Aegina town's neoclassical buildings date from its brief stint as the first capital of newly independent Greece (1826-28). Most people's first impression of this harbor town, though, is of fishing boats and the small cargo vessels that ply back and forth to the mainland. Have a snack at one of the little restaurants in the fish market (follow your nose!) just off the harbor. This is where the men who catch your snacks of octopus and fried sprats come to eat their catches. The food is usually much better here than the food at the harborfront places catering to tourists.
If you take a horse-drawn carriage or wander the streets back from the port, you'll spot neoclassical buildings, including the Markelos Tower, home of the island cultural center, where there are sometimes exhibits. The Cathedral of Ayios Demetrios, with its square bell towers, is nearby. Carriage ride prices fluctuate wildly, but are usually between 15€ and 25€. In 1827, the first government of independent Greece held sessions both in the tower and at the cathedral. Fans of Nikos Kazantzakis may want to take a cab to Livadi, just north of town, to see the house where he lived when he wrote Zorba the Greek. North of the harbor, behind the town beach, and sometimes visible from boats entering the harbor, is the lone worn Doric column that marks the site of the Temple of Apollo (known locally as Kolona), open Tuesday through Sunday from 8:30am to 3pm. The view here is nice, the ruins very ruined. The small museum (tel. 22970/22-637) has finds from the site, notably pottery; it's open Tuesday through Sunday 8:30am to 3pm; combined admission is 3€.
The crumbling remains of the island’s longtime capital, Paleochora ★, sprawls across a hillside 5km (3 miles) east of Aegina Town. Abandoned in the early 19th-century when an end to piracy made it safe to settle along the coast again, the ghost town is, quite literally, inhabited by spirits of a sort. More than 30 Byzantine churches remain, and a dozen or so are still in use. Many of these are decorated with faded frescoes, with the best covering the walls of the church of Ayioi Anargyroi. The bus to the beach resort of Ayia Marina makes a stop in Paleochora. If you come here, allow several hours for the excursion.
Lovers of wildlife will want to visit the Wildlife Center and Hospital (www.ekpaz.gr) in Pachia Rachi. The center is open daily from 9:30am to 7pm and cares for injured and abandoned birds and animals. The Wildlife Center welcomes volunteers as well as visitors.
If you're here in August, you can take some of the 20 or so concerts given by the Aegina Music Festival (tel. 698/131-9332); offerings vary from classical to casual and take place by the Temple of Aphaia, in churches, and on beaches. If you show up in September, you can celebrate Aegina and Greece's most famous nut, the pistachio (fistiki), which has its own festival (www.aeginafistikifest.gr), usually held on a mid-September weekend.
Culture Calls: If you visit the islands of the Saronic Gulf in July and August, look for posters announcing exhibitions at local museums and galleries. There are often exhibits at the Citronne Gallery (tel. 22980-22-401; www.citronne.com), on Poros, and at the Koundouriotis Mansion (tel. 22980/52-210), on Hydra. In addition, many Athenian galleries close for parts of July and August, and some have shows on the islands. The Athens Center, 48 Archimidous (tel. 210/701-2268; www.athenscentre.gr), sometimes stages plays on Spetses and Hydra. The center offers a modern-Greek-language summer program on Spetses in June and July.
A Swim & a Snack
One of the island’s nicest seaside perches is Perdika, a leisure and fishing port 9km (5 1/2 miles) south of Aegina Town and easily reached via the island bus (see below). Aside from a lively waterfront, with a long line of fish tavernas, the town’s sandy beach, Klima, is maybe the island’s nicest. For an extra-special getaway, and a refreshing swim, take a boat from the pier in Perdika to Moni, a pine-clad island nature preserve; boats come and go about every hour and charge 5€ round-trip. This is also a good place to have a meal by the sea; Antonis (tel. 22970/61-443) is the best-known and priciest place, but there are lots of other appealing (and cheaper) places nearby. If you visit Aegina with children, you may want to head to Faros (also served by bus from Aegina town) to the Aegina Water Park (tel. 22970/22-540). There are pools, water slides, snack bars, and lots of overexcited children; on hot days, this is a popular destination for Athenian families.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.