Anafiotika – the district at the foot of the Acropolis
Athens is one of the oldest cities in the world. Like any other capital city, it consists of many districts – ancient and modern. One of the most interesting, Anafiotica, is noteworthy for several reasons. First, it is an extension of the Plaka district, where the main archaeological sites of Athens are collected. Secondly, it is located right at the foot of the Acropolis. And thirdly, it does not look at all the way we are used to seeing the central district of the city.
In fact Anafiotica is a small village with narrow streets, a completely chaotic layout and a special atmosphere. If you wonder what to see in Athens besides ruins and museums it is the right place to come.
Anafiotica – The story of its origins
The district of Anafiotica in Athens arose in 1841 during the reign of King Otto I. In order to turn the city into a modern metropolis by the standards of the time, he actively invited builders and workers to the capital. Stonemasons and carpenters from the Cyclades, namely from the island of Anafi (hence the name Anafiotika – little Anafi), became the first settlers of the area under the northern slope of the Acropolis. According to the Ottoman laws of the time, the person who managed to erect the main structures of a house between sunset and sunrise became the owner of the property.
Houses built in a hurry, of course, were not subject to any laws of regular planning. But it was this chaotic construction that became the main trademark of Anafiotica and nowadays excursions to Athens are incomplete without a walk through its picturesque streets. Unfortunately a large part of the neighborhood-village was destroyed for archaeological excavations. Only about 45 original houses have survived.
Lodging and Hotels in the Anafiotica area
The Anafiotica area has hotels in different price groups – from 2 to 5 stars. The main thing that they have in common is the chic location and the “view of the Acropolis” that most people who come to Athens dream of.
The options we have chosen are close to the Acropolis metro station, which makes travelers more mobile.
Acropolis View Hotel. Two-star hotel offers several advantages at once: small but clean and comfortable rooms, beautiful view (on the very Acropolis!), low cost, proximity to the subway. Price from 2 200 rub.
What to see in Anafiotica
The architectural style of the neighborhood is the building style of the Cyclades islands with their white cube-shaped stone houses, flat roofs and brightly colored shutters and doors. The final accent – bright purple bougainvillea flowers, which are found here and there on the windows, walls, balconies, or just in pots of all kinds of shapes in the middle of the road. Incidentally, many of today’s homeowners in Anafiotica are descendants of those same Anafi settlers. Some of the buildings whose owners left no heirs have passed to the Archaeological Society of Athens.
Winding streets and stairs (Anafiotica, Athens) Traditional Greek landscape (Anafiotica, Athens) View of the Acropolis walls (Anafiotica, Athens)
The streets of the Anafiotica neighborhood are long, many of them ending in cul-de-sacs, small private gardens, and hundreds of locations for amazing photos! Many of these streets are the width of an outstretched hand. Lazy cats doze on cobblestone paths. Around – the real idyll! And it is almost impossible to imagine that just below the bustling, bustling life of a multimillion metropolis.
In the evening the view from the highest points of Anafiotiki is magnificent, with Athens’ skylights lit up by streetlamps and signboards, filled with merrymaking tourists.
You won’t find any tavernas or souvenir stores in Anafiotica, all of which are plentiful in Plaka and other areas of the city. Nevertheless, there are small attractions of its own as well. For example, two 17th century churches and an 11th century miniature church. Near the church of St. George there is a memorial to the Acropolis guard, who in 1941 with a Greek flag in his hands jumped off the Acropolis when the Germans burst into town.
The district of Anafiotica on the map of Athens
The historic district is now a coveted destination for tourists the world over. You want to live here, it’s interesting to walk around and even from the airport it’s convenient to get there. Another secret that few people know: prices for hotels in Anafiotica are lower than in neighboring Plaka, the location is not a bit worse.
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Most tourists who come to vacation in Greece bypass this gem of modern Athens. Vacationers spend their time in the cafes, bars and stores of the Plaka district below. Anafiotica is worth spending at least a few hours for a leisurely stroll among the sun-drenched, winding streets, stairs, and chaotically scattered houses that soak up the atmosphere of the islands and the sea!
The Acropolis and Beyond: 7 Athens Attractions Not to Be Missed
Athens’ tourism achievements are recognized globally: in 2018, the city won the “Best City Break Destination” award from the World Travel Awards, the year before it won “Fastest Growing City for Cultural Tourism” from the Leading Culture Destinations Awards. With almost fifty museums, 44 historical monuments and 12 archaeological sites, it’s no wonder that the Greek capital is visited by over 6 million people annually. Here are 7 places of interest in Athens that you can’t miss.
