It is the oldest district in Athens (it is also mentioned as "Gods' district") with outstanding scenery. The moment you start walking on its paved narrow lanes you get the feeling that you travel back in time. Nobody knows where the area took its name from. According to the most prevalent opinion, Plaka took its name from a large stone slab that was found in the area near to Aghios Georgios Alexandreias church, next to Dionysus ancient theater. You will be mesmerized by the beauty of the houses with neoclassic colors, the architecture, the well preserved gardens, the elegance and the atmosphere of the whole area. Even Plaka's air is different: Softer, clearer and full of scents, like a gift from gods. If you decide to walk around the area, make sure you have a map, because Plaka is like a labyrinth and you will probably get lost in its lanes. You will find souvenir shops in the central street of the district Adrianos Str., as well as in other streets.
Filomousos Eteria Square. The central square of the area that took its name from Filomousos Eteria (Association of Muses’ Friends - Muses where the 9 goddesses of Arts) and was constructed in 1813. The aim of this Association was to promote Greek Studies and preserve Athens archeological treasures. The square is located in the intersection of Kydathinaeon, Farmaki, Olympian Zeus and Aggelos Gerontas streets and is full of coffee houses, restaurants and clubs with live music. There are also many souvenir shops.
Children Museum. It is located in Kydathinaeon Str. and is a children paradise. In the attic you can visit its renovated room full of old furniture, a radio and an old Athenian house stove. It is called the “grandfather's and grandmother's room" and the children visiting it can try on some old traditional costumes. There is also a gallery of children paintings and old toys, a playground, a library etc. If you have children, you should not miss visiting this museum. It is also worth to visit the neighboring Museum of Greek Children Art (9 Kodrou Str.), where apart from some educational events that the museum organizes, paintings and constructions of children aged 4-14 from all over Greece are exhibited. These paintings are often replaced with new ones.
Choragic Monument of Lysicrates. In ancient Athens, all theater performances organized in Dionysus Theater, were subsidized by wealthy citizens who were called chorigoi (or sponsors). The sponsor of the best performance was awarded with a prize. When Lysicrates, a wealthy man, won this prize (334 B.C.), he decided to construct a monument to house his prize. This monument is still preserved (located in ancient Tripodes Str., and its paving is preserved in a room of a renovated building number 28). The monument's construction was just the beginning of a long lasting history of this creation. In 1658, Cappuccinos monastery was built there and in 1669 the monument was bought by Cappuccinos. Lord Byron stayed in this monastery during his second visit to Greece, while tomatoes were first planted in its garden.
Anafiotika. It is a beautiful island village on the foot of Acropolis Rock! It was constructed in the middle of the 19th century, when builders came to Athens from the Aegean island of Anafi. These builders were considered as the best in their art and came to Athens to construct the Palace of the first King of Greece, Othonas. Knowing that they would have to spend few years away from home and feeling nostalgic, they decided to reconstruct their village on the highest area of Plaka. So they built small white houses, with the same architectural style as the ones in their village. Anafiotika, which means the neighborhood of Anafiotes (people from Anafi), is a unique and beautiful must see area.
Athens University Museum: This building in Tholos Str. initially was the house of architect Kleanthis (1832-1833) and afterwards it housed Athens first University (1837-1842). Nowadays, it houses Athens University Museum.
Kanellopoulos Museum: It was built in 1976, after the donation of Pavlos and Alexandra Kanellopoulos private collection to the Greek State. It is housed in the neoclassic house of Michalea family. Kanellopoulos collection includes archeological findings and works of art dating back to the prehistoric period until now.
One of the most typical areas in “old” Athens full of narrow lanes and small buildings, representing the Ottoman and Byzantine influence on the city. In the open-air stands and in the small shops, located on central streets (Andrianou, Ifaestou, Theseiou, Aghios Fillipos, Astiggos and Ermou), you can buy everything: shoes, clothes, old and new furniture, old books and magazines, souvenirs, jewelry, hats, bronze items, new and second hand records and cd’s, traditional Greek music instruments (bouzouki, cymbal etc). Shopping or just walking around Monastiraki is an amazing experience you do not want to miss. You will be amazed by the quality and quantity of products and you will definitely be tempted to buy something.
