Athens is a spectacular city with many things to see and do, especially for those who are visiting for the first time. All the main monuments that constitute the glorious Greek ancient past are found in every corner and turn of the city, with the Parthenon looming over the hill in all its glory.
However, the true beauty of Athens hides in narrow alleys, between old stone houses and picturesque coffee shops and tavernas. The little neighborhoods of Athens not only manage to keep the Athenian ‘old school’ vibe alive, but they are also a spectacular destination for travelers.
There is no Athenian who will not suggest a stroll in Plaka area or a ‘good place’ to eat/drink in Psirri neighborhood. And like true Athenians, in this article we give you the top 5 districts in Athens as well as suggestions for things to see and do when you visit them.
By Savina Skourmalla on 18/04/22
Top 5 districts in Athens – Plaka, the neighborhood of the Gods
Credit: Gps My City
Located in the northeastern part of the Acropolis hill, Plaka is considered one of the oldest and most beautiful neighborhoods in the city, putting it in the first place of the best districts in Athens. Even though it’s an area buzzing with travelers, especially the summer months, there is always a sense of tranquility and serenity in each stone path.
Plaka is full of old, Neoclassical buildings that give the area its characteristic charm, as well as museums, monuments and all kinds of shops. Some of the highlights of the area are definitely the Roman Agora and Hadrian’s arch, Museum of Greek Folk Art and Anafiotika.
The latter is a small area built by refugees from the island Anafi in Cyclades and this is why the buildings and the atmosphere here remind one of a Greek island during the summer!
In Andrianou street, you will be able to find many souvenirs shops to buy your gifts from. From handmade jewelry to replicas of ancient Greek vases and olive oil based beauty products, there is something from everyone.
After a tiring day of shopping, there is nothing better than some delicious Greek food and coffee in one of the many Greek tavernas and cafes sprawling in Plaka’s streets and stairs, from early in the morning until late at night.
With so much to do and see, it’s no wonder Plaka is considered one of Athens’ best districts.
Top 5 districts in Athens – Gazi, neighborhood on a budget
Until a few decades ago, a gas power plant operated in the heart of Athens, in the area named Gazi (Gas in Greek!). The power plant isn’t working anymore, but its brown brick smokestacks dominate the area and give Gazi its unique industrial, post-modern look.
Credit: The culture trip
The remains of the old power plant have now been transformed into a cultural hub called ‘Technopolis’ that hosts art and music shows, festivals and musical performances.
Aside from Gazi’s cultural interest there is a buzzing and exciting night life that definitely makes the area one of the best neighborhoods to visit while in Athens.
Bass- thumping music, dozens of clubs and bars and lots of young people create the picture of a typical weekend night in Gazi.
If clubbing is not your cup of tea however, Gazi by day is equally exciting. Here you can find hip cafes and tavernas that serve traditional Greek food with a twist. Avdi Square is considered the bohemian heart of Gazi with laid back and picturesque cafes for all tastes, making it a great day destination as well.
In about two decades, Gazi managed to transform from a construction area to one of the busiest and
Top 5 districts in Athens – Psirri, the buzzing youthful neighborhood
About 5 minutes away from Monastiraki station, hidden between neo classical buildings and street art murals, you will find one of the most exciting and unique Athenian districts.
Psirri has a long history of being an unsafe area, since it has been the meeting point of gangs and criminals, and therefore acquired a bad reputation among the Athenians throughout the years.
The last couple of decades however, especially after the construction of the metro line as well as a general communal attempt to improve and enhance the area, Psirri has certainly become one of the ‘it’ spots to be.
Credit: Epirus Eye
Psirri is one of the few neighborhoods in Athens that has kept its unique flair and character despite the blossom of Airbnb all over the center of the city.
Here you will find a bit of everything. There is history, there is art, but most importantly, there is food! If Athens had a food capital that would definitely be Psirri.