- The Acropolis is the top among the sights of Athens;
- National Archaeological Museum – the biggest of Athens attractions;
- Plaka and Anafiotica neighborhoods – Athens’ most authentic landmarks;
- The Agora in Athens – the most famous attraction after the Acropolis;
- Temple of Zeus the Olympic, the least preserved attraction in Athens;
- The Flea Market in Monastiraki – Athens’ most unusual attraction;
Athens – boiling modernity and ancient monuments. Photo: lonelyplanet.com
The Acropolis is the top among Athens’ sights
The Acropolis, or “upper city,” translated from the ancient Greek, is the oldest human inhabited place in Europe. Archaeologists have found traces of buildings and burials dating from 3500 to 4000 B.C. Originally the impregnable hill was a tribal stronghold. In the 13th century BC they built a mighty wall, which protected the Acropolis for 8 centuries and has partly survived to this day.
The Acropolis is the main attraction of Athens. Photo: miceindustry.org
During the heyday of Athens, the fortified hill acquired religious significance. The most important temples of the city were built on it. Amazingly, they were all built in just 50 years. At the height of its power, Athens was the only city in Hellas that could afford such a feat. Alas, in ancient times the Acropolis failed to serve the glory of Athens: only a year after the completion of the Parthenon, the Peloponnesian War broke out and Athens fell as a result.
In modern times, however, justice has been served. Today the Athenian Acropolis is a symbol of Greece, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a sight visited by 3.5 million people a year.
The Parthenon was once the greatest temple in Greece. Photo: earthtrekkers.com
The main attraction of the Acropolis is the Parthenon, familiar from a high school history course. Originally dedicated to the city’s patroness Athena the Virgin, the temple has been Orthodox, Catholic church, mosque, powder warehouse and blew up in the 17th century during the war with the Venetians.
But the Acropolis is not limited to the Parthenon – there are at least 20 historical monuments in total.
Other main attractions of the Acropolis with descriptions (plus location on the map)
The Propylaeum – the ceremonial gateway to the temple complex;
Erechtheion – The ruins of Athens’ once second most important temple at the site of the dispute between Athena and Poseidon for patronage over the city;
the temple of Nika Apteros, another sanctuary of the city’s patroness and the smallest temple on the Acropolis;
Dionysus Theater, an amphitheater on the hillside that once housed half of Athens’ population;
Acropolis Museum – a three-story glass building houses 4,000 historical objects found on the Acropolis, and the roof offers a magnificent view of the Acropolis.
Useful tips for visiting the Acropolis:
- Come before it opens-if you climb the hill before the tour groups, get the ancient stones at your complete disposal (and also get there before the heat);
- enter from the side of Dionisio Areopagitou Street – tourist buses stop on the side of the main entrance, so there are huge lines;
- buy your ticket in advance – this will also help you slip past the lines.
The National Archaeological Museum is the largest of Athens’ attractions
The 8,000-square-meter museum space is the biggest attraction in the city and the greatest archaeological museum in the world. Within the walls of the austere neoclassical building are more than 11,000 exhibits on Greek history from prehistoric times to late Antiquity. A small number of antiquities from other countries, such as Egypt, is also represented.
The National Archaeological Museum is the largest in Greece and in the world. Photo: arrivalguides.com
Famous exhibits of the National Archaeological Museum of Athens with photos
The Mask of Agamemnon. Although today the belonging of this funerary mask to the legendary king is questioned, according to the tradition established by Heinrich Schliemann, it is so called. In addition to the gold mask, the museum displays a rich collection of gold artifacts from Mycenae from the 16th-10th centuries B.C.
The funerary mask known as the “mask of Agamemnon
A bronze statue of a horseman. Found on the seabed among the remains of a shipwreck from the beginning of our era, the statue depicts a miniature jockey on a galloping horse. The statue surpasses the masterpieces of much later time and, scholars believe, was commissioned by a rich man to celebrate his victory at the races.
Bronze statue of the rider
Antikythera mechanism. The remains of an ancient mechanism are often referred to as the analog computer of antiquity. The exact purpose of its 30 gears and mysterious parts is unknown, but it is believed that it was used for astronomical calculations.
Antikythera mechanism, an ancient computer
The Archaeological Museum also houses the Athena Varvakion, the most accurate replica of the 11-meter gold and ivory statue of Athena, which once adorned the Parthenon, but was irrevocably lost in the 5th century.
The Plaka and Anafiotica neighborhoods are Athens’ most authentic landmarks
The picturesque Plaka neighborhood between the northern slope of the Acropolis and Ermu Street is a lively tourist area of Athens that retains the charm of a traditional village. Narrow pedestrian streets, flowery courtyards and cheerful little squares are pleasantly shaded, and the tavernas and restaurants offer refreshments and relaxation. The neighboring neighborhood of Anafiotica is known for the “Restaurant Staircase,” a lovely stepped street with terraced summer café tables.
