Monemvasia: A Castlecity Hidden Gem in Greece

We’ve always believed the best secrets are those tucked away, waiting to be discovered. Well, on our latest adventure, we stumbled upon such a gem. Monemvasia, affectionately dubbed the “Gibraltar of the East” is an enchanting medieval fortress town nestled off the southeastern coast of the Peloponnese. If you’re daydreaming of cobblestone alleys, history echoing from every corner, sun-kissed beaches, and plates of mouthwatering Greek food, this is where you want to be.

A Deep Dive into Monemvasia’s Past

First, a little history lesson (don’t worry, it’s a short one). Monemvasia’s origins trace back to the 6th century AD. As we explored, we felt the very pulse of time. The town is like an open-air museum, reflecting the Byzantine, Venetian, and Ottoman eras. Exactly like Chania’s old city!

We were fascinated by how every brick and stone had a story, from the medieval mansions to the time-worn churches. Trust us, it’s not every day you walk in the shadows of ancient civilizations.

As this is an authentic castle town, please note that there is no access for cars inside the castle. The car park is a kilometer away. We advise you to drive all the way up, unload your luggage, and drive to the car park. During our visit, there were dc scooters available from Emile which made our life much easier. Moreover, there are porters who can transfer your luggage from the entrance to your hotel for a tip.

Embarking on the Journey

The road to Monemvasia is an adventure we’d happily relive. We took the scenic route from Athens, and let us tell you, the first glimpse of that awe-inspiring rock formation, connected to the mainland by a slender thread of road, is fascinating. If you’re not too keen on driving, there’s good news: buses are frequent, and the airport in nearby Kalamata is super handy as well.

Monemvasia was part of our trip to the Eastern Peloponesse and of course, on the way from Athens, you may stop at several highlights such as the Corinth Canal, the Epidaurus theater, the Mycenaean palace, and even spend a couple of nights in the beautiful city of Nafplio as we did!

Small glimpse:

Calling All Foodies!

Now, let’s talk about food (our favorite subject). Monemvasia is a food lover’s paradise. Greece is known for its delicious fresh seafood but in that case, we had the opportunity to taste traditional cuisine with meat, local pasta, and many vegetarian options!

Oinomelo Restaurant

The small balcony in Oinomelo restaurant was absolutely charming!

Nestled within the enchanting walls of Monemvasia, Oinomelo Restaurant beckons patrons to indulge in an exquisite gastronomic journey. Amazing hospitality, traditional food, and food that tastes like mam’s. ?Moreover, the breathtaking views from the small balcony of the sea further enhance the dining experience, making Oinomelo a must-visit restaurant.

Try the short pasta with beef and goges, the area’s traditional pasta

Kanoni Restaurant

The fresh local olive oil with the bread for a starter is exactly what we needed after a long day on the beach

The folks at Kanoni are masters at turning locally sourced ingredients into mouthwatering dishes that will leave your taste buds singing. Imagine savoring the catch of the day, kissed by the Aegean breeze, or indulging in Greek specialties bursting with flavor!

It is a big restaurant but if you want to enjoy the sea view on their famous balcony you will have to make a reservation.

Do not miss the pasta with chicken and of course the delicious chickpeas!

Monemvasia wine – Malvasia & Shakespeare

Monemvasia wine, famously known as Malvasia, is a luscious nectar that has enchanted palates for centuries with a 500-year break due to Ottoman rule. There is still a debate ongoing regarding its origin. Creta or Monemvasia? Many will say that it was named after the picturesque medieval town of Monemvasia on the southeastern coast of the Peloponnese others that is from Castel Malvicino in Creta.

The name “Malvasia” itself evokes an air of timeless romance, having inspired poets and writers throughout history. Even William Shakespeare, in his work “Henry IV, Part 2,” praised the exquisite qualities of Malvasia, referring to it as “a wine well fitted to all humors.”

Its sweet, aromatic notes and golden hue have made it a favorite among connoisseurs and wine enthusiasts, offering a taste of history and Shakespearean elegance with every sip. Whether enjoyed on a sun-kissed terrace overlooking the Aegean or in the comfort of a cozy taverna, Monemvasia wine, or Malvasia, invites you to savor the poetry of the grape and the echoes of literary admiration that has surrounded it for centuries.

Enetiko Cafe & Cocktail Bar

With such a long history in night entertainment (aka Malvasia wine), Enetiko Cafe keeps the tradition alive. It is mostly famous because of the worldwide famous cocktails “Skyfall 1” and especially “Skyfall 2” and the bartender Panagiotis Govatsos. Apart from the award-winning drinks, we loved our favorite pudding, waffle with ice cream! This is a great spot in Monemvasia to enjoy the moonrise too!

Life’s a Beach

Of course a day not on the beach during our vacation is a wasted day! Even though Monemvasia is a castle city there are still several options to swim in crystal clear waters. While we saw many people enjoying snorkeling around the Monemvasia castle you can still find in a 15-minute distance a “proper” beach to enjoy the sea, the sun, and perhaps a book! We chose Ampelakia Beach, twice, since it is only 7 kilometers from the Monemvasia castle.

Local Activities and More

Apart from history and beaches, Monemvasia offers unique experiences. We tried our hand at local workshops, learning about traditional crafts and even baking local bread! There’s also the option of taking guided historical tours, which are a deep dive into the region’s rich past.

Our Cozy Corners – Where to stay in Monemvasia

In terms of accommodation, we were spoilt for choice. While the ultimate experience will be to spend the night inside Monemvasia walls there are options offered outside this beautiful city as well. We had though the opportunity to stay in the heart of Monemvasia in the Kellia Hotel.

This boutique hotel is the birthplace of Giannis Ritsos, one of Greece’s most celebrated poets. Stepping into the hotel, guests can sense the artistic inspiration that flows through the very veins of this historic town.

Kellia Hotel in Monemvasia seamlessly blends history and modern comfort to create an unforgettable getaway. The hotel itself is a carefully restored medieval building, exuding an aura of old-world charm while providing contemporary amenities for discerning travelers.

With stunning views of the shimmering Aegean Sea, Kellia Hotel provides a serene retreat. The well-appointed rooms are a perfect marriage of elegance and comfort, offering a peaceful haven after a day of exploring the cobbled streets and historic sites of Monemvasia.

Our lovely view of the Aegean from our room at Kellia Hotel

Final Thoughts

Every journey leaves a mark, and Monemvasia has etched itself deep into our hearts. It’s a symphony of history, nature, gastronomy, and genuine Greek hospitality. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, beach lover, foodie, or just someone looking for their next great escape, Monemvasia promises an experience unlike any other, such as its moonrise and try not to “drowned in a butt of Malmsey wine” [William Shakespeare]…?

Monemvasia moonrise…

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