- Monemvasia is a picturesque medieval village with ancient castle walls, offering stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea and rich historical significance.
- The town has a colorful history dating back to prehistoric times, including Minoan and Roman influences, and has been a hub for trade and commerce.
- Monemvasia has been revitalized as a tourist destination, with boutique stores, luxury hotels, and a quaint, vehicle-less village to explore.
- Visitors can enjoy historical sites, beautiful beaches, and a variety of dining options, making it an ideal destination for couples, families, and history enthusiasts.
A sleepy medieval village hugged by millennia-old castle walls, sky-high views of the Myrtoan Sea, and enough history to shake your ancient stick at, Monemvasia will enter and inspire you as your next Greek destination.
The winding streets are encased inside fortress walls that gaze over the cliffs, offering some of the most beautiful panoramic views of the Mediterranean Sea.
It's no surprise to us why this modest little Medieval castle town has become a hot spot for romantic getaways and a haven away from the fast pace of the city.
Home to famous Greek poet Giannis Ritsos, Monemvasia exudes romance.
But whilst wandering around Movemvasia’s charming sun-kissed alleys, it's easy to forget the millennia of history this town has been home to.
So let’s go on a brief history trip and learn about Monemvasia, Greece's oldest continuously inhabited "island"!
Monemvasia 101: A Tale of Ancient Civilisations
Monemvasia could be described as having a pretty colorful history.
The original settlement has been inhabited since prehistoric times, and this location has witnessed some of the biggest turning points in ancient and modern-day Greece.
Originally thought to house a Minoan (3500 - 1100 BC) trading post and referred to as Akra Minoa (meaning Minoan stomping ground), Monemvasia has been a long-established hub for commerce and trade with neighboring countries.
What's more, there is even speculation of an ancient Minoan port, with traces of it supposedly being found underwater (Atlantis vibes, anyone?).
One thing we’re not sure about, though, is if, during this time, the supposed ‘Minoan fortress’ was actually occupied with people going about their daily business, which is more than we can say for their successors, the Romans!
As the Roman empire grew towards Constantinople, they stumbled across Monemvasia, and just like the Minoans, they took advantage of its convenient isolated location and established their own trading center that grew to be one of the more important cities on the ‘Malea peninsula’ (the stretch of land/water in the south-east coast of Peloponnese).
Due to its highly-favored sea routes, Monemvasia became a thriving port city, seeing huge commercial success trading with other wealthy islands like Sicily.
They even discovered a bronze Sicilian coin in the lower town not too long ago! Not sure you could buy anything with it nowadays, though sigh.
And if you’re wondering how their infamous castle-style walls came to be, they were entirely carved out by the locals during the medieval times when the town's geographical location was used as a defensive advantage, creating a fortress that sat up in the sky, impenetrable for centuries.
Yet, the ‘Monemvasia,’ we call today, was founded two centuries later, in the 6th century, after an influx of Ancient Spartans sought refuge as their own town was under siege.
This somewhat revitalized the city and has since been a revolving door for passing civilizations, including the Byzantines, Venetians, Ottomans, and, last but not least, the Greeks.
Monemvasia Today; the New Town
The town's high fortress walls now serve as a spectacle of times gone by and offer incredible views of the azure-blue sea, ancient landscapes, and towering Monemvasia castle.
The town is also noted for its peculiar point of entry, as its only entrance is via a narrow strip of sand that connects Monemvasia to the mainland, its prominent Byzantine elements, and its aristocratic mansions with flowering courtyards.
As the increase of visitors revitalized the town, abandoned medieval buildings and homes were sold and converted into charming cafes, boutique stores, luxury accommodations, and B&Bs that offered an experience of the local life.
Of course, all of that was done under strict regulations to protect the original designs of the historic buildings and not to lose the magic of the town's aesthetic.
You can soak up the antiquity by simply wandering around the quaint, vehicle-less village, where you’ll find Venetian mansions neighboring old Ottoman homes, and hike up to the Byzantine church sat high up on the hill.
