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Mornings are sleepy in Exarchia, but there’s no shortage of places to have a coffee, a bite to eat and watch the first few hours unfold. Cafe Paraskinio on Kallidromiou, a small spot with marble floors, delicious croissants and good coffee, is a good place to start and offers copious people-watching opportunities. However if you’re visiting on Saturday, you’ll find the street in the full throes of a farmers’ market that sells delicious fresh fruit and vegetables. If you’re truly a morning person, The Coffee Tree on Char. Trikoupi 89 opens earlier and specialises in artisan blends.
Exarchia is full of creative spaces, and after breakfast take the time to stroll down to creative spaces around the area. Galleries such as Can Christina Androulidaki, Gallery Kourd and Ileana Tounta Contemporary Art Centre are all interesting contemporary art spaces which exhibit emerging Greek as well as international artists. There’s fantastic street art on every corner, too. Spend some time soaking up the vibrant activity that everyone’s talking about.
If it’s sunny, there’s no better place to have lunch than on the famous Exarchia steps. Buy yourself a spinach or cheese pie from one of the surrounding bakeries and grab a place at the top. If it’s a little colder or you feel like a heartier meal, Atitamos Mezedopoleio on Kapodistriou 2 serves traditional Greek food and is a local favourite.
After lunch, walk around Lofos Strefi – the neighbourhood’s famous hill. A climb up the graffiti covered concrete steps and verdant fields to the top yields beautiful results: the view of surrounding Athens is rivalled only by the imposing and more touristy Lycabettus, which sits just behind Strefi. The hill is fairly unkempt, making parts of the terrain less stable than others, so make sure to take care when climbing down.
If you’re into shopping, spend some time in the afternoon checking out the neighbourhood’s eclectic range of vintage stores. Highlights include Yesterday’s Bread and Reset Thrift Shop. A rummage through the rails will inevitably yield an exciting find – expect to find anything from a new corduroy shirt, high waisted jeans, suede jacket or a summer floral dress.
Music lovers will also find a great selection of record stores and guitar shops around the neighbourhood which are worth investigating. In particular Le Disque Noir on Themistokleous 29 is a small and under-the-radar store that specialises in metal and gothic. If you’re looking for something more generalised, Rhythm Records at Emmanouil Mpenaki 74 has a huge variety of records from across different musiscal eras and genres.
Meanwhile there’s also an endless array of second hand book stores in the area. Though many of the shops sell Greek books, you can also find French and English texts.
Before, and potentially after supper too, make the most of the many bars around the Exarchia neighbourhood. For New York-esque vibes, head to Warehouse – home to an extremely seductive cocktail list and a vibrant atmosphere. For a more laid-back spot try Sélas on Methonis, a hidden spot with brightly coloured chairs that’s buzzing in the summer. In the heart of Exarchia Μαύρος Γάτος (Black Cat) Bar on Koletti is a local favourite, with live music and a livelier atmosphere.
Finish a day of adventure at the renowned Ama Lachei. With an outdoor courtyard that is always packed in the summer, as well as a vibrant indoor space, this historic spot is an essential Exarchia bucket list. Serving up a range of traditional Greek cuisine, the menu is a flawless mix of delicious meze and succulent meat plates. If you’re in a big group make sure to book in advance. Alternatively, if you’re on more of a budget, souvlaki joint Kavouras at the back of Exarchia Square serves up the best in Athens.