The Best Lesser Known Sights To Experience In Athens
If you are not local, we doubt you can guess the places we are gonna recommend.
Athens, the Greek capital, is an amazing place to be. Full of historical sights and monuments that are known all around the world, it seems like a visit to the Acropolis and Plaka is the course that every visitor has to follow. But what if you want to break the mould? What if this is not your first time in Athens and you want to discover new corners of the city? What if you want to experience the city like a local? What if you want to have a full picture of the capital before going back home? For all these reasons (and more) we decided to give you a small guide for this metropolis. Here comes a list of 10 lesser known sights in the wider Athens area that you can visit and experience!
Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center
This jewel of the city came to the life of Athenians in 2016 and since then has become an inextricable part of the entertainment for those who live nearby. Located in Kallithea, right next to the sea, this oasis inside the Athenian urban area is worth paying a visit to, even if only to walk through its venues.
SNFCC is also home of the National Library of Greece and the Greek National Opera.
The library is accessible to the public as a space in which you can study and research. Plus, it has many educational programs for every age.
The Greek National Opera has two stages: Stavros Niarchos Hall and the Alternative stage; in both of which you can enjoy ballet, theatre and singing performances.
The Cultural Center provides a variety of free events throughout the year. A good example is the Summer Nostos Festival which is being held every June or July. A huge variety of artists and performances spread across the foundation’s establishments during the Athenian summer nights! What could possibly be better than that?
If you are a runner, several charity runs are also organized. And if you are a lover of exercising (even during the holidays), here you can find a well-equipped space to train!
Last but not least, if you are considering moving to Athens for a while, you should consider becoming a member, which will give you access to a variety of programs and activities.
Located in Paleo Faliro, this is one of the most beautiful hidden spots in Athens. Only a few motorway exits across from the SNFCC, you can easily combine these two to create a magical afternoon by the sea. Along this big yacht port, visitors are treated to a view of the sea and the Athenian suburbs. If you do not own a yacht, there are several companies that offer boat rentals, so you can experience the beauty of the Saronic Gulf.
The Marina is an ideal place for a walk, a ride on the bike or simply to enjoy a beverage, dessert or a full meal at one of the many cafes and restaurants of the area. During summertime, an open-air cinema operates where you can watch a movie under the night sky. Summer cinemas are quite popular in Greece so get ready for lots of locals. In the neighbourhood, you will also be able to pay a visit to a floating museum, the historic battleship Georgios Averof and also see the Athenian Trireme, a modern ship that was built to resemble the ancient Greek ones.
Yes, Athens has a mountain too!
A few km away from the city centre, Parnitha is the ideal place for an excursion. Its biggest part has been designated as a national park and it is also a declared Natura 2000 area and a protected habitat for wildfowl. Two shelters, Mpafi and Flampouri, are there to accommodate you if you decide to embark on a small hike. Before hiking though, there are plenty of things to do in Parnitha first, such as visiting ancient fortresses, exploring the Monastery of Kleiston or even the Tatoi Palace, the summer palace of the Greek royal family. Its natural monuments should be also on your list; Beletsi lake on the east slopes, the gorges of Gouras and Keladonas river and the cave of Panas. Finally, if while being in Athens you feel that it’s your lucky day, Parnitha has the most famous casino in the capital, Athens Regency Casino Mont Parnes. You can get there by car, or by using the funicular.
This name might remind you of something! It is the name of the Olympic event where people run for 42km straight, aka “the marathon”. For those unaware, the sport took its name from this small town in Attica, after a messenger “Pheidippides”, ran the distance between Marathon and Athens in 490 BC to announce that the Persians had been defeated. Unfortunately, the story says that after he finished running, he collapsed and died. When the Olympic Games were held in Athens, in 2004, the athletes had the opportunity to run the original marathon course. In addition, every year, the Athens Marathon takes place in November, giving the chance to athletes all around the world, to run the original course as well. A great experience to have, even if you are not a professional athlete. You can participate in the events of 5km and 10km!
Apart from running, Marathon is of great archaeological interest. A tomb dedicated to the battle of Marathon, in which 11.000 Greeks defeated 100.000 Persians, is 1km away from the battlefield. An archaeological museum that hosts findings from the wider area from different periods and Ramnous, the archaeological site of an ancient city with an amazing view of Evia and Evoikos gulf, also await you! Last but not least, a look at the local lake or a dive in one of the close beaches is the perfect way to finish your trip.
