It is situated on the Bay of Kavala, across from the island of Thasos and on the Egnatia motorway, a one-and-a-half-hour drive to Thessaloniki and a forty-minute drive to Drama and Xanthi.
In Antiquity the name of the city was Neapolis ('new city', like many Greek colonies). During the Middle Ages, it was renamed Christoupolis ('city of Christ').
The etymology of the modern name of the city is disputed. Some mention an ancient Greek village Skavala near the town. Other proposals include either from the Italian cavallo (= horse), or from the Hebrew Kabbalah due to the city's large Jewish population in the past. Its nickname is The cyan city (Η γαλάζια πόλη).
The city was founded in the late 7th century BC by settlers from Thassos. It was one of several Thassian colonies along the coastline, all founded in order to take advantage of rich gold and silver mines, especially those located in the nearby Pangaion mountain (which were eventually exploited by Phillip II of Macedonia).
Worship of Parthenos / the Virgin, a female deity of Greek–Ionian origin associated with Athena, is archaeologically attested in the Archaic period. At the end of the 6th century BC Neapolis claimed independence from Thassos and began issuing its own silver coins with the head of Gorgo (γοργὀνειο) on one side. A few decades later a large Ionic temple made from Thassian marble replaced the Archaic one. Parts of it can now be seen in the town's archaeological museum.
In 411 BC, during the Peloponnesian War, Neapolis was besieged by the allied armies of the Spartans and the Thassians but remained faithful to Athens. Two Athenian honorary decrees in 410 and 407 BC rewarded Neapolis for its loyalty.
Neapolis was a town of Macedonia, located 14 km (9 mi) from the harbour of Philippi. It was a member of the Athenian League; a pillar found in Athens mentions the contribution of Neapolis to the alliance.
The military Roman road Via Egnatia passed through the city and helped commerce to flourish. It became a Roman civitas in 168 BC, and was a base for Brutus and Cassius in 42 BC, before their defeat in the Battle of Philippi.
The Apostle Paul landed at Kavala on his first voyage to Europe.
In the 6th century, Byzantine emperor Justinian I fortified the city in an effort to protect it from barbarian raids. In later Byzantine times the city was called Christoupolis (Χριστούπολις, "city of Christ") and belonged to the theme of Macedonia. The first surviving mention of the new name is in a taktikon of the early 9th century. The city is also mentioned in the "Life of St. Gregory of Dekapolis". In the 8th and 9th centuries, Bulgarian attacks forced the Byzantines to reorganise the defence of the area, giving great care to Christoupolis with fortifications and a notable garrison. Bulgarians also ruled it briefly. In 926 the Byzantine general (strategos) Basil Klaudon reconstructed the town's fallen walls according to an inscription now in the archaeological museum. Thanks to its location, the city experienced an economic resurgence, securing contact between Constantinople and Thessaloniki.
During a Norman raid of Macedonia in 1185, the city was captured and burned. In 1302, the Catalans failed to capture the city. In order to prevent them from coming back, the Byzantine emperor Andronikos III Palaiologos built a new long defensive wall. In 1357 two Byzantine officers and brothers, Alexios and John, controlled the city and its territory. Excavations have revealed the ruins of an early Byzantine basilica under an Ottoman mosque in the Old Town. It was used until the late Byzantine era.
The Ottoman Turks first captured the city in 1387 and completely destroyed it in 1391, as a Mount Athos chronicle testifies. Kavala was part of the Ottoman Empire from 1387 to 1912. In the middle of the 16th century, Ibrahim Pasha, Grand Vizier of Suleiman the Magnificent, contributed to the town's prosperity and growth by the construction of an aqueduct. The Ottomans also extended the Byzantine fortress on the hill of Panagia. Both landmarks are among the most recognizable symbols of the city today.
Mehmet Ali, the founder of a dynasty that ruled Egypt, was born in Kavala in 1769. His house has been preserved as a museum.
Kavala was briefly occupied by the Bulgarians during the first Balkan War in 1912, but was finally captured by Greece in 1913 during a successful landing operation by the Greek Navy that was commanded by the famous admiral Pavlos Kountouriotis.
In August 1916 rests of the IV Army Corps, stationed at Kavala under Ioannis Hatzopoulos surrendered to the advancing Bulgarian Army. These events provoked a military revolt in Thessaloniki, which led to the establishment of the Provisional Government of National Defence, and eventually Greece's formal entry into the First World War.
After the Greco-Turkish War of 1919–1922, the city entered a new era of prosperity because of the labour offered by the thousands of refugees that moved to the area from Asia Minor. The development was both industrial and agricultural. Kavala became greatly involved in the processing and trading of tobacco. Many buildings related to the storage and processing of tobacco from that era are preserved in the city.
During World War II and after the fall of Athens, the Nazis awarded Kavala to their Bulgarian allies in 1941, causing the city to suffer once again, but it finally was liberated in 1944. Almost the entire Jewish community of the city was exterminated during the Occupation.
In the late 1950s Kavala expanded towards the sea by reclaiming land from the area west of the port.
