In a country of approximately 11 million people, the city of Athens is the premier urban destination where approximately 40% of the country’s population lives. With its interesting archaeological sites and museums, world-class cultural attractions, fantastic food sourced from local ingredients, modern infrastructure, and a vibrant nightlife, Athens is a fabulous city to visit.
In order to make the most out of your trip to Athens, and your time before and after TBEX, here are some urban neighborhoods that will give you a well-rounded perspective of the city:
Plaka – Plaka is located below the Acropolis, between Syntagma and Monastiraki, and is one of the oldest neighborhoods of Athens. Despite the fact that it is the most touristy quarter of the city, it offers much in terms of architectural interest – it is chockfull of 19th century neoclassical mansions, Byzantine churches, and special interest museums. Stroll through its labyrinthine streets and narrow alleys to experience its romantic and nostalgic atmosphere, and sit down at one of the various restaurants, cafes and bars. Anafiotika is a section of Plaka which has beautiful Cycladic-style white houses that lead up to the Acropolis. Important archaeological sites can be found here, including the Ancient Agora and the Tower of the Winds.
Monastiraki – Monastiraki is another one of the oldest neighborhoods in Athens and is famous for its Sunday flea market offering a huge variety of products on display. The neighborhood is also known for its numerous antique stores, and other stores which sell vintage items, books, second-hand clothing, decorative objects, etc. The central square and fountain of Monastiraki is a popular hangout and many outdoor events take place here. Additionally, Monastiraki contains buildings with beautiful architecture and restaurants, cafes, and bars.
Thissio – The Thissio neighborhood is adjacent to Plaka and and Monastiraki and next to Filopappou Hill. Walk to Pnyx Hill,considered to be the birthplace of democracy, and then observe the Hill of the Nymphs, which contains the Observatory. Thissio enjoys views of the Acropolis from almost every angle, and contains many neoclassical buildings along with trendy cafes, tavernas, and bars. Thissio is also home to the Herakleidon Museum of Art along with other art galleries. There are many pedestrian streets and a famous open air cinema, Cine Thissio, open in the summer months.
Museum & Shopping District
Kolonaki – Kolonaki is considered to be the most elegant and wealthy neighborhood of central Athens, with a long and cosmopolitan history. It is located at the base of Lykavittos Hill and attracts a variety of people – from politicians to jetsetters to businessmen to designers. It is a trendy and fashionable meeting area and has many lovely restaurants, cafes, and bars as well as boutique fashion and jewelry stores. It is no secret that it is one of Athens’ leading shopping areas. The Benaki, Cycladic, and Byzantine Museums are also located in Kolonaki, along Vassilissis Sofias Avenue, the main avenue which starts at Syntagma. Many embassies are also located in this area.
Syntagma – Syntagma, or Constitution Square, is the most centrally located area of Athens, and has as its landmark the Parliament building, which used to be a palace. The changing of the guard takes place in front of the Palace. Next to the Parliament are the National Gardens and Zappeio Park. The National Gardens house, among others things, a playground, children’s library, small café, and a duck pond. Zappeio Park contains the Zappeio building which was constructed to house the first modern Olympic Games in the 19th century. Nowadays, it is used to hold conferences and exhibitions. The beautiful gardens also contain a café, restaurant, and an open-air cinema. Across from Zappeio Park you’ll find the Panathenaic (Kallimarmaro) Stadium, the stadium of the first modern Olympic Games.
Where Locals Go
Gazi – The Gazi district obtained its name from the old Gas factory of Athens which was located where the Technopolis cultural center now stands. The Technopolis is an exhibition/concert venue and is operated by the City of Athens. In recent years, property in this area has been converted into loft-style residences and offices, which has resulted in buildings with interesting and creative architecture. The neighborhood is bustling with bars, restaurants, and cafes, and as a result is one of the most vibrant areas of the city. More recently, locals have been hanging out at Agias Irinis Square, flanked by Agias Irinis Church, off Monastiraki, which has many restaurants, bars, stores, and coffee shops. Lately, Hipsters have been frequenting the Petralona neighborhood as it offers much in terms of traditional Greek tavernas, artsy bars, as well as new loft apartments.