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Alternative Things to Do in Athens:
Getting Off the Beaten Path in the City of Wonders

Alternative things to do in Athens

Date
05 December 2019

If it is your first time in Athens of course you need to see all the famous sights. Acropolis, Parthenon and Temple of Hephaestus are all extraordinary creations, but once you have seen those, it’s time to take a true taste of the city of wonders by getting off the beaten path. From discovering secret arcades to dancing in bouzoukia, there are so many alternative things to do in Athens that it is virtually impossible not to fall in love with our city!

Image after introtext
Panoramic view of Athens - Credits: Yu Siang Teo/Unsplash.com

1. Explore alternative neighborhoods: Ano Petralona, Pagrati, Exarcheia

Downtown Athens and its picturesque neighborhoods are lovely and beautiful to wonder around. But, once you visited Monastiraki, Psyri and Plaka, there are many other places that are vibrant and alive in Athens. Take the subway, get a taxi or walk and grasp the alternative vibes in Ano Petralona. Right under Philopappos Hill, there are picturesque alleys inter-connecting, small old restaurants - some even from the ‘60s -, local bars and an old cinema that shows only black and white movies! Pagrati is in a short distance from the center and you can actually walk to it from Syntagma or Acropolis area. Museums, parks, monuments, theaters, libraries and scientific institutions that now have an international reputation are some of the things you can find in its neighborhood. Go for a stroll through this beautiful, historic urban district. Walk its busy streets and find small grocery stores, bookshops, convenience stores, neighborhood hairdressers and barbershops, tailor shops, taverns, culinary arts, vintage store signs, classic bakeries and traditional pastry shops, and discover a neighborhood that may be reminiscent from past decades. During the night, the area is transformed into, arguably, the best alternative neighborhood for enjoying your drink in one of its countless local bars. Exarcheia district is another area near the centre of the city that it’s worth your visit, especially if you are into street art. In this neighborhood you will find the masterpieces of some of the most well-known street artists like INO, Sonke, WD and Vasmoulaki. Arguably the most vintage neighborhood in Athens, here you can meet with the locals at one of the many literary cafes, look for books, old and new, magazines, vinyls, CDs and, of course, the underground press! 

Graffiti in Exarcheia from street artist WD

2. Drink and dance like a local: bars and after bars

Greeks love to dance. Of course, if you are strolling around the city center, you will surely come across the traditional taverns with live music, the so-called “rempetadika”, and dance in a circle of people until you have to catch your breath. But, this is something that the locals will do once in a while only nowadays and it is mostly a touristic attraction. Their everyday routine when it comes to their nightlife is much simpler than that - and clubs won’t do either. There is one answer for a perfect night out in the center: the bars around Syntagma district! From Kolokotroni street, to Ippitou alley and Praxitelous road, the beating heart of Athenian night is between those streets and their bars. You will find a perfect local crowd, great music; popular DJ sets that will make you talk about the nights you spent there for the days to come. Their exquisite collections of gin, beers, wine and cocktails in addition to the rest make them irresistible. After your first drinks, visit Batman or MG in the near districts for a never-ending fun night and watch the sun rise! Choose a bar, order a drink and let the night start!

Juan Rodriguez Bar

3. Do fun activities in Stavros Niarchos

Spend a fun morning or afternoon at the Stavros Niarchos Foundational Cultural Centre (SNFCC). Ride a bike in the park and around the artificial lake - you can easily rent one there -, enroll online for the canoe or pottery lessons; visit the National Opera House and the National Library of Greece in their new facilities, as well as the huge 170-acre park! Have a picnic on a Saturday morning or just enjoy the sun with your favorite cold drink. How would you feel about doing yoga, pilates, running or even dancing? Because you can! Everything in the SNFCC is free and the only thing you need to do is enroll in advance! A gardening section has been set up for those interested in learning about plant care as well; there are also several exhibitions always in display. During summer nights, there are free movie screenings on the lawn!

SNFCC

4. Take the boat to Saronikos Islands: Aigina, Agistri

Take the boat from Piraeus port one hot summer day and escape Athens in only 60 minutes to the beautiful islands of Saronikos gulf! First stop in your agenda: Aegina Island! You should visit Aegina for the picturesque fishing village of Perdika, with its small harbor, the rocks, and the crystal clear waters, the trees that reach the sea and offer you their shade; for the beautiful neoclassic buildings that are scattered throughout its town. For the beautiful Temple of Athena Afea, located on a hilltop between pine trees and overlooking the endless blue sea; but, most of all, for the many, many beaches of the island. Second stop in your agenda: the majestic Agistri! Just 10 minutes from Aegina Island, Agistri is the perfect escape. It is the perfect holiday spot for anyone seeking relaxation and tranquility on a Greek island near Athens. The combination of the dark green pine forest with the stunning turquoise shades of the clear sea will cast a spell on you! There are also many restaurants, cafes and shops, while nightlife is very popular. Agistri is actually one of the few Greek islands that still retain their authenticity!

