Secret Neighbourhood of Athens
There is loads to see and do in Athens. Even if you’re visiting on a budget there’s plenty to pad out your travel itinerary. You’ll find ample places to visit, from the Acropolis to the Panathenaic Stadium, but have you ever heard of Anafiotika? Probably not. Not many travellers have. I certainly hadn’t when I first visited Athens. So how did I hear about it, I hear you ask. I was sat enjoying some drinks at a hostel roof top bar when some locals joined the conversation. They told us a bit of the back story and pointed it out on a map for us. Straight from the mouth of a local, I woke up early next morning to set out and find Anafiotika, Athens’s hidden gem.
What Is Anafiotika?
Anafiotika is a tiny village nestled into the base of the Acropolis. It’s one of the oldest residential parts of central Athens. Although it’s not commonly known about it’s one of the best spots in Athens if you’re after that perfect Instagram photo.
Walking through Anafiotika is like suddenly being transported to the iconic landscapes of Santorini. With white washed paths, blue rooftops and old orthadox churches you’ll be greeted by a scene of beauty on the slopes of the Acropolis.
History of Anafiotika
The brilliant architecture of these homes and the fact they’re reminiscent of the Greek islands isn’t by accident. In the 1800s King Otto brought workers from an island called Anafi to Athens to renovate his palace. They built their own homes in the style they were used to on the island of Anafi, adored with white washed walls and Bougainvillea trees. They named the village Anafiotika in memory of their home.
There are approximately 45 houses in Anafiotika now and the majority are still lived in by the decedents of King Otto’s workers. Despite attempts from the Greek Government to redevelop the area, this portion of the village has survived and can be visited today. The locals I met told me that the Government did try and redevelop this existing part as well to create a tourist information centre but the locals stood together and protested in a human shield until the plans were altered. How true this is I’m not entirely sure but this is the story that was rumoured around the rooftop bar that evening.
How To Find It
Using Plaka as your starting point, you’ll want to head along the road called Stratonos, past a sign for the cat charity Nine Lives, until you reach a small gravel car park. From here, continuing straight, you will soon reach the Church Saint Georgios Stratonos. At the church you’ll want to head up the path and take a left at some steps. If you feel like you’ve gone the wrong way you’re probably on the right track. Anafiotika really is hidden away from the main hubs of activity. From here feel free to wander and explore the little streets on your own. Getting lost down the winding narrow paths is part of the charm. In fact, you’ll probably be surprised at quite how narrow they are – only big enough for one person to walk through at once.
Remember: This isn’t exactly a tourist destination and these are people’s homes. When I visited on a Sunday morning I could hear people in their homes preparing Sunday lunches. Luckily I was the only one there so I could be quiet and respectful whilst getting some great shots of these pretty little streets.
What To Do in Anafiotika
Anafiotika itself is a very small village. You can admire the beauty and the charm of this hidden part of Athens. You will also have a brilliant view of the North side of Athens, with Mount Lycabettus in the distance. The quaint streets, the sleepy cats lying out in the sun and the exquisite street art are enough of a reason to visit in itself. But it won’t take you very long to walk around and capture some great photos.
If you’re after a little more to do then there is an eatery nearby called Anafiotika Cafe. This is a great spot to grab some traditional Greek food for lunch. However, if you find this popular lunch destination before the streets of Anafiotika then they’ll be happy to give you directions. It’s probably their most frequently asked question! But the food is great and they serve all your favourites from saganaki to pork chops and seafood. I recommend you check it out.
Church & Memorial Garden
At the top of the hill, right underneath the Acropolis is the church of Ayio Georgios tou Vrachou. It’s meant to be one of the most beautiful churches in Athens so definitely worth stopping by. Just along from this ancient church is a memorial garden. The story goes that when the Germans invaded in WW2 a Greek guard wrapped himself in a Greek flag and leapt from the top of the Acropolis. The memorial garden is dedicated to him and planted with beautiful flowers.
Anafiotika: The Hidden Gem
If you’re visiting Athens you should definitely add a quick visit to Anafiotika to your travel itinerary. It’s unlike anywhere else in Athens I visited. It’s like stepping back in history to Athens from 200 years ago.
It can be easily coupled with some time spent exploring Plaka, one of Athens’ most visited areas. With Anafiotika in easy walking distance you can spend a morning or an afternoon discovering the beautiful district of Plaka, complete with boutique shops and quirky restaurants, before climbing the hill to visit Athens’s best kept secret, the hidden village of Anafiotika.
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