Plaka neighborhood is considered to be the oldest part of Athens situated at the foothill of the northern and eastern sides of the Acropolis mount. Many people refer to Acropolis as the heart of the city. At the same time Plaka is considered to be the soul of Athens. What’s interesting is that it is not made up of some historic decorations.
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Instead it is a regular neighborhood inhibited by real people. What it means is that Plaka is full of life. On the other side it’s the part of Athens most visited by tourists from all over the world. People browse around its numerous labyrinths of narrow streets diving into the atmosphere of ancient Greece. A lot of the shops, restaurants and other businesses in the area focus on tourists as their main clientele.
What’s good is that touristic doesn’t mean overpriced or low quality. Instead the food is quite good and reasonably priced. Overall Plaka neighborhood has a more traditional feel of Athens as opposed to the more upscale Kolonaki. Continue to read my post to explore all the best things to do in Plaka Athens.
Plaka is filled with souvenir shops and restaurants serving traditional Greek dishes.
The easiest way to find Plaka is to start your way from Syntagma Square. Start walking along the Nikis Street that passes behind McDonlads on Syntagma towards Kydatheneon Street.
That’s actually the main pedestrian street of Plaka. It has lots of places to sit down for a meal, have a coffee or purchase some fridge magnets and postcards.
Plaka is full of history and has a great number of ancient monuments.
Here is the list of the 10 most notable historic attractions located in this part of Athens:
- 1. Acropolis
Of course the first one to mention is Acropolis. It’s the main point of attraction for most of the tourists that come to Athens. This means that it gets very busy during high season.
Exploring Acropolis under the hot summer sun can become exhausting. I think that the best months to explore local attractions are November through May. The number of tourists gets much lower. At the same time your chances of getting a heat stroke drastically decrease.
- 2. Temple of Hephaestus
That’s actually the first temple in Athens that was constructed of marble. It was named after the only Greek god with a physical disability. Hephaestus was lame and worked as a blacksmith. He was the one who made the famous shield for Achilles.
- 3. Temple of Zeus
That’s also one of the well-known tourist attractions located slightly outside Plaka. On the other side it’s so close (about half a kilometer from Acropolis) that it makes good sense visiting it while you are in the area. The start of the construction of this impressive building took place in the 6th century BC. It was named after the god of sky and thunder also referred to as the king of the Olympian gods. There is not much left from the temple. What you’ll be able to see is just a number of columns.
- 4. Hadrian’s Arch
The famous Hadrian’s Arch is located next to the Temple of Zeus. It was named after the Roman Emperor to thank him for his great contribution to the city of Athens. As confirmed by a number of archeologists the construction of the Arch took place during the second century. High quality marble has been used as the main building material of the Arch.
- 5. Theater of Dionysos
Don’t forget to discover the oldest theater in the world. Theater of Dionysos is located in a natural outdoor environment in close proximity to Acropolis. The theater could seat up to 18,000 guests. Several front rows have been reserved to the local elite. These were the only seats that had back support. The theater was named after the Greek god of wine and fruitfulness.
- 6. Ancient “Agora”
It used to be the center of ancient political, religious and administrative life of Athens. It was the place where citizens could express their ideas about various aspects related to the local governance. Most of the major sports and theatrical events took place here as well. Ancient merchants came to Agora to make their deals at the local markets. Most of the key administrative buildings as well as homes of the local elite were located here. Ancient “Agora” was the second most important area on the map of Athens after Acropolis.
- 7. Tower of the Winds
Tower of the Winds has been built by the ancient astronomer Andronicus of Cyrrhus. Its remarkable for the innovative way of showing 8 directions of the wind. Each direction had a corresponding character sculpted on the side of the tower. These characters illustrated the weather conditions specific to each direction. As an example, North wind direction corresponded to a man wearing a heavy cloak.
- 8. Choragic Monument of Lysicrates
Ancient Dionysia festival in Athens consisted of a number of theatrical performances competing for the awards. These performances have been sponsored and organized by the so called chorus leaders. Choragic Monument of Lysicrates has been built by one of these chorus patrons to celebrate the first prize awarded to his performance.
- 9. Saint Nicholas Ragavas Church
This was the first church in Athens that obtained a bell after the end of the Turkish domination. It is one of the Byzantine monuments of the city built in the 11th century. Today it’s a working church mostly used by the locals of Plaka.
- 10. Church of St. Anargyri Kolokinthi
This is one of the most important sites of Easter celebrations in Athens located on Erechteos street. The church was built during the period of Turkish occupation. It is owned by the Patriarchate of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem. That’s why this church is also referred to as Metochion of the Holy Sepulcher.
