Here’s my pick of the best things to do in Fira, Santorini…
Browsing for things to do in Fira, Santorini? You’ll be spoiled for choice.
Fira is the biggest town on the island and it’s all about blue domes, buzz, and beautiful caldera views. The caldera is everything everyone says it is and more, with an almost-sheer cliff face that drops down to the turquoise Aegean Sea below. At the top, the cliffs are studded with white buildings that were originally carved out of the rock itself. These days, Fira is lively, well-connected, and drop-dead gorgeous.
It may have some competition for being THE most beautiful area in Santorini, but I think it’s one of the best. Here’s my pick of the best things to do in Fira.
Things to do in Fira Santorini
The three bells of Fira
Want to soak up the sunset in Fira with an iconic backdrop? Then head to the three bells of Fira. This is where you can get the photograph of that characteristic blue dome and distinctive white bell structure that you’ll have seen on Pinterest a thousand times over.
The three bells of Fira is officially known as the catholic church of the Dormition. The church was originally built into the then solid cliff face but was later destroyed due to the cliffs receding. This church was built in 1757 and despite being heavily damaged in the Amorgos earthquake in 1956, it’s the same church that you see here today. Now onto those iconic sunset views…
What is it like at sunset? Well, it’s busy, as predicted. We went there twice. The first time was in the middle of the day. After wandering through the backstreets of Fira you arrive at a car park which is where you can get that elevated view.
The first time a bus of tourists had just pulled up five minutes before we arrived so you had to wait around a little bit to get the right angle. The second time we pounded the pavements to get there before sunset and arrived around 15 minutes before sunset. I was sweating. Why can everyone explore at a leisurely pace but I’m always in a huge rush?
Anyway, there were people everywhere. Perched on the ledge below. Taking selfies. Filming. It was kind of chaotic but I guess it’s to be expected at these iconic landmarks. The sunset was gorgeous and it felt really special to be able to see here in Fira.
A lovely lady offered to take a photograph of the two of us which was so kind. She barely spoke English but she kept gesturing to someone standing on the ledge below which was ruining the shot. However, we got the pic eventually and it turned out great.
Take the cable car
Getting the cable car in Fira is essential – and it’ll also save you a steep uphill walk.
The cable car goes down to the old port of Fira, also know as the Santorini old harbour. This is a nice area to explore and the good news is you can spend a very affordable six euros on the cable car which will whizz you back up the cliff face in minutes. Take note, this isn’t the case when you make the descent down the nearly 300 steps to Amoudi Bay in Oia.
At the old harbour there are a handful of cafes, bars, and restaurants. However, for me, it was being next to the water that was the best part. We sat on the steps and watched the waves lapping below for nearly half an hour and it was lovely. If you want to escape the crowds and have a bit of a breather I would definitely recommend the old port of Fira.
But… don’t go here when all the cruise ship passengers are arriving or departing. The old port is the route for cruise ship passengers to get to and from the ship. That means the cable car gets really busy middle to late afternoon. And mornings too, I imagine, but we only saw it in the afternoon.
When I say busy I mean crazy, ridiculously busy. There was a queue snaking all around the streets of Fira and it looked hellish. Considering there are only six cable cars and each one can only take up to six people it wasn’t going to move fast. Reason 1872 not to take a cruise, right?
Hike from Fira to Oia
If you have a spare 3-4 hours then I would highly recommend doing the 10km hike between Fira and Oia during your trip to Santorini. It comes with stunning views, even on a cloudy days.
I’d read about the hike between Fira and Oia in various blogs before we flew out to Santorini. I’d bookmarked it in my head but at that time I was still imagining myself lounging around on a sunlounger in the baking heat, while doing some exploring too.
However, that wasn’t to be. We did the hike on our second day when there was still hope that the weather was going to get warmer at some point. The thinking was that we could get all the activities out of the way and then have a day at the hotel pool. Hmmm.
The hike itself is great. Between Fira and Oia you’re basically walking on the edge of this huge yawning crater and have amazing views of the Aegean Sea below. It’s really quite spectacular and it’s also not that busy so you pretty much get them all to yourself.
