Non-Touristy Experiences in Athens
Athens 2004 Olympic Sports Complex (OAKA) | © Kim Bach/Flickr
A city blessed with a rich history, Athens is an ideal destination. But we know that sometimes, visiting museum after museum can be tiresome, so we have compiled a list of activities to see and do in Athens that does not involve long queues and typical touristy places.
For those visitors keen to see the city under a different light, you are in for a treat. In recent years, many companies have come up with a variety of alternative tours and walks in Athens. Join and discover how local artists, photographers, designers or foodies live. Take part in a street art tour or a photography tour to explore underrated spots in the city or discover truly local gastronomy. Check out organizations such as Alternative Athens or Atathens to find a tour of interest.
A guided tour at the National Archeological Museum, Athens | ©Seth Sawyers/Flickr
Plunge In Warm Waters
Whether visiting during the spring or wanting to experience something different, a trip to Vouliagmeni lake is another option. Located 20 kilometers away from the center, the lake enjoys a temperature of 24° C thanks to underground hot springs. Its water, full of minerals and salt is believed to cure many ailments and skin issues. Besides, the Vouliagmeni lake also hosts a series of events such as theatre performances and jazz concerts.
Vouliagmeni Lake, Vouliagmeni, Attica, Greece. +30 210 8962237 or 210 8962239
You may ask what is the point of locking yourself in a movie theatre while in Greece, but let us explain. As Greeks are blessed with a sunny climate, the summer is also the season of open air cinemas. Do like the locals and enjoy a relaxing evening watching a flick on a big screen under the stars. Athens has a plethora of outdoor cinemas where guests can watch the latest blockbusters or rewatch old-time classics. Visitors may even be lucky enough to be in town for the Athens Open Air Film Festival, with free daily screenings happening around the city.
After a while, Athens can become chaotic. To take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city, seek refuge on Streffi hill, located in the notorious neighborhood of Exarcheia, the bastion of anarchy in Athens. Offering panoramic views of Athens, the Acropolis and even the Athens Riviera, the green hill is a small haven to relax after a day of sightseeing where joggers and dog walkers abound. A word of caution though, try to avoid it at night, as the place is badly lit and frequented by drug addicts. While you’re making your way down, stop by Ama Laxei on Kalidromiou street, a quaint little taverna where you can indulge in delicious Greek cuisine.
Hike On Higher Ground
If you are hiking enthusiasts, Mount Hymettus, culminating at 1026 kilometers, is located east of Athens, near the Zografou university campus. So skip the monument visits and get your dose of fresh air by climbing up the mountain and enjoying spectacular views of the city all the way to the sea. Make a day of it and try to reach Kaisariani Monastery, a Byzantine monastery dating back to 1100.
Mount Hymettus, Paiania, Attica, Greece.
While for many, Piraeus is a synonym for island gateway, the southern suburb used to be a city before it was incorporated to the capital. Take a stroll on Kastela hill, where you will stumble across picturesque neoclassical mansions and enjoy views over Mikrolimano, the picture-perfect marina where you can savour delicious, fresh seafood and fish. Piraeus is also home to the beautiful Municipal Theatre, built in the 1880s by architect Ioanni Lazarimo, an archaeological museum and a maritime museum as well. Take the time to explore Zea Marina (Pasalimani) and enjoy a drink in one of its many bars.
Piraeus, Attica, Greece.
Visit The Athens Olympic Complex
While the Athens Olympic Sports Complex (OAKA) was built in the 1980s, it underwent major renovation works in preparation for the 2004 summer Olympics by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. Stunning and beautiful, the OAKA is now in a state of abandon and resembles a ghost town, with weed-filled stadiums and rusting structures, although part of the complex is still used by local sport leagues and some of the venues have been converted into arenas, where famous bands like U2 or acts such as Madonna have performed. You will leave surprised at how this ambitious project is experiencing such decline.
OAKA, Kifissias Avenue, Maroussi, Athens, Greece.
Revel In The Beauty Of Athens’ Latest Cultural Innovation
The stunning Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, located in Kallithea, was rightfully the talk of town since its inception. While many thought it was a welcome addition for Athens, others thought the colossal project would end up as a budget sinkhole. Now completed, one thing is for sure: the stunning structure, comprising a park, an outdoor physical activies playground, an artificial canal (which is the new home of the National Library and the Greek National Opera), is an impressive endeavour that attracts hundreds of visitors who enjoy walks in the lush parks or along the canal and the many activities and performances hosted there. Why don’t you join them? The center organizes guided tours of the premises and you could make a day of it and settle for a picnic on its welcoming lawns. Check out the website to see the event program, which includes outdoor concerts and movie screenings.
Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, Andrea Syggrou Avenue 364, Kallithea, Athens, Greece. +30 21 6809 1000
Admire A Beautiful Yet Underrated Orthodox Church
Often overshadowed by the New Metropolis church next door, the Little Metropolis church, also known as Agios Eleftherios church, is a gem located on Metropoleos square, near Plaka. While its construction dates haven’t been confirmed by scholars due to the use of marble blocks from non-Christian temples, the church has undergone little change. With a free entrance, the church and its colourful frescoes definitely deserve a visit.
Agios Eleftherios Church, Mitropoleos square, Athens, Greece.