The Picturesque Plaka Neighborhood in Athens

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Stretching around the northeast side of Acropolis hill, Plaka is the most iconic residential neighborhood in Athens and of the oldest unremittingly inhabited settlements in the world with more than three thousand years of history.

Its trademark maze-like alleyways, architectural gems, archeological sites, and sheltered squares have turned it into one of the most visited and beloved spots in the city.

Mnisikleous street plaka stairs athens
Mnisikleous street in Plaka neighborhood with its famous “stairs” (called skalàkia by the locals). Courtesy: George Patmios

Where is Plaka Neighborhood Located

Plaka has rightfully gained its nickname as the “Neighborhood of the Gods” as it’s built for the larger part on top of the ancient city of Athens and it’s nestled right below the Acropolis among several monuments that still glow with the city’s erstwhile glory.

Plaka’s main street called Adrianou gracefully splits the neighborhood into two parts – Ano (Upper) Plaka and Kato (Lower) Plaka. The former is almost adjacent to Acropolis while the latter is located right between Monastiraki and Syntagma (Constitution) square in the heart of Athens.

plaka district under acropolis
The Plaka neighborhood is located on the northeast slope of the Acropolis.
Courtesy: ᴅɪᴍɪᴛʀɪs ᴀɴᴅʀ| ᴘʜᴏᴛᴏɢʀᴀᴘʜᴇʀ

The History of Plaka District

Plaka was once known as the Turkish district of Athens as it used to be the abode of the Turkish governor during the period of the Ottoman occupation.

Later on, when the Greek War of Independence burst forth, it became the dramatic backdrop to several armed conflicts and it suffered extensive damage. Many of Plaka’s residents abandoned their homestead in search of safety and the neighborhood was left dismantled.

It wasn’t until several years later that Plaka would regain its former status as an upscale area. In the early 19th century, newly crowned King Otto decided to make Athens the capital city of the newfound Greek State, thus marking the beginning of a long period of repopulation in what would later become a vast metropolis.

Plaka-district-in-athens
Plaka neighborhood, Athens. Courtesy: Mersina Photo

The majority of Plaka in particular was repopulated by settlers from the island of Anafi who built a small community contiguous to Plaka that is still called Anafiotika today and features strong elements of the Cycladic architecture and aesthetics.

During the following years, the city’s core expanded to encompass most neighboring areas and a new royal residential manor was built close by that would become home to the Greek Parliament later on. Ensuingly, there was a massive migration movement from the Greek countryside towards the capital and the city of Athens slowly started taking the shape it has today.

house koletis in plaka
The house of the first prime minister of Greece Ioannis Kolettis at 13 Polygnotou Street in Plaka


Klepsidras Street in Plaka
The upper part of Klepsidras Street in Plaka. Courtesy: wikimedia.org

But Plaka’s long string of misfortunes was far from over. In 1884, the area once again suffered severe damage caused by a great fire. However, the catastrophe eventually proved to be a blessing in disguise, as it gave archaeologists the opportunity to commence several fruitful excavation projects around the ancient Roman Agora and other sites of historical interest. These areas were officially recognized as cultural heritage sites and were protected from the rapidly growing urban development which at the time was taking over the rest of the city by storm. Ultimately, vivid tourism activities in and around Plaka contributed to the preservation of its unique character much of which is still palpable in the presence of neoclassical buildings and restored Byzantine churches.

What to Do and See in Plaka Neighborhood

Apart from visiting all the acclaimed archeological wonders, Plaka neighborhood has to offer, you can stroll among the labyrinthine streets and witness the charm and alluring ambiance of the oldest neighborhood in Athens.

plaka district athens greece
Stroll the streets of Plaka. Courtesy: ᴅɪᴍɪᴛʀɪs ᴀɴᴅʀ| ᴘʜᴏᴛᴏɢʀᴀᴘʜᴇʀ

Explore its hidden squares and marvel upon the elegant architecture of the surrounding buildings and the small chapels.

street in plaka
Get lost in the little streets of the Plaka neighborhood.
Courtesy: ᴅɪᴍɪᴛʀɪs ᴀɴᴅʀ| ᴘʜᴏᴛᴏɢʀᴀᴘʜᴇʀ
stroll around plaka
A front door of a house in Plaka guarded by the Goddess Athena. Courtesy: Robert Wallace / flickr.com

If you get tired of wandering through the quaint pave ways, you can seek refuge from the sun in a local cafe or restaurant and get a taste of authentic Greek cuisine and hospitality.

cafe in plaka
Plaka is packed with restaurants and cafés. Courtesy: ᴅɪᴍɪᴛʀɪs ᴀɴᴅʀ| ᴘʜᴏᴛᴏɢʀᴀᴘʜᴇʀ

Adrianou Street is the place to head to for souvenir hunting and socializing with the locals. If you’re a history buff, you’ll find that Plaka neighborhood is the ideal place for you as it has numerous museums in its vicinity – the new Acropolis Museum, Frissiras Museum, the Museum of Greek Folk Art, the Museum of Popular Music Instruments, the Jewish Museum of Greece and Athens University Museum all have their treasures on display and waiting to be delved into.

See some options for things to do in Plaka and Anafiotika:

How to Get Around Plaka

Plaka neighborhood is one of the most central spots in Athens and you can easily reach it from anywhere in the city center.

It’s located right in the middle of three different metro stations – Syntagma and Monastiraki (blue line), and Acropolis (red line), and it’s only a few minutes away from any of them.

All in all visiting Plaka should definitely be on the top of your bucket list on your trip to Athens. Combining impressive architecture, world-class museums, archaeological sites, and high-end gastronomy,  it’s the perfect place to start your exploration of the glorious city of Athens and delve into local culture.

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