Plaka – Monastiraki
If you want to explore Plaka and Monastiraki on your own, have a look at this self-guided walking route.
Walking through Plaka and Monastiraki is great for families with young kids. You will enjoy a relaxing stroll full of colors and scents away from the city noise. Most streets in Plaka are pedestrian, hence without many cars, so it is quite easy to wander around. The marbled streets host many Greek handicraft shops and traditional Greek restaurants. The quieter narrow alleys resemble the Athens of the past with beautiful old houses with balconies, wooden doors, and shutters in authentic Mediterranean colors.
Plaka is considered the area that developed around the ancient Agora of Athens and is the oldest district in Athens, as it has been continuously inhabited for around three thousand years. Thus, Plaka has a long history and has played an important part in Athenian life.
You can start your Plaka walk at the pedestrian street outside the Acropolis metro station. Walk Northwards along this pedestrian road, cross Dionysou Aeropagitou street and turn into Vyronos street. Kids will love the souvenir shops on Vyronas street with its wooden toys, olive oil, soap, magnets, pottery, and leather sandals.
As the road gets wider, you will see a small square on the left with lots of trees and a cafe/restaurant. From here, you have an amazing view of the Acropolis hill. In front of you is a small archaeological site with the Lysicratous monument shaped like a tower. Kids can play safely play inside the Lysicratous monument area and parents can enjoy a drink at the square.
Lysicratous was a rich citizen and patron in ancient Athens who funded a theatre group at the Dionysus Theatre. His group won the theatrical competition of 334 B.C. and Lysicratous was awarded a bronze tripod. To display his prize, Lysicratous built this tall monument so the tripod could be seen and admired by all Athenians. There were a lot of similar monuments with tripods in ancient Athens, all build by patrons. Most of these monuments were located in Plaka on Tripodon street, named after the tripods. Unfortunately, none have remained.
Before you continue to walk, have a look into Lysicratous street on your right. At the end of the street is the famous Hadrian’s Arch. The arch divided the city into the old and new Athens and was constructed by the Athenians in 131 AD to celebrate the arrival of the Roman Emperor Hadrian and to honor him for his many benefactions to the city.
Pass the Lysicratous monument and turn into Sellei street. This is a narrow street with beautiful neoclassical houses that leads to the famous Tripodon street. On Sellei is a traditional Greek shadow puppet theatre with two large Karagiozi (a traditional Greek puppet) figurines at the entrance. Plaka is closely linked to Karagiozi theatre because in 1852 its first performance took place here.
A bit further down on Tripodon are traditional dairy shops and many cafes and restaurants. A good place to stop and indulge in some traditional sweets.
Follow the road towards Flessa Street and turn left into Kyrristou, a quieter street without cars where young kids can run and play around.
Tower of the Winds at the Roman Agora
At the end of Kyrristou, inside a fenced archaeological area, is the famous Tower of the Winds monument. This ancient water clock, sun dial and wind indicator is part of the Roman Agora and was built for the merchants on the market. The tower was constructed by astronomer Andronikos Kyrristos and is also called the Kyrristos Clock. The building dates back to the 1st century BC. Over time, it had several other functions. It has also been used as a church and during the Ottoman period, it was a tekke.
This is a nice place to take a break. Kids 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. Street artists are often around to fill this ancient corner with music and children will love watching the many street cats.
Another place of interest in this square is the Museum of Greek Folk Musical Instruments. Here your family can see and hear sounds of traditional musical instruments from different areas of Greece.
Continue your stroll by descending onto Pelopidas street and discover an unusual monument at the Roman Agora. Above the remains of a Byzantine church is a mosque, constructed in 1456 during the Ottoman period. It is called the Fetihie Mosque or Mosque of the Conqueror.
You are now on Panos street. Turn left into Epameinonda street and you will continue to walk past and through the site of the ancient Roman Agora. Besides archaeological finds, you can spot many well-conserved houses with beautiful colors, balconies, and steps. Above all this, you can see the impressive Acropolis hill. Now you can understand why the first inhabitants of Athens decided to live here, close to the protective location of the Acropolis!
Walk on and admire an impressive white gate with ancient columns and inscriptions. This is the main entrance to the Roman Agora.
Turn right at the touristic Areos street. Another important Athenian monument can be admired here. On your right-hand side are the remains of the Hadrian’s Library. It is a big rectangular building with an inner garden surrounded by arcades and columns constructed during 132 AD by Roman emperor Hadrian. This place hosted papyrus and books as well as reading halls and auditoriums. Most of the library has been destroyed, but we can still recognize the facade with 7 Corinthian-style columns. At the entrance of the library is a map with pictures to show your kids what the building used to look like.
Arrive at Monastiraki Square
Pass the library and ends in Monastiraki square named after the Monastiraki mosque in the middle. It is also called Tzisdaraki Mosque, built in 1759 by Athenian mayor Tzisdaraki. In the past, Monastiraki square was an area for textile artisans, tanneries and forges. This historic character is still present in the Monastiraki neighborhood. End your walking tour at the Monastiraki flea market and feel the vibe of bygone eras. This is also a great place to buy a couple of souvenirs from Athens!
Families should know
- Do not forget to bring a hat, sun cream and water for your kids
- On hot days, it is best to walk early in the morning or in the afternoon
- This is a free, self guided walking tour
Best season to visit
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