Aegina island

5. Watch a movie in an open-air cinema

Οpen air cinemas, or as the Greeks call them, the summer cinemas, have been part of the Athenian summer culture for decades. Despite the decline of cinema in general, their glamor and supremacy make them stand out and hold a special place in the hearts of the locals and movie lovers. Athens, a cultural capital, has actively participated in summer cinema culture and is on the list of cities with the most open air screening spaces. There are numerous truly fantastic cinemas, but the most famous, and arguably the best, is Cine Thiseion. Overlooking the illuminated Acropolis, the cinema in the homonymous area is one of the most well-known in the list and certainly the most historic. It opened its doors in 1935 and CNN ranked it as the best movie theater in the world! However, Cine Paris in Plaka neighborhood is also a wonderful cinema with a similar view. But, if you want to watch a movie while feeling the sea breeze on your skin, head to the south and the Cine Floisvos!

Cine Thiseion

6. Shop at the street local markets of Athens: Laiki in Kallidromiou Street

The popular street markets are an old tradition for the Athenians. Once per week, each neighborhood hosts a street market, a laiki (meaning “for the people”), visited by Athenians, regardless of age and income. Athens' street markets are an experience worth living for anyone who wants to know the authentic image of Athens and how Athenians get their food. Did you know that there are officially 44(!) public markets within the boundaries of the Municipality of Athens? One of the most famous of those is the laiki in Kallidromiou Street in Exarcheia district. You should visit this street market for many reasons: it is the city's most vibrant street market; voices, colorful things and people become one every Saturday morning; for watching people going up and down the street, meet friends along the way and chat; for you to see intellectuals, teachers, filmmakers and painters pulling folk carriages, researching for the best spinach, or discussing prices; for the little coffee shops that are filled with people when they're done with their weekly shopping; for the conversations you hear from strangers, unexpected Saturday meetings with a backdrop of antisocial slogans, graffiti and lettuce sets; and these are just a few of the pictures that define Athens' most beloved street market! 

Laiki in Kallidromiou Street 

7. Explore the suburbs: Kifissia, Vouliagmeni

The city center is absolutely amazing and we might add, essential. Nonetheless, Athens has much more to offer, and its suburbs, northern or southern, are majestic. In the north, elegant Kifissia is a perfect getaway from the city! It was actually established at the beginning of the last century as a summer resort for the wealthy Athenians... Nowadays, it is loved as one of the most modern shopping centers of Athens, with luxurious brands and shops that every European metropolis would envy. Take a stroll around its classy streets and discover excellent restaurants and cozy cafes. Nature and trees are evident in every corner and every street of this district. Walk around and marvel the aristocratic old mansions and villas. In the southern suburbs, take a small trip to the beautiful Vouliagmeni area! The green cape of Greece has become famous as the most expensive region of the country because over the decades it has maintained its unchanged image: unique sandy beaches, low structure and large public spaces. Across the beach you will encounter many surfers. Swim at the Astir Beach, in the premises of which there is the ancient temple of Apollo Zoster, a stunning 6th century B.C. monument. Last but not least, go to lake Vouliagmeni; offering a beautiful scenery, the waters of the lake have healing properties. There is also a legendary cave there and the story goes that a fairy is living in the marina that lures and traps young men! Of course, if you are a young man you may have to think twice before visiting…

Vouliagmeni Lake

8. Walk at the boardwalks of Athens Riviera: Palaio Faliro, Flisvos, Alimos

If you are not a fun of the city center’s hustle and bustle and you wish to step away from the crowds and the frenetic rhythms, then head to the south and spend a morning or an afternoon in the so-called Athens Riviera. Take a walk along the boardwalk of Flisvos and Palaio Faliro and discover the outdoor cafes, the merchants with roasted corn, the sailing boats, the cool salty breeze; every summer afternoon, the pedestrian street of the beach is filled with people! Families with children, who bike, run and play, couples falling in love again, friends hanging out under the Riviera sky... Whether it is breakfast, coffee or a cocktail party with good music, the Athens Riviera boardwalks have everything you need for your beachside adventure!

Flisvos Marina

9. Visit the former summer royal palace: Tatoi 

Thousands of visitors are strolling during weekends in the gardens of Tatoi, but it used to be the summer palace of the former Greek Royal family. Today, visiting the estate is an alternative thing to do even for an Athenian! But if you give it the chance, Tatoi will dazzle you by its natural and architectural beauty. Go down the marble stairs, watch the fallen leaves that created a slippery rug in the pathways, pass by the empty pool that would once be full of life. Rest in the shady spots of wild vegetation; wander around the large marble bathtub that used to be a spa area with a lion's head in what would be the fountain that spilled water. The stone paths and the unpaved routes are ideal for hiking or cycling and the vast areas of grass perfect for a pic-nic! 

Tatoi Palace

10. Enjoy Piraeus' seaside beauty: Piraiki, Mikrolimano and Marina Zeas

Piraeus has been an important port of Athens since antiquity. The importance of Piraeus remains intact over the years. A visit to the picturesque little ports of Piraeus is the perfect choice for a relaxing day. Take advantage of the sunny sky and cool breeze and enjoy a stroll in its little marinas. Look at the ships leaving and heading to the Greek islands as the sun reflects on the surface of the water. Marina Zeas is the second port in Piraeus, which serves leased yachts and offers its guests a wonderful setting for nice walks. Enjoy a cup of coffee or a refreshing cocktail as you admire the Athens sunset and the elegant yachts are being rocked by the gentle waves. Head to the next marina, Mikrolimano, where you will find a wide variety of restaurants, fish taverns and cafes. Savor the traditional seafood flavors of Greek cuisine accompanied by Greek ouzo, wine or beer! 

Piraeus

 

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