Kos island is one of the gems of the Dodecanese. It is the third largest island in the group and one of the most beautiful. Its capital town, Kos Town, represents everything that Kos has to offer: Kos Town is cosmopolitan yet calm, traditional yet modern, and imbued with a history that has remained alive by the people living alongside the monuments of the past while working on their future.
Visiting Kos Town, you will get a taste of how it is to live in a town that has it all in the right amounts, with beauty, culture, and relaxation alongside fun, adventure, and new experiences. This guide will help you enjoy Kos Town to the fullest and make gorgeous memories with unforgettable experiences no matter what vacation you are looking for!
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- Where is Kos Town?
- Where to stay in Kos Town
- What to see and do in Kos Town
- Start from Eleftheria’s Square (Freedom Square), the Archeological Museum, and Defterdar Mosque
- Visit Neratzia Castle
- Walk along Kos’ Palm Tree Port
- Sit in the shade of the Plane Tree of Hippocrates.
- Explore the Old Town
- Explore the Ancient Agora
- Explore the Roman Odeon
- Visit the Casa Romana
- See the Altar of Dionysus
- Walk in the Ancient Gymnasium
- Enjoy the unique architecture of the Southern Promenade
- Get on a bike
- Check out the Asklipieio of Kos
- Beaches near Kos town
- Boat Trips from Kos Town
Where is Kos Town?
Kos Town is the main port of Kos island on the easternmost side. You can get there by plane or by ferry. If you opt to go by plane, you can all year round from Athens and several domestic airports. You can also fly into Kos directly from abroad during the summer season! The flight lasts roughly an hour from Athens. Get a taxi or a bus to take you from the airport to Kos Town, which is 24 km away.
If you opt to go by ferry, you will arrive at Kos Town’s port! The ferry trip from Athens (specifically Piraeus) lasts up to 11 hours, so make sure to book a cabin. You can also get a ferry to Kos from nearby islands, with Patmos being the closest (the trip lasts roughly 3 hours). Note that you can get to Kos by ferry from Bodrum, Turkey.
Where to stay in Kos Town
Alexandra Hotel & Apartments is only 200 meters walking distance from the harbor. It provides stunning island views and a buffet breakfast with local delicacies. You can also have a cocktail at the bar feeling the sea breeze.
Kos Aktis Art Hotel is 400 meters walking distance from the city center. The balconies are designed for viewing the Aegean Sea and serve a Greek breakfast with lots of different flavors for you to try.
What to see and do in Kos Town
Kos Town has always been an important city throughout history. Kos Town has featured prominently in the area’s history from the Mycenean Era to modern times. That is etched everywhere in the city, with characteristic landmarks that span the ages.
You will see ruins from antiquity, including the Hellenistic and Roman periods, from the middle ages, and modern times from the Genoese and Ottoman times, blending seamlessly into the unique character permeating Kos Town. There are a lot of things to see and do, but here are the musts:
Start from Eleftheria’s Square (Freedom Square), the Archeological Museum, and Defterdar Mosque
Kos Town’s gorgeous main square is an excellent place to start. Not only can you get your morning coffee real quick, get food to go, and quickly get to any bank you need, but you will find yourself at the perfect crossroads for your explorations. Eleftherias Square is the hub of Kos Town’s local action and the most touristy place.
It also has the Kos Town trademark of fusion of cultures and history: the Archeological Museum of Kos is housed in a beautiful neoclassical building of the 1930s, a memento from the time Kos was under Italian occupation. Within it, priceless artifacts from Kos Town’s entire antiquity are on display for you to enjoy.
On the other side of the square, the Defterdar Mosque, built in the 18th century during Kos’ Ottoman occupation period by the finance minister of the Ottoman Empire (that’s what the title “defterdar” means), is going to be your first encounter with Islamic architecture and art in Kos.
Beautiful archways and domes and an imposing minaret (despite the damage it sustained from an earthquake in 2017) make for a great start to your walk.