The Plaka neighborhood is authentic and picturesque. Photo: greekboston.com
The best historical landmarks of the Plaka neighborhood in Athens
The ancient quarters are small – both can be traversed in a couple of hours. While walking the streets, don’t forget to take a look at the historical sights, of which there are quite a few in the area:
- St. Nicholas Ragava Church – built in the 11th century, the temple is considered the most important monument of the Byzantine period of Athens’ history;
- the Holy Sepulchre, a church and the remains of an ancient monastery where the holy fire from Jerusalem arrives at Easter;
- the Monument of Lysikrates, an ancient choreographic (built with theater sponsor money) monument called “Diogenes’ lamp” for its unusual shape.
The Agora in Athens is the most famous landmark after the Acropolis
Once the city’s main square, surrounded by public buildings and filled with merchants, philosophers and ordinary citizens, the Agora is now an open green area with the remains of colonnades and monuments. There is little reminder of its former grandeur when it was the main square where political life, philosophical debates, sporting events, and courts used to take place. This ancient Greek square is flanked by the Agora of the Romans.
If you are interested in Ancient Greek history, we recommend you to buy a combined ticket – it is valid for 6 main archaeological sites of Athens.
It is not easy to recognize the city square in the current Agora. Photo: thousandwonders.net
The main attractions of the Agora in Athens with descriptions
The Stoa Attala is a building recreated in the mid-20th century from an ancient model and imitates an ancient structure. Inside there is a museum of the Agora, where you can get acquainted with archaeological finds and ancient artifacts.
The Hephaisteion is a monumental 5th century BC temple, which survived because it was “converted” to Christian worship in time.
The Tower of the Winds is an ancient weather station. The tower, built at the beginning of our era, had a water clock, the roof had an hourglass and the eight sides of the tower oriented to the sides of the world were used to determine the direction of the wind.
The Tower of the Winds is an ancient weather station. Photo: greeka.com
Hadrian’s Library, an institution built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian to store scrolls. Today, only a few fragments have survived from the once imposing structure. There is a fee to enter the ancient complex, but its most impressive part – the only surviving wall – is perfectly visible from the street.
The Temple of Zeus the Olympic is the least preserved landmark in Athens
In former life, the Olympeion was the largest temple in Hellas, built over 600 years. Now it is a few columns, where you can imagine a magnificent building in the glory of Zeus the Olympic only with a very developed imagination. Meanwhile, the area of the temple was once 5,000 square meters – about twice the size of the Parthenon. The perimeter of the temple was decorated with 140 columns, of which today only 15 have survived in a vertical position (another one, which fell during the earthquake, is visible nearby).
Of the Temple of Zeus the Olympic almost nothing remains.
There are three other landmarks near Olympus:
- The marble arch of Emperor Hadrian, on whose orders the Olymppeion was finally completed in the 2nd century AD;
- a small fragment of the Long Walls, an amazing defense structure of the 5th century B.C., built under the direction of Themistocles;
- Roman Baths, a small free archaeological park where you can see the foundations of ancient buildings.
The flea market in Monastiraki is the most unusual attraction in Athens
The winding streets, dotted with store signs, are a great way to experience Greek flavor. You can buy almost anything here, but the best place to look is Monastiraki for souvenirs and gifts.
Monastiraki is a block of stores at the foot of the Acropolis. Photo: sumfinity.com. Author: Nico Trinkhaus
The small church of Panagia Pantanassa on the square gave its name to the entire neighborhood – it was once the site of a monastery. Another notable religious building and landmark is the old mosque, which today houses a folklore museum.
The mosque is sometimes called “cursed. The columns of the Olympeion are said to have been used for its construction and caused the wrath of the Celestial Powers to send a plague epidemic over Athens.
If you happen to be in the Monastiraki on a Sunday, head to the flea market in Plaça Abyssinia – a market that has taken place here for over 100 years. Antiques and second hand dealers offer antique books, silver and leather goods. You’ll have to haggle over the items you like!
Likavit, the most spectacular attraction in Athens
Mount Likavit (Likabetus) is the highest point in Athens. It is a platform 263 meters above sea level with a circular panorama of Athens and an impressive view of the Acropolis from above. At the top of the hill rises a picturesque white church built on the foundations of the ancient basilica of Zeus. Hidden nearby is another miniature church dedicated to St. Isidore. There is also a view restaurant at the top of the mountain.
Mount Likavit is the best view of Athens. Photo: theculturetrip.com
You can climb Likavit by car (there is parking) or by cable car, which runs until midnight – a great chance to admire the sunset and have dinner with an unforgettable view of the city lights and the illumination of the ancient temples. If you go on foot, be prepared for a staircase serpentine and climb lasting at least 30-40 minutes.
The capital of Greece is not without reason considered the best city in the field of short-term cultural tourism. All the most interesting sights of Athens are compactly located in the center, which is very convenient for those who want to “do” them in a couple of days, and then go to other cities or to the famous beaches of Greece.
Finally, we suggest you take a virtual tour of Athens with a short video:
Editor: Daria Ivanyushkina
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