Host to a number of ancient sites, quaint alleys, charming cafes, eateries, and bars, as well as traditional Greeks houses and numerous museums and galleries, the tiny neighborhoods of Athens are each unique in their own way. Attracting specific types of crowds, chances are that if you visit a historical neighborhood of Athens, you will very much enjoy experiencing the strikingly diverse scenes.
Known for its beautiful neoclassical buildings, Plaka is an area surrounding the northern and eastern slopes of the Acropolis (between Monastiraki and Syntagma) and is actually built on top of part of the ancient city and around the ruins of the ancient agora of Athens. It is also considered to be the oldest Athenian neighborhood!
Winding streets, paths, and stone-paved alleys in this picturesque part of town will lead you to discover a part of Athens that, apart from certain details, seems to have remained frozen in time. Today, the area is under strict zoning regulations to preserve neoclassical buildings and ancient artifacts not yet discovered. Many of the streets here are also blocked off from traffic, so pedestrians can roam freely and truly enjoy the scenery…but watch out for the motorbikes.
Walking around Plaka’s labyrinth-like paths, you will see a number of beautifully restored and well-kept neoclassical structures. Boldly colored and ornate traditional houses, stone pavements, large voukamvilia bushes, street performers and an energetic day and nightlife characterize Plaka. This neighborhood’s special feel is accompanied by a number of unique antique stores, galleries, coffee house, and restaurants (many which play live music), as well as a number of museums including the Museum of Folk Art, the Jewish Museum of Greece, the Frissiras Museum of Contemporary Greek and European Art, the Athens University Museum, the Museum of Popular Music Instruments, the Children Museum and more.
The famous Andrianou Street in Plaka hosts a number of souvenir shops where you can take home a little something to remind you of your trip to Athens. Sure, there’s a lot of junky stuff like 1-euro magnets made in China, but if you look close enough, you will find a collection of interesting and unique pieces – many of them handcrafted in Greece. From handmade leather purses and sandals, to jewelry, art, old coins, stamps, and ancient Greek-style trinkets and figurines, a good search through these shops will leave you happy.
Other famous sites to visit in Plaka include Kydathinion Street, Filomousos Eteria Square, the 15th century Mosque of Mehmet the Conqueror, the Lysicrates Monument, and surrounding archeological sites. If you like to people-watch, catch up with some friends, or just enjoy the day for yourself, there are a number of good cafes (some with a view) in the area. There really is no visit to Athens complete without a casual stroll through Plaka. And if you have the time to enjoy a few hours away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Athens, you simply must!