Visiting the Plaka district in Athens is an experience that stays with travelers for a lifetime, greekreporter.com notes in the following feature:
With its colorful neoclassic buildings and ruins waiting to be discovered around every corner, there is so much to be admired in Plaka.
The district 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 will encounter anywhere on the planet.
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 even in ancient times.
Even though 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. Actually, 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 exciting fact is that excavations have proven that Plaka’s main artery, Adrianou Street, is the oldest street in Athens which is still in continuous use. Most remarkable of all, it still has the exact same layout as it did in antiquity.
Original residential areas of the ancient town of Athens
Naturally, the original residential areas of the ancient town of Athens lay 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 incredibly 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.
Moreover, 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 numerous 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 ideal place for people-watching the hundreds of thousands of tourists who visit Plaka all year round.
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, at least.
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 indeed 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 big section of the neighborhood, Plaka has seen difficult times.
Excavations in the Roman Market and Hadrian’s Library
Nevertheless, it was only because of that destructive fire that archaeologists began conducting excavations in the Roman Market and Hadrian’s Library.
Also, be sure to check out the nearby area of Monastiraki, which you can reach 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 neighbourhood.
For those who want to learn more 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.
What about visiting an island village while you’re in the neighborhood? Sounds odd, 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 forget 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 impressed 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 a genuine part of ancient as well as modern-day Greek history.
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Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons License: CC-BY-SA Copyright: JFKennedy