Monastiraki, which means 'small monastery', means several things at once for you as a visitor and is an important destination in Athens.
People like to say, but you cant prove it by me, that less than 100 years ago Monastiraki received its name because of the small Monastery and outbuildings which were situated here but which have since been torn down.
There were also monks cells some of which now supposedly are stores.
First the Monastiraki metro station is where you change from green line to blue to get from the airport to the port of Piraeus or vice versa.
The photo left shows you your view if you take an immediate right exiting the Monastiraki metro station.
The building on the left with the arches is a folk museum (click to see it from a better angle) and used to be the convent. Just past that on the left are the ruins of Roman Emperor Hadrian's library. The Acropolis is straight ahead. That's the Athens Metro sign on the right of the photo.
Secondly Monastiraki is also a great place to shop for souvenirs, clothing and nick knacks for your self or as gifts to take back home.
There is the famous flea market every Sunday in Monastiraki (and in Piraeus too for that matter but smaller). Go early since it closes around 1 pm and always watch for out pick pockets in crowds and in the trolley and metro as well.
Thirdly Monastiraki is also home to the 15th C Byzantine church of the Pantanassa and a thus a 'holy spot'. The church is one of the fist things you see exiting the station' and a good rendezvous to arrange to meet friends. In the photo left you can just make it out on the right hand side.
Fourthly Monastiraki is also situated close to the foot of the Acropolis which is another holy spot and very near and on the same level as Hadrian's Library and the Roman Agora.
So there are ruins which you will doubtlessly find culturally inspiring whether you pay to enter the ruins or not. Why bother really as you can see everything through the fence anyway. Save your money and pay to enter the Roman Agora ruins a bit further on although you can see those through the fence too!
Speaking of Agoras, Monastiraki, in its modern way, fulfills many of the same needs that Athens ancient agoras did but on larger scale as Athens population and metropolitan area is far expanded since ancient times when the Agora was the "center" of city life. You knew that! (Monastiraki Metro Station Photo left, click to see larger)
Fifthly Monastiraki is right next to the Plaka and its hard to tell when you leave the one and enter the other. The heart of Monastiraki is Monastiraki Square where the metro station is. But there is more to Monastiraki than just the square and especially on Sundays when its flea market day. It is a busy retail area every day and lots of Greeks, tourists and foreign people living in Greece shop here with good reason! Prices are competitive, selection is superior and bargaining is allowed. Public restrooms however are scarce.
Inspiration to a myriad of imitators and souvlaki poseurs: the best place for lunch in Monastiraki is "Thanasis' " Mitropoleos 69, tel: 210-324-4705.
Thanasis' is a destination unto itself for Kalamaki or skewers of prime ground beef wrapped in grilled pita, along with grilled green peppers, salads, beers and soft drinks.
There is almost always a line at Thanasis' but its well worth the wait! (My friend John Chronus turned me on to Thanasis! John where are you buddy?)
You will see twenty restaurants around Monastiraki Sq. competing for your custom but go for Thanasis' at least once! There is a McDonalds right in the square too. Mcdonalds you can get anywhere but there is only one Thanasis'!