How to Spend a Day in Exarcheia Neighborhood of Athens
You may have heard about the underground neighborhood of Exarcheia in Athens. It is a love or hate relationship for most Athenians, as some people enjoy hanging out at Exarcheia, some do not even dare to approach this place. It is an alternative area, with anti-capitalist politics and squatted buildings. It has a big anarchist reputation and is often related to protests and demonstrations. However, it has also a vibrant nightlife, offers cheap drinks and a variety of live music performances.
Exarcheia has a historical value, as well. It was here that, in 1973, the Athens Polytechnic uprising took place, when students demonstrating against the dictatorship were met with a tank. Go check the memorial of Alexis Grigoropoulos at Mesologgiou and Tzavella street, the teenager who was shot and killed by a policeman in 2008 and his death has inspired various riots around Greece.
Don’t worry, it is not a dangerous or forbidden area, as you may often hear, but just make sure you watch your belongings, as everywhere. Also, keep in mind that you might run into a riot or demonstration, as they often take place there, especially during November and December both to commemorate the Athens Polytechnic uprising on November 17th, now a national holiday and Grigoropoulos’ death on December 6th. Tear gas isn’t uncommon during the riots.
Now let’s see how you can spend a day in Exarcheia and what this controversial neighborhood has to offer!
10 top things to see and do in Exarcheia
1. Exarcheia square
Check out the neighborhood’s main square, Exarcheia square, and watch the people passing by, often smoking some weed. Almost every day, there is a political or musical event taking place at this square.
Fun fact: As you may have already noticed, it is common for people to smoke weed in the streets, especially at Exarcheia. Don’t be confused! It is actually illegal. Just like painting or writing on public walls or smoking inside the bars, but the police doesn’t really seem to make a big deal out of it.
2. Street art and graffiti
Athens is often called the new Berlin. What is interesting about Exarcheia is the great street art scenery that it offers. Especially after the Greek economic crisis which started in 2008, Exarcheia is home to some of the world’s most creative street art and graffiti, with interesting political and social messages.
Explore Athens’ Street Art Scene
If you want a change of scenery and some peace and quiet, climb to Strefis Hill (Lofos Strefi). It is a quiet green area, perfect to recharge your batteries and relax, even go for a run. It offers nice views of the city, especially during sunset. Have a beer or raki at Exostrefis garden, which is located on the hill. There is the winter version of Exostrefis right on Exarcheia square as well, open in winter time.
4. Navarinou park
This self-managed park was created in 2009 by some locals of Exarcheia. It was a former parking lot that locals turned into a green oasis in the sea of concrete. Navarinou Park is a beautiful concept, with a history behind it. It is the result of countless attempts of the activists of Exarcheia, who pridely now take care of the park themselves and keep it clean.
5. Food and coffee
Exarcheia offers a great variety when it comes to food. From great street food to nice places for dinner. Don’t miss Ama lachi stis Nefelis, a great option for dinner. It is a restaurant specialized in meze dishes. Rozalia is also one of my favorite places for lunch or dinner. It is a family run tavern which serves grills and home style fare. The dishes are brought around on a tray, so you can see, point and pick! It has a cool garden, perfect for the hot summer days.
Have a coffee at The Coffee Tree. The variety of the coffee and its quality is amazing. Austria cafe is also a favorite place for coffee, either in its cool garden during the summers or in its cozy and warm atmosphere inside. The music selection there is interesting, from rock to soul and blues.
Taste the Best Street Food of Athens
6. Galleries and museums
Find some time to visit the National Archaeological Museum. It houses the world’s finest collections of Greek antiquities. Some interesting contemporary art galleries like Can Christina Androulidaki, Gallery Kourd and Ileana Tounta Contemporary Art Centre are definitely worth visiting as well.
Exarcheia is a paradise for the antique fans and especially the vinyl collectors. Don’t miss the chance to visit old school vinyl shops, like Plan59, Zulu records, Eat Metal records etc. Le Disque Noir is a small and hidden place that specializes in metal and gothic. If you’re looking for something broader, check Rhythm Records and Old School Records.
There are a couple of interesting vintage stores. Check Yesterday’s Bread, a funky cloth and footwear place, including famous brands. The Reset Thrift Shop is selling interesting vintage clothes, as well.
Read also: Must-Visit Flea And Food Markets In Athens
8. Live music
When in Greece, it is a must to listen to some rebetiko music, the old Greek kind of blues, with the bouzouki instrument. Rebetiko actually is urban Greek music, which started in the 1960s and was the urban popular songs of the Greeks, especially the poorest. The interesting fact is that Greeks love to listen to rebetiko. Going out to eat, drink and listen to live rebetiko music is a must while in Athens.
In 2017, rebetiko was added in the UNESCO Heritage Lists. You will find many places at Exarcheia with live Greek rebetiko. Go to Kavouras or Exostrefis (the summer or the winter version, depending on the season you visit Athens). They have live rebetiko music almost every day.
However, you will find all different kinds of music at the vibrant area of Exarcheia, like in An club, a basically rock stage.
9. Open air cinema
Finish your busy day with a drink or two at Mavros Gatos or Alexandrino. For the night owls, I recommend visiting some of the after bars at Exarcheia, like Podilato, which usually stays open until 6 in the morning.
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What did you guys like the most at Exarcheia? Let us know with a comment below!
Text: Christina Stathopoulou