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Monastiraki station is served by both Metro lines 1 and 3, and serves as the best access point for Plaka and Psiri, although walking from Acropoli station on line 2 to Plaka is also a possibility. Driving and parking in this area
are difficult. |+|
Monastiraki station is served by both Metro lines 1 and 3, and serves as the best access point for Plaka and Psiri, although walking from Acropoli station on line 2 to Plaka is also a possibility. Driving and parking in this area difficult.
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Revision as of 01:00, 3 September 2008
Tavernas in the side streets of Plaka
Plaka (Πλάκα) is the historic heart of Athens, located to the north of the Acropolis. Next to Plaka are the districts of Monastiraki (Μοναστηρακι) and Thissio (Θησείο), popular with tourists and Athenians alike.
Gentrified during the 1990s and now very popular with tourists, Plaka is a charming historic district at the foot of the Acropolis, with its restored 19th century neoclassical homes, pedestrianized streets, shops and restaurants, and picturesque ruins from the city's Roman era. Thissio, to the west side of the Acropolis, is very similar and now houses many restaurants and cafes. Between the two is Monastiraki, a very bohemian district increasingly popular with tourists, with stores selling a variety of items including antiques, cookware, souvenirs, arts and crafts, movie posters, punk culture, funky clothing, and pretty much anything you can think of.
Another part of Plaka is Anafiotika and is located on the northermost place. There you will find the first university of Athens before it was relocated in central Athens. Its an oasis of calm and quietness, and there are many green spaces which are part of the green space of Acropolis.
Plaka's boundaries are not precisely defined. Clear borders are the Ancient Agora and Plateia Monastiraki on the west, the Acropolis and Dhionysiou Areopayitou street on the south, the Temple of Olympian Zeus and Leoforos Amalias on the south-east, and the west part of Mitropoleos street, up to the cathedral on the north (but Mitropoleos street and Leoforos Amalias, though boundaries, shouldn't be considered part of Plaka, since they have a modern and fairly non-descript atmosphere). The north-eastern and eastern boundaries are a bit less well defined, but if you're south of Apollonos street and west of Nikis street you'll probably feel like you're still in Plaka.
Monastiraki station is served by both Metro lines 1 and 3, and serves as the best access point for Plaka and Psiri, although walking from Acropoli station on line 2 to Plaka is also a possibility. Driving and parking in this area is difficult.
Though many visitors come to Plaka for its authentic atmosphere, there are also a number of individual attractions in the neighborhood which will interest many visitors.
- The Roman Agora/Roman Forum  at the west end of Plaka houses the Tower of the Winds, an eight sided tower with a different wind deity on each side. Also located here are the remains of ancient shops and a fountain. Shared ticket with Acropolis (€12).
- The Ancient Agora , just to the west of Plaka and easily walked to by following the pleasant section of Hadrian (Adrianou) Street leading west from Hadrian's Library, was formerly a political and administrative center of ancient Athens. The Temple of Hephaestus (5th century BC) is found here. The Stoa of Attalus has been turned into a museum  housing relics found in the Agora. One of the oldest churches in Athens, Agias Apostoli (11th century), stands near the agora. Shared ticket with Acropolis (€12).
Museums and galleries
- Benaki Museum of Islamic Art, 22 Ag. Asomaton & 12 Dipilou Streets – Kerameikos, . An excellent collection which anyone interested in Islamic art will want to see. The museum was opened in 2004 as a branch of the Benaki, but is in a different part of town in two connected buildings.
- Kanellopoulos Museum, 12 Theorias & Panos Streets, Plaka, . Tues-Sun 8:30am-3pm. A small but excellent museum displays artifacts from Mycenean Greece on, and includes some wonderful Persian artifacts.
- Museum of Greek Popular Musical Instruments, 1-3 Dioyenous, Plaka, . A very interesting museum includes exhibits of traditional Greek musical instruments, with recordings of most of them.
- Museum of Greek Folk Art, 17 Kydathineon, . An excellent museum of its type. Too often neglected by visitors to Athens, even though it is in the heavily touristed Plaka neighborhood. Artifacts, tools, primitive painting, folk pottery, and interior decor are only some of the arts featured, and it is particularly strong on costume and embroidery.
- In Athens, the Flea Market has two meanings. The sign next to Monastiraki station at the beginning of Ifaistou Street claims that you are entering "the Flea Market of Athens." Actually, that street is lined with second-hand and surplus shops of every description. Few of them are of much interest to the visitor, though towards the west end of the street there are some interesting shops selling old books, posters, and Greek and other music recordings. The real Flea Market is held on Sunday mornings in Plateia Avissinia at the western end of Ifaistou Street. There you will find an incredible assortment of used objects, antiques, and junk.
- Vrettos distillery (see below, under Drink) sells bottles of its own ouzo and other liqueurs.
- Among all the souvenir and second-hand stores in the area, Martinos at 50 Pandrossou (tel. 210/321-3110)stands out as a genuine antique shop, offering top quality items from Greece and the Eastern Mediterranean. Prices are also top of the line, so this is a shop for knowledgable antique buyers in the market to do some serious spending. Remember that taking antiques out of Greece and into your own country may be subject to the laws of both countries and be sure you're familiar with them before taking anything old home.
Plaka offers innumerable restaurants, most of them packed with tourists and few of them very noteworthy. The following can be recommended:
At the end of Mitropoleos, just around the corner from the Metro station, is a trio of famous souvlaki shops — Thanasis, Savvas and Bairaktaris (Μπαϊρακτάρης) — which are, depending on who you ask, the Mecca or the Hades of souvlaki lovers. At any of the three, if you take a seat and ask for a souvlaki, you'll be served a plate with meat, pita, and chips and expected to pay upwards of €9 for the privilege. On the other hand, if you just walk up to the cashier and order a pita-souvlaki, you'll get the same stuff in a sandwich to take away and will pay only around €1.70 for it. If you have to pick just one of the three, Thanasis probably has a slight edge: they spice up their meat with a secret house blend and use a mustard-based condiment instead of the usual tzatziki.
