What if it’s not your first time in Athens and you have already done the “all time classic” Athens? Or what if you simply prefer to discover the city’s secret corners away from the tourist crowd, wishing to immerse yourself in local life and see places where mainly locals hang out? Then follow your heart… Or maybe your footsteps through Athens’ charming neighbourhoods and alleys that are to be discovered. Some are well-hidden in the historic Athens area, while others are to be found scattered across Attica’s suburbs. Visit unique museums, sip your beverage in the backyards of cafés resembling small oases, and check out exhilerating parks and gardens that you surely would not expect to stumble upon in the city centre.
Just off Syntagma Sq. there is secret paradise, one of the coolest places in the summertime. Its the picture-perfect garden of the Numismatic Museum with a cosy Café, hidden from the hustle and bustle of the city. Either you need a pause while walking in the center of Athens or a romantic venue to have an early drink in the evening, this lovely corner is only a five minute walk from Syntagma (Parliament) Sq. Note that jazz and ethnic bands perform live once a week (usually Thursday evenings). Get to know the monetary history of Greece via the museum’s great collection of coins and admire one of the most impressive buildings in Athens. Iliou Melathron was built and designed by German Architect Ernst Ziller, as the residence of Heinrich Schliemann, the so-called “father of the Mycenaean and Trojan archaeology”.
If you are interested in culinary heritage, drop by the new Museum of Greek Gastronomy, housed in a delightful restored late 19th century mansion off Athinas Street, in the Psyrri neighbourhood, only five minutes’ walk from the Central Market. You are invited on a journey of flavours, aromas, culinary traditions and cooking methods around the country. Get to know local products, recipes from different eras and the nutritional value of Greek gastronomy. You will learn about how local products are made and how traditional recipes are prepared through screenings, audio-visual material, photography exhibitions and presentations of traditional folklore objects used in production. The exhibition area of the museum hosts temporary exhibitions focusing on the Greek gastronomy. Apart from the museum’s exhibits, there is an excellent courtyard/restaurant bordered by potted plants and fragrant herbs waiting for you where you can spoil yourselves with a cup of Greek coffee, a drink with mezedes or a delicious full meal.
Behind the Parliament building, the National Gardens offer a much needed – especially in the summertime – patch of green and shadow in the capital. Whether you want to take a romantic stroll, or you’re searching for a welcome respite from the heat and noise of the city, the National Gardens are definitely to be visited during your stay in the Greek capital! These gardens were created and designed in the 19th century by Queen Amalia. With more than 47,000 trees and plants and 500 different species of plants, trees, birds and animals, this is one of the most important habitats in Athens. In a vast area of 150,000 m², you will find a Botanical Museum, a zoo, a pond with fish and ducks, a playground, a children’s library, a traditional café, and as scattered ancient monuments and statues. The gardens are open from dawn to dusk and are accessible from Vassilissis Amalias Avenue or Irodou Attikou Street Have a rest at the pleasant and always shady coffee shop where you can sip your favourite beverage or taste a refreshing sorbet. At the southern side of the gardens, you’ll find the Zappeio Mansion, a donation of the wealthy Konstantinos Zappas in the 19th century, today used as a conference centre.
Did you know that you can visit an underground museum in Athens with replicas of the famous sculptures of the Parthenon, thousands of ancient objects like pottery, statues, ancient toys, funeral monuments and parts of one of the oldest bridges found in Attica? Just visit the Athens Metro, where many of the stations display archaeological finds like a museum. The exhibition of these antiquities is open to the public and free of charge. In order to visit it, simply board the next train and make a quick stop at the most significant metro stations. These are Syntagma, Monastiraki and Acropolis. Start your journey through time at Syntagma and take a good look at the stratigraphy of Athens from the early 5th century BC till the Ottoman times. Explore the layers of soil and see the skeleton of a young lady who lived in the 4th century BC. At Monastiraki station, the huge photograph of an underground tunnel full of pottery fragments will give you a picture of the archaeological treasures found during the metro underground digging works. If you are travelling towards Kifissia, don’t miss the riverbed of Iridanos. At the Acropolis Station, walk along the metro platforms and admire the replicas of the Parthenon frieze created by the great sculptor Pheidias. Up the escalators, on your way out of the station, take some time to visit the small exhibition of items of everyday use, such as children’s toys, amphoras, a model of a vertical Greek loom,
fragments of pottery and many more.
Hike to the top of the Plaka and explore the charming neighbourhood of Anafiotika, built in the 19th century by stonemasons who arrived from the small Cycladic island of Anafi (hence the name) to Athens in order to refurbish the King’s Palace. It’s a tiny, scenic little neighborhood in the foothills of the Acropolis that will give you the impression of being on a Greek island, particularly one in the Cyclades. Cascades of bougainvillea and pots of geraniums and marigolds as well as clothes hanging to dry on laundry lines add colour to the balconies and rooftops. Although it is very close to Athens’ most famous site, the Acropolis, it is still a secret. Even some people who have spent their whole life in Athens have never visited this place before. Lose yourself in its narrow streets and dream that you are on a Cycladic island among lemon trees. Find a terrace to climb and look at Athens from above.
In downtown Athens, there are many indoor passages, the famous arcades that were built some decades ago, when imposing, grand buildings were constructed in Athens’ city centre. At that time no one could imagine that those buildings would later be a part of Athens’ most striking modern sights! They have an innovative interior design and unique character and are among the favourites choices of both visitors and Athenians. Whenever you find yourself day or night in downtown Athens, these arcades are worth a visit.
The Spyromiliou Arcade (the so-called City Link) in the Hellenic Army Pension Fund, is one of the most historic buildings in the famous quarter defined by Panepistimiou, Amerikis, Stadiou and Voukourestiou streets. It’s definitely the most luxurious arcade in Athens, distinctive for its unique architectural style and its amazing glass roof. Around the gallery you will find some of the best-known theatres in town, gourmet restaurants, stylish cafés, luxury boutiques and expensive jewellery stores. Stop over and enjoy a meal or drink from morning till night! In the beautiful preserved building of Arsakio, at the quarter of Panepistimiou, Pesmazóglou, Stadiou and Arsaki streets, you can enter the Books’ Arcade (Stoa tou vivliou), which is a thinker’s paradise, and rub shoulders with Athens’ artists and intellectuals. A number of publishing houses line its interior and several fascinating cultural events and educational seminars take place all year round. Enjoy your coffee or dessert while reading your favourite book! Visit the Opera Arcade on Ippokratous Street, opposite the National Library, and discover sophisticated music records or vintage stamps. Smaller but beautifully renovated, the Nikoloudi Arcade offers a simple yet sophisticated atmosphere to all visitors! Banks, books and accessories stores give the arcade a distinctive character that is certainly worth experiencing! Upon your exit you will come across some of the most remarkable buildings of the city: the famous trilogy of Athens; the Academy of Athens: The University of Athens, and the National Library of Greece. At 25 Kolokotroni Street lies Praxitelous Arcade, built in the1920s and 30s. Its modern character attracts younger crowds who enjoy themselves
in its fancy cafés and bars! Here you can mingle with the locals and experience the buzzing nightlife of Athens!