In 1967, King Constantine II left Athens for Kavala in an unsuccessful attempt to launch a counter-coup against the military junta.
The municipality has an area of 351.35 square kilometres (135.66 square miles). The population of the new municipality is 70,501 (2011). The seat of the municipality is in Kavala
Kavala is built amphitheatrically, with most residents enjoying superb views of the coast and sea
The province of Kavala (Greek: Επαρχία Καβάλας) was one of the provinces of the Kavala Prefecture. Its territory corresponded with that of the current municipality Kavala, and part of the municipal unit Eleftheroupoli. It was abolished in 2006.
Traditionally the primary occupation of the population of Kavala was the fishing. The fishermen of the town were well known all over northern Greece.
After the industrialization of the country, Kavala became also a center in northern Greece of the tobacco industry. Today exists also the building of the "Municipal Tobacco Warehouse".
In the middle of the 20th century oil deposits were found outside the city and today exists an oil rig.
Kavala has a humid subtropical climate (Köppen climate classification Cfa) that borders on a semi-arid climate (Köppen climate classification "BSk" or "BSh" depending on the system used) with annual average precipitation of 460 mm (18.1 in). Snowfalls are sporadic, but happen more or less every year. The humidity is always very high
The absolute maximum temperature ever recorded was 38.0 °C (100 °F), while the absolute minimum ever recorded was −5.8 °C (22 °F).
Kavala hosts a wide array of cultural events, which mostly take place during the summer months. The top festival is the Festival of Philippi, which lasts from July to September and includes theatrical performances and music concerts. Since 1957, it has been the city's most important cultural event and one of the most important of Greece.
Cosmopolis is an International Festival held in the Old Town of Kavala that offers an acquaintance with cultures around the world through dancing and musical groups, traditional national cuisines, cinema, and exhibits at the kiosks of the participant countries. The first festival took place in 2000 and from 2002 until 2009 was organised annually. It was revived in 2016 with a participation of 250 artists and musicians from all over the world.
Giannis Papaioannou's Festival includes concerts and music seminars.
Ilios ke Petra (Sun and Stone)(July): a Festival held in "Akontisma" of Nea Karvali. The event is of folkloric character, with the participation of traditional dancing groups from all over the world.
Wood Water Wild Festival: Wood Water Wild is an outdoor activities festival, inspired by nature. It includes live bands & DJ sets, body&mind activities, a book fair, outdoor theatre, ecology, camping, and debates.
Kavala AirSea Show: An annual air show, which takes place during the last days of June
Besides, various cultural events are held in all municipalities of Kavala during the summer months.
Fish and sea food, as well as the products of the local livestock breeding and agricultural sectors are the prevailing elements of Kavala courses. In Kavala, the traditional local recipes have been influenced by the cuisine of the refugees from Pontos, Asia Minor and Kappadokia. Fresh fish and sea food, salted food, mackerel "gouna" (sun dried mackerel on the grill), sardine pantremeni, mussels with rice, herring saganaki, anchovies wrapped in grape leaves, Stuffed eggplant: these are some very renowned recipes in Kavala and the coastal settlements of the region. The grapes, wine and tsipouro produced in the area, as well as the kourabiedes (sugar-coated almond biscuits) from Nea Karvali are particularly famous.
European route E90 runs through the city and connects Kavala with the other cities. The Egnatia Motorway (A2) lies north of the city. One can enter the city from one of two Junctions; 'Kavala West' and 'Kavala East'.Kavala has regular connection with Interregional Bus Lines (KTEL) from and to Thessaloniki and Athens.
The Kavala International Airport "Alexander the Great" (27 km (17 mi) from Kavala) is connected with Athens by regularly scheduled flights and with many European cities by scheduled and charter flights.
Kavala is connected with all the islands of the Northern Aegean Sea with frequent itineraries of various ferry lines.
The city is connected with all of the large Greek cities such as Thessaloniki and Athens. All of the local villages are also connected via bus lines. The cost of tickets is very cheap. There is also a shuttle bus in Kavala with these lines : 1. Vironas – Kallithea 2. Dexameni 3. Cemetery 4. Kipoupoli – Technological Institute 5. Agios Loukas 6. Profitis Ilias 7. Stadium 8. Kalamitsa – Batis ( only in summer ) 9. Agios Konstantinos 10. Neapoli 11. Hospital – Perigiali
Christopolis was important enough in the Late Roman province of Macedonia Secunda to be a suffragan of its capital Philippi's Metropolitan Archbishopric, but the Catholic succession ended.
The diocese of Christopolis was nominally restored in 1933 as a Latin Catholic titular bishopric.
It is vacant, having had the following, far from consecutive, incumbents of the lowest (episcopal) rank, except the latest (archiepiscopal, intermediary rank):
Austria opened a post office in Kavala before 1864. Between 1893 and 1903, the French post office in the city issued its own postage stamps; at first stamps of France overprinted with "Cavalle" and a value in piasters, then in 1902 the French designs inscribed "CAVALLE".