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Athens has many iconic historical landmarks which prove a major attraction when visiting the city, but as the weather heats up and the number of tourists increase, these spots can become unbearably crowded. Instead of wasting time shuffling along with everybody else in the boiling sun, try exploring different parts of the city. If you’re looking for a more relaxed visit to Athens, head off the beaten track with Culture Trip’s guide to escaping tourist crowds in Athens.
The National Archeological Museum in Athens is an underrated gem. It’s hard to rival the Acropolis museum in terms of stature and design, but what the Archeological museum lacks in spectacle, it makes up for in its displays. Five main rooms offer a collection which encompasses exhibits from the sixth millennium B.C. and ranges until the Roman Conquest around 200 B.C. Rooms of marble sculpture show the development of the Greek national and artistic identity. Accompanying text charts the transitions to democracy in Athens and highlights the changing fates of the region. Most thrilling of all though, is arguably the discoveries made by archeologist Heinrich Schliemann in 1890. He uncovered a plethora of ornate works from the Mycenaean era, which fill rooms and rooms. Expect to spend a few hours taking everything in.
Because the Acropolis is Athens’ most famous site, it is also the busiest. A locus for tourists, as well as the paraphernalia that comes with it (there are plenty of selfie sticks), it becomes hard to enjoy the history as the months go on and the crowds swell. Adjacent to the Acropolis is Filopappou Hill, which is much loved by visitors and locals alike. If you want panoramic views of Athens, as well as an intimate sight of the Parthenon, this is the place to go. It’s not quite the real deal, but it allows you to spend time with an iconic Athenian landmark in peace.
The area at the bottom of the Acropolis houses a beautiful cobbled boulevard that circumvents the historical site, but if you’re looking a more authentic destination to eat lunch after a morning of sightseeing, Petralona is the spot for you. A short walk behind Thisseio, there’s a host of great tavernas and bars to visit in this buzzing local neighbourhood. For delicious, well-priced food and great cocktails try Το Θείο Τραγ (the Holy Goat). If you’re not in the mood for Greek food, try Chez Lucian instead.
Head a little further out of Athens to Attiko Alsos Park, an underrated destination. Alongside a luscious, clean park you’ll also find a zoo which is home to a diverse range of species. There are two cafés on either side of the park too, for when you need to cool down with an iced coffee. Away from the traffic and noise of the city centre, Attiko Alsos offers a real chance to relax and unwind, take a cycle or go for a run, all while enjoying the best of Athenian nature.
While retaining its rich and vibrant atmosphere, Exarchia has changed over recent years from an anarchist hot spot to more of a tourist destination. With so much incredible graffiti on offer, and with a huge range of places to go out, it’s not a surprise. However, if you’re looking for the same kind of experience with fewer crowds, you can also head to Metaxourgeio. Situated next to the party area of Gazi and very close to the centre, Metaxourgeio offers a host of hidden gems such as the Museum of Islamic Art, Latraac and The Breeder Gallery. It is increasingly becoming a home to young artists and there’s plenty of fun restaurants that sprawl onto street corners. Just be prepared for a little less of a polished experience.
A favourite amongst the older millennial crowd, the Pagrati offers a mix of options and a vibrant nightlife. Located behind the iconic Hilton, Pangrati takes a more relaxed approach to hospitality without compromising on the experience. There’s plenty to choose from, but Black Sheep is a local favourite. Afterwards spend the night hopping between bars such as Chelsea Hotel and CV Distiller.
Nothing beats watching the sun go down from a high rooftop bar, but it’s always crowded. The highest point in Athens, Lycabettus has a rooftop bar and restaurant of its own, but there are better places to enjoy the view if you head a level below. Instead of being overcharged for a drink, stop by a kiosk on your way up to the hill and pick up a few beverages of your choice. Find a bench on the level below the iconic church and watch the sunset in peace over the Aegean. Just make sure not to litter.
If you’re a visitor to Athens, the likelihood is that you won’t think much to move beyond the centre. This is a shame, because a 25-minute drive north offers a whole host of new and exciting places to visit. Fashion-lovers will find a selection of cool boutiques, such as Distressed. Literary lovers can investigate the great book store Evripidis and enjoy coffee in the in-house café. Meanwhile bars such as White Monkey, Wine Not? and Side Walk all-day bar have excellently curated drinks menus. In all, the perfect place to embrace local Athenian life.
If you’re really looking to escape the crowds in Athens, why not head out of the city altogether. Depending on the time of year you visit, there’s no guarantee that you won’t encounter tourists elsewhere. However, if you’re visiting off-season, a trip to one of the nearby Saronic islands offers fresh air and beautiful sights. We recommend Aegina. On the mainland, Delphi is only a few hours away by coach, and Sounion at sunset is hard to beat. Even in summer, these are destinations well worth journeying to if you have the time.