The neighborhood of Plaka, which you will walk through during any visit to the Acropolis in Athens, as it is located at its foot, is the best known and most popular of the Greek capital and also a witness to the history of the city. Although its boundaries today are blurred, its narrow streets and irregular buildings are easy to distinguish due to the Turkish influence of its layout.
Plaka, which is also known as the Quarter of the Gods for its open view of the Acropolis, is the oldest quarter of Athens and one of the most picturesque and visited areas of the city. Touring it is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Athens.
1. Walk along Adrianou Street, the main artery of the Plaka neighborhood
Plaka is the oldest neighborhood in Athens and has been rebuilt several times, especially during the Turkish rule of the city, when it took its current appearance of narrow and crisscrossed streets.
The main of these streets is Adrianou, which crosses the entire neighborhood and is the central axis where the life of Plaka takes place, with its stores, variety stores, art galleries, restaurants and monuments.
Adrianou is a picturesque street that starts in Monastiraki and becomes narrower and narrower towards the north until it ends in Filomosou Eterias square , which marks the heart of the neighborhood and is surrounded by restaurants with open terraces facing the Acropolis and the Parthenon and street musicians.
If you visit Athens in summer, you will find the Plaka Flea Market on Adrianou and Kydathineon streets. Here, the stores bring out all their merchandise to the street and cut their prices. Strolling along Adrianou is the best way to get to know Plaka and its traditional spirit.
- Location... Plaka is located at the foot of the Acropolis and Adrianou crosses the neighborhood from Monastiraki to Filomosou Eterias Square.
- How to get there... From the center of Athens at Omonia Square you can reach it by bus lines 11, 500 and 790 to Philellenon and then walk for five minutes to Plaka. You can also take the Athens tourist buses that include stops in the neighborhood.
2. Visit the souvenir stores, handicrafts and typical products.
Plaka is the neighborhood where the daily life of Athens takes place, as it is not only the place that receives most visits from tourists, but also the epicenter of local life, so it is the perfect place to shop and visit souvenir stores, craft shops and typical products.
Getting lost among the stores of its narrow streets is one of the best plans you can do in Athens.
In the stores of Plaka you will find clay pottery with Ancient Greek motifs , wooden handicrafts, typical shoes and sandals and sponges called loofahs containing natural exfoliants.
You can also buy a nazar, which is an amulet against the evil eye and is typical of Turkey, but has been offered in the neighborhood since the time of the Turkish occupation.
The stores selling drinks are also central points in Plaka, so there you can taste the local liquors and wines, which in many cases come from the wineries that you will have seen if you have made a trip to the Greek islands.
Keep in mind that being a neighborhood visited by tourists, prices can be high but also that in most of the stores you can haggle over prices.
- Location... There are stores in every street, as Plaka is a neighborhood of shopkeepers, but most of them are in Andrianou and around Filomosou Eterias square.
3. Enjoy the local gastronomy in the food stalls of the neighborhood
Plaka is located at the foot of the Acropolis, which is the main attraction of Athens, so many visitors when they finish their tours of the ancient monuments visit the neighborhood to eat and rest.
There you can enjoy the best local food restaurants and good prices, although the cheapest options are in the streets away from Adrianou.
Among the local dishes you can try in Plaka I recommend the musaka, a lamb and eggplant lasagna. There are also many fish, squid, octopus and seafood restaurants serving casseroles with stew accompanied by taramasalata sauce , a puree made from fish roe in brine.
If you are in a hurry or looking for a cheaper option you can opt for kebab or keftedes.
If you plan to go to Plaka for dinner I recommend that you choose a place in a restaurant with a terrace and enjoy the spectacle of seeing the illuminated Parthenon at the highest part of the city.
- Location... The cheapest restaurants are located in the streets away from Adrianou and from the terraces of the tavernas in Filomosou Eterias square you will be able to see the Acropolis illuminated at night.
