcano!
Where to Stay in Fira & More of Santorini
Here are some hotel recommendations as well as inspiration for different areas of the island. As you can see, there is something for every type of traveler on Santorini!
Have any questions about this amazing destination or want to share your own favorite things to do in Fira Greece? Leave us a comment below!
Brigitte & Jake
Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar!
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Greece Travel Planning
For island hopping use FerriesinGreece to compare different routes, prices, and companies. The fast ferries like Sea Jets will cost more but often takes half the time of slower ferries like Blue Star!
Rental Car: You can book a rental car for as little as $20 a day in Greece! We use Discover Cars to explore the larger islands with a vehicle.
Tours: Go to Get Your Guide for hundreds of activities in Santorini. You can find everything from group sailing tours to private catamaran cruises. Go wine tastingaround the island, horseback riding down the beach, or even jump on an ATV tour!
Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without insurance. We’ve been using SafetyWingfor the last few years on the road and they are there when we need them.