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Plaka Neighbourhood in Athens

Stretching around the northeast side of Acropolis hill, Plaka is the most iconic residential neighbourhood 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.

Plaka in Athens
Photo by Tilemahos Efthimiadis from flickr.com

Location

Plaka has rightfully gained its nickname as the “Neighbourhood 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 neighbourhood in 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 square in the heart of Athens.

Where is Plaka located
Photo by Tilemahos Efthimiadis from flickr.com

History   

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 neighbourhood 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.

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.

Anafiotika in Plaka, Athens

During the following years, the city’s core expanded to encompass most neighbouring areas and a new royal residential manor was built closeby 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.

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 See and Do in Plaka

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

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

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

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 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.

What to See and Do in Plaka

How to get to Plaka

Plaka 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

How to get to Plaka
Photo by Tilemahos Efthimiadis from flickr.com

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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