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Athens Street Art Guide
and Which Neighborhoods to Visit

Athens Street Art Guide and Which Neighborhoods to Visit

Date
23 November 2022

Athens is not just the Acropolis. It has much more than archaeological sites and magnificent ancient history to offer. Athens has a contemporary heart as well and it beats as loud as her ancient legacy! Psyri, Exarcheia, Metaxourgeio, and Omonoia are four of the Greek capital’s central neighborhoods where the hazy gray urban landscape gives way to the colorful creations of street artists. This article wishes to serve as a short, insightful guide to street art and graffiti creations in the heart of Athens.

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'Upside Down' graffiti created by the street artist STMS - Photo credit: @Greek TravelTellers

Street art in Psyri neighborhood

With the charm of old Athens at its fancy and a focal point on the Athenian map, the neighborhood of Psyri, despite its economic ups and downs, has remained in the artistic consciousness as a point of meeting, exchange and creation. Psyri stands against the backdrop of a three-faced graffiti, faded and carved out of the beige body of a high-rise apartment building.

'Superman' mural by street artist Vasmou

The heart of the neighborhood is on its cobbled streets, in the old taverns serving ouzo and meze like the old days; from its traditional stores making handmade baskets and shoes to the tattoo shops and vinyl records stores. Walking around in the neighborhood of Psyri, you will see open spaces for tango lessons and acting groups, old “koutoukia” with live music and hip hair salons. You will also surely notice the many different graffiti that adorn the walls of one of the most historic districts of downtown Athens. Rare works, special and full of meaning that share their own story. Psyri was a blank canvas for artists who were looking for a way to free their art and way of thinking, give color and creativity to the city walls. Taking a stroll near Sarri street, Heroes Square and Lucas Nika (next to the famous Empros Theater) one can see a plethora of graffiti and enjoy the street art of Athens in all its splendor.

'Hope dies Last' mural by street artist WD

(Unfortunately, the above mural has been mostly covered by bricks put by the police in an effort to close access to the independent, free-running Empros artistic space.]

Striking graffiti adorns the back of the Empros at Psirri, which reminds us that Hope Dies Last by Wild Drawings and another impressive mural supporting the autonomous theater by WD. WD had solo exhibitions and participated in group exhibitions or festivals in Asia, Europe and the US while his works have been included in international publications on street art. His artistic and social East-West background combines in a unique way and this is what makes his works particularly recognizable. He focuses on large-scale murals and always tries to blend his creation in harmony with the surroundings.

The famous Athenian rebel dog Loukanikos, a symbol of the protests during the recent Greek recession, is now depicted as graffiti in downtown Athens at Psirri. It is a beautiful piece created by the Greek visual artist Vassilis Griparis and his company. In fact, there is also an inspirational slogan that reads "we had the tears (of the gas) together". In another spot, it is written that "all dogs go to paradise." In 2011, TIMES magazine made Loukanikos Person of the Year, dedicating a whole page of the magazine to him.

'Loukanikos' graffiti by street artist Vassilis Griparis

Street art in Omonoia neighborhood

For over 20 years, Omonoia has been a point of contention for the Athenians. After the demolition of the iconic fountain in 1992 in order to begin the construction of the Metro, Omonoia square kept declining, until recently. Today, Omonoia neighborhoods return with a new fountain and a new hope that it will be at the center of life once again! The city of Athens invites you to love this misunderstood area which is full of artistic life and vast history right from the beginning. Could the re-emerging of places, like Mpageion, the incredible 19th-century twin hotel, act as a canvas of artistic expression? Or will it prove simply a result of Instagram trends and findings of alternative media? As you get lost in the straits of Omonoia, you discover another world that has the same beauty and interest as the rest of the center. The street artists also saw this side and painted on the weathered canvases of Omonoia.

‘Praying for us’ mural by Anastasakos and Cretsis brothers

A blind wall at 20 Piraeus Street, Vienna Hotel prays nightly for the city and its residents. This is clearly influenced by the version of Albrecht Dürer's painting "Praying Hands". The title of this particular graffiti is “Praying for us” and the hands are not looking toward the sky, but toward the ground, towards the soil. The work is an artistic proposal by a student of the Pavlos Tsakonas School of Fine Arts and was implemented by the painters Manolis Anastasakos and the brothers Dimitris, Babis and Thanassis Cretsis. It took 20 days on the scaffolding to complete the street art piece. The work was created as part of the YPEKA's action "Art and Public Space, Painting on Blind Buildings in Athens". The frescoes of Piraeus Street show two hands in prayer, inverted as if the whole world was turned upside down.

‘Snowblind’ fresco by street artist INO 

The Greek street artist INO has been invading the streets of Athens since 2000. He has traveled around the world and left his mark in Europe and America, from buildings and cultural centers to hotels and clubs. A large fresco named “Snowblind” occupies a block of flats that overlooks a garage in Omonia. The project was supported by the Prometheus Patients' Liver Association when it embarked on a new ambitious and alternative awareness campaign for Hepatitis C, highlighting a different dimension of the disease through street art. With his creation, the graffiti artist INO illustrates the exhortation as well as the change of attitude that today's man must adopt in his daily "treasure hunt" for material goods.

