There are many attractions in Athens that are known far beyond the borders of Greece. Various historical, archaeological and architectural monuments are located in different parts of the city and attract a large number of tourists. And right in the heart of the capital you will find one of the most picturesque areas of Athens — Plaka, a walk through which will allow you to combine the acquaintance with historical monuments and traditional architecture with a visit to popular museums and a delicious lunch in one of the local taverns.
Surrounded by northern and eastern slopes of the Acropolis, the district of Plaka was built above the residential areas of the ancient city of Athens. It is often called the "district of gods» because of its proximity to the Acropolis. At various times, many famous Greek writers, actors, and artists lived here, such as Giorgos Seferis, Kostis Palamas, and Melina Mercouri.
The modern name "Plaka" was not used until the Greek war of independence was finished. Before it, different names were used to name the area: Alikokou, Kontito, Kandili, as well as the names of local churches. The origin of the name remains unknown, but according to one of the existing versions it comes from the expression "Pliak Athena", which means "Old Athens" in the language of arnauts — Greek Albanians.
People have lived at the area of nowaday Plaka since ancient times, and the area itself had been founded around the Agora of Athens. During the Ottoman rule, Plaka was the Turkish quarter of Athens, as well as the residence of the Turkish governor. In 1826, during the Greek war of independence, there were fierce battles at this district, and local residents were forced to leave their houses. With the beginning of king Otto's reign, the area quickly became populated. By the end of the XIX century, Plaka was often called the Arvanite quarter of Athens, because there was a large community of Arvanites (Arnauts) there.
In 1884, a fire destroyed major part of the area — as a result, archaeologists managed to conduct excavations on the Roman Agora and on the site of Hadrian's library. Excavations continue to this day.
Plaka in Athens is one of the oldest and most picturesque areas of the city with narrow streets, beautiful buildings, traditional taverns, cafes and souvenir shops. This part of the city is quite filled with historical sights. Even the air seems to be quite different in the area located in the shadow of the Acropolis — it is saturated with history, numerous events and nostalgia. You will always find what to see and what to do in Plaka — you will definitely have a day full of experience from a walk through the beautiful part of Athens!
A close acquaintance with the history in the Plaka district is provided to all guests of Athens — there are many structures and buildings that are archaeological monuments. Among them, there is the Wind Tower — it is a unique 12-metre high clock tower, which is considered to be the first weather station of all time. It served as a sundial that was determining the time of day by the position of the sun in the sky. It was also a water clock (water coming down from the slopes of the Acropolis was used), and a weather vane — in ancient times, a weather vane in the shape of a triton was installed on the tower. The Wind Tower was a part of a Roman Agora built in the 1st century BC as an extension of the ancient agora to the east. It was a large market surrounded by columns, with shops on the eastern side and a fountain on the western side.
Not far from the Church of St. Catherine, there is the famous choragic monument of Lysicrates, erected from marble and volcanic tuff in the IV century BC. Lysicrates was a wealthy resident of the city, who sponsored performances in the theatre of Dionysus. He received a prize from the city authorities for sponsoring of the best performance of the year and built a special rotunda where this prize was installed. In 1658, a French Capuchin monastery was built next to the monument — they bought this tower out. Lord Byron stayed at the monastery during his second visit to Greece. Besides, the first tomatoes in Greece were planted in its garden in the middle of the XIX century.
Plaka has several ancient churches: Agios Ioannis Theologos, built in the XI-XII centuries and decorated with Byzantine wall paintings of the XIII century, Agios Nikolaos Ragavas (XI century) and the Church of Agioi Anargyroi — Saint Metochi Panagiou Tafou, which was built in the XVII century as a monastery, and later was functioning as the church of the Holy Sepulchre Embassy in Jerusalem.
Plaka has many museums, each of which will shed light on the history of the country and its customs. Among them, there are those that will be interesting to be visited even for children who are not fond of history.
This place can be considered to be the most unique not only in Plaka, but generally in Athens as well. A tiny picturesque area is located in the northern part of the Acropolis. To get here means to find yourself in a village on one of the Cyclades Islands. There is a good reason for it: the first settlers came here from the island of Anafi (Cycladic archipelago), so the name of the village comes from it. Anafiotika was founded in the XIX century by builders who worked on the construction of the palace of king Otto and on the reconstruction of the capital. The workers were very homesick for their homes, so they built buildings that reminded them of their native places.
Starting at the Acropolis, Plaka almost reaches the Syntagma square. The main streets that are considered to be the central ones are the pedestrian streets of Kidathineon and Adrianou. One block from the Syntagma square, Nikis street begins — you can walk along it to the intersection with Kidathineon street. Adrianou street passes close to Monastiraki square and the flea market and then it disappears in the archaeological site of the Hadrian library. It appears again behind the wall of the library, leads deep into Plaka and crosses the second main pedestrian street of Kidathineon almost in the center of the district. Once you understand how to navigate in order to find these two streets, you will not get lost in the maze of Plaka's numerous streets.
It is not difficult to find the oldest area of Athens Plaka on the map of the city: it is located in the heart of the Greek capital, between the Acropolis and the National garden. You can get here by any convenient type of transport: buses and trolleybuses that reach Syntagma square or Zappeion. In addition, Athens has a well-developed metro system — you can use an underground train on the second (red) line to get to the station "Akropoli" or to the station "Syntagma", where also the third (blue) metro line leads. You can use the first (green) or second metro line to reach the "Monastiraki" station. From here, you need to go past the Hadrian’s library and start your walk along the pedestrian street of Adrianou in Plaka.