Explore ancient sites and more in the best areas of Athens
Athens holds an important place in history and legend, but its main sights are grouped together in one area and the central districts are tiny. It’s possible to walk from a museum in Kolonaki in the east to a nightclub in Gazi – a neighborhood long considered the western “fringe” – in a quick half hour. In practice, however, every neighborhood you pass through is so interesting that you could easily spend a day driving through town.
The great thing about the density of Athens is more latitude in your choice of hotels: choose where you want to end the night without an hour of work in the morning to see the sights. And although the center of Athens is full of short-term rentals that are not hosted, they have skewed the economy against the Athenians. To “live like a local” and the hospitality the Greeks are famous for, rent a room in a shared apartment or stay in a good old hotel.
Ideal for morning starts and end-of-day vibrations
If your main mission is to beat the tour groups at the Acropolis, book a hotel in Makrygianni, near the east entrance to the Acropolis site and museum. Contrary to expectations, this area is not just touristy, but a good mix of old-fashioned residences, extremely high-end residences (big budget flex: walking your little dog on Dionysiou Areopagitou at sunset) and hotels at all prices.
The further you get from the Acropolis, the more you will find good cafes and restaurants with no claim to fame other than being the regular joint of some locals.
Walk a little further south and you reach Koukaki, which often tops lists of Athens’ quintessential neighborhoods. And rightly so, especially on the pedestrian strip of Olimpiou where bar-cafes like the Bel Rey are full of relaxed atmosphere kefi (atmosphere) on a summer night. The National Museum of Contemporary Art, in the former Fix brewery, lends style points to the neighborhood.
Syntagma and the commercial triangle
Ideal for market browsing and pub crawls
In front of the parliament and the pompom-footed soldiers guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the wide Plateia Syntagmatos Square is the unofficial center of the city: a key landmark that attracts large numbers of people in the evenings.
The phrase is a point in the emporiko trigono (commercial triangle) as the central business district is known. The other two points of the triangle are Omonia (to the north) and Monastiraki (to the west). Even though many buildings are concrete from the ’60s, century-old churches appear in weird places, and old-fashioned micro-business districts persist, so you can buy, for example, all your gardening supplies in one block. . And after offices, shops, and the central market close, people flock to fabulously designed bars with renowned bartenders – especially look on and around Kolokotroni, which leads to the nearby Psyrri neighborhood.
Monastiraki and Psyrri
Great for old things and new bars
Named after a small monastery turned into a church in a wide plaza, Monastiraki is the area where you’ll find the vast Ancient Agora and the smaller Roman Agora – but also plenty of opportunities to take a break from sightseeing. Adrianou takes over to the west of Hadrian’s Library with a long row of cafes and restaurants and a view of the ruins. The so-called flea market is mostly tourist trinkets, but on Sunday mornings second-hand dealers display their wares and the permanent antique shops – both immaculate and dusty – are tucked away in the side streets.
North of Ermou (here also the Sunday market bleeds) is Psyrri, where the remains of old trades (look for the cane maker) and the city’s must-sees (the bakery specializing in sesame rings) sit alongside cool art galleries and coffee bars. This might be the best neighborhood to combine atmosphere, convenience, and the cool factor – but if you get a room at one of the pretty boutique hotels here, pledge to join in the fun or take some corkscrews. ‘hear. Also note that the closer you get to Omonia in the north, the dirtier the streets.
Great for photo ops and scenic walks
South of Syntagma is one of Athens’ oldest neighborhoods, with suitably grandiose neoclassical mansions and assorted historic churches. Many cobbled streets are closed to cars, and stairs lead up the hillside to the Acropolis. Everything is extremely picturesque, especially Anafiotika, a small patch of whitewashed island architecture. But the combination of visual feasting and proximity to the Acropolis and other great ancient sites naturally makes this tourist central, especially along Adrianou shopping street. Still, it is possible to find good restaurants and cafes – Athenians love the scenery too.
Gazi, Keramikos & Metaxourgio
Great for nightclubs and crumbling freshness
Drive through Piraeus from Psyrri and you will find yourself in the aforementioned ‘fringe’ area of Gazi, named after an old gas factory. Over the past two decades, it has developed into a major nightlife district – albeit a bit posh today – including the former gasworks, which hosts outdoor shows. The modern art branch of the Benaki Museum, 138 Pireos St, is one of the few reasons visitors come here during the day.
North and east of Gazi, after Iera Odos, is the district of Keramikos, followed by Metaxourgio. If you’ve heard of a cool new bar, independent designer, or rock-and-roll-vibe restaurant, it’s probably on or near one of the long pedestrian strips on this site. neighborhood, where abandoned houses of the nineteenth century alternate with the conviviality of nightclubs like Alphaville. By day, there are extremely convenient businesses in the form of Chinese moped dealers and import companies. (Keep an eye out for unsigned Chinese restaurants and an informal street food market.)
Metaxourgio has a somewhat fuzzy reputation, largely due to the area between Plateia Avdi and Omonia, where two streets are lined with budget brothels. Hotels around Plateia Karayskaki can be good value for money, but solo travelers may not feel comfortable coming home from the center at night.
Lined with trees, Kolonaki, to the east and north of Syntagma, is the fanciest neighborhood in central Athens. But even if you don’t intend to drop € 400 on a pair of shoes, you will come here for some excellent museums – the Museum of Cycladic Art and the Benaki Museum of Greek Culture, among others – as well. than the hill of Lykavittos, with its green tracks and its magnificent view. Kolonaki hotels are more expensive, but they are also the quietest you will find near the center. If you want to stay within an easier walking distance of the Acropolis, focus on the plains closer to Vasilissis Sofias; the slopes of Lykavittos can be difficult at the end of a long day.
Ideal for street art and solidarity
North of Omonia and behind the University and the National Archaeological Museum, Exarhia has become (un) famous for its anarchist politics. Real estate speculation since the 2008 financial crash, along with the liquidation of many long-established squats, has turned this area into the city’s most short-term rentals – and, in turn, Insta shots of tourists posing with left graffiti. Still, it’s a bustling area, and the friendly bars are geared to student budgets. Stop by the self-organized Navarino Park, the Layki Agora (weekly produce market) on Saturdays, and the immigrant run cafe Steki Metanaston to truly capture the engaged spirit of the neighborhood. If you stay here you also agree to take the bus a bit longer.
Other residential areas
These areas don’t offer much in terms of accommodation, but they are great places to get a feel for Athenian life away from ancient monuments.
Mets & Pangrati
Thisio & Petralona
Put the Acropolis behind you and stroll through these quieter neighborhoods around Filopappou Hill.
A solid bus ride from the center, but another bustling part of Athens, grand style built in after WWII and now a bustling immigrant area. Fokionos Negri is a pretty, pedestrianized, tree-lined avenue, with the renovated Kypseli Municipal Market next door.