Athens is the heart of the ancient world, and offers contemporary travelers one of the most authentic and unforgettable insights into what life was like some 4,000 years ago; with its endless layers of history on every street corner, the glorious Acropolis towering triumphantly above the city skyline, and a modern, vibrant artistic and creative culture that pulses throughout the enchanting Greek capital, Athens is one of the most magical cities on the planet.
There is a string of dynamic and colorful neighborhoods in Athens to discover, and here are some of the best in the city:
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10 great neighborhoods to explore in Athens
At the center of historic Athens, nestled tranquility beneath the slopes of the Acropolis Hill, lies the Plaka neighborhood; due to its central location, Plaka can be subject to herds of tourists, souvenir shops and less-than-authentic eateries, however, it does offer a real buzz, and is a great place to stroll around and people-watch. With its pastel-toned buildings, winding streets, and picturesque setting, Plaka is a gorgeous neighborhood.
- Explore Anafiotika – Anafiotika is a small, but utterly enchanting neighborhood within the Plaka neighborhood, feels like a complete world-away from Athens; it takes on the appearance of a small Greek island after it was constructed by 19th-century settlers, who had traveled from the small island of Anafi. Though a little touristy at times, Anafiotika is well worth a visit.
- Shop on Adrianou Street – a fantastic place to purchase some souvenirs and take in the colorful sites of the Plaka neighborhood, a stroll along Adrianou Street is one of the highlights of the district.
- Eat at the Oldest Restaurant in Plaka – sample some traditional Greek dishes at Psaras, which is said to be the oldest restaurant in the Plaka neighborhood; expect to find spectacular fish dishes in a stunning, scenic setting.
Where to Stay in Plaka:
- New Hotel – this contemporary design hotel is situated in the heart of Athens, and is just 200 yards away from Syntagma Square; the rooms are large, spacious, and have striking features, such as bamboo floors and floor to ceiling windows.
- Adrian Hotel – right beneath the Acropolis Hill lies the Adrian Hotel, which offers crisp, modern rooms, that offers the ideal location; guests have all of the major Athens attractions on their doorstep.
Click here to check out my complete guide to Plaka area.
Monastiraki is a fantastic neighborhood in the heart of Athens, that has a trendy feel and a vibrant atmosphere. This neighborhood is well-known for its daily flea market, where shoppers can pick up some incredible items, ranging from baked goods, clothing, jewelry, electronics, all the way to fascinating antiques. Monastiraki is a wonderful blend of curious visitors, as well as locals, which gives it a charming atmosphere.
- Explore the Temple of Hephaestus – completed in the year 415 BC, the Temple of Hephaestus in Monastiraki is an incredibly well-preserved Greek temple, that was dedicated to Hephaestus, who was the ancient god of fire, as well as Athena, who was the goddess of crafts and pottery.
- Relax in Monastiraki Square – in the heart of the Monastiraki neighborhood is the Monastiraki Square, which is buzzing with market stalls and activities; it is a great place to people-watch and take in the surrounding sights and culture.
- Discover Hadrian’s Library – created in the year 132 AD by the Roman Emperor Hadrian, in the Monastiraki district, lies the astonishing Hadrian’s Library, which was the largest library in ancient Athens.
Where to Stay in Monastiraki:
- 360 Degrees – offering unbeatable views of the Acropolis and quirky room designs, the 360 Degrees hotel is a wonderful place to stay in Monastiraki; there is a stunning rooftop bar, and panoramic views of the city, which are truly unforgettable.
- The Zillers Boutique Hotel – situated just a stone’s throw away from the hustle and bustle of Monastiraki Square lies the Zillers Boutique Hotel, which offers elegant, classy rooms that are light and airy, and impeccably clean.
Check out my post: A guide to Monastiraki neighborhood.
One of the most trendy and happening neighborhoods in the city of Athens, Psirri is arguably the best place to stay in or visit if you enjoy a vibrant and colorful nightlife. Winding streets flooded with neon lights, the buzz of live music, and a real mix of backpackers and locals, Psirri is a fantastic neighborhood to explore if you enjoy a laid-back atmosphere that carries on late into the night.
- Check out the Museum of Greek Gastronomy – this fun and unique museum is a brilliant themed museum in the heart of Psirri that documents the history of Greek food throughout the ages.
- Visit the Statue of Pericles – the brilliant Statue of Pericles in Psirri is a fantastic artwork, that reminds visitors of the history of the area, despite the modern vibrancy and nightlife!
- Drink at The Clumsies Bar – The Clumsies Bar in Psirri is one of the best bars in the whole of Athens; here, you can expect to find some of the most brilliant, boundary-pushing cocktails that are completely experimental, but totally delicious. The interior of the bar is also beautiful, and is a great spot for those who enjoy something a little different.
