Whether you’re in the mood for nightlife or shopping, museums or good food, the beach or a stroll in the park, chances are Athens has exactly what you’re looking for. With every neighbourhood boasting its own distinct charms and personality, one can spend days – if not weeks – discovering new foods and attractions in a city as wonderfully diverse as this.
The most famous neighbourhood in the city is Plaka, known for its picture-perfect streets, historic landmarks and lively shops. Situated at the base of the Acropolis, Plaka is where to go to get lost among Byzantine churches, bustling cafes and restaurants and little-known museums like the fascinating Folk Instruments Museum.
In Monastiraki, old and new converge in a fascinating medley of flea markets, artisan workshops, street bands and traditional coffee houses. Here, you’ll find former mosques from the city’s Ottoman era that today function as museums, as well as Byzantine churches and previously derelict buildings that have been revitalized with extraordinary displays of street art. At night, the neighbourhood comes to life as second-hand shops close and trendy bars open, with many setting out stools on narrow streets.
For high-end shopping, nothing beats Kolonaki, regarded as Athens’ poshest neighbourhood. After a boom in the 1990s that saw high-street retailers moving in, a new crop of Greek designers have set up shop, offering locals and visitors a glitzy shopping experience that’s second to none. Plus, Kolonaki is also considered the epicentre of Athens’ café culture, with an endless number of cafes and coffee houses on every street.
To see just how much Athens has changed and evolved over the years, one must only spend an afternoon in Keramikos, a neighbourhood experiencing a rebirth. In recent years, Keramikos has seen sweeping changes that have transformed it into one of Athens’ hippest and most eclectic spots, home to edgy art galleries, cozy bars, cavernous clubs and even Michelin-starred restaurants. At the heart is Avdi Square, an intersection of old and new the perfectly embodies the laidback vibe of Athens. Other notable landmarks that are equally alluring are the National Theatre of Greece featuring a façade inspired by Hadrian’s Library, and the Keramikos cemetery, a fifth-century B.C. necropolis that serves as the final resting place for ancient kings and other prominent citizens.
Forty minutes outside the city is picturesque Vouliagmeni, Athens’ glamourous resort town that instantly captivates with its stylish restaurants, upscale hotels like Four Seasons Astir Palace, talk-of-the-town beach clubs, and the beautiful Vouliagmeni Lake, a sunken cavern that’s open year-round. A particularly good time to visit is between May and late September, when Akti Summer Cinema hosts movies under the stars.
No matter which neighbourhood you venture to in Athens, you’re guaranteed an experience as diverse as the city itself. For more information on travel to Athens go to www.ThisIsAthens.org.