Street art in Metaxourgeio neighborhood

If you cross Iera Odos from Gazi you will find Metaxourgeio. Athenians love the Metaxourgio neighborhood very much. We love its half-lined (pedestrian) streets, its loose parish hangouts that continue the tradition of the urban cafés, and its time-worn mansions that are slowly taking new life. Walk around this urban Athenian neighborhood, and if you are one of those who appreciate stories, whether they are luminous or dark, then this is more than just an industrial or old or beautified area. It has a life of its own! Discover the yards and the theaters. The existence of many theaters in the neighborhood is not new: Metaxourgio was essentially a "theatrical" neighborhood already in the interwar period. It was also one of the first areas outside the historic center to begin developing in the mid-19th century. It was named after the silk factory on Avdi Square, which today houses the Art Gallery of the Municipality of Athens. Metaxourgeio is also like Psyri: a blank canvas for street artists that they are just starting to explore! Wander around its alleys to discover beautiful murals.

‘So many books, so little time’ mural by Simple G

"So many books, so little time." This is the message of street artist SimpleG, who with undoubted creativity managed to beautify the wall of an apartment building on Megalou Alexandrou street in Metaxourgeio. This street art piece was commissioned for the Petit Paris d'Athènes festival, the annual great art and culture festival in the city center. With a girl reading a book, the artist tries to express his reflection on the internet's domination of the world.

'Knowledge speaks - Wisdom listens' mural by street artist WD

Anyone who crosses this street cannot overlook the imposing image of another creation from the Balinese street artist WD. "Knowledge speaks - wisdom listens," he wrote on his Instagram account for his creation. The owl symbolizes wisdom already from ancient times and at the same time is a symbol of the goddess Athena, the patron goddess of the city of Athens. On the other hand, the owl as a bird, is famous for its extremely good long-range vision, especially in low-light conditions. Always overlooking its favorite city, shares its wisdom with the locals and visitors who are walking by the Metaxourgeio neighborhood. This piece became really popular and it has gone viral on social media.

Street art in Exarcheia neighborhood

DExarcheia is one of Athens’ oldest neighborhoods with a multi-dimensional and artistic touch. Due to the presence of universities and its youthful energy, it is one of the favorite spots for street artists! The district was formerly called Neapolis, which means ‘New City’ in Greek, as it was one of the first areas where people chose to live outside the inner city circle. Over time, the name Neapolis gave way to the name Exarcheia, named after a resident who ran a grocery store above the current Exarcheia Square. This authentic neighborhood is an architectural maze, packed with bohemian shops, hidden courtyards and lively squares. Here you can explore paved alleys with street art pieces, politically charged murals, and some of the most unique shops and art galleries in Athens. Many famous people, politicians and artists have lived there through the years. On this popular ground, famous street artists are paving the way for colorful walks!

Mural by street artist Sonke

Sonke’s figures are very popular among the Athenians. The fairy-tale creatures can be found in many places around the city center and its black and white technique, combined with the red details the artist often uses, create a very special effect. The romantic drawings are by a man who started embellishing the city because of a heartbreak, a romantic disappointment. We feel you, Sonke!

'No land for the poor' mural by street artist WD

The above graffiti is another powerful creation by WD. The mural is titled 'No Land for the Poor'. According to the artist, “in reality, street art blooms in places where people accept this type of expression”. Whether you believe it is a form of creativity or you are still skeptical about the matter of vandalism, it’s worth paying a visit to the Athenian neighborhood of Exarcheia to see and judge by yourself! WD dedicates this particular work of his to the homeless people of Athens and the whole world. A ragged man is lying on the street and is asleep. This describes the homeless’ problem in one picture. The graffiti occupies the entire facade of an abandoned building and reaches about 10 meters in length. According to the creator, "the homeless are not invisible, they are people, we cannot ignore them anymore". We hear you, WD!

'The eyes of Eressos street' graffiti in Exarcheia Athens

“The eyes of Eressos Street”, a famous portrait mural in Exarcheia neighborhoods of Athens that gives you goosebumps when you see it up close from across the street. Some see a man in despair; others see a woman… All interpretations are on the table. Art is for the spectator and street art is evoking the spectator to indulge. 

Why join a street art and graffiti tour in Athens

A walk of exploration for street art creation in Athens with a local guide will allow you to discover the modern culture of the Greek capital. The story behind each graffiti and the interpretations of its meaning gives you a unique window into the recent political, economic and societal situation. Every artist's expression is like a different chapter to the recent history of the Greek people. A look into a piece of street art is like a silent chat with the artist and the Athenian residents. It's really worth taking a street art tour in Athens so that you can see the city from the eyes of locals and modern residents.

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About the author: Our team at Greek TravelTellers consists of academics and lovers of Greek culture. Our vision is to convey our knowledge and Greek values through unique tours and experiences. Through our blog, we hope to bring Greek history and culture closer to you. Feel free to learn more about us.

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