Mytilene (Μυτιλήνη; also written Mitilini) is the main port and capital of the verdant Greek island of Lesvos. It is located on the southeastern shore of Lesvos, across from Dikili, Turkey.
View of the inner south harbour, looking west. The dome is the church of Agios Therapon.
Mytilene is one of the oldest cities in the world, probably inhabited since the 10th century BC. Ancient Mytilene was an islet, just to the east off the coast of Lesvos, where the medieval fortress/castle stands. It was separated from the larger island by the Channel of Euripus, which connected the present-day north harbour (also called the "old harbour") and the south harbour (also called the "new harbour"). This Channel was later filled, thereby joining the islet and the fortress/castle to the larger island. The south harbour is now the main harbour, protected by a long pier. It has an outer part containing the marina and commercial port on east side and the ferry port at the west side, and a small circular inner harbour whose horseshoe-shaped waterfront is ringed by the P. Kountouriotou street (Π. Κουντουριώτου).
During the cruising season, which typically runs from late Spring through early Fall, luxury cruise ships call on the port of Mytilene by anchoring outside the south harbour and launching tenders to ferry passengers to the inner harbor pier.
Panorama of the inner Harbor at Mytilini, from the pier.
Mytilene is not very large (about 30,000 inhabitants) and lies partly on a flat ground, although the western side of town is on a hill that rises to the ancient theatre. Thus, a good way to explore the center of town, especially its waterfront, is by walking.
- Mytilene Bus Service. The urban bus station is at Sappho Square, the northern "top" of the inner harbour horseshoe waterfront (Tel.: +30 22510 46436; Office Tel.: +30 22510 28534). The inter-city bus station is near Agias Irinis Park in the southwest corner of the inner harbour (22510 28873; El Venizelou).
- Taxis are cheap and the taxidrivers are obliged to use the taximeter. Taxis based in Mytilene are yellow. Taxis not based in Mytilene are grey-coloured. Taxis can be used for local transportation, transfers, and excursions.
- Rental Cars include Hertz (22510 37355; Pavlou Kountourioti 87), and Holiday Rent-a-Car (22510 43311; Arhipelagous 21).
Visitor information can be obtained from the municipal Tourist Information Office, Sappho Square (also known as Sapfous Square, at the north side – the middle section – of the inner harbour), ☎ +30 22510 44165. The Municipality of Mytilene also produces an e-guide of Mytilene. edit
New Archaeological museum Mytilene
- The "old" Archaeological Museum, is housed in a neoclassical mansion located at corner of 8th Novembriou and Argiri Eftalioti Streets (across the street from the Customs House). The museum's modern wing is at the corner of 8th Novembriou and Melinas Merkouri (one block north). The museum has impressive finds from Neolithic to Roman times, including mosaic floor from a roman villa, ceramic, somersaulting female figurines and gold jewellery. (The museum may be temporarily closed. Call 22510 22087) Open Tues-Sun 08:30–15:00; closed Mondays. General admission for both: adult/student €3/€2.
Mytilene medieval fortress, South West view
- Mytilene fortress (Gateluzzi castle), . 08:00-14:30 Tue-Sun. The Mytilene fortress stands on a small hill, the highest point on the peninsula, between the city’s northern and southern ports. It was the largest and strongest of its kind in the Eastern Mediterranean. Its foundation were laid during the time of Justianian on top of an even older fortification, which can still be seen in sections of the wall. It has been used and rebuilt by the Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, and Turks. The most important monuments to see in the fortress are: the central western tower, known as the Queen’s Tower, with a dedication plaque bearing Gateluzzi coat of arms (the eagle and the four Bs of the Palaeologi emperors of Byzantium); the Kulé Mosque; the Orta Kapu (Ottoman gate); a Gunpowder Storeroom; a Tekes (Islamic Monastery); an Ottoman Seminary; a Bathhouse; the Fountain; and the Cistern. A portion of the fortress is used now to host summer cultural events. General admission: adult/student €2/€1. edit
Agios Therapon (central dome behind gable), Mytilene