Visit Neratzia Castle
Neratzia Castle is the imposing complex you get to see when you first arrive in Kos Town. It was built in the 14th century by Crusaders as a fortification of the port and the city in general.
The massive archways and walls are one of Kos Town’s impressive landmarks, and the arched stone bridge that connects them to the town proper is a gorgeous place to walk or bike under.
Walk along Kos’ Palm Tree Port
Kos is renowned for its gorgeous port and promenades lined with towering palm trees. It is a hub of tourist action, with day trips and other tourist activities available to be booked at any time, many cafés and bars for refreshment, and a cluster of bric-a-brac shops in the street right behind it. Ensure you enjoy it early in the morning or late in the evening to protect yourself from the sun. And expect a lot of tourists crowding around, too!
Sit in the shade of the Plane Tree of Hippocrates.
Right where the port meets the walls of Neratzia Castle, you will find the huge plane tree that is said to have been the very one Hippocrates, the father of medicine, sat under while teaching his students. The legend isn’t quite true since the tree is estimated to be around 500 years old. Despite that, the atmosphere is there, and you can admire its splendor from a nice café right by it.
While you’re there if you’re feeling up to window shopping touristy items and things to take home with you, stroll down the picturesque and shaded Nafklirou street right by.
Explore the Old Town
The few paved streets- for pedestrians only- that comprise Kos’ Old Town are a delightful mix of Byzantine and Ottoman architecture blended with more modern buildings. The lush bougainvilleas offer splashes of color, and the shops have stylish displays that add to the elegant air.
Explore the Ancient Agora
The Ancient Agora of Kos Town is an extensive open-air museum. Many ruins are carefully excavated from many eras of the town’s antiquity. You will be walking along massive walls, intricate archways, impressive columns from a colonnade complex, remains of temples and shrines such as the one to Aphrodite and Hercules, and even an old Christian Basilica from the 5th century.
Don’t forget to look for the mosaic floors of specific rooms and areas in the Agora or the statue of Hippocrates.
The cherry on top is that the ruins of the Ancient Agora are decorated: several palm trees, flourishing bougainvilleas, and many other plants grow harmoniously among the ruins, adding splashes of color and some isles of shade.
If you opt to visit the Agora in the evening, you can then go for a drink on the nearby street known among the locals as the street of bars.
Explore the Roman Odeon
Behind the town’s central bus station, you will find several archaeological sites, one of which is the Roman Odeon. It was built in the 2nd century BC and features well-preserved marble and granite seats from where you can gaze at the lush, dark green, tall fir trees and other vibrant vegetation. The first nine rows are marble and were reserved for the time’s VIPs. The rest are granite, intended for the regular folk.
The Odeon is part of a complex, which means you can easily explore it and then wander off to find the next site.
Visit the Casa Romana
The Casa Romana literally means “Roman House” and is a gorgeous and very important archaeological site. It is a house built in the 3rd century AD in the Hellenistic and Roman styles that blended so well in Kos Town at that era.
Take your time to enjoy its beautiful architecture. The house has 36 rooms and three atriums to maximize lighting. There is a fountain in the middle of each atrium and floors decorated with depictions of the sea or mythology. There are also several frescoes, wall paintings, and mosaics to admire, though the originals are displayed in the Archaeological Museum.
See the Altar of Dionysus
There isn’t just an altar of Dionysus, but rather the ruins of a whole temple dedicated to the god of wine, vegetation, and exhilaration (or madness).
The temple was built in the 2nd century BC and is very close to the Casa Romana (but predates it). The altar is made of white and grey marble and is in excellent condition, even though the rest of the temple is in ruins.
Walk in the Ancient Gymnasium
The Ancient Gymnasium, also known as “Xisto,” was a massive structure in its heyday. It had 81 columns and a huge white roof.
