After my sister and I validated and kept our 24-hour Athens metro tickets safely with the rest of our belongings, we stepped out of Monastiraki Metro Station and had a good look around us. In front of us was the Monastiraki Square, famous for its Sunday flea market. The iconic square is the place where Ermou Street and Athinas Street meet.
The Little Monastery (Monastiraki)
Monastiraki was the site of one of the largest monasteries in Athens however, most of the Great Monastery was demolished, leaving behind an old Byzantine church known as Panaghia Pantanassa or the church of Pantanassa.
Hence, it was given the name Monastiraki which means “the little monastery”. Since then, the entire area surrounding the church is known by the same name. 🙂 The church of Pantanassa is a three-aisle basilica. It has a richly decorated interior with a beautifully painted vault.
Besides the church, there’s a Turkish mosque located on the other corner of the square known as the Tzistarakis Mosque. It was built in 1759 by a Turkish viovode (governor) named Tzistarakis.
A Haven for Shoppers & Bargain Hunters
In Monastiraki Square, there are several stalls selling fresh fruits to freshly-cut bouquet of flowers, eye-catching trinkets, prized antiques, t-shirts and souvenirs. The fact that visitors can find an assortment of items on sale in Monastiraki makes it a haven for shoppers and bargain hunters. 😀
However, do bear in mind that genuine ancient Greek, Roman and Byzantine coins are not allowed to be taken out of the country. Those who ignore the rule will be arrested and probably fined or jailed for their offence.
Beyond the square is a labyrinth of narrow streets lined with many colourful and interesting shops, cafes, bistros and restaurants serving Greek, Italian and French cuisine. It’s a good idea to spend some time exploring the neighbourhood even if you’re not keen on shopping for it’s the best place to observe people and past the time.
Of Pickpockets, Juvenile Snatch Thieves & Free Rose Scam
When visiting a busy and crowded area such as Monastiraki, Athens especially during the weekends, visitors will often find themselves a target for pickpockets, snatch thieves and street scams. My sister and I did our research before visiting Athens and are aware of the types of petty crimes to look out for when we’re in the city.
Be sure to keep your belongings close to you and lookout for pickpockets and snatch thieves when exploring the neighbourhood. Never ever let your guard down even for innocent looking children peddling packets of tissues as they might just run away with your unguarded money or mobile phone left on the table or anywhere else!
A notorious scam in Athens is the free rose scam where innocent looking children or an old lady gives away a stalk of rose to unsuspecting victims saying it’s a gift. It’s a trick! I repeat, it’s not a gift and it’s certainly not free at all! Once the victim accepts the rose, he/she will be harassed to give a donation of €5 for the stalk of rose! 🙁
Our Experience with the Notorious Free Rose Scam in Athens
There were two separate incidents. First, as my sister and I were walking past a row of shops somewhere at the ancient Roman market in Monastiraki, an old lady offered my sister a free stalk of rose and knowing better, she politely refused it.
What happened next was beyond our comprehension – the old lady forcefully placed the rose into my sister’s pocket and demanded money for it! Good news is, my sister isn’t easily threatened. She took the rose, threw it onto the ground and simply walked away. Drastic action requires drastic reaction, right?
Annoyed that her plan has failed, the old lady hurled profanities and curses at us. Gosh, that old bugger could really swear and curse I tell you! 😛 I’ll share the second incident in the next blog post just to keep the suspense going, so do bookmark and follow my travel blog.
Hadrian’s Library, Roman Agora & Beautiful Greek Neighbourhood
The Hadrian’s Library is located on the north side of the Acropolis of Athens, close to the Roman Agora. The complex was built by the Roman emperor Hadrian in 131/2 A.D. The Hadrian’s Library provided Athenians a multi-purpose, public square and cultural centre that contained a garden, works of art, a library, and lecture halls. A single entrance to the site is priced at €2 per person.
The Roman Agora a.k.a Caesar and Augustus Agora was built in the 1st century B.C. thanks to the donation by Julius Caesar and Augustus. The Roman Agora consists of a large, open-air courtyard surrounded by colonnades on all four sides. The site encompassed several shops, fountains and even public latrines. A single entrance to the Roman Agora is also priced at €2 per person.
The main entrance to the agora is on the west side – with the Gate of Athena Archegetis still stands today. Fyi, tickets to the Acropolis of Athens grant free access to the Hadrian’s Library, Ancient Agora, Roman Agora and 3 other archaeological sites in Athens. For more info about it, read my blog post here.
As my sister and I explored the surrounding areas of the Roman Agora, we marvelled at the architecture of the beautiful and peaceful Greek neighbourhood. The brightly coloured residential buildings provide a lovely backdrop for photography. 🙂 It wasn’t long before our stomachs grumbled in unison.
Up next: A satisfying Greek lunch and red wine sangria at Veranda