Plaka, the Aged Lady

Ask anyone which is the prettiest part of Athens and they’re bound to say Plaka, with its stately homes, interesting churches, ancient monuments and colorful courtyards


If the heart of modern Athens beats in and around Syntagma Square, with its shops, banks and services, then its soul resides in Plaka. Most descriptions of this picturesque quarter begin by saying it is the “oldest” neighborhood in Athens. Defining “old” can be a challenge, of course, especially when sitting on a slab of ancient marble from the 5th century BC, surrounded by 19th century neoclassical mansions and gazing upon the Roman Agora – built by Julius Caesar and Augustus – where a medieval mosque (1456) and a 2nd century BC weather vane also stand.

The residential part of Plaka, as we see it today, first took shape in the 19th century, when heroes of Greece’s 1821 War of Independence and wealthy merchants who formed the still small but dynamic middle class built their homes in this privileged part of the city. Athens had become the capital of the newly liberated state, and Plaka’s development by social elites was an expression of a changing society. Today, it is just as much of a privilege to have a Plaka address as it was for the 19th and early 20th century aristocracy, which grew out of Greece’s academic, political and mercantile classes. Efforts to preserve Plaka’s elegant structures have helped to salvage the neighborhood’s historical character, especially from the onslaught of mass tourism that began in the 1980s. Yet Plaka has also not forgotten its roots, as some of the quaint, smaller houses testify.

For Athenians who seek a dose of grace in an otherwise rather graceless city, it is sheer pleasure to wander through Plaka’s snaking streets, discovering new aspects of the neighborhood at every turn and reconnecting with a bygone era.

One cannot help but think, while gazing around Plaka, that this is what makes Athens so unique: Its history and visible layers of aesthetic heritage that surround us are not just exhibits to be seen in one of the city’s many museums; they are part of everyday life.

“ Today, it is just as much of a privilege to have a Plaka address as it was for the city’s 19th and early 20th century aristocracy, which grew out of the newly founded state’s academic, political and mercantile classes. ”


Read More

Athens

Restoring the Acropolis’ ‘Lost’ Thrassylos Monument

Heavily damaged during the siege of the Acropolis in 1827,...


Athens

The Tourists in Athens at the Height of Summer

When August hits, tourists have the city to themselves.


Athens

Mount Parnitha: Above the Clouds

Cleanse your soul with clean mountain air and spectacular views...


Activities

Botanical Garden: Athens’ Overlooked Treasure

More than 500 species of plants and trees can be...


Greece Is Blog Posts

Hail Hydra: A Midwinter Weekend on the Saronic Isle

BY Anthony Grant

“I do.” No, there was no matrimonial interrogation...

read more >

Zen and the Art of Driving in Greece

BY Pavlos Zafiropoulos

When I was first learning to drive, my...

read more >

Autumn in Pylos: An Expat’s View of the Battle of Navarino Re-Enacted

BY Hayley Prokos

On a balmy Saturday night in late October,...

read more >