Monastiraki Square. A historic square, where you can see Tzistaraki Mosque, Andrianos Library and Pantanassas Byzantine Church. Very interesting is also the reconstructed neoclassic metro station, one of the network’s oldest (1895). Next to it is a specially constructed area (300 sq. m) that houses Ancient Iridanos River bed.
Avissinia Square (Giousouroum). It is Monastiraki's central square. Here you can find literally everything: rare antique furniture or antique models as well as every kind of second hand items. You can also find old closets, bookshelves, frames, mirrors, secretaires, tables, gramophone records and music instruments. If you want to buy something it is better to visit these markets early in the morning. If you just want to walk around the area, noon is the perfect time of the day. You can also have a glass of Greek wine or Ouzo, accompanied with Greek mezes (Greek tapas), in one of the small restaurants of the square.
Andrianos Str. A typical Athens street, extending from Andrianos Library to “Theseion” metro station. The neoclassic one or two storey buildings house antique shops and shops with traditional items, while on Sunday many outdoor dealers gather to sell their products. There are also many coffee houses and small beautiful restaurants with unique view of Ancient Agora archeological site.
THE TRADITIONAL SHOPPING CENTER
It is the area between Metropoleos, Athina and Stadiou Streets and is considered to be the “heart” of Athens, the historic center as well as its traditional shopping center. On its narrow or wide labyrinthine streets you can find more than 2.500 shops which sell different kind of products. At the same time because many of its streets have been turned into pedestrian areas it is a very quiet place with many coffee houses, small bars and modern restaurants.
Mitropoleos Street. It connects Syntagma Square with Monastiraki Square and is of neoclassic style. Mitropoleos Square, where Athens Metropolitan Church dominates, is ideal for relaxing in its coffee houses while on the scenic Dimopratiriou Square you can also find many taverns with traditional Greek food.
Ermou Street. It took its name from Hermes - god of trade - and is one of the first streets designed by Kleanthis and Schaubert. It was considered to be women fashion center for more than 60 years (from the end of 19th century until the beginning of the 1960's). Nowadays, it is still one of the best spots for shopping. The shops in Lekka street, between Perikleous and Kolokotroni streets, as well as the nearby arcades have a great variety of silver items: candlesticks, bowls, vases and jewels. Many of these are Greek handmade artworks. There are also many low cost cloth and shoe shops in the scenic Evaggelistria and Aghios Markos streets. The first part of Ermou street (from Syntagma Square to Athena Street) dominates Kapnikarea Byzantine Church, while in its last part (from Theseion to Piraeus Street) dominates Kerameikos archeological site.
Athena Street. A central commercial street, which connects Omonia Square to Monastiraki Square, was one of the first streets constructed in modern Athens. Most of the day, it is a very busy place as it has a great food market. During working hours it is full of people and the smell of food, fruits, spices and dry cones is spread out everywhere, representing the charm of Eastern bazaars. Constructed on the foot of Acropolis Rock, it includes many remarkable architectural monuments of the 19th and of the first decades of 20th century. The last few years it has become the center of conjectural events, since there are more than ten art venues around the area.
Athens City Hall (63 Athenas Str.): It was built in 1874 and is of strict neoclassic style. Initially, it was a two storey building but in 1937 due to Municipality needs one more level was added causing the alteration of its original structural elements. Its interior is decorated with paintings of remarkable Greek painters of the 19th century. You can also see frescos of mythological and historic depictions (1937-1940), created by F. Kontoglou, while in the City Council room there is a huge oil fresco (1877) that depicts Apostle Pavlos teaching Christianity to Athenians. In the reception room (1st floor) there are small figures of all mayors made of terra cotta. Close to the City Hall is the small Theater Square.
