As the oldest city in the world, the cradle of civilization, so to speak, Athens is a city steeped in history – but we all know that. You see, beyond the antiquities lies a bustling, sprawling city full of character and personality rarely seen in the kind of shiny ads you will usually see promoting Greece’s capital.
If you dig, explore and open yourself up to the uncertainty of adventure, there are plenty of off-the-beaten-track experiences to be found – like these ones.
Revel in the Rebelliousness of Exarchia
Held as the home of ‘Greek Anarchism’, Exarchia is a far cry from the beige, sun-kissed Mediterranean lushness that you see on TV – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a visit. Lined with tons of street art and too-cool-for-school cafes and bars, there’s that intangible cultural feel you get with the rawer parts of the world’s capitals. It might be a little, let’s say, ‘hipster’ for some, but it provides a colourful insight into Greece’s (much) more recent history.
Get a Feast for the Senses at Gazarte
As one of the most unique venues in all of Greece, Gazarte is an all-purpose five-in-one place that brings together an amazing restaurant, sexy bar, live music venue, art-house cinema and even a bookshop. It's something of a hipster's wonderland, but has a distinctly high-end feel, with the music being of a famously high quality - amateur talent often takes to the stage, but also established professionals. And there's a bloody bookshop, guys.
Find Yourself some Gems at the Monastiraki Flea Market
When you go shopping on holiday, your finds are usually limited to a few souvenirs and knickknacks, some native wear or even, in the case of Greece, a nice bottle of olive oil or too. In the district of Monastiraki, however, is the only shopping experience that matters. Thought it’s lined with rather conventional shops during the week, it’s on Sundays when the flea market blossoms that you’ll really find yourself overwhelmed by the sheer amount of things on offer. Tip: put aside a good three or four hours for this. It doesn’t end.
All Aboard for Aegina!
As one of the closest islands to the shores of Athens, Aegina is also one of the most beautiful. An islands lesser travelled than the aforementioned Santorini and Mykonos, it still retains that trademark laidback Greek atmosphere, but with some mightily historic sites to boost, including the 5th-century temple of Aphaia and the incredible Byzantine Paleohora ruins. Once again, there’s a little something for everyone; you’ll dine like an emperor, tan your body into Greek Adonis territory on the stunning beaches and wind down in the evening with its chic, demure nightlife.
Tune into Technopolis
Located in the Gazi neighbourhood, Technopolis is a cultural hub that is quickly garnering a huge fan-base for its alternative take on the Athens experience. Taking up a 30,000 m2 area in the the city’s former gasworks, the venue hosts everything from exhibitions, to concerts and other cultural events, is home to an industrial museum and is the site for the annual European Jazz Festival, in addition to offering unique activities for kids.
By Kalam El Qahaira