Nonetheless a trip to Athens is not a complete without at least day spent in and around this area.
Plaka is the picturesque heart of old Athens – a collection of narrow, winding streets, pretty yellow houses and cafes. It’s the Athens people have in their minds before they arrive, and in many ways it does not disappoint. It is certainly an oasis of space and colour within a city of tall gray offices and apartment blocks. And like other old towns centres across Europe it is where tourists tend to congregate in their thousands. This can be a mixed blessing. On the one hand Plaka always has a vibrant, lively feel to it – on the other, the restaurants and cafes overcharge and you sometimes get the sense that there are more tourists around you than Greeks.
That’s not to say you cannot find some gems hidden in the labyrinthine streets. My personal favourite is a cafe called “Klepsydra” that sits high up in the area, about halfway up to the Acropolis. Tiny tables and chairs spill out from the cafe into the quiet street where you can sit with your freddo cappuccino and watch some of the hundreds of wild Plaka cats wander by.
In many ways Plaka is a paradox. It is incredibly beautiful, yet every single wall is smothered in graffiti; it is illegal to drive there, yet impossible to enjoy a walk without having to move to avoid passing motorbikes. If anywhere deserves to be entirely pedestrianised it’s Plaka, but it falls just short and so never quite becomes the people’s refuge from the city that it hopes to be.