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Kavala is a town in northern Greece and is the principal Mediterranean seaport of eastern Macedonia. Situated on the Bay of Kavala, close to the island of Thasos, it is about a one-and-a-half-hour drive from Thessaloniki.

The city is steeped in Mediterranean history and built in the style of an amphitheatre. The architecture allows both residents and tourists to enjoy superb sea views from almost any part of the town.

How the city was named

In ancient times, the name of Kavala was Neapolis, meaning ‘New City’. During the Middle Ages, it became Christoupolis (‘City of Christ’).

Etymologists often dispute the origin of the name Kavala. Some attribute it to an ancient Greek village called Skavala which was near to the town. Other suggestions include that the name came from the Italian word “Cavallo” meaning horse. Additionally, the name may have come from the Hebrew religion “Kabbalah” because there was once a large Jewish population living in the city.


Early history

The people of Thassos founded the city in the late 7th-century BC. Thassian colonies emerged along the Mediterranean coast. The rich gold and silver mines attracted early settlers, especially those located close to the Pangaion mountain area.

A century later, Neapolis claimed independence from Thassos and began issuing money in the form of silver, depicting the head of Gorgo on one side of the coin. During this era, the Thassians built a marble temple. Pieces of marble from the temple are displayed in Kavala’s archaeological museum.

Spartans, Romans and the Byzantine era

Spartans laid siege to the city in 411 BC, during the Peloponnesian War. However, the city managed to remain faithful to Athens. The government awarded Neopolis (modern Kavala) two honorary decrees for its loyalty.

The Romans built a major road, Via Egnatia which passed through the city. Commerce began to flourish, and the town became a Roman military base. Brutus and Cassius stationed their armies here in 42 BC, before experiencing defeat in the Battle of Philippi.

Paul the Apostle landed at Kavala on his first voyage to the Mediterranean. The location of the city enabled close contact between Constantinople and Thessaloniki during the Byzantine era. Excavators have discovered the ruins of an early Byzantine basilica buried under an Ottoman mosque in the Mediterranean Old Town.

Modern Kavala

During the warm Mediterranean summer, Kavala hosts a wide array of cultural events. For example, the Festival of Philippi lasts from July to September and includes theatrical performances and music concerts. The festival started in 1957 and is one of the most important cultural events in Greece.

“Alexander the Great” is Kavala International Airport and is 27 km from the city centre. Plentiful scheduled flights to Athens and many European cities allow for easy connections to the area.

The busy Mediterranean port of Kavala connects the city with all the islands of the North Aegean Sea. Frequent ferries offer services for both passengers and cars.

See also Split, Frejus and Pula