Doors of Naxos Old Town

Last weekend we were on the Cycladic Island of Naxos and since November isn’t exactly prime tourist season many of the restaurants and tourist shops had shut down for the winter. We were able to wander at our leisure with virtually no other visitors in sight and we ate superb food in the places where the locals eat. We throughly enjoyed ourselves.

The first thing that most people see when they reach Naxos – particularly if travelling by ferry – is the iconic Portara, the gateway to Naxos. It is endlessly repeated in tourist paraphernalia – key chains, jewellery, printed on t-shirts and canvas bags, on paper bags the souvenirs come in, on postcards and jam jar labels, painted on pots, moulded in plaster of Paris for general knickknacks or in plastic resin for refrigerator magnets, to name just a few. This is the marble door to the cella (inner sanctum) of the 6th century BC Temple of Apollo. It sits on a hill on the offshore islet of Palatia, but is now connected to the town by a jetty, right by the ferry port.

The medieval Venetian fortified town – the Kastro – of Naxos was constructed in the 13th century and is located on top of the central hill on the mainland just opposite the Portara.

A view of the Kastro from the Portara.

The old town has three access gates. One of the gate doors, Trani Porta which translates as “Strong Gate”, still has a functional door. Its a bit battered, but full of history.

Left: looking out from inside the old town. Right: looking back into the old town at the door

Just by the Trani Porta there is one of the surviving towers – the Tower of Crispi (also known as the Glezos Tower) that now houses the Byzantine Museum. There were once twelve towers guarding the town.

Within the fortified circle of the hill is a labyrinth of narrow winding streets, staircases and covered walks and archways.

Below is a beautiful old house at the junction of two of these archways.

When we visit places like this, my reflex reaction is to start looking for interesting details of architecture – doors in particular. There is someting soul satisfying looking at old doors, particularly if the are in a semi-ruin state – channelling Pleasure of Ruins by Rose Macaulay. Here in Naxos Old Town there is a plethora of almost-ruined doors, many of them are still very colourful. Below is one lipstick red and one in blue. Both of them are beautifully decaying with flaky paint, rotting wood and set in crumbling walls. They make the most wonderful photographic subjects with contrasting textures.


Another blue door sits within a white washed wall. It displays the typical Cycladic island combination of white and blue.

The rotting door below, leading into an empty space, is ideal for displaying posters. Unfortunately for us, the musical performances and the showing of Casablanca were last month.

The eyes watch you from this bright door – a very funky alternative design. In contrast to a number of other doors, it is well kept.

If you fancy living in Naxos old town, there are doors (& houses) for sale. You, too, could paint eyes on your door.

Padlocks on doors are all over the place. This is one of my favourites – a medley of rust and scarred wood. It isn’t particularly an old padlock – Golddoor locks are produced by Hangzhou Lock Factory in China that was first established in 1958.

And, there was a fabulous fisherman’s door with hanging nets. The cats gather – with many more outside of the photo frame. They are not stupid as they know there might be fish somewhere around.

But, those fish might just be on bicycles…

From a poster advertising an art gallery in Naxos Old Town.

There were so many interesting doors in Naxos Old Town – more than shown here. In order to prevent door-overload, I’ll soon be presenting Naxos Doors of History that highlights doors with decorative stone surrounds and fabulous door knockers.

Check out Norm’s Thursday Doors for many more posts on fascinating buildings and their doors.

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10 comments

    • It is an amazing place, Norm. If you ever find yourself in Greece, this island is a place to visit. It has it all – history, culture, spectacular landscape, and traditional architecture. It is the largest of the Cycladic Islands in the Aegean.

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