In the shadow of the Sacred Rock of the Acropolis, 3,500 years of history await in Plaka, one of the most ancient districts in Europe, its narrow paths unveiling secrets to those who explore it. Proof of this area's magnificent history is visible in its endless archeological wonders, the majestic Byzantine churches and imposing neoclassical buildings of the modern era.
Plaka is the living heart of Athens, with no cars, but many taverns, quiet bars, colourful shops and other attractions. Millions of tourists visit this district year round, discovering its unique blend of originality and noble simplicity.
Route | Estimated time: 4-5 hours
The tour starts at the Acropolis Metro Station, where an open museum on the station’s platform offers visitors their first look at the towering Acropolis and its Museum. Far from being just a metro station, the history of ancient Athens is displayed on each of the station's levels, with replicas and findings from excavations performed at the site.
Leaving the station, we head up Makrygianni Street, cross Dionyssiou Areopagiti Street then enter Plaka from Vyronos Street, a narrow pathway full of tourist shops that gives us our first taste of the relaxed mood of this unique district. After passing Krokos, a shop selling traditional Greek products, we walk another 15 metres and stop to stare at the Monument of Lysicrates, built in 335 BC.
We continue down Tripodon Street and after 20 metres turn left onto Thespidos Street, past the crowded outdoor tables of the taverns towards Kydathineon Street and the bustling heart of Plaka. We will definitely stop at 'Damigos, the Bakaliarakia' (a historic tavern opened in 1865) and head upstairs to Vrettos, the oldest distillery in Athens and the second oldest liquor shop in all of Europe. Twenty metres down the street, we reach Filomousou Etaireias Square, surrounded by superb snack bars and taverns.
Moving past the square along Kydathineon Street, we turn right onto Monis Asteriou Street, where the Fryssira Museum exhibits modern European painters.
Leaving the museum and continuing on Kydathineon street, the 11th-century church of Metamorphosi comes into view on our right. Directly opposite is the Museum of Greek Folk Art, with exhibits from the everyday life and cultural heritage of the Greeks, including woven cloth, household objects, traditional costumes and embroidery.
Walking back down Kydathineon Street, we turn right onto Adrianou Street, where boutiques, restaurants, jewellers and traditional shops create a vibrant, living portrait.
We continue towards the intersection with Navarhou Nikodimou Street and see the Municipal School, a masterpiece of 19th-century architecture. Built in 1875, it housed the second primary school in Plaka. Today it is home to one of the 74 primary schools in Athens.
From Navarhou Nikodimou Street we take Agias Philotheis Street and head for Athens Cathedral in Mitropoleos Square. This is the heart of the Greek Orthodox church in Athens and was constructed between 1842 and 1862.
We follow Pandrossou street, becoming more immersed in the sights and atmosphere of Plaka. We turn left onto Eolou Street and stop before the Horologion of Andronicus of Cyrrhus, the Tower of Winds, a monument built in the first century BC that once operated as a solar clock and a meteorological station. Visible on each surface of this incredible octagonal building are depictions of the eight winds, and on top is a weather vane. The tower we see on our right is the Roman Forum, and next to the Tower on Panos Street, is the Fethiye Mosque, built in 1456.
To the left of the Tower of the Winds, just a few metres up Kyristou Street, is the Bath of the Winds, a Turkish bath built during Ottoman occupation. Today the venue has been renovated and operates as a cultural centre.
Continuing our walk, we turn right up Mnisikleous Street then down Prytaneiou Street. We take a short left and can see the historic church of St. Nikolas Ragavas. Built in the 11th century, this church is one of Plaka’s most important landmarks, especially on the night of the celebration of the Holy Resurrection when residents and visitors gather for an outdoor mass.
Walking along the narrow paths behind the church, we come to a very special neighbourhood of Plaka: the Anafiotika. This area is known for its unique architecture, similar to that of the Cyclades. After liberation, the first inhabitants of Plaka were workers from the island of Anafi. Because Athens was a young capital then, the extensive construction required drew the island workers here.
The beauty of the Cyclades, the majestic Rock overlooking the neighbourhood and the stunning view towards Athens and Lycabettus hill all merge to create a portrait that will make your heart beat and your camera click.
Our return trip along Stratonos-Thrassylou Street brings us past neoclassical homes and the archaeological site of the Acropolis, until we are once again on the Dionyssiou Areopagiti pedestrian street at the Acropolis Metro Station. A brief stop for a cup of coffee or a quick snack before leaving offers the perfect opportunity to review an unforgettable trip.