At the foot of the Acropolis, there is an island different from the others. It has no sea but has Cycladic architecture that reminds us of our beloved Aegean islands. It is Anafiotika, the neighborhood that nestles in the shadow of the Acropolis and walking in its alleys makes you forget that you are in the bustling metropolis that is Athens.
Make your Athens tour a trip to remember. Escape to this hidden gem snuggled within Athens’ coolest neighborhood and discover a tranquil oasis filled with summer aromas of jasmine and rose, white-washed cubic houses wrapped with bougainvillea and views of the city like no other!
What to see in Anafiotika
When on your Athens sightseeing tour, Anafiotika, which has not yet lost its charm to tourism, will serve as a nice escape from the bustling city streets of Athens. The beauty of its authenticity and simplicity with stark white-washed cubic houses built of stone, flat roofs and brightly painted shutters and doors will give you the feel of being in a Greek island village. Bright fuchsia bougainvillea spill over their walls and the narrow alleyways often end in dead-end terraces. Some of the houses have roof-top patios with gardens of potted plants and the occasional shade tree. Once at the very top, you might not run into many tourists, but you will definitely find numerous cats lounging around without a care in the world.
There are also two lovely old Byzantine churches in Anafiotika which you should take the time to visit on your ascent. Perched on the rocks below the Acropolis is St. George of the Rock (Agios Georgios tou Vrachou), which marks the southeast edge of the village. It is one of the most beautiful little churches of Athens and is still operational today. Built in the 17th century, its name comes from its location at the foot of the Acropolis.
The 17th century neoclassic church of Agios Symeon marks the western boundary of the village. Inside the church, there is a copy of a famous miracle-working icon of Virgin Mary Kalamiotissa from Anafi. These churches were built in the 19th century by the residents of Anafiotika in a typical Cycladic style.
Anafiotika is quiet and isolated with no souvenir shops or tavernas. If you see any of the residents, they will greet you with a smile and a ‘kali mera’. As you head upwards, enjoy the spectacular view of Athens unfolding right before your eyes with Mount Lykavetos rising majestically in the distance. It’s so quiet here that you can hear the distant sounds of the city. Let the ‘voice’ and ‘pulse’ of Athens complement the magic...
Coffee on the stairs
Apart from the whitewashed alleys, the basil and flowerpots in the courtyards of the neighborhood houses, you will spot the beautiful cafés with the colorful chairs and ethnic pillows on the stairs that lead to Anafiotika. Do not resist a Greek coffee, tea or spoon sweet. It will also contribute to your good mood while traveling to the island of the city.
How to get to Anafiotika
Half the fun of Anafiotika is going on the mission to find it, but once you get there it’s well worth the effort. Comfortable shoes when on your Athens sightseeing tour are a must since the terrain is uneven and can sometimes be slippery depending on weather conditions. Anafiotika is perfect for people looking to have an adventure when on a tour of Athens and getting lost in the streets with no names is part of the excitement.
To get to Anafiotika when on your Athens tour, just follow the signs up the hillside from Dionyssiou Areopagitou Street next to the Theatre of Dionysos. Go past Agios Georgios church and make your way through the narrow alleyways. Then, follow the narrow passage by the houses and up the whitewashed steps until you find a sign which points to “the Acropolis”. Continue along the wide shaded walk around the base of the Rock while enjoying the view of the Agora along the way. Finally, if it all feels strange and you think you might have taken a wrong turn somewhere, you’re in the right place.
The story behind Anafiotika
Anafiotika is a district of Athens perched on the north-eastern side of the Acropolis rock, on the edge of the old quarter of Athens, Plaka. It is said that the Oracle of Delphi had decreed centuries earlier that no construction should take place on the north side of the Acropolis, possibly to preserve the area’s sanctity.
Anafiotika was created in the mid-19th century, when craftsmen from the island of Anafi, hence the name, settled in the area. They had come to Athens to help transform the new capital of independent Greece into a modern metropolis and refurbish King Otto's Palace (today's Greek Parliament Building). These people, who needed somewhere to be housed with their families, built a lively district in the center of the city with Aegean scent and Cycladic architecture, obviously with compliance of the authorities.
In the 1950s, part of the neighborhood was demolished during excavations. In the following years, extensive expropriations have been made by the Ministry of Culture and only 45 buildings have been declared preserved. These modest houses are still inhabited by descendants of the original immigrants from Anafi.
Anafiotika completes the puzzle of the multiple faces of Athens, showcasing that this is a city which has to be explored off the beaten track if one wants to experience it properly. So, when on your Athens tour, keep wandering. Athens remains full of exciting surprises!
You too can discover the Anafiotika on one of these Athens Sightseeing Tours:
- Premium Skip-The-Line Athens - Piraeus Joined Tour (5h)
- Athens - Piraeus Joined Tour - The Highlights of Athens (4-5h)
- Athens - Piraeus Joined Tour - The Ultimate Athens Experience (7h)
- Athens-Piraeus Joined Tour with On-Board Guidance - Budget tour (4-5)
- Athens at a Glimpse - Acropolis Site & Plaka (4-5h)
- Private Athens Tour - New Acropolis Museum, Acropolis Site & Plaka (6-7h)
- Athens Joined Street Food & Sightseeing tour - Athens Sights and Bites (5h)