Kotzia Square (National Resistance): It is located in front of the City Hall and it was formerly known as People’s Square or Ludwich Square. In its south side dominates Melas Mansion (created by E. Ziller in 1887), with an impressive facade and two prominent towers on each corner. Its central room is covered by a glass roof and has perimetric arched rows of Doric and Ionic style. Initially, this building was B. Melas house but nowadays is the Cultural Center of the National Bank of Greece. On the east side of the square is the G. Stavros Mansion of cinquecento style, which now houses the offices of the National Bank of Greece. On its NE side archeologists found part of Acharniki Gate of Themistokleio Walls which is now exhibited in a specially constructed area.
Varvakeios Public (Central) Market: A rectangular building (1886) with a huge covered yard. In its interior and exterior parts there are overall 73 food shops (meat market, fish market, vegetables market and groceries). It is covered by glass and metallic roof and the sunlight comes from symmetrical windows built on roof. Inside the market you can also find small restaurants with fresh food, which gather many Athenians especially after midnight. There is a small grove opposite Varvakeios.
Euripides Str.: A beautiful street, that reminds you countries of the East and extends from Kounoundourou Squareto Kafthmonos Square. Alongside, there are many shops with spices, pastries, dry cones and coffee. Some of these shops sell products brought from the East.
Aeolou Str. It is partially pedestrian and extends from Panepistimiou Str. to Roman Agora (Plaka). In its intersection with Sofokleous Str. is the recently-constructed Administration Building of the National Bank of Greece (2002), one of the most important buildings of modern architecture in Athens. It was designed by Greek architects under the directory of famous architect M. Botta. In its ground floor you can see a restored part of ancient Acharniki Str. In 10 Sofokleous Str. is the Athens Stock Exchange building with a classic facade (you can also see four Doric style columns). On your way to Plaka you will see two beautiful churches: Panagia Chrisospiliotissa (1863-on the corner of the homonym street) and Aghia Irini (1847-Athenaidos Str.), both designed by L. Laftantzoglou. A small square with coffee houses and flower shops surround Aghia Irini, which was modern Athens' first Metropolitan Church.
Stadiou Str. A central street. One of the first streets constructed in modern Athens. It was first constructed on the bed of an ancient river, but when it started taking the form of a street it was called Feidiou Str. and some years after Akakion Str. Its present name came from the fact that initially it was designed to reach Panathinaiko Stadium. This plan was never implemented.
National Printing –House Building: It is located between Santarosa and Arsaki Streets and is one of the first public buildings constructed in modern Athens (1834). It is of strict neoclassic style and until 1905 it housed the “National Printing House”.
Kafthmonos Square: A spacious square with many remarkable buildings (Athens City Museum, former Naval Ministry building, Foreign Affairs Ministry Building, Aghioi Theodoroi Byzantine Church,etc) and many coffee houses. In its center stands an impressionistic bronze statue that symbolizes “National Reconciliation” created by B. Doropoulos in 1988.
“Atticon-Apollon” Building: An impressive mansion that houses two of the oldest cinema halls in Athens that were recently renovated.
Karitsi Square: A small square that took its name from the church, built the middle of it. This elegant church (designed by L. Kaytantzoglou) was built on the ruins of an older church, where in January 1833 Athenians chose an assembly to be sent to Nafplio to welcome the newly arrived King Othona. On the opposite side is the neoclassic building of “Parnassos”.
O.T.E Mansion: It is an excellent sample of Athenian modernism, with elements of older architectural styles. It was designed by the remarkable Greek architect An. Metaksa (1931).
Kolokotroni Square: A small square located in front of National History Museum. In its middle is the impressive bronze equestrian statue of our national hero Th. Kolokotronis. On the opposite side (8 Stadiou Str.) is Douila house, one of the oldest buildings in modern Athens, designed by Chr. Hansen, which unfortunately nowadays is abandoned.
National History Museum. This impressive neoclassic building was constructed during 1858 to 1871 according to the designs of Fr. Boulanger, which was later modified by the Greek architect P. Kalko. Until 1935 the building housed the Greek Parliament and that is why it is called Palia Vouli (Former Parliament). Since 1961 it has been housing collections of National Historic Museum (for the Museum’s collections ).