Leave the city behind and take Kavetsou Street towards the Vostaneio Hospital. You’ll pass some superb neoclassical houses and castles that managed to survive the barbaric growth of the new city and stand bravely among the new characterless buildings. The aerial view of the city from Halika is a sight you’ll never forget.
You can also choose to turn left towards the airport and pass through Makry Yialo, which is considered one of the most scenic spots in town. You’ll notice a row of exquisitely designed neoclassical mansions.
The city’s new marina is just opposite them. In the distance you can see the fortress and a view of the port. The nighttime view from this spot is absolutely magical.
Take a walk on the pier. On your left is Makrys Yialos, which was converted into a marina. Go as far as the rocks to the left of the Yacht Club and from there to Florida. The majestic historical homes here and their glorious gardens that extend down to the sea date from the 18th century. You can see Monopetros rock in the distance, a view that has inspired many painters. Somewhere around here on his family estate, the Nobel laureate Odysseus Elytis banqueted with famous intellectuals and composed some of his inspired lines.
Select one of the well-preserved old mansions and immortalize it with your camera lens. If you take the main boulevard as far as Monopetros and turn at the quaint little chapel of Ai Yannis at Tzitzifies, you’ll come to a small sandy beach.
Sourada: The Most Elegant Part of Town
Walking away from the sea, you’ll come to Sourada, the most aristocratic neighborhood in Mytilene. Make sure the memory card in your digital camera is large enough to capture for posterity the famous mansions that stand as testimony to the eminence, wealth and refinement of the last century’s residents. These magnificent imposing houses with spacious gardens, perennial trees and marble staircases will take your breath away. A stroll through the narrow streets on either side of the main boulevard provides you with a different taste of life outside the center.
The fork at the incline in the road is known as Foros (taxation). It was here that the Ottoman Turks extracted taxes from passing travelers. The right fork takes you to the Akleidiou neighborhood, whereas if you continue on the main road you’ll reach Koumko with its marvelous view of the sea and opposite shores. Akleidiou is an ideal area for walking and cycling among the new villas, old mansions, spacious gardens and small castles. It has a beautiful church and some of the most beautiful castles on the island. The left fork takes you right through the superb mansions of Sourada. Particularly outstanding is the home of the Alepoudelis family, from which Odysseus Elytis is descended. It is a large neoclassical building in excellent condition, with enormous gardens front and back, perennial greenery, and an iron fence and gate with elegant railings. A bit farther on, on a narrow street to the left are some lovely period homes and architecturally distinguished modern ones. The last house on the cul-de-sac to the left was commandeered by the Germans during the occupation and used as Gestapo headquarters. Built on the rocks, it offers a view of the city with its fortress and a glimpse of the Turkish coast in the distance.
The Boulevard of the Tamarisk Trees (Almyrikia)
(Mytilene – Airport)
The road next leads to the open sea on the southeastern side. Going towards the airport, you have the boundless Aegean on your left. The country homes continue on the right, along with magnificent 18th century manor houses that make you think you’re somewhere on the French Riviera.
Taxiarches (Kayiani) – Agia Marina – Pligoni
Turn right at the crossroads a bit farther down. Follow the sign to Taxiarches (Kayiani) and Agia Marina. Here we suggest you take a walk through the settlements and enjoy a coffee or ouzo and meze in one of the tavernas that are considered among the best on the island. The inland road takes you to the picturesque village of Pligoni. These old villages have superb traditional houses, old castles, hilly streets, quaint cobbled kalderimia, and fantastic panoramas of the city, the harbor, the fortress and the shores of Turkey across the way. The Theophilos and Tériade Museums are located at Akrotiri, just before Kayiani.
Charamida, Agios Ermogenis, Loutra, Kountouroudia
If you continue past the airport you can take a dip at Charamida or in the scenic cove of Agios Ermoyenis with its small sandy beach. Stop for a bite to eat after your swim. From here the road leads to Loutra, a beautiful village with cobbled kalderimia and olive oil presses that are still in operation. Stop at one of the cafés here for a glass of ouzo. The locals will regale you about their crops and olive trees. Go down to Skala for some of the bay’s excellent fish and more.
Take a break at the well-organized shipyard with its many wooden slipways that have made history in the region. First thing in the morning, the caiques moor at the fishing pier to deliver their catch of the day to the merchants. The Zaira is a 1909 oil press that has been converted into a hotel. Some of its rooms have fireplaces; others look out on the sea or the cobbled courtyard.
From Kountouroudia, at one end of the Bay of Yera, there are boats to take you to the beach across the bay. The tavernas on the sea have a view of Perama across the way. Octopus hang from wires, drying in the sun, little boats rock gently in the cove, and the sun or moon reflects in the tranquil bay. Here you can enjoy the nostalgic atmosphere of the past any time of the day.
Return to the city on the Gaidaraniforo, which will reward you with its panoramic views.
