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Spending a Day in Plaka, the Oldest Neighborhood in Athens

Plaka and the Acropolis. Credit: Greek Reporter

Visiting and spending a day in the Plaka district in Athens is an experience of a lifetime for travelers. With its colorful neoclassic buildings and ruins waiting to be discovered around every corner, there is so much to be discovered in Plaka. Let’s be sure that you don’t miss any of the attractions!

Plaka is appropriately known as the “Neighborhood of the Gods.” It lies beneath the northeastern slope of the Acropolis and stretches almost all the way to Syntagma Square in a maze of winding narrow streets laced with shops and dotted with antiquities throughout.

Truly, this is one of the most charming and elegant neighborhoods you might encounter anywhere on Earth.

Pedestrian-only streets take your imagination back to ancient times

Pedestrian Streets of Plaka district
Pedestrian Streets of Plaka. CR: (WT-shared). CC BY-SA 4.0

It’s easy to spend an entire day strolling around Plaka, as many of the cobbled stone streets are zoned for pedestrians only…and it doesn’t take a great deal of imagination to think of exactly how it looked during ancient times!

Although it is true that the Plaka neighborhood has a plethora of souvenir shops and touristic tavernas, there is still something very authentic and real about this part of Athens.
Plaka is Athens’ oldest historical neighborhood. In fact, the neighborhood itself was originally developed mostly around the ruins of the ancient Agora, and this area of Athens has continuously been inhabited since the days of Ancient Greece.

Another amazing fact is that excavations have proven that Plaka’s main artery, Adrianou Street, along with Tripodon street, is the oldest street in Athens which is still in continuous use. Most remarkably, it still has the exact same layout as it did in antiquity!

Neoclasical Buildings and Ancient Churches at Athens Plaka District

Panagia Kapnikarea
CR: George E. Koronaios – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

During your day in the Plaka district, make sure you visit the original residential areas of the ancient town of Athens below the surface of modern-day Plaka, which is why you will travel the narrow streets and see colorful neoclassical buildings, not ancient ruins. However, keep your camera close at hand because there are pockets of ruins everywhere around this neighborhood.

Besides the quaint streets and buildings, travelers can explore and admire stunningly lovely little churches at every turn. Some ancient churches are even below street level as most of them date back to the eleventh century.

They boast impressive icons and not only can you walk inside them to check out their décor and history, but many still hold regular services!

In addition, you will find shops with amazing antiques all throughout Plaka. If you are interested in hand-painted icons, wood carvings and other pieces of art made by local artists, this is the place for you. Plaka is an art and antique destination for Athenians as well as tourists.

There are also many jewelry stores, some run by artisans who produce their own unique pieces of jewelry. Skip the cookie-cutter jewelry and bring home something authentic, and actually designed and made by hand in Greece!

When you are ready to sit down and take a break from exploring, be sure to check out the bars and cafes on Adrianou Street and Kydatheneon Street. The two streets are the main pedestrian roads in Plaka. They are the perfect place for people-watching the hundreds of thousands of tourists who visit Plaka all year round.

Credit: Greek Reporter

What could be better than relaxing like the locals—on the stairs of ancient Plaka? Just grab a bite, sit down and enjoy the atmosphere. Feel like a Greek for the day!

As difficult to imagine as it may be today, Plaka was once the seat of the Turkish “voevode” (governor) during the Ottoman rule of Greece. This neighborhood has seen it all!
From the 1821 Greek War of Independence, when the area saw heavy fighting, to a massive fire in 1884 which burned down a large section of the neighborhood, Plaka has seen difficult times.

However, it was only because of that destructive fire that archaeologists began conducting excavations in the Roman Market and Hadrian’s Library.

Walk through nearby Monastiraki

Monastiraki Square. Credit: Greek Reporter

Be sure to check out the nearby area of Monastiraki, which you can get to by walking down Adrianou Street. You’ll be impressed by the ancient ruins of Hadrian’s Library and the Roman Agora, which are only two of the many sites you can visit in this area.

For those who want to learn all about the history of Plaka, there are many museums to visit, including the Music Museum, the Children’s Museum, the Museum of Greek Folk Art, and the Jewish Museum.

If you’re looking for a unique part of Athenian history as you explore the narrow streets in this vibrant Athenian neighborhood, do not miss Brettos, the oldest distillery in Athens! Located in the heart of Plaka, Bretto’s has great drinks and the decor is breathtaking. Be sure to take your camera for some awesome selfies and celebrate your day in Athens’ Plaka District.

Anafiotika Acropolis in Plaka District
Anafiotika with Acropolis ruins. CR: Eberhard Kern. Public Domain

What about visiting an island village while you’re in the neighborhood? Sounds strange. Yet it’s true! Anafiotika is a tiny, authentic village that you will find inside Plaka.

Well off the beaten path of typical tours, this little neighborhood is more like an island village. You honestly will not believe that you are in Athens when you walk down the narrow painted streets of Anafiotika.

No matter what itinerary you plan out while visiting Plaka, you will uncover more than the ruins of the ancient Greeks. You will also be enchanted by the locals who reside there today.

They carry on centuries-old traditions with their shops and stories in this charming Athenian neighborhood, making it an authentic part of ancient as well as modern-day Greek history!

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