If You're Looking For A Couple's Getaway, This Greek Town Is Just For You

With its stunning monuments, crystalline seas, and velvety smooth wines, it's no wonder Greece is top of mind for a romantic getaway for two. While you can never go wrong by spending a week in the Greek Islands, there's another idyllic vacation spot along the Peloponnese Peninsula about four hours south of Athens. The ancient town of Monemvasia is impossible to glimpse from the mainland, making it a literal hidden gem.


The kastro, or fortified castle town, was carved out of the side of the island facing towards the sea, giving it the illusion of being just a beautiful rock from the front. It's connected to the mainland by a causeway followed by a tunnel through a thick wall. The name Monemvasia combines two Greek words, mone and emvasia, which together mean "single entrance."

The reason for all this hush-hush is that residents wanted protection from invaders. First established in the sixth century, Monemvasia changed hands many times, from the Byzantines to the Venetians to the Ottomans, before finally reaching independence in 1821. That's roughly 2,600 years of maintaining a continuous population — making it the longest continuously inhabited castle town in Europe. Even more charming, the homes are still in excellent shape, giving you and your sweetheart the rare opportunity to feel like you've stepped back in time.


Romantic things to do in Monemvasia

The natural beauty and laid-back Grecian culture inspire permanent airplane mode. But if you can stand to set your alarm clock for one day, Monemvasia is the place to do it. Start your couple's retreat with an early climb to the top of the island for a romantic view you won't soon forget. The settlement is divided into Lower Town and Upper Town, with the latter best reserved for the coolest parts of the day.


After a 30-minute trek to the top, the reward is a magnificent panoramic view. From 1,000 feet up, you'll soak up an endless stretch of azure sea and the sprawling town below in that epic way that only Greece can deliver. Spend some time poking around the ancient ruins, once homes reserved for the wealthiest of residents. There's also the church of Agia Sofia, a gorgeous 12th-century relic that blends right into the cliffside.

As the day heats up, head downhill to the Lower Town, a labyrinth of cobblestone streets and ancient dwellings converted into modern shops and tavernas. The center of the action is the Chrysafitissa Square — perfect for walking hand-in-hand as you inhale the aroma of fresh almond pastries from the cafes. Nearby, the church of Elkomenos Christos houses a historic painting of Jesus that was stolen in 1979 and returned in 2011. The Monemvasia Archaeological Collection is another worthy stop, as few places can say they've been a mosque, prison, and coffee shop before becoming a historical museum.


Where to eat and cool off

You'll likely work up an appetite with all the sightseeing on this historic island vacation. In the Lower town, you'll find the Matoula Restaurant, which is rumored to be the oldest taverna in Monemvasia. There, you'll find all the traditional Greek staples, like cheese, olives, horta (boiled leafy greens), and tzatziki (cucumber yogurt dip) for dipping fresh veggies; if you still have some room left for more delicious treats, head to Edodimipolio to sample some honey, olive oil, liquors, and wine for $27 per person. The κρασί (wine) in this region is so notable that during the Middle Ages, all wines East of Italy were known as malvasie — a nod to Monemvasia's important place as a trading port and wine hub. Shakespeare even mentioned the wines in three of his plays.


You have a few options for an afternoon dip (this is Greece, after all). By the southern gate, the Portello offers a convenient place to climb down a ladder straight into the sea. The name means "tiny harbor," as it used to be a place for traders to dock their ships. You can also head outside the castle gates, cross the causeway to Monemvasia Beach, or take a sea kayaking tour around the fortress for $97. After sunset, grab a few drinks at Enetiko Cafe & Cocktail Bar, a lively hangout with music and a terrace with unbeatable views. With vibes like this, the Greek islands can wait.