Plaka, a village inside a city as it is sometimes described, even though Athens is one of Europe's largest cities, is the beating heart of Athens and has been so for a long time. People have continually lived in the area since before classical times, Plaka is built on the residential area of ancient Athens. It was Plaka that became the capital of Greece in 1834 long before the modern city was built around it.
Nowadays Plaka is one of Athens' biggest tourist attractions, just sitting below the Acropolis rock and its labyrinth like streets full of tavernas and small tourist shops selling ancient replicas and T-shirts, it actually feels like being on one of the Greek islands. Despite the hordes of people and the tourist shops many Athenians still came to eat out in Plaka as there are some excellent tavernas here.
The area now has practically given over to tourism completely but back in the 1950's and 60's Plaka was the place to be for local Athenians who filled the many tavernas every evening with singing, dancing all fuelled by Retsina, many old Greek movies were filmed in the Plaka making the area special in the Greek culture.
During the 1980's Plaka became a lot livelier with nightclubs popping up everywhere and the quiet neighbourhood became, well a noisy neighbourhood, the government at the time put a stop to this and moved all the clubs out of Plaka and even started pedestranizing the area and helping to make it the wonderful place that it is today.
The area of Plaka sits on the slopes of the Acropolis between Monastiraki and Syntagma Square, it basically starts at the The Roman Agora and Tower of the winds and carries on around the slopes of the Acropolis until the Temple of Zeus and Hadrian's Arch. The main street of Plaka is Adrianou that goes straight through the area and begins in Monastiraki at the Flea market, it is named after the Roman Emperor Hadrian.
The area that is now Plaka was the residential area of ancient Athens and built around the Ancient Agora, even during the Roman occupation it was still the centre of the city they even built their own market square there, The Roman Agora. Plaka was the city of Athens throughout its long history and has had many names, during Turkish rule it was known as the Turkish quarter because the Turkish Governor resided there. After Greek independence it was occupied by an Arvanite community (a people who originated in Albania and moved to Greece during the middle ages). The name Plaka wasn't used until the reign of King Otto and it is still unknown exactly where the name came from.
This beautiful part of Plaka resembles being in a small village on a cycaladic island with its narrow streets and small white washed stone houses (Cycladic architecture). The area was settled by stone mason from the island of Anafi in the Cyclades (east of Santorini) brought to Athens by King Otto to build his palace in 1832, as they were famous for their skills. Realising they were going to be away from home for some years, they rebuilt their island home in Plaka, Anafiotika.
Plaka is known as the Neighbourhood of the Gods because of its location under the Acropolis and the amount of historical and archaeological sites in and around the area.
Obviously the Acropolis is the most famous monument in Plaka, others include the ancient Agora which is a major archaeological site and one of the few green areas in Athens. The Agora also has one of the best preserved temples in Greece The Temple of Hephaisteion and Athina Ergane.on the opposite side of the Ancient Agora is the huge Stoa of Attalos which is now a museum and exhibits finds from both the Agora and Plaka.
Hadrian's Library starts in front of the metro station at Monastiraki and stretches into Plaka it was built by Hadrian in 132 AD and was a complex of buildings and a huge library, there are also a number of churches on the site. There is a very nice bar that sits above the far end of the site, you can have a refreshing drink whilst taking in the whole site.
The Roman Agora was built in the 1st century AD by the Romans to replace the ancient Greek agora. It is a lot smaller than the Greek one but has the mysterious Tower of winds which its purpose has baffled historians and archaeologists for years.
The Lysicrates monument is in Lysicrates square not far from the Temple of Zeus and was built by Lysicrates to commemorate winning first prize in a theatre performance which was normal at the time. The monument has been copied throughout the world from Alton Towers fun park in Staffordshire, England to the Merchants' Exchange in Philadelphia.
The huge Archaeological site consists of the famous arch of Hadrian and the huge Temple of Zeus and is at the far end of Plaka across Amalias Avenue. Work began on the temple in the 6th century BC but wasn't completed until over half a millennia later by the Romans in 132 AD. The temple was dedicated to Zeus and the Arch was to show where Roman Athens began and Greek Athens finished.
The majority of the shops in Plaka are your typical tourist souvenir shops selling fridge magnets, keyrings, replica statues, t-shirts etc. You do find some good jewellery shops and art and craft shops but as you can imagine as in any tourist area you usually pay more, Plaka is no exception.
The Plaka is full of restaurants and Tavernas, some are better than others but all are geared for the tourist market serving all your typical Greek dishes like Mousaka, souvlaki, stifado etc, and they all get very busy especially during the summer months.
Plaka is one of the most popular places in Athens for both tourists and Athenians due to its location and views of the Acropolis, it also has many good Tavernas.
Plaka also has a very Greek island feel to it so different from the rest of Athens.
Location: Plaks is in the centre of Athens, basically on the slopes of the Acropolis and just next to Monastiraki.
Nearest Metro Station: Monastiraki.
Tips: The main streets of Plaka get very crowded, especially in the summer. Try using some of the smaller back streets, they are a lot quieter and you will find many sights and shops that you wouldn't normally have found.