But the last time I went in I met the owners, Pavlos and Despina and sampled their double and triple distilled ouzo and gave it very high marks. If you like to shop and stroll, make a right on Adrianou. Tourist shop after jewelry store after T-shirt store and then repeated again and again. Everybody who comes to Greece walks up this street and buys postcards, worry beads komboloi , ashtrays, icons, you name it. There are also street venders selling nuts and refugees from what was once Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union selling the strange toys made from flour and balloons or offering to write your name on a grain of rice for a few euro.
If you are still shopping for Olympic paraphernalia you have a lot to choose from. He may have a few left. He has some of the more tasteful shirts in the Plaka. Some of the t-shirts on display in the Plaka make you wonder who on earth would buy them. But George seems to have some integrity with the shirts he sells. Not that I have owned a watch since I left mine hanging on a tree in the rain when I was 12 years old, but my daughter feels like she has to have a new one every year and can spend hours in the store. If you walk up Kekropis Street which is right next to the T-shirt Shop and look on your left you will find the small workshop of Dimitris Koutelieris who makes furniture and art out of dismantled ships, houses and other recycled material.
Though most items like tables, chairs, dressers etc are so big that they will have to be shipped back there are a few smaller pieces that you can carry back with you. Even if you are not buying it's a neat place to visit. Its at The Byzantino Jewelery Store is on your left at next to the ice-cream shop. This is where my wife buys her jewelery from because the prices are so low and the work is so good. My wife is a goldsmith. They work primarily with 22K gold in a variety of styles, of which my favorites are those that are based on the ancient Greek designs or exact copies.
This is one of the few jewelry stores that is artist-owned. In other words they make their own pieces rather than buy from a factory. If you are looking for something beautiful that will gain value then shop here. Prices of their jewelry vary from a few euros to a few thousand but you won't find better quality in the Plaka or the islands.
Even in these hard economic times, maybe especially now. Watch the price of gold as it continuously goes up and you will realize what makes it the gift that keeps on giving. Say you buy a piece of 22k gold jewelry, maybe a copy of an ancient Greek or Byzantine piece. As the price of gold rises so does the value of your jewelry to the point where in the not too distant future the value of your piece, just by weight of the gold will be more than what you paid for the entire piece, gold, labor, overhead and all.
Of course most people buy jewelry for sentimental reasons or because they appreciate the beauty of it. But in this case it is practical because if the economy collapses you have gold! So you are not just buying something beautiful, you are making an investment in a limited commodity that should gain value. I have to admit it makes sense. Further down the street is the shop of Angelo the Ouzo King who prides himself on having more varieties of ouzo than any shop in Athens.
If you can't afford gold then ouzo is probably the next best thing for getting through hard economic times. Angelo is a pretty cool guy and has had a number of tourist businesses in the Plaka over the years and has watched it go through its changes. The ouzo and traditional products is a good direction for him but what I like about Angelo is the way he will pull me off the street and say "Matthew.
You must try this newest ouzo I have found. It comes from Serres in Northern Greece and it is fantastic.
He is always right. Sometimes I will recommend an obscure ouzo I tasted somewhere and often the next time I come into the store there it is. Last time my brother returned from Athens he pulled out a bottle of Baba Tzim, a gift from Angelo. Who says having a website does not have fringe benefits?
These are the more obscure brands you won't find in most other shops. The ouzo that we connoisseurs prefer. Apostegmeno means pure distilled. That's what you want.
Shop with confidence
Ask about raki, tsikoudia and tsipuro too. They are like ouzo without the anise flavor. Continue down Adrianou until you come to Remember , the first punk-fashion store in Greece and an institution. Run by designer Dimitris Tsounatos photo this boutique has been visited by your favorite rock stars, actors, fashion designers and models and there is a photo album full of them to prove it. If you are looking for unique designs in clothes, jewelry and art, or if you just want to see something different from the tourist shops that line Adrianou then stop in at 79 Adrianou.
You may find your favorite band in an original design or you may find an original design that is so unique you will have to have it like the one I bought that I am not permitted to wear because my wife says it draws attention to me and makes me look like a giant graffiti covered pumpkin. I don't let my wife tell me what I can and can't buy. Unfortunately she won't let me wear it out of the house. I am thinking of just having it framed. Visit Dimitris.
He is a classic Plaka character of a bygone age and punk lives on in his shop. Heavy-metal too. In fact when all the punk and heavy metal bands come to play Athens they head straight for Remember so you may run into one of your heroes. Turn left up Hill Street or Chill street, depending on which of the two street signs you look at and follow the street as it becomes Scholiou and then Epiharmou Street.
