guide to Athens: districts
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Plaka

Athens: Plaka street scenes It is unashamedly tourist orientated, but manages to somehow avoid the seediness that many similar districts in cities around the world have. Perhaps this is because, with the exception of an odd few new buildings here and there, the place hasn't changed much for many a long year. Sure, there are some very narrow roads, derelict buildings and broken paving-stones [although the main streets were improved for the Olympics] but that's what gives it the character.

Think modern mall. Uniform walkways; matching shop fronts; unvarying unit sizes; planned layout with logical pedestrian flow. Now think of the absolute opposite - that's Plaka.

You can wander around Plaka every night for a month and never take the same route. Navigation is not helped by several streets seeming to be identical. The way to experience Plaka is not to use a map and try to follow a route - just head into the area and take turns as the mood takes you.

Although I have sat outside in January [much to the amusement of the locals] generally the winter months are the only times you should not expect to find tables out on the paths, roads and any space not otherwise being used. Some restaurants will have a kind of rear courtyard, usually bedecked with vines. Take a table in the street and watch the world walk by - almost literally. You will hear languages - and English - from most countries, including Greece. Remember that their capital is a business and holiday destination for Greeks as well as foreigners.

Athens: the roads to Plaka from Syntagma My advice for making any sense of Plaka's layout is this. Start at Syntagma and head down Ermou for a few hundred yards until you get to Monastiraki station. As you walked down, everything on your left was Plaka. Now turn round, retrace you steps and take any turning on your [now] right and start exploring.

Athens: the paved street to the Acropolis If you want to start at the opposite end of Plaka for your tour, head for Hadrian's Arch. Across the road is the new paved pedestrian-only walkway to the entrance of the Acropolis. If you walk back down from the Acropolis [towards Hadrian's Arch], take the first road on your left. It is more of a path than a road, just turn left at the first shop you come to. As you set off up that street, the Acropolis is on your left, on a clock face, at ten o'clock. Keep going as straight as you can until the Acropolis is behind you, at about seven o'clock. By then you should be on the aforementioned Ermou - and you will have gone through the middle of Plaka.



Athens: ancient ruins between Plaka and Monastiraki Monastiraki

I'm sure some of the locals must know where Plaka stops and Monastiraki starts, but it is certainly not clear on any map I've seen. I have always considered that anything on the Syntagma side of Monastiraki station is Plaka, and the other side is Monastiraki. I think I have only been to Monastiraki on a Sunday or Bank Holiday evening, but it always seemed to have a more bohemian feel compared with Plaka. It also had many more locals, and they are younger. Monastiraki was, it appeared to me, the meeting place for the trendy young things of Athens. It's a great place to sit, have a cold beer, and watch the world go by. Monastiraki is more drink, Plaka is more food.

Anafiotika

As with Plaka and Monastiraki, Plaka and Anafiotika blend together somewhere. Roughly speaking, it is the section of Plaka immediately under the Acropolis.

Kolonaki

The home of a number of designer shops, Kolonaki is more local than it is tourist. The bars and restaurants are more like those in the up-market [high-end] areas of all major cities, which I assume it is. Goodbye the tackiness that gives Plaka its character, hello designer labels and poseurs. Still, it is a good place for a [designer] beer and people watching.

Glyfada

I've only been a couple of times. This is Athens' seaside resort - and there are a quite a few hotels there. The times I've been I've used the tram from the city centre [see transport]. The centre of Glyfada is an arc of shops - some designer - and restaurants, with the beach on one side of the arc and hotels on the other. Although rather 'touristy', it also attracts a lot of locals, particularly younger ones. Sundays at Glyfada, it seems, is the place to pose, be seen, meet your friends and sit, chat and sip coffee. I found it a nice place to visit. Would I stay there on holiday? In the summer, probably yes, winter no. The tram to the city runs late, and there are still taxis if you want to go into Plaka. The metro doesn't go to Glyfada. Oh, I forgot - there is a Dunkin' Donuts, a big plus for me as I developed a craving for Boston Cremes while in the city whose name they bear.

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