4. Cycle through the Cycladic buildings of Anafiotika
With narrow alleys and white houses, Anafiotika is a small neighborhood located within Plaka that has similarities to the buildings of Andalusia.
The whitewashed houses were built in the 19th century by masons who came to Athens from Anafi to build the Presidential Palace. They brought with them the tradition of the Cyclades, with its flowered windows and low houses, which today attract the attention of visitors to the Greek capital.
Touring this picturesque neighborhood allows you to discover the particular architecture of its labyrinths, but also to get to know the only corner of Plaka that is not crowded with stores or enclosed by a chaotic path of streets and alleys. Anafiotika also has two churches and is located exactly between Stratonos Street and the Acropolis.
If you visit Athens during Christmas time, you will also discover that decorations storm the windows of Anafiotika marking a notorious difference of styles with the rest of the buildings in Plaka.
- Location... Anafiotika is located on the edge of the Plaka district, between Stratonos and Prytaneion streets and the base of the Acropolis.
5. Attract good fortune at the Lantern of Lysicrocrates
The Lantern of Lysicrocrates may go unnoticed because it is surrounded by some of the most iconic buildings of Ancient Greece, but it is a 2500 year old monument that was very popular in Athens and holds a very particular history.
This monument was built by the millionaire Lysicrocrates to celebrate an award he received from the Athenian government for a play of his authorship. Nowadays, a Greek legend claims that if you want to attract good fortune you have to visit the monument during your trip to Athens.
The Lantern is important to Plaka because, although the oldest neighborhood in Athens, it was destroyed and rebuilt several times throughout its history and also suffered damage during World War II, so the Lantern of Lysikrates, which was remodeled in the 19th century, is one of the few ancient treasures it houses.
The monument is located on Tripodon Street , at the end of the pedestrian Lysikrates from where you can directly reach Hadrian's Arch and the Temple of Zeus, marking the route of one of the few symmetrical streets in the Plaka district.
- Location... The monument is in Tripodon Street, at the end of the pedestrian Lysistrates, which leads to Hadrian's Arch and the Temple of Zeus in Olympia.
6. Tour the Acropolis Museum
The Acropolis Museum is the largest and most famous archaeological museum in Greece and the perfect complement after your visit to the Parthenon and the rest of the monuments.
Formally it is not located in the neighborhood of Plaka, but on the outskirts, in Makriyianni, but because of its proximity to the Acropolis and because Plaka formerly occupied a larger territory that included the current museum grounds, local guides point to it as one of the attractions of the neighborhood.
The museum exhibits archaeological finds from the Acropolis and the hillsides, as well as other archaeological relics from the Peloponnese. It also has a cafeteria, a restaurant and a gift and souvenir store.
It is possible to hire a guided tour to learn the secrets of the exhibits.
The Acropolis Museum area also houses other museums in the city such as the Jewish Museum, the Art Museum, the Frissiras Museum, the Music Museum and the Museum of the University of Athens.
Details of interest
- Location... Dionysiou Areopagitou 15, Athens.
- Hours.... Tuesday to Sunday from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm and Monday from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm.
- Price... General admission to the museum is approximately 5 euros.
- How to get there... By metro line M2 from the center of Athens to Akropoli station.
7. Visit the Benizelos Mansion, the oldest house in Athens
Athens is one of the cradles of ancient civilization and is full of historical monuments and temples, but at the foot of the Acropolis, in Plaka, stands the Benizelos Mansion, which is the oldest house in the Greek capital, built in the 16th century.
Benizelos also houses a museum where it is possible to learn what daily life was like during the days of the Ottoman Empire.
The building has an eclectic design that mixes Greco-Roman architecture with Turkish details. It has Greek arches on the first floor, roofed galleries, an interior garden dominated by a cistern.
The house has the characteristics of a luxury home of its time and was also a convent. It is estimated to be about 500 years old.
