Pláka, Athens

PlakaPlaka
The Pláka, the older part of modern Athens, lies between the northern slopes of the Acropolis and Ermoú Street, extending east almost to the Leofóros Amalías. In its narrow streets and little squares are a number of small churches, from the Metamórfosis (southwest) to the Sotír tou Kottáki (east), from Ayios Nikodímos (southwest) to the Kapnikaréa (north). It is a district of houses in Neo-Classical style, mostly of modest size, with attractive tiled roofs. At 5 Thólou Street is an old building (altered by Kleanthes) which housed the University before its move to Christian Hansen's new building in Epistomíou Street. The building is now a taverna.
Since 1978 the city council have been introducing preservation orders on the Pláka area. Half of the buildings are Grade I listed, Pláka and any conversions and renovations are subject to strict regulations. Most streets are barred to traffic.
A very pleasant evening stroll can be taken from the Mitrópolis through the Filotheu and Adrianou or the Kidathineon, past the Platia Pláka to the Lysikrates Monument. Here can be found rows of little shops selling sweets, dried fruits and nuts, souvenir-stands, taverns with or without bouzouki music, leather-goods and jewelry shops, clothing boutiques and gyroscope-stands.

Monument of Lysikrates

The Monument of Lysikrates stands in a little square at the end of Lysikrátous Street. This rotunda, 6.50m/21ft in height and 2.80m/9ft in diameter is surrounded by what appear to be pilasters but are in fact fully rounded Corinthian columns, between which curved marble slabs have been inserted. Round the top runs a frieze depicting scenes from the life of Dionysos (the transformation into dolphins of the pirates who had captured the god). The stone acanthus flower on the roof originally bore a bronze tripod, the prize received by Lysikrates when the choir which he had financed as choregos was victorious in the tragedy competition in 334 B.C.
In 1669 the hollow monument was acquired by a Capuchin convent and used as a library, when it became known as the "Lantern of Diogenes". This is the only surviving example of the numerous choregic monuments in the ancient Street of Tripods (which was on roughly the same line as the present street of that name).
Other choregic monuments in Athens are the Monument of Nikias beside the Stoa of Eumenes and the Monument of Thrasyllos above the Theater of Dionysos.

Karagiosis Theater

In the Plaka in Athens, is one of the few Karagiósis theaters still in operation. These shadow plays with their stock characters, represented by figures of colored leather, are derived from the Turkish Karagöz ("Black-Eye"). Karagiósis plays have always been mainly ignored by the intellectuals of Athens society.

Panaghia Kapnikaréa Church

In a little square, opening off Ermoú Street, stands the interesting church of Panaghia Kapnikaréa Church, now the University church, which was saved from destruction during the construction of Ermoú Street in the 19th C. only by the intervention of King Ludwig I of Bavaria.
The Kapnikaréa is a very fine example of a domed cruciform church of the 11th C., with the little chapel of Ste Barbara on the north side. In the 12th C. a narthex with four pediments (originally open) was built onto the west end, giving architectural unity to the church and chapel. The graceful entrance portico appears to date from the same period.
The paintings in the interior (19th C.) cover the complete iconographic program as developed in the Middle Byzantine period.
Address: Corner of Ermous & Kalamiótous, Greece

St Nicodemus Russian Church

St Nicodemus Russian Church, a domed cruciform church, is one of Athens' numerous 11th C. churches. Erected in 1045 (the date is recorded in an inscription), it was damaged by the Turks in 1780, purchased by the Tsar of Russia in 1845 and redecorated internally by the painter Ludwig Thiersch. Since then, re-dedicated to St Nicodemus, it has belonged to the Russian Orthodox Church.
Immediately adjoining the church are ancient remains which, according to Travlos, belonged to baths attached to the Lykeion (Lyceum).
Address: Filellínon 21, Pláka, Greece

Ste Catherine's Church

Ste Catherine's Church in Athens, near Hadrian's Arch, dates from the 12th or 13th century, with later extensions, and has preserved its original dome and apses.
The church, reached by descending a short flight of steps, stands in a large courtyard planted with palms. In this garden are two columns of the Roman Imperial period; the function of the building to which they belonged is unknown, but it was probably part of an earlier church facade.