If you like art than it’s definitely worth checking out the Frissiras Museum located on 3 & 7, Monis Asteriou. It is actually the only Museum for Contemporary European Painting in Greece. The museum is based on the private collection of paintings owned by Vlassis Frissiras.
It includes several thousand paintings that he started to collect in the late 1970s. Vlassis Frissiras is a lawyer and art has always been one of his passions.
Walking along the Kydatheneon street will take you to another major tourist street called Adrianou.
You can reach the Monasteraki flea market from here in just about 10-15 minutes.
Plaka neighborhood has one of the highest concentrations of restaurants with traditional cuisine in Athens. There are several restaurants I like to visit from time to time when I’m in the area.
- 1. Vyzantino Taverna.
One of the places is called Vyzantino Taverna on Kydatheneon Street, 18. It is a typical Greek tavern located about 10 minutes by foot from Syntagma Square.
There are many other restaurants located nearby so you’ll have plenty of options to choose from when you get there.
The touristic feel of the restaurant gets even stronger when you see that the menu is translated into 11 languages that include Chinese! You can see that the dishes are reasonably priced.
What to order?
I usually order a Greek salad as a starter, a portion of Giant Beans and some local veal as the main dish. There is also Tzatziki sauce that I prefer to have on the table.
Tzatziki is a traditional dish made of Greek yogurt and cucumbers. It’s great to have it spread on top of a piece of bread while waiting for the starter. This time I ordered a portion of Veal and Eggplant as my main dish. The meat was very soft and delicious.
I had a portion of Ouzo to complete the meal and continue my walk around the area. Many people refer to Ouzo as traditional Greek vodka. In general it has an average ABV of 40% and a strong anise flavor. The best way to drink it is to mix it with some water and add several ice cubes.
- 2. Brettos.
One place you’ll notice as you walk along Kydatheneon Street is the bar that has its walls packed with colorful bottles from the floor to the ceiling. This is a bar called Brettos. The address is Kidathineon 41.
It is one of the oldest bars in the city that has been around since the first decade of 1900s! They have their own distillery where they make various types of homemade liquors and ouzo. Inside Brettos is not very big and can be a nice place to have a small ouzo tasting break. By the way they have more than 30 flavors of liquors. Just don’t let that break become too long…
- 3. Fisherman’s Tavern
Fisherman’s Tavern (also known as The Old Tavern of Psara) is located slightly away from all the noise of the main tourist arteries on Erechtheos 16. They set out their tables right on the stairs of the narrow street that leads toward Acropolis. The restaurant has both meat and seafood dishes, so don’t let the name confuse you. A dinner for two with wine will cost you around 30Euros which is very reasonable.
- 4. Thea Terrace Bar
Thea Terrace Bar is located on top of the Central Athens Hotel. This place has some of the best views on Acropolis in the Plaka area. There are options to sit inside as well as outside. Thea Terrace has a large open verandah. Another great benefit of this place is WiFi that works. There is nothing special I can say about food here. In my case, Thea Terrace has always been a nice place to have a coffee or a beer along with some simple snacks. The address is Apollonos 23.
- 5. O Kostas
That’s actually a small souvlaki stand located on Pentelis, 5 that has been around for more than half a century.
O Kostas is a great place to try some good quality Greek street food. The place is very small and simple. Beef and pork souvlaki are made from fresh mincemeat and cost around 2 Euros. The food is very affordable and tastes really good that makes this place very popular among locals.
- 6. Grexico
Just in case you get tired of all the tavernas with traditional dishes like pitas and souvlaki, there is a nice place with Mexican food called Grexico.
It’s a small street food restaurant that serves good quality burritos. You can pick your own ingredients like chicken or beef, avocado, beans and so on.
It’s really non expensive and gets your stomach full with more or less healthy food. The exact address is Fokionos 4.
It’s always a good idea to combine your walk around Plaka with the visit to Acropolis. From here it will take around 30 minutes to get to the top of the mount. The easiest way to reach the most well-known attraction of Athens is to walk along the pedestrian street called Dionyssiou Areopagitou. Turning right on Theorias Street will take you to the ticket station. This route is easy and not steep. There are some nice views of the monument you’ll be able to enjoy during the walk. I found the detailed map of the route here.
It’s open daily from 8:00 till 15:00. The admission tickets cost 12 Euros per person. Watch out for reduced opening hours during public holidays.
Visiting Plaka neighborhood is a great way to experience the old town of Athens.
Some people may be distracted by its tourist nature, but it definitely has its own unique atmosphere. A lot of major historic attractions are located here. It should definitely be on your visit list when you come to Athens. Just take a break from your stay in the Athenian seaside enjoying Varkiza beach for one day.