Mytilene Step by Step
In street running parallel behind the port, you’ll find the Koulbara quarter with traditional houses dating from the Turkish occupation. The once Turkish neighborhood is full of various types of old houses with wooden balconies. It’s worth walking the entire uphill street that ends at the aristocratic Kioski neighborhood. Atop the hill is one of the largest fortifications in the Mediterranean. Take the little road through the pines and stroll among the ruins that exude the glory of past eras. From the ramparts you have a terrific view of the sea, the coastline of Turkey, the old harbor and the settlement.
Walk the city’s shopping district from end to end, along beautiful Ermou St., recently transformed into a pedestrian mall, and down the quaint alleyways. Pay special attention to the facades of the old buildings, few of which are taller than two stories.
The New Market on Ermou Street begins at the superb Municipal Gardens. Across the way you’ll see the Historical Gymnasium, built in 1888-1890. A stroll through the shops will surely satisfy your consumer cravings!
Forget window shopping and enter the fashionable clothing, jewelry and gift shops.
At the tip of the breakwater – the continuation of the Gardens – you’ll see the superb neoclassical Prefecture building, the old City Hall, and a bit farther down, the former Grand Bretagne Hotel with its steep roofs. This is now a fashionable café and restaurant. Admire the building across the way, the former Ottoman Bank, which now houses as a nightclub.
The Old Market
Going north on the continuation of Ermou Street, you’ll come to the Old Market with its antique shops and old-style emporiums of every sort. Your meanderings here will transport you to another era. Starting at the Columns at the back of Sappho Square, proceed along the narrow streets of the old city: the Ladadika, where the city’s large olive oil warehouses once stood, Koumidia, with its many little shops, and Bas Fanar, where in Ottoman times a large lighthouse illuminated the harbor. You’ll catch the scent of the picturesque Matthaios distillery, which has stood on this spot since 1882. If you walk the length of Ermou Street, you’ll see the architecturally distinguished Parthenagogeion (Girls’ Academy), the gift of the benefactor Vournazos in 1899. Note the impressive stone Doric capitals and pediments.
As you wander the narrow streets of the market, you’ll soon realize that the city’s heart beats here. The aroman of ouzo gently mixed with the sea air heightens your senses. Purchase some ouzo and all the delicacies that make the locals proud and head over to the Yeni Mosque (1825). The surrounding stores and antique shops will take some time to explore and surely tempt you to buy their wares: pottery, candlesticks, bells, wood carvings, tea from Mt. Olympos, as well as delicious rusks and cookies from the bakeries.
Continuing north, an alleyway on your left contains the 19th century Tsarsi Hamam. Both these elegant remnants of the Turkish occupation currently function as exhibition spaces.
Towards the end of Ermou Street at the turn off to the fortress is the beautiful mansion that once belonged to the Turkish governor Halim Bei and now houses the Municipal Library. And certainly take a break here for some ouzo and mezes, since many of the old and new eateries in this area are considered the hottest spots in town.
Ascending with the fortress on your left, you arrive in Kioski, one of the city’s most aristocratic neighborhoods.
Here, you’ll admire magnificent mansions and recently restored public buildings, such as the old Ottoman Administration Building, which now houses the Ministry of the Aegean, the old Ottoman Gymnasium, which is now the Courthouse, and farther down, the newly built Archeological Museum.
The Old Harbor
At the end of Ermou Street, head north to reach the Old Harbor of Mytilene. You’ll be fascinated by the shipyard, the excavations of the ancient agora, and the cozy little cafés.
To the left on the hill in the Agia Kyriaki district is the Ancient Theatre, which is open to visitors. It was discovered only in 1958 and is considered one of the largest, best acoustically designed theatres in antiquity. Nearby you can see the remains of the ancient city wall.
A Tour of the City’s Major Churches
Most of the churches in Lesvos were rededicated in the 18th and 19th centuries. And for this reason, very few traces of their original Byzantine decoration remain. The most important churches in the city of Mytilene are: Agios Athanasios, Agioi Theodoroi, Agios Therapon.
The Right Horseshoe of the Harbor
The city’s younger set prefers the right side of the port, whose trendy bars with island or cosmopolitan décor are filled with patrons all year round. Here, you’ll see couples and friends drinking freddos, frappés and macchiatios or playing backgammon, all to the beat of today’s hottest sounds. Sappho Square, the busiest spot in town, surges all year round with a colorful crowd.
The bars are renovated every year, changing their look, name and proprietor. Rock, mainstream, disco, indie, as well as the latest Greek hits alternate with the tastes of the times.
The Left Jetty
The most picturesque side of the harbor with restaurants and cafés right at the water’s edge is where the old caiques and fishing boats moor. From there you have a view of the entire city, with its fortress and breakwater spread before you. The Lighthouse has other cool spots that will draw you back time and again.