Central, trendy and unconventional: this is Psiri, the ultimate nightlife district in Athens. Young travelers will surely love this area of the city because it’s full of entertainment possibilities and it shows an interesting mix of past and present in both its buildings and its overall mood.
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Psiri Athens: a vibrant neighborhood beloved by young Athenians
Where is Psirri?
Psiri is located on the north-eastern side of Monastiraki and it is only 5 minutes from the homonymous metro station. It is also within walking distance from Plaka neighborhood.
History of Psiri
Since ancient times, this area of Athens was populated by artisans and you could once find many craftsmen’s laboratories belonging to potters, sculptors, tailors, etc. In a certain way, this tradition continues today and you can still see many small shops and boutiques selling handmade objects or accessories, as well as art galleries displaying the works of contemporary artists.
For a very long time, Psiri was not the trendy area you witness today: it was mainly a place where people lived and worked, so it did not have any particular attraction. During the first years following the War of Independence, many people moved to Athens from the countryside and from the islands, and Psiri became their new home acquiring its cosmopolitan atmosphere.
Together with workers and families, several small criminals, rebels, and outcasts settled there making the neighborhood quite turbulent and unsafe. The area became the headquarter of a famous criminal group named Koutsavakides. They were identifiable because of their weird look consisting of long mustache, pointed boots, and one arm hidden under a sleeve of their jacket.
They spread terror in the city and it is said that even the policemen were afraid of venturing there. It was not until the end of the XIX century that Prime Minister Harilaos Trikoupis managed to get rid of them! Another “popular activity” in Psiri at that time was the stone-throwing between local gangs and people from other districts: it was not a quiet and safe place at all!
Following the various wars, Psiri was left in ruin and many old buildings were destroyed and abandoned making the area look crumbling and desolated. It became a degraded neighborhood and it was not until the end of the XX century that things started to change.
Some reconstructions and restoration works began in the 90s and after the 2004 Olympic games the neighborhood was finally turned into a modern, vibrant and safe area.
How is Psiri today?
Today, Psiri is one of the best areas of Athens to spend a night out and it is especially full of young people in the weekends. During the day, it is still a quiet place where people work and live and you can have a stroll and some shopping in a relaxed atmosphere, but after 6 p.m. the streets change and they get crowded and full of music, food and people having fun.
It’s also an artistic neighborhood counting many examples of street art and several art galleries and it’s often compared to Soho in New York, just to give you an idea of what you can expect! Psiri is especially worth a visit to experience another side of Athens, more authentic and almost untouched by mass tourism.
Things to do in Psiri
1. Check out some street art
Psiri is one of the most artistic neighborhoods in Athens and you can find many interesting examples of street art in its narrow streets and on the walls of its old buildings. If you love this kind of art, have a walk to see the different techniques and notice the political themes in the majority of local graffiti. A walking tour street art tour is also a great idea to explore other unconventional districts.
2. Discover some typical recipes and local products in the Museum of Greek Gastronomy
It’s not a proper museum, but a collection of temporary and permanent exhibitions aiming at displaying local gastronomy through typical recipes, ingredients, illustrations, and tastings. This special initiative and installation was born in 2014 and it is housed inside a neoclassical building located close to the Varvakeios market.
The founders think that food is an essential element to fully understand local culture and lifestyle and they want to let visitors learn more about Greek eating habits. Address: 13, Agiou Dimitriou Street.
3. Be surprised by Pittaki Street
The most unconventional street of Athens is located in Psiri and its fairy atmosphere will surprise you, especially at night! Pittaki Street has a “ceiling”, made of hundreds of lamps of any shape, size and color, and creating some beautiful lighting effects. Pittaki Street was once a pretty unsafe and dark narrow alley which people tended to avoid.
In 2012, its look completely changed thanks to the no-profit association “Imagine the City” and the lighting design company Beforelight. They decided to upgrade this area of the city by asking the inhabitants to donate their old lamps that were used to decorate and embellish the street which became a real piece of art, other than a safer place!
4. Bring your kids to Little Kook café
This nice and original café offers desserts, cakes, and hot drinks in a fairy setting populated by all the kids’ favorite characters, like Cinderella or Alice in Wonderlands. You’ll find many beautiful themed decorations both on the inside and on the outside of the venue, which is also frequently photographed by tourists and passers-by stopping to look at its weird installations.
You can choose your favorite themed room and you’ll find a different common theme every now and then, which is also displayed by the uniform of the staff. If you happen to be in Athens during the Christmas period, it’s a spot not to be missed to fully immerse yourself in the festive atmosphere! Address: 17 Karaiskaki Georgiou Street.
5. If you are a foodie, go shopping in Evripidou Street
Local food lovers have a favorite area of the city: Evripidou Street Market, full of bright colors and exotic scents and scattered with several shops selling local products, gastronomic specialties and high-quality ingredients like spices, nuts, and dried fruits. One of the most popular places is Elixir (41, Evripidou Street ), an old-fashioned and wooden shop full of herbs and spices of the finest quality. To buy some local specialties, head to Miran instead.
