Monastiraki's busy square is on of Athens' key hubs, a place where people meet before hitting nearby bars and souvlaki joints. To the south, the Ancient Agora was the city's original civic meeting place and remains a wonderful site to explore. And to the north and west, Psyrri may look dilapidated, but it's the city's liveliest quarter, where restaurants and bars coexist with warehouse conversions and workshops.
As with all the archaeological sites, it's nice to visit the large Ancient Agora early in the day; here, you'll probably spot birds and critters if you go first thing. Unlike the other sites, though, it does have some shade. Allow about an hour and a half.
The nearby Roman Agora is far smaller; the key attraction is the Tower of the Winds, most of which you can see from outside the fence (there are signs that explain what you're seeing). But if you're interested in the Ottoman period in Athens, go inside to see the interior of the tower (which Sufis used as a meeting place for a while) and the restored mosque on the site. Also don't miss the gate of the Sufi madrasah across the road.
After your key sightseeing is done, there's plenty more to browse, and you can shop and bar-hop all over the area. It's nice to head to Varvakios Agora, the central market, around lunchtime, and then you can eat at one of the deli-restaurants on Evripidou or a more traditional taverna in the market proper. If you're especially food-focused, though, try getting to the market around 7am when deliveries are happening and it's the most bustling; you could even have breakfast with the workers at one of the tavernas.
For drinking destinations, try to make it to at least one rooftop bar, as the views of the Acropolis are great from here. And, since Monastiraki is basically souvlaki central, plan to have a sandwich at one of the classic spots here.
- Temple of Hephaistos Posing for a pic in front of Greece's best-preserved temple, on a hill inside the Ancient Agora, the centre of classical Greek life.
- Tower of the Winds Marvelling at the ancient ingenuity in this octagonal building, which used to function as a time-and-weather centre. Now its beautiful relief carvings are the draw.
- Day or night drinking Pulling up a chair at Tailor Made or another cafe on Plateia Agia Irini, one of Monastiraki's social hubs.
- Souvlaki Savouring Athens' meat-on-a-stick tradition at its alleged source, Thanasis, right on Plateia Monastiraki.
- Varvakios Agora Taking in the sights and smells of Athens' central market and the bustling streets around it.
If you like antiques or just general junk-picking, come Sunday morning when the flea market is in fullest swing. In the afternoon, this area is especially good for live music at many of the cafes – ideal if you're not a night owl.