The most scenic neighborhoods in Athens – Koukaki & Exarcheia
The one thing I always urge friends and acquaintances to do when in Athens is to visit the neighborhood of Koukaki. Where? Just on the other side of Acropolis, near village-like Plaka -so you don’t have to walk that much, if you avoid walking whatsoever- and next to Filopappou Hill. Koukaki might not be as picturesque and as glamorous as other Athenian neighborhoods. It promises, however, to dazzle you with its alternative atmosphere right in the middle of the urban landscape and its ever-changing daily routine.
Here you will find a peaceful place, a retreat from the mindless everyday rhythms of the city. Wandering around its pedestrian-friendly streets, you can explore unique little shops, traditional and modern cafes and bars, and museums you should definitely visit. First is the National Museum of Contemporary Art, exhibiting a collection that is continuously enriched by Greek and foreign artists. Second is the Ilias Lalaounis Jewelry Museum with a permanent collection of jewelry and micro sculptures, an incomparable representation of the jewelry art in Greece.
To fully experience the alternative side of Koukaki you have to enjoy a well-brewed espresso at one of the cafes of Koukaki Square. Maybe you’d like to hit the bar and grab a drink at night. Either way, this is the place you can make the most out of it.
For the architecture aficionados, Koukaki is the neighborhood that maintains the neoclassical style of old buildings, remnants of a long-forgotten era of unparalleled beauty. For those of you that consider walking the best way to really learn a place, then make your way around the neighborhood. When you’ve seen just enough, it is time to visit Filopappou Hill and connect with nature. Take a walk towards the Filopappos monument, the ancient Koilis street and Socrates Prison, and go past other tourists, dog walkers and joggers while listening to the stories of gods and lovers.
After exploring the busy Syntagma Square and the quiet National Garden, you can move on to Exarcheia. Located between Kolonaki and Alexandras avenue, it is known as the student area of Athens. The area has a lot to offer and brings together the old, the alternative and the modern, all in a bohemian-like environment. Exarcheia has nothing to envy in comparison to other neighborhoods of the rest of the city. It is famous for its arty bars, friendly and tranquil cafes and many publishing houses and bookshops, most of which are second-hand stores offering products at great prices. The locals, however, will give you a more ‘ill-famed’ side of the area: the riotous, rebellious and dangerous one during demonstration days, something you’d better avoid.
There are few things worth visiting when in Exarcheia. One of the neighborhood’s main attractions is the National Archaeological Museum, the largest museum in Greece. Counting more than 11,000 exhibits, it lets you explore the development of the Greek civilization from prehistory to late antiquity. Another interesting attraction is the Epigraphic Museum, the largest of its kind with inscriptions made on stones, offering a better understanding of the ancient Greek history.
In the alternative neighborhood of Exarcheia in Athens. Source: Truevoyagers
Nevertheless, despite not having much to offer of archaeological significance, Exarcheia has its own history. The neighborhood’s center is Exarcheia Square, always full of people sitting on some bench or just passing through. Around the square there are small cafes and fast-food restaurants, offering a great variety of food, beverages and spirits. What you should search for in Exarcheia are its numerous taverns. Their culinary options, accompanied by a refreshing beer or some wine, are the perfect way to experience Exarcheia to its fullest.