I definitely could see why people don’t really like Athens. But, like with Yerevan, with a right attitude and enough time to discover the real face of the city it turned out to be an amazing destination for every culture lover. I spent hours sitting in the funky cafes, discovering culture centers, admiring excellent street art scene or just relaxing at the beach. Here are my fave alternative spots in Athens!
The district of anarchist, famous for riots, quirky cafes and bustling art scene. Covered in the overwhelming number of street art – some of these are just random writings, some are real pieces of art. Full of little boutiques and shops with comic books, used vinyls or books, customized t-shirts. If you’re interested in counterculture then this is the place to be! I spent big part of my time in Athens wandering around Exarchia or people watching while enjoying a cup of coffee in one of the cafes on the main square. Every evening when I was done with sightseeing I headed there too, just to relax and feel a part of this alternative world. It’s like the smaller and more extreme version of Berlin’s Kreuzberg.
I’m a huge fan of industrial places turned into alternative areas / culture centers. And so that’s why from the very beginning I knew I’ll enjoy Technopolis! This former gasworks (built in 1857) serves now as the active cultural heart of Athens, with numerous events almost every day (some of them are really famous and important, such as Athens Fashion Week or Athens Jazz Festival). The industrial surrounding definitely adds up to the overall atmosphere of the place. When I visited Technopolis some kind of festival took place there too and I had a chance to sample delicious Greek food from all over the country.
Monastiraki flea market
The area of Monastiraki is known as a shopping center of Athens, with numerous clothing boutiques, souvenir shops and specialty stores. On Sunday some of these shops close, local people take tables outside and the district, especially along Ermou street, turns into a large flea market. It’s a big attraction especially for locals – the crowd can be so huge that it feels every inhabitant of the city is there, either buying or selling. Everything you wish for can be found there: antiques, old books, vintage vinyls, second hand clothes, furniture. If you happen to be in Athens on Sunday be sure to head to Monastiraki for some true local experience and try to be there in the morning so you can fully enjoy it!
I was surprised how many cafes are in Athens! They’re literally on every step, offering both coffee to go (usually it’s around 1-2€) and tables to sit down and enjoy your drink. Just be aware that you have to pay more for coffee if you want to stay – for my cafe latte in one of the cafes in Exarchia I had to pay 3,50€ (which still is a fair price). Most of the places I visited had a soul and an original interior, they weren’t your random chain coffee shops. When I travel I like taking my time to stop for a coffee, pretend to read a book but actually do people watching. And so Athens was a perfect city for me! You can find the best cafes around the main square in Exarchia but also in the backstreets of touristy Plaka there were few really good places!
I’ve already dedicated one post to street art in Athens but let me repeat it – it’s a street art paradise! The city is full of all forms of street art but the majority are murals and random graffiti. Very quickly I managed to recognize work of the same artist, my favourite one being a lovely girl by Sonke. I spotted her in various places all over the city and every time she brought smile to my face. Of course the majority of street art can be found in Exarchia but I saw some really good pieces also in Plaka or next to the Technopolis. If you like street art Athens will not disappoint you!
Well, maybe I exaggerated with „nature” but within the city borders you can find some really lovely spots to escape hustle and bustle of the city and crowds of tourists heading to Acropolis. Catch a tram and head to the beach. Probably it will not be the most beautiful beach you’ll ever visit but it’s still a really nice and relaxed place well worth a visit. If you want to admire the city from above hike to one of the hills in the center, particularly Mount Lycabettus and Lofos Strefi offer incredible views of Athens and its famous landmarks.
living like a local
Since Athens is an extremely touristy place, with the tourist center in Plaka district, to enjoy the city to the fullest I’d suggest you trying to live like a local. Websites like Wimdu gives you this possibility – now, with these coupon codes, you can book your accomodation even cheaper! I tried that in Toronto and it was the best way to get to know the real life there. Athens has over 300 properties listed there so just find yourself a nice area and enjoy your time in Athens like a local!
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