Athens beyond Acropolis: A guide to the neighborhoods
I feel a traveler in Athens even though I live there for more than 10 years. When I moved to Athens I was overwhelmed. I had to get to know a big, chaotic, complex extremely interesting city. OMG, how you can do it? I started with my then neighborhood, Kypseli, later I got to know the nearby Exarcheia and so on. After so many years, I still feel I know nothing about Athens. It’s a city that constantly changes, people move in and out, districts are in or out, neighborhoods are hip, or not anymore, quickly and unexpectedly. If you are visiting Athens and you read an article written in 2017, please don’t believe a thing. A lot of what you read maybe is not accurate anymore. Visitors are now staying everywhere because of Airbnb. So, in case you have already read a lot about Plaka, Monastiraki, and Thisio, what about discovering something about Kypseli or Kolonaki?
It’s the most controversial, politically active, anarchist friendly district of Athens. It has a long history of political activism and most of the riots initiate here. Residents and anarchist communities actively support immigrants and refugees through solidarity, instead of philanthropy. In Exarcheia took place the Polytechneio (National Technical University of Athens) uprising in November 1973, during the military junta (dictatorship). That is one of the most important events of the modern history of Greece. More recently (December 2007), in Exarcheia, a policeman killed Alexandros Grigoropoulos, a 16-year-old boy. Huge riots followed the killing and now unofficially the street is named after the kid.
Subway: Omonoia or Victoria Stations
Some sightseeing: Most likely you are going to visit Exarcheia in order to explore the National Archaeological Museum. Don’t skip it! Strefi hill is worth your visit also, especially if you fancy long walks in parks.
My personal favorites:
- The self-managed Nacarinou Park. It was meant to be parking, but Exarcheia local community has transformed the place into an admirable mini-green park.
- The mouth-watering vegan souvlaki of Coocoomela.
KypseliMaybe Kypseli is the less touristy of all the neighborhoods mentioned in this article. It is quite unlikely for a tourist to be there. Kypseli has evolved into a multicultural neighborhood, due to the many immigrant families who live within its borders. It’s packed with small theatres, cinemas, and art spaces. Fokionos Negri pedestrian street used to be a hip area during the 80s. Now it’s still full of cafes and restaurants, but most of the Athenians forgot its existence. The last years there is an effort to recreate Kypseli and the results are impressive. Now on you can find hip bars and interesting taverns full of the young residents of the area. Subway: Victoria Station Some sightseeing: Located at the Fokionos Negri pedestrian street, the Kypseli’s Municipal Market is a unique phenomenon. It is claimed to be the first Market of Social Entrepreneurship. Try to find an event taking place there, or just visit it for some alternative shopping. My personal favorites: Agiou Georgiou square is small, round, and looks like a village. You can find all kind of shops a neighborhood needs, plus 2 interesting bars: “Allotino” and “It’s a village”.
KoukakiOne of the hippest neighborhoods. There are always new bars and cafes. There are plenty of Airbnb, because of its proximity to the Acropolis area. There are many Athenians complaining of the high rent prices of the area. There are 2 pedestrian streets packed of restaurants and bars. Subway: Syggrou-Fix or Acropoli Stations Some sightseeing: The Acropolis (obviously) and the Acropolis Museum (an absolute must).
My personal favorites:
- Meerkat Cocktail Safari, a beautifully decorated bar-cafe with tasty brunch options and interesting cocktails.
- 7cactus, a Greek street deli that offers really delicious, really Greek, not touristy kind of food.
KolonakiIt’s the most traditionally posh area of the city center. In case you are a traveler on a budget, don’t even think to eat there. You can find yourself walking for some upscale (window) shopping in one of the most stylish markets in Athens, drinking a coffee, or just trying to find your way to the numerous nearby museums. If you are searching for Art Galleries, there is the place to be. Subway: Panepistimio or Evangelismos Stations Some sightseeing:
- Mount Lycabettus, if you are interested in visiting a hill in Athens, then it should be this. There is a funicular railway to take you there.
- Museum of Cycladic Art, one of my favorite museums in Athens. It’s aesthetically pleasing and full of extremely interesting exhibits. There you can find also some creative temporary exhibitions.
PetralonaPetralona was the first neighborhood with which I fell in love when I first moved to Athens. Quite charming for a walk and full of taverns, restaurants, cafes and cozy bars. You can walk between the beautiful old houses on Troon street at Ano Petralona, or explore the most urban aspect of Kato Petralona district. If you want non-touristy taverns and restaurants, that is the place to be. Subway: Petralona (Ano Petralona) or Keramikos Stations (Kato Petralona) Some sightseeing: Filopappou Hill and “Alsos Petralonon”. Then you can walk down the Troon street which is full of taverns and bars. My personal favorites:
- Upopa Epops, a beautifully decorated cafe-bar
- Chez Lucien, a non-greek restaurant for a change, that makes you feel you are in a French village.