Where to Stay in Psirri:
- 14 Reasons Why – situated in the heart of Psirri, 14 Reasons Why is a brilliant hotel to stay at for those who love bold, contemporary design, and being at the center of a lively community.
- Athens Lodge – Athens Lodge is a great hotel to stay at, particularly for couples, who enjoy clean, simple, spacious rooms, that are situated in a central location with lots going on.
Check out my post: A guide to Psiri area of Athens.
4. Syntagma & National Gardens Area
Situated to the north of the Plaka neighborhood lies the gorgeous historical district of Syntagma, which lies in the heart of the ancient heart of Athens. This neighborhood is a fantastic place to visit during the day, where you can explore important and historical sights, as well as take in the beautiful, colorful floral National Garden, which feels like a moment of tranquillity in the midst of modernity.
- Discover Syntagma Square – Syntagma Square is a historical square in the center of Athens, and it is a hub of great social, political and historical importance, and is the perfect place to visit for history and culture enthusiasts.
- Visit the Hellenic Parliament Building – Overlooking the bustling Syntagma Square is the impressive Hellenic Parliament Building, which is the Greek parliament building; architecturally it is incredibly impressive, and it is a must-visit spot when visiting the Syntagma neighborhood.
- Explore the National Gardens – the National Garden of Athens is a magical area that feels totally secluded from the busy city and is the perfect place to spend a leisurely afternoon sunbathing and people watching.
Where to Stay in Syntagma:
- Niki Athens Hotel – with the historic old town of Athens on its doorstep, the swish and swanky Niki Athens Hotel is a fantastic spot for those wishing to be within walking distance of the key sites of Athens; it is clean, modern and elegant.
- King George, A Luxury Collection Hotel – with its bold Neoclassical architecture, the King George Hotel is luxury at its finest; its rooms are grand, classic, and offer stunning views; it is situated in an excellent location, within a short walking distance to all of the key sights.
5. Makrygianni & Koukaki
The gorgeous Athenian neighborhoods of Makrygianni and Koukaki are situated to the south of the Acropolis, and have a lot of things to offer; these neighborhoods seamlessly combine the cities ancient heritage, such as the series of ancient temples and the Acropolis, with modernity, such as shops, bars, and restaurants. Along with leafy, cobbled streets are cafes and eateries flooded with curious customers, and an overall charming atmosphere; Makrygianni and Koukaki are brilliant neighborhoods to experience authentic Athens.
- Relax at the Strofi Taverna – this fantastic taverna offers its guests a wonderful rooftop garden that provides unbeatable views of the glorious Acropolis; it is cozy, romantic, and a really special spot.
- Uncover Athens’ Art Scene – Athens has a growing and thriving arts scene, and the Makrygianni and Koukaki neighborhoods are a particularly creative spot; one of the best galleries to explore is Galley Marneri, which has some fantastic contemporary artworks.
- Visit the Acropolis Museum – one of the highlights of Athens as a whole is the fantastic Acropolis Museum, where you can learn about the extensive history of the ancient temple.
Where to Stay in Makrygianni & Koukai:
- The Athens Gate Hotel – this prestigious hotel is situated in the historic center of Athens, and provides luxury service, with unbeatable views of the Acropolis and Temple of Olympian Zeus.
- Herodion Hotel – situated below the Acropolis, this elegant and charming hotel is a great spot; it is central and offers gorgeous panoramic views of the city from its rooftop garden.
- NLH FIX, Neighbourhood Lifestyle Hotel – just a stone’s throw away from the Acropolis Museum is the NLH FIX, which is a crisp, modern, and luxurious hotel with impeccable services and facilities.
Bordering the historical center of Athens lies the hip and growingly popular neighborhood of Thissio; this is a brilliant spot for visitors who love to sample different foods when traveling; there are so many bars, restaurants, and cafes that offer a delicious insight into Athenian cuisine. There are also some fantastic historical sights to see here, and the overall atmosphere of the neighborhood is magical.
- Check out The Sanctuary of Zeus – built in the fifth century BC, the Sanctuary of Zeus is a classical Greek temple of the Doric order, and it remains in impeccable condition considering its age; this is a very popular site for tourists.
- Visit the National Observatory of Athens – established in the year 1842, the National Observatory of Athens is the oldest research foundation in Greece, and it is a great lookout point in the city.
- Walk the Ancient Wall of Pnyx – this ancient wall is a popular tourist spot in the Thissio neighborhood, as it provides a fascinating insight into the history of Athens.
Where to Stay in Thissio:
- Hotel Thissio – Hotel Thissio is a charming hotel that is situated in the heart of the Thissio neighborhood; it offers clean, spacious, and beautifully designed rooms, as well as a stunning rooftop terrace that offers unbeatable views of the Acropolis.
