It's a warm sunny morning and you're taking a walk in the center of Athens. From the vivid and colorful market of Monastiraki Square, your steps lead you towards the hill of the Acropolis and the noise of the city starts giving way to the serenity of the charming Plaka neighborhood. As you wander in its narrow streets, you start losing track of time and you suddenly find yourself going up against some paved steps which lead you to a magical place. Welcome to Anafiotika, a hidden island right in the heart of Athens!
On the north-eastern side of the Acropolis' hill, at the borders of Plaka neighborhood, the tiny district of Anafiotika truly looks s if someone placed a Greek island right in the middle of Athens! The area owes its architectural uniqueness to its founders, a small group of builders from the Cycladic island of Anafi, who arrived in Athens during the 19th century to help with the reconstruction of the city. Over the next few years, the workers from Anafi kept building more and more houses for them and their families, despite the law against it, and restored the area's two churches, the Church of Saint Simeon and the Church of Saint George of the Rocks, which, as its name implies, is made entirely out of rocks from the hill of the Acropolis!
Anafiotika neighborhood - credits: EnginKorkmaz/Depositphotos.com
During the construction of Anafiotika, the builders from Anafi tried to make the area look like the homes they left behind and did a remarkably good job at it! If you've ever seen what a Greek island that belongs to the island group of the Cyclades looks like, focusing on its architecture, you'll be able to see the similarities with the neighborhood of Anafiotika right away! The beauty and traditional aesthetic of the area, its relaxed vibes and its proximity to the city center have made Anafiotika the perfect escape destination, both for travelers and the local Athenians alike!
Apart from tourists and locals, over the years, the area has also been frequented by dozens of photographers and journalists who have been visiting the place in order to document the events associated with it. In fact, there has been a lot of hustle around Anafiotika almost ever since the 1950's! In the midst of the 20th century, due to archaeological excavations that took place on the hill, a big part of the district was, unfortunately, demolished and its inhabitants were forced to seek homes elsewhere. Many of the buildings were also expropriated by the Ministry of Culture, leaving Anafiotika with only 45 houses, listed for preservation, still inhabited to this day. The remaining families have formed a tightly-bound community that is determined to preserve its heritage.
View from Lycabettus hill - credits: Milan Gonda/Shutterstock.com
There are a number of ways to access Anafiotika, but the easiest one is through the neighborhood of Plaka. Follow Stratonos street and you'll reach at the Church of Saint George of the Rocks, next to which you'll find a set of steps leading up to what seems to be a dead-end, but what is actually the path to Anafiotika! If you get tired as you walk up the steps, take a moment to stop and admire the unique view to Lycabettus hill, situated right across the Acropolis. Gather up some strength and keep going, as the place that awaits you at the top is truly one of a kind!
No wonder that this unique, traditional neighborhood is one of the most beautiful and picturesque places you can find in Athens, making it a mandatory stop during most of our Athens tours. The small white houses, some of which are carved directly out of the hill, with their bright blue windows, the paved alleys, and stairways, and the smell of trees and flowers truly make you forget you're still in the middle of the bustling capital of Greece. An old lady watering her plants, the smell of homemade food coming from an open window or a cat lying down under the sun are only a few of the moments you can experience while exploring Anafiotika, that will surely remind you nothing of a big hectic city, but more of a tiny little Greek village, somewhere far away in the Greek countryside.
Anafiotika - credits: Milan Gonda/Shutterstock.com
If you visit the area you will, without a doubt, feel that in Anafiotika, life seems as though it belongs to another time period. From the way the houses are built to the stories of the locals or even their daily routines, you'll get to appreciate the richness of the district's history and its firm connection to its past and roots.
But it's not only the authenticity and tradition of Anafiotika that will mesmerize you; when you walk in its narrow streets, you'll enjoy the smell of herbs and flowers that fill the air. Let yourself drift away from the modern world to a place where life moves at a slower, more gentle pace and where there's nothing but serenity. It isn't a dream; it's simply Anafiotika, a small peaceful island inside the chaos of Athens.