Stop and look straight ahead and up. It's the walls of the Acropolis and below it, where Epiharmou connects with Tripodon is an ouzerie known locally as Kouklis but the name on the sign is Scholarchion. You will find in Athens that some places are known to the locals by the name of the owner, rather than the actual name. You will see a building with a packed balcony and windows. Sit down and have a drink. Their specialty is flaming sausages and trout but most people come here to drink the day away. The food is decent and some travel-writers spend hours here thinking they have stumbled upon the real thing but actually a more authentic place with better food is To Kafeneon just below with its tables slanted so precariously that there is at least one food accident a night.
Very cozy indoors in the winter with a fireplace and a warming glass of tsipura and their collection of mezedes from northern Greece. You won't see many tourists but at least one copy of the menu is in English. If you watch that episode you will see me in it. Next door to Kouklis is a fancy ice-cream and milk shop called Amalfi. If you have a sweet tooth I encourage you to go inside. The small church next to Kouklis is St Nicholas and is one of the most popular of the old churches in Athens and a great place to go if you are in Athens for midnight mass on Easter Sunday. If you cross the parking lot and go up the steps and take a right you will come to another of my favorite restaurants, Psaras fish taverna, under new ownership but a nice place for a meal away from the crowds.
This part of the Plaka is mainly residential but also archaeological, which means you can buy a house here for a lot of money but if you happen to do renovations or an addition and you discover an ancient wall or even worse, a column from a temple, or a load of pottery, coins or other artifacts, the Archaeological society will stop your work and can hold you up for years.
Anafiotika: The Island Village in the Plaka.
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Anafiotika is the cluster of small houses built on the slopes of the Acropolis above the Plaka. It's like being on a Greek Island. It's named Anafiotika because the original inhabitants were stone masons who came from the island of Anafi to build Athens in the mid 19th century. Just continue up the steps between Kouklis and the Byzantine church of St Nicholas next to it. You can wander around the small streets and if you continue to your right facing the acropolis you can walk along the road that overlooks the city and leads to the entrance for Greece's most famous archaeological site and historic landmark, the Acropolis.
Anafiotika is as close as you can get to being on a Greek island in the middle of a big city. If you want to know what it is like to wander around the back streets of Mykonos just come here. The neighborhood is all residential and sadly some of the houses are unoccupied and falling down. If you come to Anafiotikia and walk to the eastern edge of the Acropolis you will get a nice view of the city.
You can also get to Monastiraki by cutting through the Agora using the entrance next to the rock of Areopagos just below the entrance to the Acropolis. If you take a left instead you will be on the same street but called Dionissou Aeropagitou end up in Makrianni where you can take a left on Byronos street and find yourself right back in the heart of the Plaka again.
But this will take you about an hour. Rather than walk all the way around the Acropolis to get to where you began, you are better off winding your way through the narrow streets of the Plaka until you find the open spaces of the Roman Agora or magically come across Adrianou Street again. These two counter-culture hangouts were popular during the military dictatorship of The Golden Key Kryso Kleidi was where you could hear the latest underground music, which during the junta was hard to come by.
In Folk 17 traveling musicians played live as did some of the Greek folk-rock singers. Since many people did not have money to buy drinks inside, this area was full of young people passing bottles of wine around, or just hanging out high on whatever drugs they had taken before coming down to the Plaka. In the sixties and early seventies the Plaka was very different from the way it is now. It was THE place to go for nightlife, especially during Apokreas carnival when people were packed like an ever moving can of sardines through the narrow streets and up and down the steps in a shower of confetti and a cacophony of horns, whistles and music.
Read about Plaka During the Junta. Halfway down Adrianou they allow cars but traffic is sparse and unpleasant for any car that happens to get stuck among the pedestrians. Adrianou passes the Platia Plaka and the wall of Hadrian's library and the Roman Agora where it stops abruptly. But it continues again on the other side of the archaeological site in Monastiraki. The Plaka is loaded with archaeological sites both large and small. The famous Tower of the Winds is just a block up from Adrianou on Aeolou street and it is a part of the ancient Roman Agora.
It had a hydrolic clock fueled from a reservoir on the south side and inside was a mechanical device that represented the sun, the moon and the five known planets. The frieze which represents the winds and their personalities is the most interesting part of the building and deserves a closer look.
Just across the road is the Museum of Popular Music , one of the best museums in Athens, and the Platanos Taverna , a famous old restaurant in a small square away from the main shopping area of the Plaka. Across from the Tower is the Doorway of the Medrese , originally a theological school founded in by Mehmet Fahri. During the War of Independence the Turks used it as a prison and hung many Greeks from the platanos tree and after the war the Greeks used it for the same purpose.
