A vibrant big city and picturesque castle town at the same time, the city of Ioannina, a commercial and administrative center of Epirus, is a fascinating puzzle with a history that goes back to the legends of Ali Pasha and Kyra-Frosini, but also with a vibe that pulls it all the way to the future with modern infrastructure and contemporary public buildings. Strolling the Byzantine castle on the peninsula of Lake Pamvotida, through the narrow streets and among long-standing houses, is a journey through time, while outside the walls the taverns, trendy restaurants and numerous tsipouradika make up a gastronomic landscape with exquisite nightlife of a vibrant student city.
The castle town
One of the few surviving in Greece, the lively castle town of Ioannina has its roots in the Medieval times, with its present form being mainly a work of the Ottoman period, with scattered marks from its Byzantine past. A stroll through its narrow streets will take you to the Ali Pasha Mosque, which today houses the Municipal Museum with magnificent collections of jewellery, local costumes and personal belongings of 1821 Revolution fighters, while at the other end of the old town is the Itch Kale citadel with the Byzantine museum, the imposing Fetih Mosque and the tomb of Ali Pasha with stunning views of the lake.
Lake and Islet of Pamvotida
One of the world’s few populated lake islands, the islet of Lake Pamvotida has become the backdrop for legends that resonate even today, most notable the one of kyra- Frosini. Let the locals narrate the stories, while you enjoy fish, crayfish, eels or frogs in one of the island’s waterfront tavernas, or come up with your own version by wandering along the lake bank and its whitewashed alleys leading to the islands beautiful monasteries (Agios Panteleimon, Agios Ioannis Prodromos, Agios Nikolas Ntilios) either on foot or by Municipal bikes. The boats depart from and to the island of Pamvotida every 10 minutes in summer and every half hour in winter.
A. Varelli Wax Museum
Ideal for young travellers, who want to get in touch with important chapters of the turbulent history of Epirus and Greece in general, the museum just outside Bizani, which is a replica of a traditional Epirus mansion, houses 150 life-size wax sculptures of emblematic figures and three distinctive scenes of modern Greek history: the pre-revolutionary years, the 1821 Revolution and the World War II.
Everyday or festive, simple or elaborate, savoury or sweet, but always based on the pure products of a region well known for its high quality dairy products and clean meat Epirus pies are a gift from the Sarakatsani and Vlachs nomadic tribes to the local culinary tradition. Vegetable pies, herb pies, meat pies, cheese pies, dough pies and pasta pies are only a few of the choices one can find in Ioannina’s taverns, and if they all have one thing in common, this is that no one can have only one piece.
The tradition of Ioannina pastry has a history and breadth, with spoon sweets, pickles and jams being a chapter just as important as the variety of syrup-soaked sweets one can taste in Ioannina. The coup de grace of the city, however, is the famous Baklava, wrapped in bite size; with mouth-watering combination of crunchy phyllo, thick syrup and roasted walnut.
Frog legs and Eels
Gourmet delicacies identified with the city of Ioannina, the frog legs and eels that set the menu of the taverns on the waterfront of the island of Pamvotida, are treats that every visitor of the city must taste – for the less brave palates however, crayfish and fish are an equally attractive option.
Useful phone numbers
Tourist Police: 2651065922
Radio Taxi: 265104677-9
General Hospital: 2651366111