With its new lease of life and the advantage of social media exposure (who wouldn’t wanna post this amazing Medieval town all over their Instagram?!)
Monemvasia has become a modern town and a go-to destination for couples wanting alone time, families escaping the city, and those passionate about Greek history.
What to Do in Monemvasia?
When planning your trip to Greece and Monemvasia in specific, you’ll be surprised by the huge range of historical places to visit, fun things to do, and delicious food to eat, but to get you started, here is a helpful list of things we love to do in Monemvasia.
Agia Sofia Church
A church that perfectly depicts the ever-changing history of Monemvasia, Agia Sofia is a half-Byzantine, half-Venetian church that sits at the edge of the cliff, pensively peering over into the waters of the Mediterranean.
One of the more famed attractions of the town, it requires a good pair of shoes to get you up there as it’s a bit of a hike, but once you arrive, you can take in the incredible scenery that this church with the magnificent octagonal dome has to offer.
Christos Alkomenos Church (Church of Christ in Chains)
Don’t be put off by the slightly intimidating name of this church; it’s actually rather lovely!
Monemvasia was once home to over 40 churches, yet many of them were destroyed during the Ottoman occupation, so the remaining magnificent Byzantine churches hold a special significance to the Greeks.
Located in the center of the town, you can access this church via a set of winding streets that bring you to this ancient landmark.
Better yet, as it's local, you can pop it on your itinerary for any of the days you’re there.
Our Lady of Hrisafittisa
Originally built to dedicate the icon of the Virgin from Crysapha of Lakedaimon that was found in a nearby well, this octagonal church was constructed by the Ottomans during their first period.
Later utilized as a parish church by the Venetians, this church is really a site to behold.
Getting to the church requires walking a long set of stairs leading you up the cliff and eventually to the church.
It can be quite a walk, so make sure you have water and sunscreen (especially in the summer months), but we promise you it’s not something you want to miss out on.
It wouldn’t be a true Greek article if we didn’t mention a Greek beach or two. Monemvasia doesn’t have a ‘local’ beach as such, but you can easily access the Monemvasia Paralia on foot.
It’s a rather large beach with perfectly warm waters for you to swim in.
Monemvasia’s very southern location also grants you overall warmer waters throughout the year, so spring and autumn are great times to take a dip!
Archaeological Site of Epidauros Limira
If you’re a bit of a history buff, then the impressive site of Epidauros Limira is more than enough to get your creative juices flowing.
A little climb up the hill and the span of these ancient ruins will blow you away.
You can admire the craftsmanship of the ancient masonry of the site, with the ‘blueprint’ of the settlement still completely visible.
Close your eyes and imagine yourself amongst the Greek ancestors who once occupied this lively village.
Anastasia Livieratou Handcrafted jewelry
If you have a penchant for pretty things, this dainty little shop is the perfect place.
The store is adorned with hand-crafted, delicate pieces inspired by the beauty and antiquity of Monemvasia’s ancient castle doors, Hellenic history, and influential Byzantine design.
With pieces that are reminiscent of royal times, this charming little store will whisk you away with its bright statement colors and completely unique designs.
Cool fact: you can also visit the workshop and see the founder of the store, Elios Livieratos, an original workshop that has now been converted into a museum.
If this list has only whet your appetite and you’re wanting to check out more things to do, then check out:
- Archaeological Museum of Monemvasia (housed in a former Muslim mosque and with a striking archaeological collection on display)
- To Kelari (a great little shop that sells some unique Greek items)
- Edodimopolio Honey Shop (also sells local wines and olive oils)
- City Cruises/Tours
- Sea Kayaking
Where to Stay?
Locating the perfect place to stay can sometimes be a bit daunting.
Wanting open views of the Mediterranean Sea, a convenient central location, easy access to amenities, and a home that suits your tastes may appear out of reach, but this comes as a standard in Monemvasia!
