Plaka, Athens’ oldest and most picturesque neighborhood, is the area right underneath the Acropolis. Set among Syntagma sq., Monastiraki, the Ancient Agora and Thissio, the Amalia Ave. and theMakriyianni area, is also known as the “Neighborhood of the Gods“.
Located under the Acropolis, its charming atmosphere is spread all around the narrow streets. A history of 6.000 years among the ancient Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman monuments, neoclassic houses and 19th centuries villas, is quite an attractive walk to take. Typical places full of local aromas and traditional essence pave a romantic way up the Sacred Rock of Athens.
What to see in Plaka
the Athens Acropolis
The Acropolis of Athens is the main point of attraction for most of the tourists that come to the Greek capital city. This means that it gets busy during high season. Exploring the Acropolis under the hot summer sun can become exhausting. The best period of the year to explore Plaka and the Acropolis are October through June. The number of visitors gets much lower and the weather is great.
Temple of Hephaestus
temple of Hephaistus (Vulcan)
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 in Homer’s Iliad.
Temple of Zeus
The temple of Olympian Zeus
The Temple of Olympian Zeus is also one of the well-known tourist attractions located slightly outside Plaka. The short distance from the Acropolis of Athens (about half a kilometer) makes good sense visiting it while you are in the area. The start of the construction of this impressive temple 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.
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.
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.
The Ancient Agora of Athens used to be the center of political, religious and administrative life of ancient 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.
Read our post about the Ancient Agora of Athens
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.
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.
Saint Nicholas Rangabe Church
Located on the slopes of the Acropolis, this 11th century church takes its name from the Byzantine Emperor Michael I Rangabe. It was the only church with a bell during the Ottoman reign. Today it’s a normal church mostly used by the locals of Plaka.
Church of St. Anargyri Kolokinthi
This is one of the most important sites of Easter celebrations in Athens located on Erechtheos street. The church, a post-Byzantine structure built in 1600s on a late Byzantine imperial Palaiologos family burial site, is also known as the Monastery of Healing Saints. Today it depends of the Patriarchate of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem. This is the reason why is also called 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.