Adrianou, which runs along the north side of the Acropolis from Thissio in the west to Plaka in the east, is packed with tavernas. Many are touristy and a little on the pricy side, so try to pick one that also has locals as customers. Expect to pay a little extra at any place that has views of the Acropolis!
- Vyzantino, at Kydathineon and Adrianou, at the epicenter of the Plaka tourist-quake, is significantly better and more authentic than the seemingly identical restaurants which line the streets of this intersection. Large portions of traditional Greek fare served in a pleasant outdoor seating area. Service is generally fast but can slow down when the tour groups crowd in.
- Platanos (4 Dioyenous, tel 210 322 1065) is one of the oldest tavernas in Plaka with a pleasant outdoor terrace under a huge plane tree, though some old Athens hands have complained that the food has gotten lackluster recently.
- Damigos, also called Ta Bakaliarakia (which means "codcakes") (41 Kydathineon, tel. 210 322 5048), claims to date back to 1865 and though it's recently been refurbished still looks very old. This is a really good, traditional, simple restaurant with authentic food, specializing in the eponymous codcakes, and serving excellent wine from the family vineyards. Formerly it was mostly closed in the summer months, but it has recently been found open in June.
- Zeus Xenios (pronounced and sometimes spelled Zefs in modern Greek), at the very top of Mnesikleous Street, literally in the shadow of the Acropolis, offers quieter and less expensive dining than the many touristy tavernas lining Mnesikleous whose touts will try to snare you as you walk up the hill. The view isn't as spectacular as you might expect, but the outdoor seating is very pleasant and the traditional Greek dishes include some unusual ones, like grilled peppers in yogurt sauce. The cover charge includes a bottle of water, an appetizer plate, and garlic bread.
Neighboring Plaka is the rather rough and tumble Monastiraki neighborhood, immediately to the west of the Metro station of the same name.
- Cafe Avissinia  is quite a remarkable restaurant, serving refined and creative innovations on traditional Greek dishes in a chic setting. Located on the square of the same name which is the venue of the main Athens flea market, this is an interesting place to come for lunch, where you can sit enjoying the upscale food and ambiance while looking out on the gritty bazaar of the Flea Market. Moderately expensive, and unfortunately no open wine, though they do have a short but well-chosen list of Greek bottled wines. Open for lunch and dinner. Those considering walking there for dinner from Plaka or the Monastiraki Metro should be aware that the intervening area, while fine by day and not known to be particularly dangerous even at night, does take on an uncomfortable "Bladerunner" atmosphere after dark.
- Oréa Ellás ("Beautiful Greece") with two entrances 59 Mitropóleos and 36 Pandhróssou, Monastiráki (but just a minute's walk from Plaka; the cafe is upstairs) is a combination cafe and gift shop, both of which ought to be better known than they are. The cafe, open all day but not after 6:00 pm, offers coffees and alcoholic drinks and a limited range of snacks and sweets, in a wonderful old fashioned setting with stunning views of the Acropolis out the windows. The shop, which has its own name of Kendro Ellinikis Paradosis (Center of Greek Tradition) is an excellent place to buy souvenirs, which are more expensive but vastly better than the tourist knick-knacks offered by the cheek-by-jowl tourist shops lining the street outside.
- Ydria, 68 Adhrianoú, ☎ +30-210-3251619, . This sprawling cafe-restaurant that takes up a large part of Platía Paliás Agorás along Adhrianoú St. at the western end of Plaka, is a good place for daytime coffee or a before or after dinner drink. They also serve food, though if you're there for a meal you'll be directed to a different seating area, so tell the waiter when you arrive if you just want a drink. This is the most pleasant cafe in a square packed with them; despite the Plaka location it's relatively quiet, with snatches of views of antiquity from the mostly outdoor seating. Particularly popular with younger Greeks, though all ages and nationalities will feel comfortable. Prices average or slightly below for Plaka, which still means not cheap, though the ouzo comes in hefty shots, and if you order the giant "ouzo platter" (€25) of appetizers with them, it will easily suffice for three people.
- Vrettos at 41 Kydathineon, Plaka is a very atmospheric old distillery which makes its own ouzo, brandy, and liqueurs, and sets up a bar at night where you can order them by the glass.
Plaka proper has a dozen or so hotels -- fewer than might be expected, considering what a tourist center it is. The good value ones tend to be well known and therefore fill up well in advance. It should be noted that some hotel advertisements and web sites use a flexible definition of "in Plaka;" if you want to stay in the neighborhood itself, it would be useful to look at the Plaka boundaries described on this page under Understand in conjunction with a street map.
- Hotel Acropolis House  Off Syntagma Square. The staff are very friendly and the hotel will hold your baggage if you are departing later in the day. Price for a room for two, bathroom ensuite is €87 (includes breakfast).
- Athos Patrou 3, Τel: +30 210 3221977-9 . Nice hotel in Plaka with roof-garden with a view of the Acropolis.
- O&B Athens Boutique Hotel, . A small boutique hotel in the centre of Athens, located close to the most interesting spots of the city for sightseeing, shopping, and entertainment.
- The Electra Palace Hotel  is a unique neoclassical building with 135 rooms and 20 suites. There is a view to Acropolis and the hotel is located in Plaka destrict the centre of old Athens.