Complete guide to Florina, the "alpine" city of Greece with sublime nature

Sakoulevas river through Florina Macedonia city
© Shutterstock

Florina is a city in Greece adjacent to the mountains, located in the middle of nature. Florina is therefore an ideal logistical point both for skiing and for carrying out many excursions and activities in contact with nature.

When you think of Greece, your first thought goes to summer, the sea and the beaches. But Greece is much more! There are mountain stretches that make you feel like you are in the Alps and the Florina region is the perfect example of this.

That is why it is worth staying in the city of Florina!

Florina is characterized by a river that crosses the city and which is very suggestive, especially when the surrounding landscape is covered in snow and the river itself is frozen. The city became famous in Greece when the Greek director Theodoros Angelopoulos chose it as the setting of some of his films. One of those is the “Suspended Step of the Stork” where Marcello Mastroianni and Jeanne Moreau starred in. You can find a mural along the river of the town that pays tribute to the film making.

You can start the day walking along the river and then take a coffee break in one of the many characteristic bars close to the bank or, if you are a history lover, you can visit the Archaeological Museum which collects various periods of the history of the area. You will also be surprised by the style of some neoclassical houses with colorful facades! One of these hosts the Museum of Contemporary Art with more than 600 works by globally known artists.

Staying in Florina is worth the while because it is an ideal starting point for snow lovers, given that the best ski resorts in Greece are a short distance away, but also for nature lovers as there are places with breathtaking landscapes around.

Combining a couple of days in Florina during a tour of northern Greece can be a good choice as there are various options on how to have a good time in the area.

How to reach the center of Florina and where to sleep to live the Alpine experience

Florina is located in Western Macedonia nestled in the northern borders of Greece. It is the most important city in this mountainous area, which has nothing to do with the Greece we know from travel agency catalogues.

The city can be reached by car or private transfers. The closest airports are Kozani (although small) and Thessaloniki International Airport Makedonia which is about two and a half hours away. To break up the journey from Thessaloniki, I recommend a stop in Vergina to see the museum of the royal tombs. For those arriving in Greece by car from the port of Igoumenitsa, the distance to travel by car is approximately 3 hours north-east. The connecting highways are very good.

There is no shortage of hotels and apartments in the centre, but if you want to live the experience of a 5-star mountain resort, the choice is undoubtedly "The Lynx Mountain Resort": a resort located in a forest and from where you can enjoy the view of the whole city. We are talking about a real Alpine atmosphere complete with SPA, wooden furniture, fireplaces to warm the atmosphere, a great restaurant whose homemade dishes are created by a well-known chef and I can confirm that the fresh pasta was homemade! And to top up the experience, there is even a casino if you are a gambling enthusiast.

The area around Florina offers many possibilities for activities immersed in nature

The activities that the area offers vary and are also suitable for children, from birdwatching to archery. The adventure of truffle hunting is also very nice, complete with a dog and a skilled guide that help you search and at the end of the experience you can cook a truffle pasta in the middle of the forest!

I would like to highlight the points of greatest interest that you can visit in a day starting from the city of Florina:

• the VIGLA - PISODERI ski facilities located on Mount Verno: they reach an altitude of approximately 2,000 meters and include 9 ski slopes, 2 cross-country ski slopes and 1 sled run. There is a cozy chalet to enjoy a bit of relaxation with a hot chocolate. Just over an hour's drive away you will also find the Vora-Kaimakatsalan ski resorts.
• the PRESPA lake national park, which presents a unique nature with the presence of endangered birds, fish, bears and wolves! A boat tour of the lake is a must among the excursions that are on offer!
• Visit the bear sanctuary in Nymfeo and the Nymfeo stone village itself. Consider that it is the only brown bear sanctuary in Greece where the animals have found a safe habitat.

Horseback riding is also a typical activity in the area. For example, at the “Western Style Ranch” children can ride horses and feed hay to the animals. The team, very well prepared, works with groups for psychotherapeutic activities, interesting right?

Also, archery is available in the outdoors and it is suitable also for children. I tried my hand at the bow, it was such fun!

Florina, in addition to being famous for its red peppers, it has a rich mountain cuisine

Florina's cuisine is among the richest mountain cuisines in Greece in terms of quality of products used. Florina red peppers are the most famous product and known throughout the world for their sweet taste due to the particular characteristics of the soil and climatic conditions.

Here are some typical specialties of Florina's cuisine:

kebapia, or three types of meat (veal, pork and a bit of lamb) minced together and mixed with spices and herbs and barbequed, which is one of the most renowned dishes;
sweet roasted red peppers seasoned with balsamic vinegar and a little parsley flavored oil. We are talking about PDO peppers;
mountain products such as mushrooms and truffles;
Florinella: it is a yellow cheese made from a mix of goat's and sheep's milk;
Prespes beans, which are part of the Florina region, which are also considered a PDO product;
Makalo: fried meatballs immersed in a broth and flour sauce. You can only taste them in these parts.

A recommended tavern in the center of Florina to try all these specialties is "Aposperitis" where you will feel at home and the dishes served are of quality. If you are looking for a view of the city instead, then I recommend you go up to the "F.O.O.F" taverna, adjacent to hill paths that lead to the cross that overlooks the city from atop of a hill and a small church. Here you can also try spoon sweets with white pumpkin and walnuts which is an exclusive combination.

The wine region that makes Florina comparable to the “Langhe of Greece”

After a day spent in the mountains, a delicious dinner should be accompanied by quality wines. And you will not be disappointed! In fact, there are many truly excellent wines, so much so that the Florina region can be considered as the Langhe area of Piedmont, given that some local wines resemble Nebbiolo. The best-known variety is “Xinomavro”, a red and rosé wine, produced since the time of Alexander the Great. The name identifies how the grape is: acidic “xino” and black “mavro”.

If you want to do a little wine tasting from the region, you must absolutely stop by the Wine Bar “Αέροινο”, in the center of Florina. The wine tasting is accompanied and paired by the appropriate cheeses and jams, complete with an explanation of each glass by the friendly and professional Mr. Giannis, the owner.

Finally, there are many wineries around, among the largest and most famous in all of Greece, open to the public and where you can pay it a visit, as long as you book ahead. There are also specific tours that take you along the "wine routes".

Thanks to the Deputy Mayor of Tourism of Florina Mrs. Sophia Foudouli, the Mayor’s collaborator Mr. Kostas Papadimitriou and to the Municipality of Florina for helping me discover this part of Greece, who I met at the International Tourism Exhibition “Philoxenia” in Thessaloniki, where its stand stood out.


Locks and chains on a bridge

© Christian Zocca

a colourful mural with people

© Christian Zocca

View from the Lynx Mountain Resort, with a jacuzzi

© Christian Zocca

a little brown pony on a farm

© Christian Zocca

Snowbmobile surrounded by snow and mountains

© Christian Zocca

A table with different dishes of local food

© Christian Zocca