You’ll find this local deli at 45, Evripidou Street and you’ll immediately understand what’s their favorite product. You’ll be amazed by the many cold cuts of any kind hanging from the ceiling and you can also choose to directly taste what you have just seen through the window shop by sitting at a table in the backyard.
6. Visit an art gallery
Art is everywhere in Psiri! Save some time to visit at least a couple of art galleries displaying young artists. You’ll be spoilt for choice during your wanderings in this neighborhood, but these two art galleries are not to be missed:
- AD Gallery (3, Pallados Street): it is specialized in avant-garde art and it displays both local and international artists.
- a.antonopoulou.art (20, Aristofanous Street): it is specialized in young and contemporary Greek and international artists.
7. Let off some steam at Limba Rage Room
Get rid of stress and tension by literally smashing everything you have at hand! Limba is a Greek slang word meaning “smashed” and it’s exactly what the owners of this space had in mind: a place where people can choose the kind of objects they want to destroy and the background music they prefer before staying locked inside a soundproof room until they feel better! Address: 6 Pittaki Street.
8. Enjoy some shopping
Shopping addicts will find many unusual and creative small boutiques in Psiri! A few ideas for your gifts made in Athens are:
- Sabater Hermanos (31, Agion Anargyron Street) to buy some colorful and natural soap
- B612 (35, Karaiskaki Street) for creative jewelry and accessories
- Tonics Essentials (41, Evripidou Street) if you like perfumes
- Karras (12, Miaouli Street) to choose your favorite leather bag
9. Discover the delicious side of Psiri at Nancy’s Sweet Home
If you have a sweet tooth, don’t miss a break at the best dessert shop in town. Taste some chocolate cake or some double cream cake and forget about your diet, since portions are huge! Address: 1, Iroon Square.
You might also want to check my post: The best places for dessert in Athens
10. Have an ice cream at Kokkion
It’s often considered the best ice cream of Athens and it only uses natural and fresh ingredients to create some original flavors like tangerine-ginger or chocolate-passion fruit. Everybody can taste this ice cream since there are some vegan flavors too! Address: 2, Protogenous Street.
11. Taste the best koulouri in Athens
If you’ve already been in Athens for a few days, you’ll have probably bumped into some koulouri, that is a savory or sweet bread ring sprinkled with sesame seed and closely reminding of a bagel.
You’ll find many stalls and kiosks scattered throughout the city and the majority of them is supplied by Kolouri tou Psirri, a shop located in this neighborhood and established in the 90s. Address: 23, Karaiskaki Street.
12. Enjoy the view of the Acropolis from a romantic rooftop bar
On the top floor of the A for Athens hotel, you’ll find one of the best views in Psiri, which is the enlightened Parthenon at night! There’s also a restaurant there, so this place is the perfect choice for a romantic date! Address: 2-4 Miaouli Street.
You might also like: The best rooftop bars in Athens
13. Have a brunch at To Lokali
Sit in a nice and vintage-style courtyard surrounded by olives, mulberries, and plane trees and feel at home while tasting some Greek appetizers cooked with local and seasonal ingredients. There is also a wide selection of creative cocktails and a nice menu for any time of the day. Address: 44, Sarri Street.
14. Relax at the local hammam
After a full day of sightseeing, you can enjoy a relaxing break in one of the many hammams scattered throughout Athens. When in Psiri, the best place to go is Polis Hammam, in 6-8, Avliton Street.
The Turkish hammam traditions are still widespread and popular in Greece and you shall definitely try the experience of having some wellness treatments inspired by ancient Middle Eastern techniques. Choose among different kinds of baths and massages and choose to end your Psiri tour here! For more information and booking visit https://polis-hammam.gr/en/
The best restaurants in Psiri
- Oineas: a nicely decorated typical tavern offering Greek and Mediterranean specialties cooked with fresh and local ingredients. They offer a wide selection of local wines and some excellent desserts too. Address: 9, Esopou Street.
- Nikitas: sit at an outdoor table and taste a quick homemade lunch watching people coming and going along this picturesque and crowded street. Address: 19, Agion Anargyron
- Zampano: this bistro and wine bar with a contemporary touch is located inside a neoclassical building. It combines Greek cuisine with some creativity in a classical but eclectic setting. Address: 18, Sarri Street.
Where to stay in Psiri
City Circus Athens Hostel – A great solution for young travelers searching for a comfortable, modern, and clean accommodation at a reasonable price. Don’t miss the roof garden with its view of the Acropolis! – Click here for more information and to check the latest prices.
The Foundry Suites – Modern and luxurious suites in a central position. This kind of accommodation combines design, a nice and central location with a private garden, and the comfort of a real apartment. – Click here for more information and to check the latest prices.
14 Reasons Why – You’ll be really close to the Monastiraki market and you’ll be able to walk your way through the city center and quickly reach all the main attractions. – Click here for more information and to check the latest prices.