Presenting Fur Cities:

Kastoria – a hidden gem by the lake

It is said that the people of Greece have chosen the city of Kastoria as the most beautiful place in the country. The more you read and see, the more you’ll probably agree with this sentiment. If you ever have a chance to visit this gem of a city, here are a few tips on what to do and what to see.

Not all visitors stop to think about everything this small and picturesque town has to offer.

For many foreigners, Greece equals the sea, sandy beaches, local Greek delicacies, and holidays. With these things in mind, people travel to the south; Rodos, Kos, Santorini – you name it. People in the fur industry, on the other hand, often connect Greece with Kastoria and fur – the business, craftsmanship and the famous International Kastoria Fur Fair, organized in the area for more than 45 years.

However, not all visitors stop to think about everything this small and picturesque town has to offer, with its postcard landscapes that reflect on the surface of Orestiada Lake. You heard it right – on the surface of the lake, as the city is built on the lake’s peninsula.

A few facts

Kastoria is located in Northern Greece, in the region of Western Macedonia, and is the capital of the Kastoria regional unit. The town is located a 6-hour drive or 50-minutes flight from Athens airport. It is only 2 hours away by car from Thessaloniki, the country’s sub-capital, which also accommodates a modern and busy international airport with many international flight connections.

Kastoria is known for its architecture, fur clothing industry and Orestiada Lake. Tourism and the fur industry dominate the local economy. Despite its small size and population, Kastoria has its own university, the University of Western Macedonia, where you can study Economics, Communication and Digital Media, Mathematics and IT.

Exploring the area

The best way to explore the city is to take a tour around the lake, from the south to the north shore. Depending on your time and energy, you can walk, bike or drive. Alternatively, you can enjoy the idyllic beauty of the lake and the panoramic view of the city from a boat. Lake Orestiada is home to 200 different species and is an important part of the city life as well, as many cafés, restaurants and hotels make the most of the magnificent lake view.

A city of history

Kastoria is an important religious centre for the Orthodox Church of Greece, but you don’t need to be religious to be able to admire over 60 Byzantine and post-Byzantine churches in the area. If you are interested in art and architecture, you can walk around the old city on stone-paved alleys and admire old buildings and mansions from the Ottoman era. And why not visit the Byzantine Art Museum as well, where artefacts from the Byzantine period are showcased.

In the old-town area named Doltso, you can find many Byzantine churches and the 12th-century Mavriotissa Monastery. The Byzantine and Folklore museums are also worth a visit for those interested in Kastoria’s history. If you prefer to stay in the sun, the Dispilio outdoor museum has an actual representation of a prehistorical settlement by the lake, in which the oldest European written document was discovered. Another interesting museum is the Archeological Museum of Dioklitianoupolis in Argos Orestiko, only 10 minutes from the city centre and 5 kilometres from the exhibition centre.

What else to see?

If you make a tour around the lake, remember to stop by the Dragon’s Cave, where you can see seven underground lakes and rooms with astonishing stalactites. If you prefer heights to depths, you can visit Agios Athanasios, a beautiful viewpoint on the hilltop of the peninsula.

Kastoria is globally known as the international centre of the fur trade.

What to shop?

Kastoria is globally known as the international centre of the fur trade. It is said that the town was possibly named after one of the former staples of the trade – the European beaver (ka’storas* in Greek), now extinct in the area. You can still find many fur stores throughout the city and large fur manufactories with showrooms in the surrounding area. And these are not just any fur coats, but premium quality coats made with skilful craftsmanship, developed in the area for generations.

*(emphasis on the first syllable)

Where to eat?

Kastoria has several cafés and lovely places to eat, many of them situated by the lake. There is a variety of traditional local food restaurants as well as others with a more international menu.

A selection of memorable Greek cuisine restaurants:

  • To Steki tis Pareas, a reliable restaurant found at the city’s entrance.
  • Palia Poli, which means “Old Town”, is situated in the Doltso area.
  • Allotino, a restaurant on the banks of the lake.
  • En Kero and Borino, both situated by the lake and with a variety of small tapa-kind dishes.

More international menus can be found at:

  • Gaitanis Meat House, on top of the hill and with a lovely view of all the surrounding area.
  • Pasatempos, on the pedestrian stone-paved Ermou street in the city centre.
  • Ta Grada, on the north lake bank with a lovely outdoor area.

For fish dishes, Gaitanis is a notable option, and Paraskeuas serves freshwater fish from the lake.

A must in Northern Greece

While on the topic of fish, did you know that Kastoria is home to the largest freshwater aquarium of the Balkans? And when you’ve had your fill of marine life, Kastoria’s Fur Center (EDIKA) is worth a visit as well, especially if you’re attending the international fur fair.

Whether you’re in town for business or pleasure, Kastoria, with its rich history, breath-taking scenery, impressive craftsmanship and delicious cuisine, is simply a must-see.