Greece

Alternative Athens

(Last Updated On: 01/04/2018)
Athens happened to be the most surprising destination I visited this year (so far).  I was expecting a tatty, dirty capital, slightly dangerous and torn by the recent crisis, with few ancient remnants here and there. Well, Athens was nothing like that! It turned out the city was very lively, with an explicit alternative vibe and many cool spots to choose from. And the ruins from thousands years ago weren’t that bad either. For years I wasn’t interested in visiting Athens – when I finally went there I fell in love with the Greek capital and didn’t really want to leave.

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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!

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Exarchia 

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.

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Technopolis

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.

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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!

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cafe culture

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!

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street art

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!

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nature getaways

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.

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18 Comments

  • Reply
    Andrew Darwitan
    12/08/2015 at 13:15

    You’re really quite an explorer! When I was in Athens, I just did all the usual touristy stuff: Acropolis, Plaka, Monastiraki. Psiri was as alternative as I got in Greece. Your pictures of Exarchia really impress me though. Looks so relaxing and different. The ubiquitous graffiti aside, Exarchia isn’t quite what I imagine Athens to be. =)

    • Reply
      kami
      13/08/2015 at 21:50

      thanks! all these touristy stuff were nice in Athens but I actually enjoyed the alternative side of the city so much more! Too bad you didn’t get to experience it but at least you have a reason to go back! :) and that’s also not how I imagined Athens!

      • Reply
        Andrew Darwitan
        29/09/2015 at 13:36

        Yeahh… Greece works in mysterious ways! The real gems are there hidden in the off-the-beaten places that no tourists bother to go. =)

        • Reply
          kami
          29/09/2015 at 22:18

          Exactly! It’s actually kind of funny :)

  • Reply
    Claudia
    20/04/2016 at 20:53

    Finally I found a little alternative guide :) It seems like greece is living in the past. Everyone is just talking about food, beaches and archeology. I want to see life there! I will visit the Technopolis, definitely. I will be there next week, I am excited! Ciekawe co odkryjemy ;)

    • Reply
      kami
      29/04/2016 at 21:27

      I’m sure you will find many great spots in Athens! I was so surprised by the city, in the positive way. All the old remnants are just small part of it and Athens is such a cool place! Enjoy your time there, I’m sure you will!

  • Reply
    mustafa
    10/07/2016 at 16:12

    the streets looks so lovely and exciting :) but there are alot of place in Turkey like that.

    • Reply
      kami
      21/07/2016 at 21:02

      hopefully one day I will have a chance to see! Do you have anything place like that to recommend?

  • Reply
    Minka Guides
    08/02/2017 at 18:08

    Fantastic guide! Thanks for sharing. I’m flying to Athens tomorrow and this has so much interesting content I’m really excited now! :)

    • Reply
      kami
      10/02/2017 at 15:32

      Thanks! Have a wonderful time in Athens!

  • Reply
    Yannis from Hide In My Suitcase
    17/03/2017 at 04:05

    I loved your viewpoint on my hometown!
    I’ve been living abroad for many years now and every time I go back I’m torn among its unique and impressive history, its offbeat quirkiness and how much it’s been run down and neglected, mainly due to the recent crisis.
    Mixed feelings every time! I’m glad you chose to see it positively!

    • Reply
      kami
      29/03/2017 at 14:53

      Thank you! I must admit I was a little torn too but positive feelings won :)

  • Reply
    Adventographer
    09/08/2017 at 16:15

    This post has had me change my plans for my Greece trip next month and allow an extra couple days in Athens. A nice new perspective on the place vs all the other blogs simply showing the ruins etc. Keep up the great work!

    • Reply
      kami
      21/08/2017 at 19:58

      Thanks! Alternative side of Athens was my highlight there! I’m actually returning to Athens soon to see some more of it. Enjoy your trip to Greece!

      • Reply
        Adventographer
        02/11/2017 at 03:34

        Loved greece and Athens was better than I’d expected! Thanks again for your insight!

        • Reply
          kami
          22/12/2017 at 21:54

          I’m really glad to hear that!

  • Reply
    Costas P.
    22/10/2019 at 12:10

    OK, next time, just try my home town Thessaloniki in the North for a different experience and compare! I think you’ll not be disappointed! ; ) (Btw, I came here by the way of…Chisinau, your review of it that is, as I had only a day’s glimpse of it about ten years ago, and something’s bugging me to go back and explore! We’ll see… ; ) Best and keep up the good work! ; )))

    • Reply
      kami
      06/11/2019 at 22:45

      I’ve been to Thessaloniki but I was so unlucky with the weather (rainy and windy) that I couldn’t really enjoy the city. I need to go back! And you should definitely go to Chisinau if you like offbeat places – I was there again this summer and enjoyed it much more than the first time.

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