The castle town of Monemvasia is one of the most charming places in the country and certainly one that exudes a highly mystical aura. Perhaps not without reason most people have associated Monemvasia with spring excursions. However, the medieval setting that characterizes it is also an ideal choice for winter excursions, while it is the place that, whatever time of year you visit, exerts a special charm on you that is hard to resist.
One of the few inhabited castle towns in the country – among others the Castle of Ioannina and the village of Mesta in Chios – will always be among the must visit destinations, any time of the year. Also known as the “Gibraltar of the East”, since it resembles the Rock of Gibraltar in miniature, Monemvasia, apart from its enchanting aura, also carries a glorious history. As a natural fortress and then as a strategic castle, it was claimed by Byzantines, Franks, Venetians and Ottomans. It is also the only castle town in all of Europe that has never ceased to be inhabited.
Monemvasia is one of the most prominent cities in the Peloponnese, in the prefecture of Laconia. Its medieval fortress on the rock is its most characteristic image, while some defensive structures and several Byzantine churches have survived to this day.
Monemvasia: Wild beauty in an awe-inspiring place
The distance from Athens to Monemvasia is 322 km (about 4 hours’ drive) and with an average fuel price it will cost you 59 euros (per person).
The town got its name from the words “alone” and “interference”, its one and only entrance, that is. It is one of the most prominent towns in the Peloponnese, in the prefecture of Laconia, while the medieval fortress on the rock is its most characteristic image. Until today, some defensive structures and several Byzantine churches have been preserved. The Epano Kastro, as the old town is known, is an extremely well-preserved medieval settlement and a monument of world importance. The atmosphere is unique, with the colors of stone and sea dominating the skyline and its austere lines awe-inspiring.
A walk in the Pano Polis with its mansions and Agia Sophia, which seems to almost float, as it hangs on the hillside above the sea, will impress you, as the panoramic view of Monemvasia and the sea that stretches at its “feet” is literally breathtaking.
Finally, a walk along the sea wall, next to half-ruined churches in the experiences you must have.
A walk and a meal with a medieval flavor.
In Monemvasia, however, you will not only have some remarkable walks but you will also eat very well. As soon as you pass through the gates of the castle town you will see the tavern “Voltes”. In the beautifully designed space that combines the aesthetics of a deli with the mysterious character of the town, you will definitely taste the fava with the Monemvasia s σύγκlino, the soutzouk bouillardi and the local whole-wheat lasagna.
A point of reference (not only gastronomic) in Monemvasia is the tavern Matoula (about 1 km after the gate of the Castle). It has been operating since 1950 and locals and visitors alike often honor it as they prefer it for its stews and traditional flavors. Also for traditional local cuisine head to “Asteria” (former Votsalo). The location may predispose us to fish and seafood, which are also included in the winter menu (the lobster pasta and the stuffed squid with cheese and tomato are amazing even if it’s cold) but for cold evenings we choose meat soup, cabbage dumplings and the local speciality, rooster bardoniotiko (rooster braised with cheese and olives, served with local handmade noodles).
Finally, if you want to take a walk outside Monemvasia then go to the village of Ai Giannis and eat meat of the hour at “Yiotakis”. If it’s a good day you can eat in the courtyard with the excellent view. When the weather opens up and allows tables outside, go to “Marianthi”. We prefer the tables on the small cobbled street to feel relaxed and sit for hours enjoying the appetizers.
For your coffee maybe the best choice is the café “Venetian”. In the heart of the castle we drink coffee with a view of the sea and in the evening we enjoy the colorful cocktails. At the Venetian you will enjoy the most beautiful terrace of the enclosed city.