Plaka – Monastiraki
Plaka is probably the loveliest neighbourhood in Athens. This walk will lead you into Plaka's most peaceful corners, where you will see monuments from different historical periods and feel the ambience of old Athens.
This is the ideal walk for you and your children – everyone will enjoy this carefree stroll on narrow, car-free streets away from the city noise…and all of this while you walk right below Acropolis!
It is a fact that in Plaka one can find lots of different things: narrow streets full of people, shops and restaurants, and quieter streets that look like they came from another era. Old houses with flowers on the balconies, authentic colours and smells. Every now and then you can stare at a monument that has a story to tell. We recommend that you start your walk from Acropolis metro station.
At the junction of Dionusou Aeropagitou with Makrigianni St (the pedestrian street outside the metro) you will come to Byronos St. It is a quiet road full of shops that sell tourist items, traditional foods and sandals. Your children will be excited to spot the huge sandals hanging outside the leather goods shop.
As the road gets wider on your left, there is a small square with lots of trees that hide a beautiful cafe/restaurant. From there you have an amazing view of Acropolis hill from behind, while in front of you lies Lysicratous monument. Your children will certainly ask about this monument, so you’d better be prepared!
Lysicratous was a sponsor during ancient times, in other words, a rich Athenian citizen who funded a theatrical piece. This piece won the first prize during the theatrical competition in 334 B.C. Lysicratous was awarded a prize of a bronze tripod. He built this monument to display the tripod on top (the tripod is lost) so that he could be seen and admired by Athenians.
There were a lot of similar monuments funded by sponsors with tripods on top of them that unfortunately have been destroyed. Most of these monuments were located at Tripodon St, named after the tripods (you will come to this street shortly).
Before you continue your stroll, it is worth looking around to your right, where you will see Hadrian’s Arch. Athenians constructed this gate during 131 AD to honour the Roman emperor Hadrian.
Leaving behind Lysicratous monument, you will come to Sellei St, a narrow street with beautiful neoclassical houses that leads to the famous Tripodon St. On Sellei St, you will not come across monuments with tripods, but you will see a shadow puppet theatre with two big Karagiozi (a traditional Greek puppet) figurines at the entrance. The area is linked to Karagiozi as the first performance took place in 1852 at Plaka.
A bit further down Tripodon St, you will find a traditional dairy and a lot of cafes and restaurants in case you’re hungry from your stroll and are looking for something to eat or something sweet.
At the end of Tripodon St, descend to Flessa St and right across the street you will see a remarkable stone house. If you turn left at Kyrristou St, your younger children can now safely play as no cars will bother you in this quiet street.
Some metres below on your left you will find the Bath-House Of the Winds, the only Turkish bath remaining from the era of Turkish rule. It functions as a museum and has been conserved with care. If you visit it, you can see separate wings for men and women, tepid and warm rooms and the changing rooms. The spa is closed every Tuesday and on other days it is open from 8.00 am to 15.00. The entrance costs 2€ and for children up to 18 years old entrance is free.
If you continue your walk to Kirristrou St, the Tower of Winds at the end will certainly impress the whole family. Because the questions from your children might be overwhelming, here are the answers you need: the winds are represented by the eight corners of the Tower, each wind linked to a corner depending on the direction of the wind.
The building was constructed by an astronomer called Andronikos from Kyrros of Syria. That is why the building is also called Kyrristos Clock. You may wonder why it’s called a clock – the answer is that as well as the wind, the building also showed the time with the help of the sun and shade, in other words it served as a sun dial. That is why the building has some marks on the back (facing Acropolis). Every mark corresponds to an hour.
The tower was built during the 1st century BC and was located within the Roman market, or agora, that was the heart of the town during the Roman years. Later the building was used as a church, while during the Ottoman period around 1700 it served as a ‘tekes’, a place of prayer for the Dervishes.
Your children can play around while you relax beneath the shade of the trees on the benches in the square in front of the Tower of the Winds. A street musician is certain to be around to fill the place with sound. The Museum of Greek Folk Instruments, which is worth visiting, is also located in this square. Entrance is free. In the museum you can see and hear the sounds of traditional musical instruments from different areas of Greece. The museum is closed on Mondays and open on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10.00 – 14.00 and on Wednesday from 12:00 – 18:00.
As you continue your stroll by descending onto Pelopidas St and the Roman market you will find a building that is different from the rest: it is a mosque that was constructed in 1456, during the Ottoman period, above the remains of a Byzantine church. It is named Fetihie mosque which means Mosque of the Conqueror.
You are now at Panos St and if you turn left at Epameinonda St, you will continue walking through the Roman market.
The view from this spot will certainly impress you. As you look up, you will see well conserved houses in different colours, balconies with flowers and above these, the impressive mount of Acropolis. From this spot both you and your children will understand why the first inhabitants of Athens decided to live in Acropolis with its natural stronghold.
A bit further on, you will arrive at the gate that serves as the entrance to the agora, or Roman market, impressive still today. During the Turkish period, they named the gate ‘Bargain Gate’, because in the square in front of the gate, haggling took place, mainly involving oil, wheat and salt.
As you turn right at Areos St, you will come to a quiet street with various shops. Do not think that you got away that easily from the ancient monuments, as some metres further down you will find the remains of Hadrian’s Library. It is a big rectangular building with an inner garden surrounded by arcades. It was constructed during 132 AD by the Roman emperor Hadrian. As well as the room where they kept the papyrus and the books, there are also reading halls and auditoriums. The library was destroyed by the Herulies in 267 AD and therefore today only a small part of the facade remains with 7 Corinthian style columns.
Just beside the Library there is another mosque. This is Monastiraki mosque, alternatively known as Tzisdaraki Mosque, built in 1759 by the then mayor of Athens, Tzisdaraki. If you would like to visit it and observe its architecture, and its collection of modern pottery, it is open on Monday and Wednesday to Sunday from 8:00 – 15:00, and is closed on Tuesdays.
Once you have finished this pleasant stroll, you will arrive at Monstiraki square. During the Turkish period, the area of the square was named ‘Downtown Bargain’ or ‘Square of the Down Fountain’ after the fountain located here. It was full of textile artisanships, tanneries and forges. As you can see, Monastiraki has maintained its ‘bargaining’ character. Walk around the picturesque narrow streets and shops and take in the scents of bygone eras.
Families should know
- It will take you around 1-2 hours to walk around Plaka (depending on how many of the recommended places you stop to visit)
- While the route is not too long, the youngsters might get tired if you decide to visit all the places suggested. We would recommend that you are selective about where you stop/visit
- Do not forget to take with you a hat, sun cream and water for your children
- On really hot days it is better to do this walk around noon. The intense heat and the lack of shade will make the stroll unpleasant for the whole family
- The best time to do the walk is either in the morning or in the early afternoon to avoid the heat and when there is still a lot of light
- Rent high quality baby & toddler travel gear such as car seats, strollers, baby carriers, trikes, booster seats through our partner My Baby in Greece for stress-free & fun family activities in Greece
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Plaka – Monastiraki
- Visit: all year