- Church of Agios Therapon. The central dome of this majestic church is one of Mytilene’s landmarks and can be seen as one approaches the south harbour. Built by the local architect Argyris Adalis, it was inaugurated in 1935. The exterior decoration is the work of another local painter and sculptor, Nikolaous Kesanlis. In the mornings you can visit the Religion Museum right opposite Agios Therapon. It has a very interesting display of icons (paintings used for religious purposes) although unfortunately there is minimal information about them. A particular characteristic of older churches in Lesvos, is that the hagiographies (religious wall paintings) have a distinct baroque style, which is quite different from the very austere byzantine style encountered in the rest of the country. The same baroque painting style can be seen at Agios Athanasios (1 Mitropoleos street), which is the oldest church in Mitilini. If you really liked Agios Therapon church, there are two churches in nearby villages which are very beautiful and similar in style both internally and externally. Taxiarches church is at the village of Kayani (Καγιάνι) about 4 km from Mitilini near the Teriade Museum. Next to it is a cafe with a nice view overlooking the sea. A similar distance but in the opposite direction from Mitilini is the Gennisi tis Theotokou church (Birth of Virgin Mary), in the small village of Panayouda (Παναγιούδα, it means small Virgin Mary in the local dialect). The seaside village is home to a number of cafeterias and fish taverns. edit
- The Yeni Mosque, meaning New Mosque, on Ermou Street. It was built in 1825, but like all mosques on the island stopped being used after the turkish population was expelled in 1923. In the 1970s the local council began to demolish it, resulting in the loss of its' roof. It is now owned by the Ministry of Culture; however due to staff shortages it is not open to the public, although it is possible to climb the external wall and get into the courtyard. Opposite the mosque (in the same enclosure) is the madrasah in a similarly derelict state. One street away from the mosque you will find "Carsi Hammam" (Simantiri and Lorentzou Mavili streets junction). Build in 1820-1820, it has been rest and (as of 2018) is used as a venue for cultural exhibitions.
- Statue of Liberty, Kastrelli - forward (southern) bastion of Mytilene Fortress (50 m east of the Archaological Museum). Bronze statue loosely based on the original in New York harbor, created in 1922 jointly by sculptor Grigorios Zevgolis and painter Giorgios Iakovides. edit
- The Valide Mosque ( at 14 Kornarou street) is the oldest surviving mosque in Mitilini, built in 1615. It has suffered structural damage from earthquakes, and one should be careful approaching it. Nearby on the seafront is St Nikolaos Church, which originally built as a mosque and known as "Vigla Mosque". Where Ermou street meets the seafront, there is the final extant mosque in Mitilini: the aptly named Yalı (waterside) Mosque built in 1805. The building is privately owned, and hence in good condition with an ottoman marble inscription, although it is missing its' minaret. It is used as a shop for agricultural equipment. The rude owner will let you look inside but there isn't anything to see and he will make snide comments, so if you really want to look inside you might have to buy some fertiliser.
- Stroll the main bazaar street, Ermou, which goes from south port to north port. Walk past the fish market on the southern end, with sardines, mullet, and octopus. Narrow side lanes are filled with antiques shops and old mansions.
- Just walk around and enjoy the architecture, combining many styles from different periods. There are even Byzantine and Ottoman archaeological remnants around the medieval castle and elsewhere.
- The New Archaeological Museum presents a fine collection of sculpture, pottery and mosaic panels; most of it is labeled in English as well as Greek.
- The church operates a small but well organized Byzantine museum across from the fine baroque church of Agios Therapon, a local saint.
Handmade ceramics, jewellery and traditional products are sold on and around the main shopping street, Ermou, which runs north-south, starting on the west side of the inner south harbour.
- Don't miss the Agora (center market place) at the end of Ermou (near the north harbour).
Several taverns can be found on the pedestrian-only pier at the far south side of the inner south harbour (as it were the continuation of Kountouriotou street lining the inner harbour, officially called Christouyennon 1944 street). Another row of taverns is found at the north harbour, lining the stretch of Navmachios Ellis boulevard between Ermou and Mikras Asias streets.
- Φανάρι (Fanari), (the second restaurant as you enter the pier), ☎ +30 22510 46417 ([email protected]), . A fish tavern offering traditional Greek cuisine in a relaxed atmosphere.
An excellent and inexpensive taverna near the North Harbour at the end of Ermou Street is Castro; George, the owner, is a talented magician as well as a pleasant host and speaks some English.
A cheap fast food outlet on the main harbour front is Goody's (the Greek equivalent of McDonald's but better).
Mytilene (Lesvos) is known for its ouzo, all over Greece and maybe even the world. There are many fine ouzeries and student-fuelled bars to enjoy in this lively student town.
- Ermis Ouzeri, towards the end of the street, Ermou 2, Mytilini