Email
Password
Remember meForgot password?
    Log in with Twitter

article imageA bit of the Greek islands in the heart of historic Athens

By Hélène COLLIOPOULOU (AFP)     Jul 17, 2018 in Travel

"The Acropolis? It's that way." Residents of historic Anafiotika are used to giving directions to tourists, lost in the narrow, winding alleyways of this unique but little-known hillside neighbourhood in the heart of Athens.

Looking as if it's lifted straight out of the Greek islands, Anafiotika's tiny white-washed houses with brightly-painted shutters and doors were designed to resemble their builders' own Aegean Sea homes.

The houses were built to lodge the families of famed stonemasons from Anafi  one of the Cyclades isl...
The houses were built to lodge the families of famed stonemasons from Anafi, one of the Cyclades islands in the Aegean Sea, brought in to rebuild Athens' glory by the Greek king in the 19th century
LOUISA GOULIAMAKI, AFP

The tranquil neighbourhood was constructed on the northeastern side of the hill leading up to the ancient Acropolis, and its 100-odd, tile-roofed houses -- known as the Anafiotika -- are as old as the modern Greek capital itself.

"The Anafiotika have real historical value," says architect Panagiotis Paraskevopoulos, a resident of the nearby historic Plaka district.

"Working-class architecture with Cycladic elements -- it's like a journey back in time," he said.

The Anafiotika neighbourhood is on the northeastern side of the hill leading up to the ancient Acrop...
The Anafiotika neighbourhood is on the northeastern side of the hill leading up to the ancient Acropolis
LOUISA GOULIAMAKI, AFP

When the Bavarian prince, Otto, became Greece's king in 1832, Athens was in ruins after a decade-long war of independence against the Ottoman Empire.

To restore the city to a semblance of its classical glory fit for a state capital, he invited famed stonemasons from Anafi, one of the Cyclades islands in the Aegean Sea, to work on a grand rebuilding initiative.

The 100-odd  tile-roofed houses in the Anafiotika neighbourhood are as old as the modern Greek capit...
The 100-odd, tile-roofed houses in the Anafiotika neighbourhood are as old as the modern Greek capital itself
LOUISA GOULIAMAKI, AFP

That included his new palace, which is now the country's parliament.

Looking for a place to lodge their families, the workmen decided to take matters into their own hands.

With housing in short order, they built a new neighbourhood, making it reminiscent of their Cycladic houses back home, and used some of the best land available in the capital, just under the Acropolis that boasts the Parthenon and other ancient buildings.

Despite being in the heart of Athens  the architecture of the Anafiotika buildings resembles that of...
Despite being in the heart of Athens, the architecture of the Anafiotika buildings resembles that of Greece's Cyclades islands
LOUISA GOULIAMAKI, AFP

The move was technically illegal, but in the political upheaval that followed Otto's ouster in 1862 and the frenetic urbanisation of the capital, especially after World War II, Anafiotika was left undisturbed.

And in a touch of irony, what was once illegal is now part of the Athens architectural heritage zealously safeguarded by the Greek ministry of culture.

There are no street signs here.

Local resident Alexandra Katsourani says residents must stay "vigilant against efforts to turn ...
Local resident Alexandra Katsourani says residents must stay "vigilant against efforts to turn the area into Airbnb rentals"
LOUISA GOULIAMAKI, AFP

The houses are tiny, mostly 50 square metres (538 square feet) in size, girded by gardens, and are protected by strict restoration guidelines.

"It's not easy living here," said Alexandra Katsourani, a 30-year resident and member of a local heritage committee.

"Not only must we abide by strict regulations, but we must also stay vigilant against efforts to turn the area into Airbnb rentals," she said.

More about Greece, Architecture, History, Archaeology
More news from
Latest News
Top News