Translating at ‘little column in Greek’, Kolonaki is the Athenian neighborhood in which you can expect to find high-end stores, bars, and restaurants and a lot of luxurious hotels and residences. Lined along its spacious streets are a string of art galleries, high-end fashion brands and boutiques, as well as some gorgeous sidewalk cafes. Whether or not this is your sort of thing, Kolonaki is nonetheless a fantastic neighborhood to explore and do a bit of window shopping.
- Explore Lycabettus Hill – one of the most romantic spots in the whole of Athens is Lycabettus Hill, which is a large, 300-meter-tall limestone hill that towers above the city, offering stunning and vast views, which are particularly special at sunset.
- Visit the Byzantine and Christian Museum – founded in 1914 and offering over 250,000 exhibits, the Byzantine and Christian Museum in Kolonaki is a highlight for history enthusiasts.
- Simply taking a walk! – one of the highlights of Kolonaki is simply walking around its gorgeous streets and soaking in the bustling atmosphere; it’s a truly magical neighborhood, and there is so much to see and experience on foot.
Where to Stay in Kolonaki:
- St George Lycabettus – this fantastic lifestyle hotel is equipped with a large rooftop pool, gorgeous spacious rooms, and a high level of service; this is a great place to stay in Kolonaki for couples.
- Periscope – Periscope is a boutique, modern hotel situated in the heart of Kolonaki; it is chic, central, and offers charming, luxurious rooms that are perfect for couples on a romantic getaway.
Slightly outside of the historical center of Athens lies the Exarchia neighborhood, which as important history, though stands proudly today as a thriving artistic center, with a vibrant and growing coffee culture. Exarchia is one of the less touristy neighborhoods of Athens and gives visitors that do stumble across it a flavor of what authentic and realistic local life is like in the city.
- Stroll along Kallidromiou Street – this impressive street in the heart of the Exarchia neighborhood is lined with bright, painted wall-art and graffiti, making it the perfect street to stroll along for art-lovers.
- Visit the Sunday Farmer’s Market – there are several gorgeous farmers markets in Exarchia, though arguably the best is the Farmer’s Market that takes place every Sunday, and offers fresh, delicious produce.
- Explore Strefi Hill Park – escape the hustle and bustle of the city temporarily, and transport yourself to Strefi Hill Park, where you can stretch your legs, and admire Athens from above.
Where to Stay in Exarchia:
- Museum Hotel – Museum Hotel is a stunning and central hotel, that is situated nearby to all of the main sights of Athens, such as the Acropolis, Syntagma Square, and Plaka.
- Dryades & Orion Hotel – located in the heart of the city is the Dryades & Orion Hotel, which offers Acropolis-view rooms, a rooftop garden, and impeccable service.
The up and coming neighborhood of Gazi is an exciting place to visit; it is full of delicious restaurants, quirky cafes, and shops, as well as a thriving musical and artistic scene. Gazi has a really industrial feel to it, though there is also a very youthful and growing café culture to discover when you scratch beneath the surface; this is a fantastic neighborhood to visit to escape the tourists.
- Visit the Gas Factory/Technopolis – established in 1857, the gas factory is at the heart of the identity of the Gazi neighborhood, and it is a great place to explore the heritage of the area.
- Eat at Mamacas – Mamacas is one of the first restaurants to open in Gazi, and it serves some of the most delicious and authentic dishes in the entire city.
- Explore the Street Art – Gazi is a bright and colorful neighborhood, and part of its charm is its plethora of street artworks; the best way to experience the area is by foot.
10. Historic Triangle/Commercial Triangle
Often regarded as the center of Athens, the historic, or commercial triangle is a vibrant hub of culture; this neighborhood is the location in which the majority of commercial life used to be, and partially still is. This is a great neighborhood to visit or stay in, as it is super central, and there is a vibrant sense of life and activity here.
- Relax at SIX D.O.G.S. – one of the most incredible and atmospheric bars in the whole of Athens is SIX D.O.G.S.; this unique and amazing bar has some spectacular features, such as seating swinging from trees, as well as some delicious cocktails and food.
- Discover the Old Parliament – The Old Parliament building in Athens housed the official Greek Parliament between the years 1875 and 1935, and it is built in the grand and impressive Neoclassical style; this is a great spot to visit for history lovers.
- Visit Agias Irinis Square – Agias Irinis Square is a rich and vibrant historical square in the heart of the commercial triangle; the buildings are colorful, the atmosphere is buzzing, and there is a plethora of bars and restaurants to try.
Where to Stay in the Commercial/Historic Triangle:
- Titania Hotel – in the center of Athens lies the beautiful Titania Hotel, which offers gorgeous and airy rooms, and is within walking distance to all of the key sights.
- Hotel Fresh – Hotel Fresh is a light, modern and central hotel with several impressive qualities, such as its rooftop pool and high-quality customer service.