There are also interesting things to see along the way, such as this church and a rock inscribed with the immortal wisdom ‘Save the camera and enjoy the view.’ Oh, and a sign for a mysterious taverna.
How to get from Oia to Fira
OK, so you’ve done the walk. But how do you get back to Fira?
You can catch the bus back to Fira from Oia. You’ll need cash for this but you don’t need to have the exact amount – we handed over a twenty euro note without any comment. The bus is usually pretty busy with tourists though so you might find yourself having to stand up for the journey. It takes around 25 minutes so get back, so I guess it’s tolerable.
Saying that, we heard one couple in Oia saying that they’d done the hike that day and were planning to walk the whole way back. Six hours of walking is too much for me, personally.
Finally, if I could recommend anything about the hike I would say don’t do Skaros Rock on the same day. The rock is located directly in front of Imerovigli so unless you’re only there for a day or two you can come back and do the hike down to the rock another time.
Explore the Cathedral of St John the Baptist
We passed this one night just after sunset and it was bathed in this gorgeous peachy light. It was literally lit up by the afterglow. I’m sure you could read something celestial into that.
Even for non-religious peeps like me, it intrigued me. The calmness and serenity of the space drew me in. I like going to churches when I’m aboard. They do feel like a slice of tranquillity and calm in comparison to madness of the outside and, wow, Santorini has its fair share of that. We made a mental note to return the next day.
The cathedral is located in the centre of Fira, in the catholic neighbourhood. It was built in 1823 but it was completely rebuilt after it was damaged by an earthquake in 1956. There are daily masses here (in Greek) as well as mass on Saturdays and Sundays. For religious folk, it’s a beautiful space to enjoy. For non-religious peeps, it’s a beautiful space to enjoy.
The inside is very impressive. The vaulted ceiling inside beautiful and had me craning my neck upwards to take in every angle as soon as I stepped through the door. There was also interesting artwork on the walls – one painting of a monk had more than a slight resemblance to Sean Connery. Either way, it made me giggle. Quietly.
Take a boat trip from Fira
I always like to do at least one excursion during a trip. Santorini tours and excursions are plentiful with a ton of different things to choose from, although they can be on the pricey side.
You can book a sunset catamaran cruise, complete with dinner and drinks. You can sign up to do horseriding on the Black Sandy Beach, which I would’ve loved to do if it didn’t cost 70 euros each. You can do wine tasting or even commission your own photoshoot with the Flying Dress Company, and get stunning pics of yourself looking like a celeb for the day.
Our excursion of choice was a little more low-key. And cheaper! We booked through Viator and signed up for the Caldera Half-Day Tour (Volcano, Hot Springs, and Thirassia). First, you’ll visit Nea Kameni, a volcanic island that you can see from the caldera. I got definite Mordor vibes here. There are huge yawning craters at the top, complete with bits that are still smoking.
And on your way up everything is black and barren. Orc territory for sure.
Next stop is the hot springs. I was a little bit apprehensive about this because of what I’d read beforehand.
The bad news is you have to jump off the boat and swim to the springs as the boat can’t get too close to them. That’s what I was a bit apprehensive of. The good news is that, actually, the sea wasn’t too cold. The last time I was in the sea was in Scotland which is always baltic, so that’s probably why.
Most people jumped straight off the boat. I was the last one in and gingerly climbed down the ladder and flopped in to avoid getting my hair wet.
The springs were brown because of the sulphur but luckily they weren’t overly stinky. They weren’t exactly hot – I would say about the temperature of a shower that isn’t quite hot enough – but it was just nice to be in the water. My partner even had the brainwave of bringing a plastic barrier for his phone so he could take pics. Everyone was super jealous although we did snap a pic of a French couple and WhatsApp it to them when we were back on the boat. If you do this, bring a phone!
After the springs the boat will continue to the island of Thirassia. You can also see it all the way from the caldera, where you can make out a white zigzagging path going up from the shore. If you want to visit the village of Manolas at the top you’ll have to climb the 270 steps to get there. More steps!
This was one of the cheapest tours I saw and was decent value for money. I’m not sure why it’s called a half-day tour because we were picked up at 9am and didn’t get back until about half-five. That’s another thing to mention, with this particular tour you can pay extra to get picked up and dropped off at your hotel. Perfect for non-drivers like me.