Mitrópolis Square

In Mitrópolis Square, which is reached from Syntagma Square by way of Mitropóleos Street, are two churches of very different character - the medieval Little Mitrópolis and the modern Great Mitrópolis.

Little Mitropolis Church

12th C. Little Mitrópolis, a tiny domed cruciform church only 11m/36ft long by 7m/23ft wide, is dedicated to the Panayía Gorgoepikoós (the Mother of God as the Swift Hearer of Prayer) and St Eleutherius, both of whom offer help to women in childbirth. This Christian church thus continues an ancient tradition, since the sanctuary of the Greek goddess Eileithyia, likewise the patroness of childbirth, was also located here.
It is known as the Mitrópolis because it belonged to the monastery of St Nicholas, the residence of the metropolitans (archbishops) of Athens in the 18th and early 19th C.
The monastery was destroyed in 1827, during the war of independence, and its site is now occupied by the Great Mitrópolis.
The church is unique in that it is not built of the usual dressed stone and brick but of fragments taken from ancient and medieval buildings. Above the entrance can be seen two parts of an ancient calendar frieze (arranged in the wrong order) with relief representations of the months, flanked by two pilaster capitals. Elsewhere are a variety of figural reliefs, including a figure of Cybele enthroned (in pediment on east side), fragments of funerary aediculae, etc. Many of the ancient fragments have been "Christianized" by having crosses carved on them. Compared with the fascination and charm of the exterior, the interior of the church, restored in recent years, is of little interest.

Grand Mitropolis Cathedral

The Great Mitrópolis occupies the site of the monastery of St Nicholas which was destroyed in 1827. It is dedicated to the Annunciation (Evangelismós), which is represented above the main doorway, but is also known as St Nicholas in memory of the former monastery.
The church was built between 1842 and 1862 to the design of Schaubert, who set out to give the new capital of Greece a cathedral worthy of its status. The exterior displays the eclecticism of the 19th C., its interior leaning towards a rather somber magnificence. Beside the first pillar on the left is the tomb of Patriarch Gregory IV, who in 1821 was hanged by the Turks in Constantinople and is honored as a martyr. (There is a statue of him in front of the University.)
The principal festivals of the Greek Orthodox Church are celebrated in the Great Mitrópolis in the presence of the head of state.

Church of the Holy Power

The tiny aisleless Church of the Holy Power lies hidden below the modern block occupied by the Ministry of Education in Athens. It dates from the Turkish period and has a bell-cote built onto one side.
During the construction of the ministry building remains of the Themistoclean Walls were found. It is thought that one of the 15 gates in the walls, the Diochares Gate, stood near here (junction of Pentélis and Apóllonos Streets).

Greek Tradition and Folk Art Museum

The Greek Folk Art Museum in the Athens' Pláka is well worth a visit to obtain an insight into the traditions of Greek textile manufacture, including spinning and weaving, gold and silversmith work and wood carving.
In a separate department artistically worked old court robes are exhibited, some set with precious stones. In a side room are some murals by the naïve artist Theophilos Hadzimihali, who painted them at the end of the last century.
The ceramic department is housed in the Tzistarakis mosque on Monastiráki Square.
It also houses a library with a focus on folk art, folklore, ethnology and museology.
Address: Kydathinaion 17, Pláka, 10558 Athéna, Greece

Syntagma (Syndagma) Square

Church of Sts Cosmss & Damianos

The Church of Sts Cosmss & Damianos in Athens, is a 17th century church (with later alterations) in the higher part of the Pláka. It belongs to the monastery of the Panayíou Táfou, a dependency of the Greek Orthodox Monastery of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. It is dedicated to the third century doctor saints Cosmas and Damian, the "moneyless saints". The interior is in Baroque style, with a handsome throne and a carved and gilded iconostasis.
In the courtyard are some fragments of ancient capitals.

Church of the Transfiguration

The Church of the Transfiguration in Athens stands at the upper end of Klepsídras Street, which runs up from the Tower of the Winds to a point immediately below the rock-face of the Acropolis. It can also be reached by taking the panoramic road (Theorías Street) which begins between the Propylaia and the Areopagos.
Although built in the 14th C., during the period of Frankish rule, the church is purely Greek in character. An early Christian capital serves as the altar of this modest place of worship.