From traditional self-service homes to luxury 5* hotels with suites boasting Turkish baths, take your pick from some of the best accommodations that Monemvasia has to offer.
Located in the heart of Monemvasia with views of the Aegean Sea, Kyma Mansion is the perfect hideaway spot for families or groups of friends to visit.
Boasting traditional architecture and a modern interior, you can soak up the sun on the sea-view terrace, relax in the bright, airy living room, and wander the medieval streets that sit on your doorstep.
Another feature is that it's super central! So the whole fortress town is at your disposal whenever you wish to do something, so you can avoid long bus journeys or taxis to or from your accommodation.
You can find Kyklamino Castlehouse in the ancient quarters of the upper town. The home's traditional stone architecture hosts two large bedrooms, perfect for families, friends, or wandering travelers.
Its high location means you can spend countless evenings watching the sun set beneath the blue horizon, all whilst being a stone's throw away from the town center.
Kinsterna Hotel & Spa
If you’re looking to live a luxurious life whilst in Monemvasia, then look no further than the 5*
Kinsterna Hotel & Spa. Brimming with high-standard goodies such as two large pools, a wellness center, sprawling countryside views, and impeccable service, this is the perfect location for you to relax, restore, and be at home with nature.
Fun fact: You even have the option to join some of their super interesting cultural activities, such as making country bread, attending a beekeeping workshop, and candle making!
Toted as one of the best honeymoon locations in the area, Likinia Hotel is a lavish destination for newlywed couples looking to whisk themselves away and soak up the traditional Monemvasian lifestyle.
Tucked inside the castle walls but away from the busy streets, Likinia Hotel is a little haven away from the world.
The building pays homage to the town's traditional architecture, and you can enjoy the hazy sunsets and illuminating moonrises on one of the hotel's many terraces.
Monemvasia Village is a hotel complex that perfectly accommodates families and groups of friends.
Made up of attractive bungalows full to the brim with everything you need to feel at home, you can spend your days exploring the once-ancient Minoan port and be back in time to enjoy the warm evening breeze on your private veranda.
One feature we particularly love about Monemvasia village is the wild botanical greenery surrounding it, flaunting tropical palm trees, bright aromatic flowers, and Greece’s world-famous olive trees.
If you want to scope out other places to stay in Monemvasia, then take a look at:
- Moni Emvasis Luxury Suites
- Byzantino Boutique Hotel
- Theophano Art Hotel
- Pablito House
- House in the Castle
Where to Eat in Monemvasia, Greece?
Whilst visiting the country famed for its Greek food and wine, you won’t be short of options when it comes to great places to eat.
From more up-market restaurants to traditional, timely eateries, you’ll not only remember the views of Monemvasia but the tastes, too.
This family-owned taverna is renowned for its great food, great service, and even greater views.
After a 20-minute drive through the winding roads of Monemvasia, you’ll be awestruck at one of the most breathtaking backdrops in the area.
Noted for its modest, no-fuss menu, you can try local, handmade dishes that will leave you and your taste buds very happy.
It’s worth mentioning that unless you have a vehicle or are taking a taxi to this sky-high restaurant, it will prove quite challenging to access it.
The road there is a rather windy country road that we’re not too sure you’d enjoy walking up!
Melitzanakia pays homage to everything ‘local.’
Cooking with their own homegrown vegetables, serving local wines, and an open restaurant overlooking the surrounding greenery, this exceptional family-run taverna has nothing short of an outstanding reputation.
From what we’ve heard, you must try their homemade pies filled with local cheese and freshly picked ‘chorta’ (greek for wild leafy greens) - it’s a must-have whilst you’re there, so don’t miss out!
Mateo’s is the real deal when it comes to your typical Greek taverna.
Perched at the seafront next to the port, you can spend hours gazing at the gentle rocking of the boats beside you and tuck-in into some of Greece’s most famous dishes like fried octopus, greek salads, and our personal favorite, saganaki cheese (a typical fried cheese with a big squeeze of lemon on top).
