Subway train passes the Agora

Just east of our apartment in Thissio is the neighbourhood of Monastiraki. This busy shopping district skims across the top of the Agora, and is filled with many shops and a hectic flea market.

The most pleasant walk is along the ancient Andrianou Street (Hadrian’s Street) directly adjacent to the Agora ruins. On the north side of the street there’s a long line of mostly touristy restaurants (some with admittedly appealing heated patios for colder days).

Adrianou Street by day
Adrianou Street by night

On the south side is an above-ground metro line that runs right along the edge of archaeological excavations. The heavily grafittied trains running through the old stones are an unusual contrast and we keep photographing them.

Agora from Adrianou
Adrianou excavations

Adrianou Street jogs around the impressive Hadrian’s Library, constructed in 132 AD. We’ll be visiting this properly very soon — it’s part of the combined ticket for the Acropolis and other historic sites — but from the outside we can see numerous cats sunning themselves atop a shelf of excavated relics.

Hadrian’s Library cats

Just north of Hadrian’s Library is Monastiraki Square, the core of the neighbourhood. There’s a lot going on there and to be honest it’s not the most relaxing part of Athens, with buskers and potential scammers of various sorts enthusiastically zeroing in on tourists. It’s a watch-your-wallet part of town.

Monastiraki Square
Monastiraki Square

One highlight of the square, however, is the beautiful Byzantine Church of the Pantanassa. This church was constructed in the 10th century as part of a monastery that no longer remains. It later became known as “the little monastery” — monastiraki in Greek — which eventually became the name for the surrounding neighbourhood.

Church of the Pantanassa
Church of the Pantanassa

The church sits in the corner of the square, a few steps down, and is seamlessly incorporated into the scene with people using the surrounding walls to relax (aka smoke) and people watch.

The shops and business around the square sell a variety of items, some aimed at tourists, and some not. Many sell religious icons, either hand-painted or mass produced.

Religious icons for sale

There are also lots of restaurants and cafes on the surrounding streets, many with attractive views leading down to the Acropolis.

Acropolis views

Heading eastward through a more generic area of chain stores (where we made our mandatory European visit to Flying Tiger) we came across Agia Dynami, an even smaller church that has survived the centuries despite being nearly swallowed by the nondescript office building surrounding it. We attempted to pop inside for photos but a religious service seemed to be starting.

Agia Dynami