Hadzimihali House

The elegant townhouse of the Hadzimihali family is now a museum. Much of the interior has been kept as it was, complemented by a number of works of art and old utensils and everyday items, including some musical instruments.
One room is dedicated to Angelikis Hadzimihali, who made a name for himself in art circles during the 1920s and 30s.
Note also some items made by nomadic shepherds from the Pindus mountains in northern Greece.
Address: 6 Angelikis Hadzimihali, Pláka, Greece

Anaphiotiká

Above the Pláka, most conveniently reached from the upper end of Erechthéos Street, is this little settlement established by incomers from the island of Anaphi who came here in the 19th century and built their little village-style houses on an area of undeveloped land below the Acropolis. Their church of St Simeon, built in 1847, is a plain aisleless structure.

Tzistarakis Mosque (Ceramics Museum)

On the north side of the market in the Roman Agora is a mosque built in the 15th C. in honor of Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror (Fetiye Camii); it is known to the Greeks as the Market Mosque (Djami tou Staropazaroú).
The mosque now houses a collection of folk ceramics, part of the collection of the Greek Tradition and Folk Art Museum.
Address: Kydathinaion 17, Pláka, 10558 Athéna, Greece

Church of St Nicholas Rangava

In Athens, between the churches of Ayios Ioánnis o Teológos and Ayios Yeóryios tou Vráchou stands this 11th C. church. It was attached to the palace of the Rangava family, which produced several Byzantine Emperors and Oecumenical Patriarchs. Much altered in later centuries, the church has been recently restored.
Address: Corner of Prytaneíou & Epichármou, Pláka, Greece

Ilias Lalaounis Jewelry Museum

The Ilias Lalaounis Jewelry Museum in Athens houses a collection of over 3000 designs in its permanent collection. These exhibits cover areas such as the History of Greek Jewelry, the Dawn of Art, and the art of twelve different civilizations.
Collections from other museums are displayed in the temporary galleries.
Address: Kallisperi 12, 11742 Athéna, Greece

St George of the Rock

This tiny aisleless church, probably dating from the Frankish period, stands at the top of the stepped Epichármou Street, on the upper edge of the Pláka. It takes its name from its situation immediately below the rock-face of the Acropolis.
There is another church dedicated to St. George on Lykabettos.

St John the Evangelist

St John the Evangelist is a beautiful 13th C. domed cruciform church, with Roman capitals, stands in a little square at the intersection of Erechthéos and Erotokrítou Streets in Athens, in which a mulberry tree provides welcome shade. The church was restored some years ago.

Dora Stratou Folk Dance Festival

Greek dances are performed as part of the Dora Stratou Folk Dance Festival runs throughout the summer months.
The events are described as a "living museum of Greek dance".
Official site: www.grdance.org
Address: 8 Sholia, 122 Adrianou Side-Road, Plaka, Greece

Monastiraki

Pláka Archaeological Sites

Pláka Museums

There are numerous noteworthy museums in and around the Pláka district.

Frissiras Museum

Established in 2000, Frissiras Museum maintains a permanent collection of paintings and sculptures dedicated to the human figure. The works are by 21st C Greek and European artists.
One the museums two buildings is used for temporary exhibits by contemporary artists.
Official site: www.frissirasmuseum.com
Address: 3 & 7, Monis Asteriou Street, 10558 Athéna, Greece

Greek Popular Musical Instruments Museum

The Greek Popular Musical Instruments Museum in Athens displays both ancient and modern instruments with a collection of about 1200 pieces. Included in this are various forms of drums, flutes, pipes, bells, and more.
Address: 1-3 Diogenous Street, Aerides Square, Plaka, Greece

Jewish Museum of Greece

The Jewish Museum of Greece in Athens traces the history of Jews in Greece of over 2,000 years. On display are artifacts, photographs, documents and archives related to domestic and religious life.
Official site: www.jewishmuseum.gr
Address: 39 Nikis Street, 10558 Athéna, Greece

Katina Paxinou Museum

The Katina Paxinou Museum is available by appointment only. Paxinou was an actress who began her career in 1929.
Address: 13 Thoukididou Street, Plaka, Greece
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