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.
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 docking outside the south harbour and launching tenders to ferry passengers to 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.
- The "old" Archaeological Museum, located at Argiri Eftalioti street 7, one block north of the pier, has impressive finds from Neolithic to Roman times, including ceramic, somersaulting female figurines and gold jewellery. (The museum may be temporarily closed. Call 22510 22087) Open 08:30–15:30, closed Mondays. General admission: adult/student €3/€2.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 just west of the inner harbour.
- Don't miss the Agora (center market place).
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 Macdonald'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.