Mateo’s isn’t anything too fancy; instead, it provides a homely, warm atmosphere with Greek dishes known and loved all over the world.
Located a bit closer to home, Oinomelo Castle is an enchanting little restaurant that sits within the castle walls of Monemvasia.
Their black and white chequerboard flooring, traditional yet modern menu, and open roof terrace will set the perfect scene to spend some quality time with your loved ones.
Sitting inside is a delight as you can enjoy your meal while admiring the century-old stone arches within the building.
Aura Fish Tavern
If you ask a Greek, it isn’t a summer day well-spent if it doesn’t end at the fish tavern!
If you head down to Aura Fish Tavern, you’ll be spoiled for choice when deciding on their freshly caught fish, homemade ‘mezedes’ (little plates meant for sharing with friends), and local Greek wines.
A little tip also is that this tavern is tucked away in a little port not far from the main square of Monemvasia, so you can make the most of its tranquil atmosphere, refreshing sea breeze, and postcard-like scenery.
Enetiko cafe & cocktails
If you find yourselves a little bit peckish or heading out for a few cocktails and a great view, Enetiko is where it's at.
Offering a great cocktail menu with all the classics (and a few Greek variations), some delicious small plates to share, and some very indulgent cakes to devour (with a coffee, of course!), this spot is perfect for those who want to enjoy the most delicious things in life.
How to Get to Monemvasia
If you’re already considering booking your next vacation in Monemvasia but are unsure how to get there, here are a few pointers when planning your trip.
Whether you’re adding Monemvasia to your road trip or looking to rent a car in Greece, Monemvasia is easily accessible for anyone with a vehicle.
It’s a pretty popular tourist destination, so you don’t have to worry about the town not being well sign-posted; it’s actually pretty easy to get there.
There is no direct bus route from either Athens or Patras (the capital of the Peloponnese) to Monemvasia, but you can take the bus from Athens to Sparta, then change and take another bus from Sparta to Monemvasia.
You can check the times via Greece’s national bus company to see the times and routes to help plan your trip in advance.
Monemvasia doesn’t have a nearby airport that you can fly to and grab a taxi from, and if you’re traveling from overseas you’ll most likely be arriving at Athens Airport, where you’ll be able to take the bus or rent a car.
There are a few small airports within the Peloponnese region to which you can take some internal flights.
However, many tourists avoid this as it can sometimes add unnecessary time and cost to their trip.
Whatever your reason for visiting Monemvasia, we’re sure this enchanting ancient town will create some unforgettable memories for your own fairy tale.
Whether you’re looking for some engaging activities and historical landmarks to keep you and your family busy, or you simply just want to retreat, kick back and relax at one of the most beautiful fortified towns in Greece.
There is something for everyone to appreciate whilst visiting the Aegean’s hidden gem.
Frequently Asked Questions
When is the Best Time to Visit Monemvasia?
Although Monemvasia is beautiful all year round, it’s best explored in the summer months, late spring or early autumn.
With longer days, warmer weather, and nearly all of the stores, restaurants, and cafes open, you’ll benefit from having more to do and the time to do it.
It’s worth noting that if you’re not too fond of the intense summer sun, then it would be better to avoid the months of July, August, and September.
How Long Should I Stay for?
It totally depends on you, but we recommend spending at least four days in Monemvasia. The island may be small, but it’s packed full of little goodies for you to find and tours/activities to participate in.
As Monemvasia is quite a distance from Athens, it's worth staying a little longer and enjoying everything the island has to offer.
Is Monemvasia Expensive?
If you’re looking to stay in luxury 5* hotels and eat out at fine-dining restaurants every night, then yes, we’re pretty sure it won’t be a cheap vacation!
But due to the island's low-key popularity, it’s retained its relatively low prices over the years.
If you’re on a budget, Monemvasia won’t break it for you. Just look for the less touristy areas and check the prices before sitting down so you can avoid paying more than you’d hoped for.