One of the favorite neighborhoods of both locals and tourists is Plaka, which is the area extending from the elegant Makrigianni district to the Temple of Olympian Zeus and leading to the lively Monastiraki neighborhood. Plaka is often referred to as the “Neighborhood of the Gods” because it is located on the North-Eastern slopes of the Acropolis hill. Its charm comes from its ancient and picturesque cobbled streets lined with beautiful neoclassical mansions and some typically Greek white houses.
A Guide to the Plaka Neighborhood in Athens
History of Plaka
- Ancient times: this area was inhabited since ancient times since it was built around the former Agora.
- Ottoman period: this area was referred to as the “Turkish Neighborhood”, because the Turkish Governor had his headquarter there.
- Greek War of Independence (1821 – 1829): the area fell into ruin and witnessed some violent fights, especially in 1826.
- Reign of King Otto (starting from the 30s of the 19th century): the area was repopulated by a crowd of workers that moved to Athens from the islands to build the King’s Palace. The majority of them were from the Cyclades and they built their new houses in the typical island style with narrow spaces, whitewashed walls, blue decorations, and cubic shapes.
- Late 19th century: a fire destroyed a large area of the neighborhood in 1884. The reconstruction works brought to light some precious ruins and the archeological excavations are still in place today.
What’s Plaka like nowadays?
Plaka has two large pedestrian streets named Kydathineon and Adrianou. The first one starts close to Syntagma Square and it is the first street intersecting Ermou, which is the main shopping area of the city center.
Adrianou starts from the nice Monastiraki square and it is the largest and the most touristy street of Plaka. It divides the neighborhood into two parts: Ano Plaka (the upper part, which is closer to the top of the Acropolis) and Kato Plaka (the lower part, which closer to Syntagma Square).
Today, Plaka is mostly “invaded” by tourists and, for this reason, you’ll find a great number of souvenir shops, typical restaurants, cafés, and other facilities. Nevertheless, it is one of the most interesting and vibrant areas of Athens, including several points of interest and attractions that are worth a full day of sightseeing.
What to do and see in Plaka
Explore the Anafiotika neighborhood
A smaller area of this large neighborhood is named Anafiotika and it is very much appreciated by visitors for its white houses lined along its narrow winding alleys. The houses are decorated with some blue details, bougainvillea flowers, and they usually have a sunny terrace and a maritime flair.
That’s because this area was built by the workers from the Cyclades that moved there to work on the construction of the Royal Palace in the 19th century. The name of the area refers to Anafi island, which was the place of origin of the majority of workers and you can really feel the island atmosphere while walking there!
Check out some amazing archaeological sites
- Choragic Monument of Lysicrates (3, Epimenidou Street): during ancient times, a theater contest took place each year in Athens. The organizers were named Choregoi and they were some sort of patrons of the arts sponsoring and financing the event production. The patron supporting the winning play won a prize in the shape of a big trophy like the one you can see there when Lysicrates won the annual contest in 3334 B.C.
- The Roman Agora (3, Polignotou Street, close to Monastiraki): it was once the main gathering point of the city, the heart of local social and political life, and the market square.
- Tower of the Winds: one of the most popular monuments of Athens is located in the Roman Agora. It is 12m tall and it was built in 50 B.C. by the astronomer Andronicus of Cyrrhus. This tower was used as a timepiece (following the position of the sun) and to draw the first weather forecast. It has an octagonal shape and it represents a Wind God on each side.
- Fethiye Mosque Museum: this mosque is located in the Roman Agora and it was built in the 15th century, but it was destroyed and rebuilt in the 17th century. It’s been recently restored and opened for a visit and it is now one of the main monuments belonging to the Ottoman period.
Visit the best museums of the area
- Jewish Museum of Greece (39, Nikis Street): this small museum displays the history of Greek Jewish people from the III century B.C. to the Holocaust.
- Paul and Alexandra Canellopoulos Museum (12, Theorias Street): in 1999, the couple decided to share their huge art collection including more than 7000 pieces of heritage. Their goal was spreading Greek art and culture and showing their evolution throughout the centuries.
- Frissiras Museum (3-7 Monis Asteriou Street): it’s all about contemporary painting, mainly about the human body. It was founded in 2000 by the art collector Vlassis Frissiras who owned more than 3000 works of art.
- Venizelos Mansion (96, Adrianou Street): this is a perfectly preserved example of Ottoman architecture and it dates back to the 16th century. It is the oldest mansion in Athens to be still in use. It was the household of a noble family that lived there before the Independence War and it still shows the traces of their lifestyle and habits.
- School Life and Education Museum (23, Tripodon Street): in this nice building dating back to 1850, you’ll find an interesting exhibition about the history of education in Greece (going from the 19th century to today). Blackboards, desks, and children’s drawings make it really look like an old school and you’ll be traveling back in time seeing old manuals, toys, and school uniforms.
