Sure, Athens’ archeological sites such as the Acropolis and Plaka neighborhood are the city’s gems that every tourist should visit. But what about the other side of Athens? The one locals’ love the most?

Actually, Athenians have a love-hate relationship with their city. You’ll hear them complaining about the noisy traffic-jammed streets and the ugly greyish apartments blocks. But ask them what they like about it and you’ll have to hear them babbling on for hours. Athens isn’t a well-polished city dotted with huge green parks and clean cut streets like most European capitals. It’s a boisterous city with graffiti-painted walls, outdoor food markets and small pedestrianized squares with wooden benches and cafés’ outdoor tables. Athens is like a teenager who doesn’t conform to dress code norms and refuses to let go of its old punk records.

Follow us to Athen’s alternative neighborhoods and hangouts and see the city through its residents’ eyes.


Exarcheia couldn’t but top the list of our guide to Athens’ alternative neighborhoods. Being a hangout for left-wing intellectuals and underground artists already since the 70s, Exarcheia is known for its bohemian vibe. Second-hand bookstores, vinyl stores, rock clubs and smoky bars are spread out among graffiti-painted buildings. Over the last few years, this neighborhood has gained popularity internationally but rather for the wrong reasons. The numerous clashes that have broken out between anarchists and policemen in Exarcheia gave the area a bad name. So many tourists avoid including it in their itinerary missing out to discover the hidden gems this neighborhood has to offer.

Where to go in Exarcheia: Start your day with a cup of coffee at the outdoor tables along Messologiou pedestrianized street. Search for secondhand books in one of the numerous bookstores and rummage vinyl at Rhythm Records on Emmanouil Mpenaki street. Go on the top of Strefi Hill and see Athens from above. When the sun sets, do it likes locals and stop for a meze dish and a glass of raki at one of the taverns on Andrea Metaxa street. Dance the night away under the sound of rock, indie and punk hits at Off the Chain, the city’s most popular rock nightclub.



Lined with casual bars and locals taverns serving traditional mezedes and tsipouro alongside traditional Greek music, Metaxourgeio attracts a mixed crowd of younger and older people. Even though it is located just a stone’s throw away from the scenic Thiseio and the glamorous Gazi, Metaxourgeio is anything but touristic. Some years ago, you’d find a handful of restaurants but after the neighborhood went under gentrification, art spaces and bars started popping up. Luckily, the district managed to preserve its authenticity and it still is one of the cheapest areas for a night out.

Where to go in Metaxourgeio: The scenic Avdi square brims with restaurants and cozy cafés. Seychelles is known for serving traditional dishes with a modern twist while Ble Papagalos (Blue Parrot) right next door is the best place to start your afternoon with an ice-chilled cocktail. Big Kahuna’s juicy burgers is what you need if you want to take a break from traditional Greek food while Cabezón’s cozy backyard is the place to soothe your mind from the city’s noisy streets. Meet Athens’ skating community at Latraac, the city’s unique café and skate bowl or have a relaxed drink at Kerameio bar.



Votanikos is Athens’ upcoming neighborhood. Don’t expect to find the vibrant vibe of Metaxourgeio or the artistic atmosphere of Exarcheia. Instead, you’ll see just a few bars, theaters and art spaces scattered among old garages and grocery shops. Votanikos is located a short jaunt from Iera Odos, a central street with bustling nightclubs and concert venues. Walk a few blocks southeast and you’ll feel like you’re transported to another city. The well-lit streets become narrow dark alleys and guitar melodies linger in the air replacing the nightclubs’ boisterous beats.

Where to go in Votanikos: Catch an event at the art space Baumstrasse, taste Rafiki’s delicious dishes alongside its Sunday’s live music concerts and finish the night off with a glass of quality wine at La Soiree de Votanique. Even though at first glance, Votanikos looks like an area that has nothing to see and do, it actually is one of the most authentic neighborhoods around the city center.


A Guide to Athens’ Alternative neighborhoods and hangouts photos courtesy of Nicolas Vigier / Flickr, Meta Lands / Flickr, Meta Lands / Flickr, Anastasia Sklyar / Unsplash