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Lying at the feet of the Acropolis Hill and only a few steps above Plaka (the favorite tourist destination in Athens), the sun-kissed Anafiotika neighborhood steals the heart of visitors and locals.
Anafiotika has been described as an oasis in the crowded city of Athens, Greece. It’s been considered a tiny paradise amidst the typical urban surroundings. It’s not a village nor a neighborhood per se but a special part of the capital of Greece so scenic and picturesque, visiting once won’t suffice.
What is Anafiotika?
The area is made up of many small houses, which are the spitting image of the homes in Anafi. This is one of the best Greek islands in the Cyclades and so it makes perfect sense to say that the architectural structure of the homes in Anafiotika follows the Cycladic style.
It’s fair to say that the most accurate description of this special part of Athens is that Anafiotika is an island-replica. So, what does a tiny island do in the midst of the city?
Let us travel back in history for a moment.
Anafiotika: The Story Behind the Oasis in Athens
It all began when King Otto of Greece was searching for the best builders in the country to renovate his palace. The builders of Anafi were known for their competence and skills and so they were called in. Their craftsmanship was needed not only for the refurbishment of the king’s palace but several structures in Athens. Naturally, they needed a place to stay and so they built small homes similar to those back home on the slopes of the Acropolis rock. Anafiotika was born. And the builders stayed put along with their families.
Clearly, the name Anafiotika derives from the name of the island, Anafi.
What meant to be the future of Anafiotika?
The story has it that the builders didn’t have legal permits to build their homes in this area of Athens. Based on that fact and partially due to archaeological excavations, the government demolished quite a few homes about a century later. Today, there are at least 45 houses still standing in Anafiotika. Most inhabitants are the descendants of the original families. Some homes were sold and some belong to the government. The sad part is that some are ruined (but fortunately only a few of them).
What so Special about Anafiotika?
What makes Anafiotika a special place is the color of the overall environment. The houses – pure resemblance of the Cycladic architecture – are painted white, although you will find orange and green exterior walls too.
And when you thought the beauty of the tiny homes are the most distinctive feature of Anafiotika, the tiny alleys come to attract your attention. You haven’t walked in narrower pathways. Some streets are so tiny, you hardly walk through – let alone hold hands with your loved one.
That’s the main attraction in Anafiotika. It’s like walking the alleys of Cycladic islands in Greece and totally forget you are in the heart of Athens. You go up and down the stairs, fill your lungs with color, and get a cup of coffee at the terrace facing the Parthenon, the city, and Mount Lycabettus. Everything is so simple and yet grandiose. You will simply love it.
It doesn’t take long to walk throughout the small alleys of Anafiotika. You can easily get confused but all paths lead either to Plaka or to Acropolis. You will also find two 17th century churches in Anafiotika: St. George of the Rock (Agios Georgios tou Vrachou) and Agios Symeon. Both of them were renovated in the 19th century in accordance with the Cycladic style. A third church, Metamorphosis Sotiros of the Savior, dates back to the 11th century.
How to Get to Anafiotika
If you are in the busy streets of downtown Athens, close to the Mitropoleos St., cross the square of the Mitropolis Church and follow the street that leads to Andrianou St. You will face the oldest house in Athens. Turn right. You will soon find Mnisikleous St. Turn left and the stairs will lead you straight to the arms of Anafiotika.
If you are in Dionyssiou Areopagitou St., follow the signs close to the Theatre of Dionysos. If you get off at the Acropolis Metro station, follow the Vyronos Street and turn left to Thespidos St. At some point (not very far away), you will meet Stratonos St. Turn right and you are there.
There are surely more ways to get to Anafiotika based on your departure point. And if you get confused, just ask. Anafiotika is hidden in plain sight right above Plaka. Don’t miss it!