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Walking Tour of Plaka and Monastiraki, Athens

April 14th, 2008

Stanley Hotel

(The Stanley Hotel)

Plaka is one of the city’s major attractions. It was only a couple of stops on the subway from where i was staying at the Stanley Hotel so i decided to go and see some of the many interesting sights such as ancient monuments, Byzantine churches and beautifully restored mansions can be found in its narrow streets, most of them closed to traffic. There is also a good choice of taverns, cafés and souvenir shops in the area.

You should set aside three to four hours for this walking tour, which starts at Kydathineon Street. Upon entering Kydathineon Street from the Filellinon end, you will come across the 11th-century Agia Sotira Church - one of the few remaining Byzantine churches in Athens. Opposite the church is the Museum of Greek Folk Art. Its exhibits include a wide range of artifacts such as traditional costumes, wood carvings and pottery. Turning left at Monis Asteriou Street, you will come to the the Vlassis Frissiras Museum of Contemporary European Art, although the children would probably prefer a visit to the Greek Museum of Childhood at 14 Kydathineon Street. Just a stone’s throw away is Filomoussou Eterias Square where you will find several cafés and taverns.

Turning left on Farmaki Street, you will find another 11th-century church, the Agia Ekaterini. This church is located next to the Lysicrates Monument, a cyclical tower built in the 4th century BC. Follow Shelley Street and turn left at Thespidos Street (towards the Acropolis) in order to reach Anafiotika. Enter the maze of narrow paths to explore this strange settlement consisting of picturesque white-washed houses. One of Plaka’s most interesting churches is the 11th-century Agios Nikolaos Rangavas on Prytaniou Street. Down the street stands the Agii Anargyri Monastery, which was built in the 17th century, and the Museum of the History of Athens University, housed inside the stately mansion on Tholou Street. Next to the museum is the Panagia Chryssokastriotissa Church in Aliberti Street, made famous by its miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary. A splendid collection of ancient Greek art and Byzantine icons can be found at the Kanellopoulos Museum on the corner of Theorias and Panos Streets. Walking downhill, you will reach the Roman Agora and the landmark Tower of the Winds. On this site, you will also see the 15th-century Fetiye Mosque and the remains of the Medresse, a Muslim theological school. Next to the Medresse is the Museum of Popular Instruments at 1 Diogenous Street. Upon entering Diogenous Street, turning left into Mnisikleous Street and then right at Pandrossou Street, you will find the majestic 19th-century Metropolis Greek Orthodox Cathedral as well as the tiny Church of Panagia Gorgoepikoos. Re-enter Pandrossou Street to discover a shopping area crammed with stores selling jewelery, handcrafts, clothes and souvenirs.

At the end of Pandrossou Street is Monastiraki Square and the Pottery Collection at the Tzisdarakis Mosque (Tzami) which houses a splendid pottery collection. To the right of the metro station is Ifestou Street, which will take you to the Monastiraki Flea Market and the antique shops occupying the narrow streets around Avissynias Square. This walking tour ends at the Central Market on Athinas Street, which has been housed inside a huge hall since 1886. This market contains an overwhelming selection of meat, seafood and vegetables.

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