The city of Athens is usually on every traveler’s list, mostly because of its historic importance. Once people finally get to the Greek Capital, they must see the Parthenon and the rest of the Acropolis area. They might venture out a bit to the most important archaeological sites and museums of Athens, and… that’s about it.
However, if you don’t want your holiday to look like everybody else’s, read on to uncover the secrets of Athens!
Go to less-visited archaeological sites
While there is an abundance of archaeological sites in the city of Athens, some are more crowded than others. Looking beyond the Acropolis and the Ancient Agora, here is what I suggest you visit:
The Tower of the Winds
The building also bears the name of the Horologion of Andronikos of Kirrhosalso, as it houses a water clock. In addition, it also has various sundials and wind vane.
The Tower of the Winds is actually the first meteorological station ever. It’s interesting to visit even if you this isn’t your domain, trust me!
Besides being a beautiful green area of the Greek Capital, Philopappos Hill also has various archaeological sites which many people don’t visit. It’s not because they aren’t interesting, but mostly because they don’t know about them. Such a secret place of Athens is the prison of Socrates.
The Pnyx is another important hill, right in the heart of the city of Athens. This is where the Athenians gathered for their popular assemblies, starting as early as the year 507 BC.
Pnyx is one of the most important and early places which played a big role in the birth of democracy.
Choragic Monument of Lysicrates
The monument was raised by the choregos Lysicrates, one of the wealthy patrons behind the musical performances on the stage for the Theater of Dionysus, on the Acropolis Hill. Its purpose is to commemorate when one of his sponsored performances wins the first prize.
The Lysicrates Monument is the first time the Corinthian order is used outside a building. Ever since, architects copied it around the Globe, either as part of modern monuments or building elements.
Discover the picturesque squares
As you explore the center of Athens, you should wander out a bit on the less beaten path and try to see some of the smaller squares. Some examples of picturesque squares you should visit are Iroon, Dexameni, Exarchion, Filomousou Eterias, Agias Irinis, and Avissinias.
However, you might find a favorite small square whose name you may not even know, and that one may stay with you best. For me, it’s the small square in the image above. I know it was close to the church Agia Ekaterini, but I have no idea what it was called.
Explore the Greek markets
This isn’t just one of the secrets of Athens, but one you can apply no matter where you’re traveling. Visiting one or several markets is a great way to mingle with the locals and to try some delicious local products.
For discovering traditional Greek food, I suggest you visit the Varvakios Market and the Evripidou Spice Street. And if you’re more interested in flea markets, go to Ermou Street or Avissinias Square.
Wander on lively pedestrian streets
There are many pedestrian streets to wander on in the city of Athens. Some of them are busy with taverns, others are full of small shops. You can always enjoy some people-watching or some window-shopping on Ipitou, Efforionos, Valtesiou, Romvis, and Astigos. Even late at night, these places are quite alive, as the Greeks dine late and enjoy going out when the temperature is cool and pleasant.
Visit the budget foodie districts
If you get out of the center of Athens and walk a bit more, you can find decent, if not excellent bars, restaurants, and cafes. I recommend visiting Monastiraki, Syngrou-Fix, Omonia, Mitropoleos, and Syntagma.
Due to all sorts of talks I’ve read about safety in Omonia, it’s best you visit this one during the day. Better safe than sorry!
Get lost in beautiful neighborhoods
While I didn’t think Anafiotika was still one of the secrets of Athens, I met a lot of people who had visited the Greek Capital and didn’t get there. So make sure you don’t skip this, it’s like an escape from the lively Athens to one of the tranquil Greek islands. Its narrow streets are like a maze, and at every turn, you come across a small Byzantine church, a terrace full of flowers or beautiful graffiti murals.
Ambelokipi, Kolonaki, and Exarchia are other neighborhoods outside the city center where you should definitely go.