Day and night, the countless cafes and restaurants that line up the streets of the area are buzzing with life of all ages and backgrounds, making Psirri the perfect place for locals and travelers alike. From savory to sweet, from early in the morning until late at night, whether you are light snacking or building up an appetite, there is definitely something for you here.
Psirri is the place of two major food shopping streets, Varvakeios and Evripidou, where you will find top quality local products like meat, cheese, spices and nuts, as well as handmade clothing, shoes and accessories. The vibrant colors and exotic smells are certain to give you a unique and unforgettable gastronomic experience.
Psirri is also the home of impressive wide scale street art with political and social messages. The area is considered the home of the artists and there are a number of impressive little galleries to visit if you have an interest in contemporary art.
Another spectacular feature of this area is definitely Pitaki street, a previously dangerous alley that was transformed into a colorful and lively area that looks like it jumped out of a fairy tale book. The instagrammable and cute cafes in this street are worth visiting especially if you are traveling with your kids.
Top 5 districts in Athens – Exarcheia, the home of the artists
A brief look into post-modern political Greek history is enough to justify why Exarcheia is considered the heart of the anarchists, the rebels and the artists. From the revolution of the students in Polytechnio in 1973 to the execution of a 15 year old student in 2008 by the police, the area of Exarcheia bears the title of the biggest political hotspot in the center of Athens. Police is heavily guarding the area’s borders making the area seemingly unapproachable, yet, Exarcheia is the meeting point of artists and intellectuals as well as a neighborhood with beautiful architecture and lots of boem cafes constituting it one of the best neighborhoods in Athens, especially for youth.
The mornings here are very quiet, with plenty of cafes and bakeries to choose from if you decide to start your day from here. Around lunch time, after the students are finished with their university classes, the area really comes to life, providing excellent choices for a lunch or coffee break. Later in the night, there are many bars with unique cocktail menus to serve any taste. The general atmosphere in Exarcheia is very chill and it’s a great getaway if you are seeking to have fun with your friends or enjoy a chat over some drinks.
Being the artistic center of Athens, Exarcheia is naturally full of music and book stores and galleries. Walking down the streets will give you a nostalgic feeling, like life continued where time stopped. There are many budget-friendly vintage and second-hand shops where you can purchase unique items that will definitely help you blend in with the very stylish, artisan locals!
In general, Exarcheia is worth visiting if you are looking for something less touristic and more ‘original’ and local. There is something very cult, original and inspiring about this neighborhood that definitely makes it one of the best districts in Athens.
Top 5 districts in Athens – Kifisia, the white fence family neighborhood
A little further from the center of Athens and towards the suburbs, one is able to find one of the city’s true hidden treasures. The hip and posh neighborhood of Kifisia is one of the most beautiful and interesting districts in Athens.
Kifisia has a reputation for being the meeting point of the Athenian upper class and the luxury overflows from every corner of the area.
Here you will find luxurious housing like modern mansions as well as aristocratic neoclassical houses, elegant all-day cafes and restaurants as well as brand clothing stores.
If you have a fat wallet, this place is just right for you!
Regardless of your budget, Kifisia is a great area to visit if you want to get away from the city center and enjoy a romantic stroll as the pace of life is slower and more chill.
There is also the possibility to see the area on a horse carriage and live your own personal fairy-tale with your better half!
For the artsy ones, Kifisia has many options to offer from galleries to small museums. The Goulandris Museum of National History is definitely worth visiting, especially if you are traveling with children or teenagers.
There is a very unique and fun Flower Show taking place in Kifisia annually, closer to spring. Each year, many Athenian flower producers participate in the exhibition, presenting and selling their work as well as giving tips to the visitors. The show is completed with performances and concerts, making it one of the most important events in the city.
Athens has a lot to give and even more places to visit. If you are traveling in Athens for the first time, there is a great and unique way to explore the city. During our Athens City Bike Tour one has the opportunity to visit most of the districts mentioned above in the most fun possible way, on a bike! If you are looking for a thrill and are interested in exploring these beautiful places while listening to stories by local Athenians, a bike tour is the best way to do it!