It’s easy to understand why Athens is called the “cradle of Western civilization” with iconic cultural landmarks such as the Parthenon, the Acropolis and the Greek Parliament. After you visit these architectural wonders, be sure to check out the Greek capital city’s oldest neighborhood known as Plaka.
Situated under the Acropolis, spend an afternoon strolling through the cobblestone streets of this charming neighborhood. Sidewalk cafes and tavernas are open late and thanks to the Athens weather, sitting outside and enjoying ouzo is always a good idea. The charming 19th-century bougainvillea covered buildings give the neighborhood a village aesthetic and the streets are filled with all sorts of specialty shops, street musicians and a vibrant art scene.
Coined the “best outdoor movie theater in Athens,” Cine Paris offers movie viewing on the roof (all of the films are in English with Greek subtitles) with a great view of the Acropolis. Take in the culture at the Greek Folk Art Museum, Jewish Museum or the Frissiras Museum (filled with over 3,000 contemporary Greek and European paintings and sculptures). And if it’s souvenirs you are looking for, check out the shops on Adiranou Street where you can pick up everything from Greek olive oil and worry beads to jewelry and flokati carpets.
Known as the “island village of Plaka,” Anafiotika is another unique spot. Built in the mid 19th -century, the residential area is filled with small white houses that are constructed on the hills of the Acropolis and offers great views of the city. St. Nicholas, one of the most popular Byzantine churches, is also in the area. The houses, designed by islanders who constructed the palace of Otto, used Cycladic architecture as it reminded them of their homeland.
Filomousos Eteria Square is a popular hub, filled with coffee houses, clubs and restaurants. Built in 1813, the square is located at the intersection of Kydathinaeon, Olympian Zeus, Aggelos, Farmaki and Gerontas Streets. The neighborhood comes alive at night with where clubs play jazz and latin music. The historical distillery Brettos Bar is a favorite nightspot with locals and tourists alike and is the second oldest bar in Europe.
Plaka also boasts a variety of archaeological sites such as the impressive Tower of the Winds. Built with Pentelic marble in 1st century B.C., the Corinthian and Doric styled monument and clock tower is considered the first meteorological station in the world. The Roman Agora, built between 19 and 11 A.C. to honor Roman emperor Julius Caesar, is considered the first commercial center of Athens. Other noteworthy sites include the Monument to Lysikratous and the Mosque of Mehmet the Conqueror.
And if you happen to visit in February or early March, Plaka is a wonderful place to spend the carnival season of Apokries, a tradition where Christians indulge for three weeks before Lent. Known as the Greek Mardi Gras, masquerades, parties, food and wine are part of the celebration.
Experience all that Athen’s Oldest neighborhood has to offer, by sailing on a Mediterranean voyage with Regent Seven Seas Cruises.