From Plaka there are numerous streets leading northwest towards the sites of the Ancient and Roman Agoras, however the most direct route is via Odos Adrianou. Take a short diversion right along Odos Paleologolou to explore Mitropolis, Cathedral of the City of Athens. Built in the 1840s following Greek independence from the remains of over 70 churches, the interior is currently undergoing extensive renovation and most of the walls are covered with scaffolding. The cathedral is a focus for prayer, particularly to the Black Madonna surrounded by an ornate silver frame. In the shadow of the cathedral is the tiny Mikri Mitropolis (Little Cathedral), officially named Panagia Gorgoepikos and sometimes known as Aghios Eleftherios or "freedom church," the name given after King Otto left the Greek throne. Dating from the 12th century, the church was built using stone from the ancient sites of the city. Wander around its exterior walls to see sections from Greek and Roman columns, or fragments of ornate pediments.
Nearby, where Mitropoleos meets Pentelis, is another
church, Aghia Dinamis, which means "the holy power of the Virgin."
This tiny place of worship has survived the redevelopment of the district
but now sits literally underneath a mod- ern office block.
Just beside the Agora you'll see one of only two mosques
still standing in the city, it now houses an archaeological workshop and
is not open to the public. Nearby on Odos Diogenous is the Museum of Greek
Folk Music with a fascinating collection of instruments and musical recordings
bringing the varied regional folk music of Greece to life.
From the entrance at Adrianou (there are two other entrances
to the site) look immediately to your right to see remains of the Altar
of the Twelve Gods; a small monument from where distances from Athens
to all other points in the Greek world were measured. This was truly the
centre of the world during the Classical Greek era. Directly ahead in
the area of the central Agora the outline of the Altar of Ares and Temple
of Ares can be seen in gravel. Behind this, the remains of the Odeon of
Agrippa, built in 15 BC, and the Royal Palace overlaid by two later stoas
can be discerned. In the southeast corner of the site, the 11 th-century
church of Ayioi Apostoloi is the only building on the site remain- ing
from the Byzantine era. Greatly changed over the centuries, it was fully
restored to its original form in the late 1950s. The paintings in the
narthex are original; others were transplanted from the Hephaisteion (
see below) when it was deconsecrated.
The exterior of the temple is well-preserved and uses the same curved lines as the Parthenon, though the columns are more slender and the entablature (horizontal platform above the columns) sturdier. The metopes (carved space on a Doric frieze) around the entablature depict the legendary feats of Heracles and Theseus. Surrounding the temple is a garden area attempting to recreate a garden that existed here in the ancient era. It includes the same plants species-medicinal and herbal- that were popular during that time.
The eastern flank of the Agora site is dominated by the Stoa of Attalos. First erected by King Attalos of Pergamon and opened in 138 BC, it was faithfully recreated during the 1950s to offer us a stunning vision of what communal buildings were like in ancient times. Stoas were extremely popular in the Roman era and all large settlements had one. These long porches or porticos provided shade in summer and shelter in winter and they were often used to link important community buildings. The Stoa of Attalos was a two-storey construction with I:ooms at the back that housed small shops. Today it is home to the Agora Museum and displays numerous artefacts found at this extensive sight. Here you'll find a range of everyday objects not seen in the Acropolis Museum, in addition to religious and civic statuary and mosaics.