- Museum of Modern Greek Culture (50, Adrianou): it belongs to the Greek Ministry of Culture and it is a large complex made of 9 buildings. The exhibitions span from Greek culture to the local lifestyle and folklore to contemporary art and you can also watch some musical and theatrical performances.
- Athens University History Museum (5, Tholou Street): this building dating back to the 18th century was the headquarter of the first Greek University of modern times and it was once the only University building of the Country. Today, it houses an interesting exhibition that will explain to you the history of modern Greece. It was opened in 1987, on the occasion of the celebrations for the 150° anniversary of the foundation of the University.
Learn more about Greek religious traditions in the local churches
- Church of St. Nicholas Rangavas (1, Prytaneiou Street): it is the oldest Byzantine church in Athens that’s still in use today and it dates back to the 11th century. It was built under Emperor Michael I Rangavas on the ruins of an ancient temple. Its bell was the first one to ring after the end of the War of Independence and also after the liberation of the city from the Germans in 1944.
- Church of Agioi Anargyroi – Holy Metohi Panagiou Tafou (18, Erechtheos Street): it was built in the 17th century and it’s worth a visit for its rich decorations and its nice courtyard. If you are in Athens around Easter time, visit this church on the evening of Easter day: on that occasion, locals light their candles with the “Holy Flame” that directly derives from the one of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.
- Saint Catherine (10, Chairefontos Street): it is close to the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates and it is one of the nicest churches of Plaka. It was built in the 11th century upon the ruins of an ancient temple dedicated to Aphrodite or Artemis. Don’t miss its beautiful icons inside!
Enjoy a Hammam experience
The Ottoman period left some important pieces of heritage, not only in terms of monuments and churches, but also in terms of cultural habits like going to the hammam. If you are staying in Plaka, visit the Al Hammam Traditional Baths (16, Tripodon) and enjoy some rest and wellness treatments after your sightseeing! This hammam offers traditional treatments in a typical environment. For more information visit https://alhammam.gr/
Go souvenir shopping
Plaka is the best area of Athens to buy your souvenir since it’s full of gift shops at every corner. Do you need any suggestions? If you have a medium to high budget, choose some handmade jewelry reproducing ancient jewels and ornaments.
A typical souvenir is also a reproduction of an ancient object like a decorated vase. If you are a food lover, choose some typical products like olive oil, honey, wine, or ouzo, which is the local anis-flavored liquor. The main shopping street in Plaka is Adrianou which has tons of souvenir shops, handicraft shops, and food shops for any budget and for all tastes.
Discover some modern street art on Plaka’s walls
Art is everywhere in Plaka and you’ll find it on its walls too! You’ll frequently bump into some nice examples of street art hidden among the narrow alleys. Street artists even reach the picturesque Anafiotika area, where some modern graffiti live side by side with the traditional island buildings.
Watch a movie under the stars
Plaka is the perfect place to spend a night out in one of its many traditional restaurants but there are also some things you can do later in the evening. Try watching a movie outdoor, on a rooftop garden overlooking the Acropolis! You can do that at Cine Paris (Kidathineon 22 ). It is open every day from 9 p.m. and from May to October. You’ll probably find a retro movie in English (or with English subtitles) and you can also wander in its vintage poster store downstairs.
Where to eat and drink in Plaka
- Yiasemi (23, Mnisikleous/): a casual and picturesque Bistrot, suitable for a vegetarian meal or a coffee break. You can also enjoy some live music played by a pianist.
- Dióskouroi Café (13, Dioskouron): go there to taste some typical snacks with a glass of ouzo and sit outdoor to see the Ancient Market, the Acropolis, and the National Observatory all at once.
- Brettos Bar (41, Kidathineon 4): it is a small ouzo shop and bar and they produce the famous liquor themselves. The venue is colorful and entirely covered with shelves of ouzo bottles.
- Restaurant SCHOLARHIO (14, Tripodon): this restaurant offers some typically Greek cuisine with a great value for money.
- Stamatopoulos Tavern (26, Lisiou): go there to enjoy some Greek live music and eat some traditional dishes outdoor.
- Hermion (15 Pandrossou): they offer some typically Greek cuisine with a touch of creativity. The restaurant has an elegant and refined atmosphere but it also has great value for money.
Where to stay in Plaka
- New Hotel (16, Fillelinon Street): this 5star hotel is modern, glamorous, and stylish with a contemporary design. It is only 200m from Syntagma Square, so you can walk your way through the city center and easily reach all the main attractions. It also has a fitness area and a restaurant serving Mediterranean cuisine – Click here for more information and to check the latest prices.
- Adrian Hotel (74, Adrianou Street): an elegant 3star hotel offering a beautiful view of the Acropolis from its rooftop, where breakfast is served in the morning. It is within walking distance from the main points of interest of the city center and it is perfect to enjoy the best local nightlife in Athens! – Click here for more information and to check the latest prices.