Drink cocktails on the caldera
After hours of wandering around the streets of Santorini and taking it all in from every conceivable angle you’ll definitely deserve a drink. While the days are all about rubbing shoulders with the crowds, climbing seemingly endless steps, and seeing ALL the sights, the evenings give way to a slightly more relaxed pace. At least they did for me. I was tired!
We did drinks on the caldera a handful of times. The best time of day is sunset. No sh*t, sherlock. But at this time you still get the heat of the day before it gets cooler at 8 or 9 o’clock. We headed to Iriana’s Café and managed to nab a great table in the corner to watch the sunset. We drank them too quickly though and then had to order a couple more.
I would also recommend Idol’s Restaurant and Bar for a delicious daytime cocktail. The twinkly spa music instantly relaxed me and the cocktail itself was like nectar. I also appreciated the array of petals.
And, finally, my favourite cocktail bar in Fira would probably be PK’s Cocktail Bar, which you’ll recognise instantly by its ornate carved doorway. Sip on cocktails with a view, complete with cosy blankets for when the wind chill gets a bit much.
Enjoy gelato in Fira
There are a ton of places selling ice cream in Fira. But which are the best ones? I did some careful research on Google to scout out the best places to eat gelato in Fira. Well, that’s one version. The other is that I’m really greedy and I just wanted to frequent as many places as possible. My verdict? There are definitely a few great spots to eat gelato in Fira.
I tried a dark lava one from Zotos, which was a pure black ice cream inspired by volcanic earth. Very Mordor once again, apart from the sprinkles. We also went to Chillbox one night, but I have to say my favourite ice cream spot in Fira is Solo. There were fewer flavours to choose from but the strawberry cheesecake variety hit the spot. It was perfection!
If you ever get tired of gelato (I know, as if) there’s a great crepe spot to check out, too. It’s called Crème de la Crepe. The banana, chocolate, and biscuit one I had was great!
Questions you may have about Fira, Santorini
Is Fira worth visiting?
If you’ve made it this far you probably already know my answer to this: 100% yes. Fira was my favourite town in Santorini. I don’t know if that’s just because it was the place we were closest to but I just loved the buzz and how many things there are to do. Seeing it all lit up and aglow once the sun had gone down was always cool too.
If crowds tend to give you a hernia or the idea of people walking past your private plunge pool 50,000 times a day makes you shudder (it does me) you can do what we did and stay in a hotel just outside of Fira. Then you get the best of what Fira has to offer but you can escape at the end of a busy day of exploring, relax, and breathe.
What’s the difference between Fira and Thira?
They are one and the same. Fira is sometimes called Thera or Thira.
What’s the best town to stay in Santorini?
It depends on what you’re looking for really – and your budget. However, I think the main thing to consider when you’re visiting Santorini is what you’re going to Santorini for?
It’s the caldera, right? It’s those beautiful drop-dead gorgeous views that people travel from all over the world to see. You can’t get those anywhere else. That’s why the best areas to stay in Santorini are Fira, Firostefani, Imerovigli and, of course, Oia.
There are other nice areas in Santorini though. The town of Kamari is a beach resort as is Akrotiri, which is close to the famous Red Beach in Santorini.
Is Oia or Fira prettier?
This is a tough one. They’re both famous for their blue-domed caldera views. In Fira you’ve got the Three Bells of Fira. In Oia, there’s the famous windmills or the Three Domes shot to capture, which is on pretty much every single piece of tourist paraphernalia ever made.
Oia maybe edges it in terms of prettiness. But you have to work for it. If you want to capture the classic three domes of Oia photograph you’ll have to stand in a sweaty queue for forty minutes with people shouting at the peeps in front to hurry the F up. You’ll also really notice the crowds – even the main pathway gets really narrow so it does feel cramped.
Fira, on the flip side, has a little more breathing room. It’s busy but the crowds are split over a bigger area. And it looks spectacular when it’s all lit up at night. Just saying.
Is it better to stay in Fira or Kamari?