Of that, only 17 columns are still standing today. Walk along the area and imagine it at its peak, when athletes would compete here covered in oils. They would scrape these oils off after the competition, and that’s why the Gymnasium is also called “Xisto” (which means “scraped”).
Enjoy the unique architecture of the Southern Promenade
The port’s southern promenade is quite scenic in that it features some unique architectural elements from the time of the island’s occupation by the Italians, from 1912 to 1943.
The most prominent of these buildings is the imposing Government House, with its whitewashed walls and unusual, castle-like layout and window decorations. There is also the iconic Albergo Gelsomino hotel. Along the promenade, there are many other hotels as well, as well as some cafés. You will also find the hug of Kos Town’s medical center.
You will come to the end of the promenade when you reach the marina with its assorted yachts.
Get on a bike
Kos Town is considered one of the most bikeable towns in the country. It would be a miss not to try enjoying the sides in it and nearby (like the Asklepion) while riding a bike.
Take advantage of the 13 km bicycle lane that passes right along the waterfront and through the town’s most scenic routes, or wander in the town’s various paved streets and pathways to make your own adventure.
There are many bike rentals that offer a wide variety of bikes, including tandem bikes, and will match you to an ideal one for you, depending on your skill, age, and tastes. You can also book a biking tour, which usually comes with a skilled tour guide and a selection of routes that will satisfy your tastes, from mountain bike routes to the volcano to laid-back routes around the town and nearby areas.
Check out the Asklipieio of Kos
The Asklipieio is an ancient medical center 4 kilometers from Kos Town. It was built in the 3rd century BC to honor the God of Health and Medicine. You can see the rooms that were part of this building, even though the earthquakes have changed the structure.
The first part of the building was a medical school with the shape of a Π (Greek letter for P). On the east side, there are Roman baths and in the second part of the building is the oldest structure, the ruins of an altar dating from the 4th century BC.
The third part is the remains of the Doric Temple of Asklipieio, dating back to the 2nd century BC. The location where the Asklipieio is is at the top of a hill, and you can see the town of Kos and its suburbs.
Check out: A Guide to the Asklepion of Kos.
Beaches near Kos town
Town Beach Kos or Zouroudi Beach is a few minutes’ walk from the city center. It has facilities such as sunbeds and umbrellas. It is a small but perfect choice if you don’t have time to go around the island.
Lambi Beach is 3 kilometers away from Kos town. The sandy coast extends to 1 kilometer. It has facilities such as sunbeds and umbrellas as well as various restaurants where you can have lunch.
Psalidi Beach is 3 kilometers away from Kos town. This beach consists of sand and pebbles; it also has water sports facilities. There are traditional taverns nearby, where you can try fresh fish and other traditional delicacies.
Boat Trips from Kos Town
While being in Kos for the holidays, why you don’t organize a boat trip? There are quite a few to choose from, depending on what you want to do and how much time you want to spend. Here are a few suggestions for you:
Full Day Boat Cruise to 3 Islands, the trip lasts approximately 8 hours. You will have the opportunity to explore 3 small islands near Kos and swim in crystal clear waters. You will visit Kalymnos, Plati Island, and Pserimos. The boat trip starts from Kos town.
Boat trip to Bodrum, Turkey. When visiting Kos, many visitors visit Bodrum in Turkey too, as by boat is only 30 minutes to cross. You can check the ferry schedules as there are a few ferry companies, and you can choose the time that suits you.
To travel to Bodrum, you will need your Id card or passport/visa. During your visit to Bodrum, you can experience a Turkish bath to relax. There is a big bazaar where you can find many exciting things to buy, and you can pay in euros too. Also, there are a lot of traditional coffee shops where you can taste Turkish coffee and then have lunch at a traditional Turkish restaurant.
Planning a trip to Kos? Check out my posts:
Things to do in Kos
Best Beaches in Kos
Day trips from Kos
A Day trip from Kos to Nisyros
A Day trip from Kos to Bodrum