Plaka should have disappeared a long time ago. When the architects Stamatis Kleanthis and Eduard Schaubert designed a new urban plan for Athens, in the early 1830s, the residential area on the foothills of the Acropolis stood in the way of a grand plan to turn the north slopes of the Sacred Rock into a vast archaeological park. But plans often remain only on paper and so Plaka not only escaped demolition but became the city’s most popular and charming destination.
This neighborhood of Athens contains a little bit of everything, and during a two-hour walking tour, you will explore an off-the-beaten-track historic trail that encapsulates the entire past of this city. You will explore Anafiotika, an island-looking quarter created almost overnight (since it was actually illegal to erect new houses here) by stonemasons from Anafi, who came to Athens in search of work in the booming building industry of King Otto’s time. You will admire impressive neoclassical masterpieces and come to understand the process whereby the Athenians discarded their Ottoman past in favour of a European future. If you look closely, you may still discover old Turkish homes hiding in plain sight.
But in Plaka you can go even further back in time. There are Byzantine churches from the period when the city was famous for the beauty of its inhabitants and provided queens and princesses to the imperial throne in Constantinople. There are water clocks that became schools and choragic monuments that served as libraries and dormitories for famous English poets and dandies. There are romantic bathhouses that remained in use for centuries and prisons that allowed inmates to go out for coffee before executing them from the branches of a plane tree. Plaka is a hodgepodge of history and visual stimuli that preserves what is best about Athens and enchants all visitors with its colours and aromas.
Be sure you have comfortable shoes on, a water bottle and your camera!