In the north-western part of Greece lies Epirus’ capital, Ioannina, a charming town that barely makes it into the travel guides even though it has a lot to offer. From cosy little cafés to history-rich museums, here is proof that Ioannina makes for a great weekend away in the countryside.
Stroll around the historic centre
Touched by a plethora of cultures, Ioannina’s historic centre, which is strong with Christian, Muslim and Jewish influences, is one of the first things you should explore when you visit. Bars, mezedopoleia (small eateries where smaller portions of food are served) and coffee shops line the streets. After your walk, make sure to drop by Stoa Louli, a former inn turned into a commercial hub where the three cultures worked together. Today, it hosts an excellent restaurant where you can sample the best of local cuisine.
Stoa Louli, Eth. Anexartisias 78, Ioannina, Greece, +30 2651 071322
Visit the Municipal Ethnographic Museum
To better understand the unique history of the town, head to the Municipal Ethnographic Museum of Ioannina, housed in the 17th-century Aslan Pasha Mosque that lies within the Castle of Ioannina. The museum has a small collection of artefacts such as costumes, pottery, jewellery, photographs and documents from the former synagogue.
Municipal Ethnographic Museum, Noutsou 8, Ioannina, Greece, +30 2651 026356
Don’t forget the Archaeological Museum
The Archaeological Museum of Ioannina is a must-see. With a collection spanning from the early traces of human presence in Epirus to late Roman times, the museum also features exhibits of archaeological finds from the sanctuary of Dodoni, one of the greatest from ancient times. With a desire to present the region’s unique character and history, the museum is definitely a fascinating attraction.
Archaeological Museum, Plateia 25 Martiou 6, Ioannina, Greece, +30 26510 01051
Pop by the castle and the Fethiye Mosque
The castle and Fethiye Mosque are where the Byzantine and Ottoman heritage of the town is the strongest. Located in the historic centre, the Castle of Ioannina, built in 528 AD by Emperor Justinian, is the oldest Byzantine fortress in the country. With time, it became a major intellectual centre of the region, and the Ali Pasha even lived there during his time. The castle features the outer walls; the north-western citadel; the south-eastern citadel, also known as Its Kale and home to the Fethiye Mosque and the tomb of Ali Pasha; and the old town of Ioannina.
Ioannina Castle, Ioannina, Greece, +30 2651 026356
Discover the beauty of the lake
One of the main attractions of Ioannina is Lake Pamvotida, an ideal place for long strolls along its banks. The area is beautiful in the fall, but the city is definitely a year-round destination. You can even take a small boat to visit the islet within the lake, which is home to beautiful monasteries and a few restaurants where local delicacies, such as frog’s legs, are served. Legend has it that Ali Pasha, the Ottoman ruler over the region, ordered the drowning of a young girl named Frosini in the lake after she refused his sexual advances.
Discover the local wine tradition at Domaine Glinavos
Although Greek wines may not be renowned abroad, its wine tradition is definitely a good excuse to explore underrated locations. When in Ioannina, make sure to visit Domaine Glinavos, a winery established in 1978 by one of the first oenologists in Greece, Lefteris Glinavos. The winery grows local grapes, such as ‘Vlahiko’, ‘Bekari’ and the white ‘Debina’. Faithful to the local tradition, Domaine Glinavos produces sparkling and semi-sparkling wines from the Debina variety, as well as dry white wines and even tsipouro. If you love wine, this place is a must-visit.
Domaine Glinavos, Monastiri – Zitsa, Ioannina, Greece, +30 26580 22212
Lunch at Seirios
After a walk along the lake, stop by Seirios, a unique eatery with original dishes – think Greek recipes with a twist. Besides, Seirios has a lovely garden where you can relax and enjoy the sunny days.
Seirios, Evaggelidi 1, Ioannina, Greece, +30 2651 077070
Have drinks at The Butler
The Butler, a cosy little coffee shop and bar, is conveniently located in the heart of the town. You will surely enjoy the warm and welcoming vibe, as well as the coffee. The menu also includes light snack options, but the best time to visit is in the afternoon, which is when the baristas switch places with mixologists, allowing you to order delicious drinks and cocktails.
The Butler, Sakka 11, Ioannina, Greece, +30 2651 033923
Get cultural at Technohoros
Want to get a sense of Ioannina’s art scene? Then make your way to Technohoros Art Gallery. The venue is an important player in the region’s art landscape and actively hosts exhibitions and other cultural events, which cater to everyone.
Technohoros, Zigomalli 16, Ioannina, Greece, +30 2651 031775