One of my favourite districts in Athens is Plaka – the name means joke – and it is full of elegant neo-classical buildings which have now been restored to their original splendor.
Plaka is under the shadow of the Acropolis which looks down on the people wandering around this historic area. It is close to Hadrian’s Gate and the Temple of Zeus and within the Plaka area are the Roman agora, the Roman baths, the ancient agora of Athens, the Tower of the Winds and other ancient sites. It is also the place to go souvenir shopping, and you can bargain in some of the shops, along Adrianou and Kidathenaeion streets. You shouldn’t insult the shop owners with your suggestions though, keep it within reason if you genuinely want a bargain. You can also bargain in the gold jewellery shops, again within reason.
Plaka is also a good place to eat out as Kidathenaeion Street in particular is lined with traditional tavernas. My favourite is the Plaka taverna and I have been going there for about thirty years, whenever I am in Athens. I have to say that the owners have always helped me in my hours of need – I have had a couple in Athens! They really do keep the spirit of xenophilia (love of strangers) which Greeks used to pride themselves on.
Also on this street is the National Children’s Museum, the Folk Art museum and just off it there is a modern art gallery, not to be confused with the commercial art gallery on Kidathenaeion. In summer the Acropol restaurant has people performing traditional Greek dances in costumes, and as it is conveniently situated opposite a small square, you can sit on a bench and watch without having to eat there.
At the side of the Acropol is a small street lined with café-bars and it is pleasant to sit in the shade of the huge old trees and people-watch while sipping a café frappe (iced coffee) or a beer.
At the top of the street, just off Philellinon Street, which leads to Kidathenaeion from Syntagma Square and the Parliament building is Majestic Travel a tour agency. I have always used this agency for all my plane tickets and so on, and have found the staff particularly helpful. From there you can purchase ferry or catamaran tickets to the islands, or book hotels on the islands, book excursions and so on.
About half-way down the street is a picturesque Byzantine church and if you are lucky you might see a wedding there, or if you are there at Greek Orthodox Easter, you may be able to take part in the midnight celebrations on the Saturday night – take some red eggs with you!
Plaka is an area of Athens unlike any other and for me it is home from home!