Benizelos also houses an exhibition of paintings from the time of its construction, ordered by an aristocratic family of Athens, as well as details in wood and stone that allow us to elucidate how the construction work was in the sixteenth century.
- Location... Adrianou 96, Athens.
- Horatio... Monday to Saturday from 10.00 am to 6.00 pm. Sundays from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm.
- Price... The entrance fee is approximately 10 euros.
- How to get there... From the center of Athens by bus lines 1, 12 and 227 to Philellenon.
8. Get to know the Orthodox Church of St. Catharina
Most Greeks who profess a religion opt for Orthodox Christianity. In the neighborhood of Plaka is the Church of St. Catherine, one of the main temples of Athens.
This church was built on the foundations of an ancient space that worshipped Artemis and its architecture has eclectic details, with a mixture of remains of western Roman buildings and Byzantine decoration in its interior.
Nowadays it is possible to visit its palm tree courtyard and see the dome-shaped roof. St. Catharina's is a simple church, built on a Greek cross base and marks the history of Athens' growth in height over the last two centuries, as St. Catharina's is built on the foundations of an ancient temple and is still below the current street level.
It is possible to visit the church during religious services and also to commemorate the martyrdom of St. Catharina every November 25. Her visit is also usually included in Athens tours and excursions that include Plaka.
Details of interest
- Location... Chairefontos 10, Athens.
- Horatio... It can be visited on the days of religious services.
- Price... Admission is free.
- How to get there... From the center of Athens by bus lines 1, 2, 4, 5, 11, 12, 15 and 227 to Philellenon.
9. Visit the Tower of the Winds
At the time of its construction in the 1st century BC, the Tower of the Winds is believed to be one of the most technologically advanced buildings in Athens.
With its octagonal shape and built in Pentelic marble, the tower, twelve meters high and eight meters in diameter, measured the weather and wind direction and, due to its strategic location, was visible from all points of the Roman Agora of Athens.
Currently, and after some reforms that took several years, you can visit the Tower of the Winds and I assure you that you will be surprised with its interior and with the functions it fulfilled in its time of splendor and that led it to be considered as a predecessor of the bell towers or clock towers of medieval European cities.
I recommend that you pay attention to the friezes that mark the cardinal points and that were coordinated with the compass that it housed in its interior and the weather vane of the roof that marked the direction of the wind.
Similar constructions to the Tower of the Winds were used in other Greek cities. You can see them, for example, if you take a trip to Meteora and Delphi, but none demonstrated the effectiveness that this Athenian building had.
Details of interest
- Location... Aiolou 105, Athens.
- Hours.... Every day from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm.
- Price... General admission to the museum is approximately 5 euros.
- How to get there... By metro line M2 from the center of Athens to Akropoli station and by bus lines 35 and 227 to Monastiraki.
10. Relax in a hammam with a Turkish bath to recuperate after touring Plaka
Visiting a hammam is the best way to relax at the end of your tour of Plaka. These Turkish steam baths are considered sacred spaces in Greece, so they are not only considered useful for relaxing the body, but also the mind.
The hammams are considered a wet variant of the sauna but in the Roman style, which means that the visitor should not remain still, but move through different sectors increasing the temperature of the water and inducing sweating.
There are many hammams you can visit in Plaka. The best known are Al Hammam and Old City, but undoubtedly the best alternatives are in the old quarter of Athens given the Turkish influence of the area.
A relaxing visit to a Turkish bath will allow you to recover from a long walk and learn more about Greek culture.
Please note that each hammam may have different general rules and that some do not allow access to people with tattoos. They are also not suitable for minors, so I recommend that in advance of your visit you make sure what are the requirements of the Turkish bath you plan to visit.
Details of interest
- Location... There are hammams available all over the Plaka neighborhood but most are located on Tripodon Street.
- Price... They start at 45 euros.
- How to get there... From the center of Athens at Omonia Square you can take bus lines 11, 500 and 790 to Philellenon and then walk five minutes to Tripodon Street.