Do not underestimate the mountainous Halkidiki. Not even in winter. Great routes and villages that it’s time to put on the schedule, with Arnaia appearing first in line. Beautiful Arnaia, built at 600m. at the foot of Holomontas Mt., named “Liarigovi” in the past, preserves to this day both its wonderful natural environment and the traditional character of the settlement and is the most beautiful village of Halkidiki.
Restored houses, traditional mansions, unique examples of Macedonian architecture, cobbled alleys for unforgettable walks, traditional cafes and restaurants, take you on a journey through time in a setting of fairytale beauty. We found it very interesting that after the general restoration of many buildings, informational signs with a brief history of each building have been posted on the walls of about a hundred historical buildings of Macedonian architecture enlightening the visitors with details! Visit the Folklore Museum, tel.: 2372 350100 open: 10.00-14.00 ) housed in the famous “Iatrou” mansion, and the unique Textile Museum, tel.: 2372 351100, open: 9.00 – 13.00). Entrance €2 – single ticket for both museums which are in the same neighborhood.
Further down, in “Horostasi” you will see the School of 1871, the so-called “urban school of Liarigovi” today’s Town Hall. Be sure to enter the Historic Holy Metropolitan Church of Agios Stefanos (open almost all day). You will be impressed by the unique, artistic, wood-carved iconostasis and the transparent floor.
You will have a delicious and traditional meal at the square at “Platanos” tavern. Opposite, at “Aristotelous” cafe, enjoy your coffee next to the plane tree and next door, around the corner, taste 5 types of the award-winning “Georgaka” honey and excellent “mundovina”. Go to “Passalimani” café for nice cocktails and the musical evenings it hosts.
Life flows at a calm pace in Arnaia, with tradition elements overflowing the place and magically transporting you to other times. We enjoyed every hour we spent strolling around its cobblestone streets dinning and having our coffee near the gurgling water under the plane tree in its historic Square.
Walks in Arnaia
The residential area of Arnaia, rich in images and great examples of traditional Macedonian architecture, definitely needs one or more walks to be revealed. Only by walking will you recognize its importance, but also the dozens of reasons why it was designated a “Historical Site” by the Ministry of Culture.
Starting from the main square, whichever street you take you will need between 10 and 20 minutes at most to complete a very interesting walk. The Municipality has designed 6 distinct walking routes with the aim of serving visitors and making it easier to get to know the architectural wealth of the settlement. All routes start and end radially in the central square revealing both the near and far corners of the settlement. The shortest walking route (10 minutes) is the one marked in red on the map and passes through “Gerogianni” Square and “Kari Pazari”. The longer ones, such as the green and the yellow, lead to the northern edges of the historic center, reaching Horostasi and the church of Agios Stefanos.
What to see
Even today, Arnaia preserves samples of an old local society in terms of its urban planning and architectural character. The settlement did not develop on top of some organized pre-existing settlement. It is old, without an urban plan and densely built. According to tradition, the inhabitants who returned to the city after its destruction by the Turks began to rebuild the settlement around the squares. The houses are very close to each other and without yards, to protect them from the wind and keep them warm during the winter. There are no free spaces within the building fabric. There are narrow, cobbled streets and squares that make up an attractive combination of the beauty of the surroundings and tradition. The core of the settlement is the central square, the “market”, where there is a large plane tree through which drinking water flows. Around the square and the main street, where public services, banks, shops and dining areas with traditional cafes and taverns are concentrated, the commercial center of Arnaia is developing. In the alleys that start radially from the central square, creating smaller squares and neighborhoods along the way, one can admire the rich traditional reserve that this unique settlement has. South of the central square, in the district of “Gannoudena”, is the famous “Iatrou” Mansion, which functions as a Historical-Folklore museum and further on the Textile Museum. The most remarkable examples of Arnaia architecture are gathered in this district. Houses built after the disaster of 1821, painted in strong indigo or ochre, form beautiful neighborhoods.
Going down the main road from the square you will find yourself in front of the famous School of 1871, the so-called “urban school of Liarigovi”. It is the most well-built school of the 19th century in Halkidiki and since 1990 it houses the Town Hall. Next to the Town Hall is the church of Agios Stefanos, a three-aisled basilica with a famous bell tower dating from 1889. The church was completely burned down twice. During the reconstruction and renovation works, the existence of three older buildings was revealed inside the church: a large three-aisled early Christian basilica dating from around 400, a small one-room Byzantine church from the 10th – 11th centuries and a large rectangular post-Byzantine building from the 16th – 17th century. It is the only temple in Greece that works for the needs of the faithful while it is built on antiquities of great value – and indeed visible, since there are special glass panels on the floor of the temple, which allow you to see the illuminated and specially designed archaeological site and the findings that were discovered under the temple! In the famous bell tower of the church opposite the Town Hall and Agios Stefanos is the old inn and today “Alexandrou’s” guesthouse in two beautifully restored buildings. This whole area used to be the center of the village, the so-called Horostasi. The cruciform church with a dome of Aghii Anargyri, painted in 1919 by monks of Mount Athos, is also noteworthy. The imposing building of the Primary School with its huge courtyard is also of interest. It is a typical example of school architecture of the 1930s.