This is an interesting question as these are the two towns I was deciding between when booking this trip. Kamari is a beach resort so if you love the beach then that might swing it for you. I do love the sea but my thinking was if: I’m travelling to Santorini then I really want to soak up what Santorini is all about. And that’s those whitewashed buildings all stacked up on the cliff.
I think this was the right decision, particularly for the time we were travelling (October). It was too cold to lie on a sun lounger most days so it would have been a waste of time. We would have been on a bus to Fira and the rest of the island most days. However, if you just want a bit of rest and relaxation then Kamari could be a great choice.
5 reasons I loved Fira
Its central location
If you come to Santorini you’re probably going to want to visit other towns on the island. Fira is located pretty centrally so it’s a great base for your trip. You can walk to Imerovigli from Fira in just over half an hour. Want to go to Oia? The bus to Oia from Fira takes around 25 minutes, so it’s another easy journey. If you want to go to Akrotiri then that’s about the same time – around a 25-minute trip and Kamari is 15 minutes from Fira, too.
The Fira sunsets
I read on one of the blogs about Santorini that Fira isn’t really known for its sunsets. It’s the sunsets in Oia that get most of the headlines, along with the lighthouse in Aktoriti and a few other handpicked locations around the island. However, I loved the sunsets in Fira. Every night as we walked into town we were blasted by this peachy orange light – and the times that we had cocktails and watched the sun go down were brilliant. Can’t beat it.
Great hikes on your doorstep
There are so many great walks on your doorstep when you stay in Fira. You can walk to the next town of Imerovigli and drink in even more of those gorgeous caldera views. Or, when you get there, take the steps down to Skaros Rock which protrudes out into the Aegean Sea. If you’re feeling really energetic you can do the hike I mentioned between Fira and Oia. There are plenty of ways to burn off energy in Santorini!
Excellent bars and restaurants
There is so much choice in Fira. Whatever your mood, there will be a place that fits the bill. If you’re feeling fancy, head to a bougie cocktail bar. Want a romantic dinner? There are hundreds of places to choose from. And there are other options, too. There’s great street food where you can enjoy delicious gyros or souvlaki for under ten euros. I recommend Luckys.
Whatever you’re looking for and whatever your budget, Fira has you covered.
Our hotel in Fira
We stayed at the El Greco Resort & Spa during our stay in Santorini. It was a little slice of heaven and a bit of a treat to myself as I’ve wanted to visit Santorini for years.
I know, I know, it wasn’t one of the hotels on the actual caldera. But having wandered around everywhere and seeing how public a lot of the suites and hotels were here I’m not sure it was for me. I saw one PDA in a plunge pool too many! It was nice to have our own space without feeling passers-by’s eyes on you the whole time. Just me?
El Greco had about a million pools (I think six) as well as lovely rooms and a great bar that did excellent cocktails. The staff were also lovely. It got the thumbs up from me!
How to spend a day in Fira
Head down to the old port of Fira for a wander, making sure you take the time to enjoy being close to the water. Need a breather? Stop at one of the cafes for an iced coffee.
Take the cable car back up to the centre and spend a couple of hours wandering through the winding streets and photographing the caldera from every imaginable angle.
Stretch your legs after lunch by wandering along to the (possibly even prettier) town of Imerovigli. If you’re feeling energetic, head down to the steps to Skaros Rock.
Spend an hour or so exploring some of the tourist shops. The Cave Shop (next to the Cathedral of St John the Baptist) piqued my interest and there were plenty of shops with art, ornaments, and clothes to have a nosy around.
As the sun begins to sink, head to the three bells of Fira and jostle with the crowds to capture a memento of the iconic blue domes and characteristic three bells.
Time for dinner. Head down to Fira Square to try some of the best budget-friendly street food in Santorini – maybe some gyros from Luckys? Follow it up with gelato from Solo.
After dark, head to one of the fancy cocktail bars facing out onto the caldera to blow the cash you didn’t spend on dinner. Sip on your drink while drinking in the stunning views.
That was my guide to the best things to do in Fira, Santorini. Enjoy!
Like this post? You might enjoy these blogs…
- The Fira to Oia hike: a complete guide
- Where to eat in Fira (including budget-friendly options!)
- Everything to do in Lindos on the Greek island of Rhodes
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