Anafiotika brings a bit of the islands of Greece right into the heart of Plaka in Athens. I had hoped to made a side trip to the Greek islands during our trip (I mean, look at how beautiful the island is, and all the things to do in Santorini Greece!) and tried several times to fit in a visit. But alas, it was not to be.
However, Anafiotika can give you a taste of that without leaving Plaka. The beautiful pathways and whitewashed houses of Anafiotika, stacked up the hillside of the Acropolis in a seemingly gravity defying array, have a surprising and rich history. Considering how truly in the center of things Anafiotika is, it is incredibly easy it is to miss this little neighborhood – which would be a shame, because it will make you and your camera very happy you spent some time wandering through.
Anafiotika: The History
The neighborhood came into being in the 1840s, when workers from the islands were brought to Athens by King Otto to work on King Othon’s palace and then other public projects. The island of Anafi was one of the first to give carpenters and construction workers to the restoration project, and these workers built homes for themselves on the steep hillside so much like the island terrain. Unbelievably, many did so by erecting their homes overnight! Thus, according to Ottoman law, a structure built between sunset and sunrise, was the property of the builder. Instant home! (Wild – right?) Over time, more workers were brought from the Cycladic islands to work, and they built up the hillside, in a way reminiscent of the islands from where they had come.
For most of its history, the homes of Ananfiotika had outdoor kitchens and even toilets, and mostly no utilities. Because of this, the neighborhood faced destruction in the 1970s – but thankfully this was avoid, and instead, preservation of these homes has been pursued. The homes in Anafiotika have been passed down from generation to generation, and many are still inhabited by descendants of the original workers from the islands, and seemingly countless cats lounging in windows.
Walking Through Anafiotika:
Make your way to the area of Priantiou and Stratonos streets, and then start winding your way up the hillside that climbs to toward the Acropolis, you will be making your way through Anafiotika. It will feel more like you are walking back alleys and pathways, but these truly are the ‘streets’ of Anafiotika. Most are unnamed, and the houses are identified as “Anafiotika 1,” “Anafiotika 2,” etc.
The neighborhood is so tightly constructed that at times you seem to be walking on private paths, or even through someone’s yard. While these are public roads, please do explore respectfully. It’s entirely possible that as you walk by you will nearly have your nose up to someone’s living room window. A little kindness and tact is appreciated!
As you are winding your way through the neighborhood, absorbed in the houses, flowers, cats, and occasionally friendly resident, don’t forget to look even further around. There are a couple of corners where you have an excellent view up the side of the Acropolis. With the Greek flag waving in the breeze, it is quite the dramatic sight.
Also, don’t forget to turn around and look the other way. I made my way up, until I couldn’t go any further. I found not only a bunch of (perfectly friendly) guys hanging out and smoking and talking, but also a view over Athens and to Mount Lycabettus that was pretty amazing:
For a handy traveler’s map of my favorite stops in Plaka, see my post Plaka Map of Top Things to Do
If you are looking for a camera’s eye view of the Plaka area, check out Athens Plaka in Photos.
Or how about these 10 Beautiful Doors of Athens?
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