In the minds of the Athenians it became a cursed place. The poet Achilleas Paraschos in predicted that one day it would be chopped up and used for firewood. He was right. In the tree was struck by lightning and the rest was chopped down and used for firewood. The building itself was demolished except for the door.
It is not a popular archaeological site and not really well known at all. But it is worth mentioning for the sake of history not ending with the Classical Greeks and the Romans and since there is no sign many people wonder why it is still there. Later the Mosque was known as the Wheat Bazaar Mosque because it was next to the yearly wheat market. It was briefly a Catholic church during the five months that the Venetians occupied the city. The minaret was demolished after Greece won its independence and the mosque became a school for teachers and then a bakery for the army. Now it is just used for storage by the archaeologists working on the Roman Agora.
But it is really just a museum and you can't bathe there. The whole area around the Roman Agora is surrounded by tavernas, most of them catering to tourists, but in general they are all OK. It seems like everywhere you look in the Plaka there is evidence of some past civilization, being it Greek, Roman or Ottoman Turkish. In some places the pavement has been opened to reveal ancient columns and houses. Some say that in their zealousness, the archaeologists have sacrificed many of the beautiful old buildings of the 19th century to expose the ancient sites and have spoiled the area.
In a way it is true because when I wander through the Plaka I wish there was more of it. I wish the whole city of Athens was like the Plaka. But I guess you can't have everything and the Plaka is certainly large enough so that it should take a lot longer then the time a tourist has to explore, to get bored with it.
On the Makrianni side of the Plaka is the Monument to Lysikratous built to commemorate a series of plays. It is the last remaining of many which lined what is now Tripodon street. The Jesuits had a house next to it which in was bought by the Capuchins who then bought the monument and used it as a chapel. The Capuchan Monastery was the closest thing Athens had to a hotel. Chateaubriand stayed there as did Lord Byron, where he wrote part of Childe Harold.
Amazingly, Lord Elgin wanted to take the monument apart and reassemble it in England and was only stopped because it belonged to the Capuchans and for that reason the Turkish Viavode Governor could not give his permission. You can enter the site, it is free, and walk on the ancient road that used to be Tripodon Street.
Just above the monument is a cafe that used to be the last Karagiozis Theater. As many monuments and ancient buildings as there are in Athens there is one man who can be blamed for there not being many more. That was Ali Hadji Haseki, the governor of Athens in the late eighteenth century.
He taxed the people of Athens until they had nothing and reduced the whole area to poverty. In he and the small circle of rich Athenians, who also prospered off the work of the people, decided to build a wall around the city, supposedly to keep Albanians out but actually to keep the Athenians in. Some of the city's most ancient landmarks and buildings were demolished to build this wall including the bridge over the Illissos River, the Temple to Demeter and the facade of Hadrian's reservoir on Lykabettos.
The mansion of Ali Haseki is now the School of Agriculture. Whether you like hanging out watching people, shopping, eating, or wandering around, the Plaka is a great area to be in or near. From it you can walk to all the desirable parts of central Athens with a minimum of contact with the aspects of modern civilization many people find unpleasant: autos, pollution, noise and crowds.
The Plaka is like a small island in the middle of the city and it was not very long ago that the Plaka was the city of Athens. If you have time to kill get off the beaten paths and walk through the back streets.
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Admire the architecture of buildings that have stood for hundreds of years or climb the hill and see buildings that have lasted for thousands. It is for that reason that I suggest finding a hotel in the Plaka or nearby. If you have a hotel actually in the Plaka you may never come in contact with the Athens traffic that so many people complain about. But if you are down Syngrou or way up in Ambelokipi you will need to take a hotel shuttle or a Metro to get to the Plaka and in my opinion it is much easier to walk out the door of your hotel any time of day and be in the Plaka then to have to make your way here.
Keep this in mind when you are booking your hotel. If you are working with a travel agents in the USA or thinking about going on a package tour, find out where the hotels offered are located because it could make a big difference in your appreciation of the city of Athens. If none of the hotel choices are near the Plaka then be skeptical and ask them why. Your best option is to work with a Greek Agency in Athens that knows the city.
Tell them you want to be able to walk to the Plaka if not be in it. The Plaka is minutes away from the Metro so you can easily get to Pireaus and to the islands. Most of the hotels in the Plaka are small, family run, and located on pedestrian streets. For recommended hotels in and around the Plaka see Hotels or those listed at the bottom of the page.
Some people complain that the Plaka is not what it used to be, that it has been spoiled. Anything beautiful will be exploited. That is the nature of life on the planet. It is California's oldest private research university. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. The junction of the and the freeways as seen from the air. See also: Los Angeles riots.
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