Photographer Tomisti – source
The coastal area in the south of the city of Athens has so many things to explore. It is called Athens Riviera and it is made up of many suburbs and beaches. In fact, this is a place where holidays feel very similar to being on one of the Greek islands.
One of the suburbs is called Vouliagmeni. In Vouliagmeni, you can find some of the nicest beaches in Athens and some incredibly good restaurants to dine in. But what makes it different from the rest of the region, is the lake. The scenery is idyllic, towering rocks enclose the lake and a huge cave can be found at the edge. Apart from swimming, there are several services that are available to visitors, such as fitness and wellness programs, organization of events (weddings, parties) and of course dining. But the highlight is, of course, the unique thermal spa where the water consists of both the underground thermal springs and the sea.
During your visit to Greece, if you are feeling like trying a water sport, Vouliagmeni is the place in the Athens region to surf! There is plenty of wind to and many schools of surfing can guide you in your first steps. If you have some experience, just rent the equipment and go on!
Glyfada might belong to the less known Athens for the foreigners but that is certainly not the case for the Greeks. Another part of the Athenian Riviera, Glyfada is the most well-known southern suburb of Athens. A small city of its own, Glyfada gives you an alternative shopping destination away from the crowds of the city centre. Here you can find big brands, luxury items as well as jewellery shops. After having chosen your souvenirs from Athens, here you can enjoy a slow day by the sea. In the area, many organized beaches can also be found. In addition, many restaurants with typical Greek or international cuisines have chosen Glyfada as their home, along with many cafés and pastry shops.
Want to try something different? If you are up for an ice-cream, a milkshake or a delicious waffle while in Glyfada, visit the “Bufala gelato”. Their speciality is the ‘Bufala’, an ice cream made from Greek Buffalo milk end egg proteins. The taste is awesome. What’s more? They also offer traditional gelatos in many flavours, low-fat ice-creams, milkshakes, waffles, and sorbets! Lastly, they have gained a reputation for the espresso that they are making. Give it a try!
Agia Paraskevi & Chalandri
This time we go to the northern parts of Athens. If you want to experience what it is like to live like a local, aim to spend one of your nights here. Two different areas of the capital that border each other, they can both be easily combined in one evening. Under the mountain Ymittos, you can enjoy your drink in one of the many bars in the area or restaurants; their cuisine varies from international to typical Greek! Scout the area around the pedestrian walkaway of Chalandri and the Agia Paraskevi Square first before you make your choice. If you have more time to spend, these two regions are also ideal for shopping and having brunch!
Piraeus is actually a different city from Athens, but due to the huge expansion of both cities, they are so close together they might as well be one! Not really sure if we can call it a lesser-known spot of Athens, but its totally worth a visit. Apart from catching a ferry from the port, spend one of your days there! Piraeus is surrounded by the Aegean Sea, so, if you are after a beach excursion, make the 20-30 min trip and get yourself there. Start your day with a walk in the city centre, Pasalimani, and Marina Zeas yacht ports, in which you can enjoy the view! Then, have lunch in one of the acclaimed fish restaurants in Mikrolimano next to the sea. Actually, Mikrolimano is the most famous place in Athens for seafood, and since you are in Greece, it would be rude not to try it. Take a long walk in Peiraiki coast when the sun sets and dine in one of the fish-tavernas to have the traditional seafood experience! Accompany your food with ouzo or tsipouro, two traditional Greek alcohol beverages that go perfectly with this type of cuisine.
Onassis Stegi (Onassis Cultural Center Athens)
Stegi is a great cultural space in Syggrou Avenue, downtown Athens. As is mentioned on their website, “Stegi is the space where contemporary culture meets aesthetics and science”. Some of the most interesting art performances in Athens are presented here. If you are a fan of contemporary art, this place should be high on your list of places to visit. Throughout the year, there is a variety of theatre and musical performances, film screenings, and international shows. In addition, Stegi is of great architectural interest. Both the interior and exterior of the building can be considered masterpieces of modern architecture and are highly recommended as a place to check out.
The centre of Athens has many neighbourhoods with a huge reputation abroad. Metaxourgeio is not one of them. This lesser known spot in Athens might be hard to pronounce for the foreigners, but it is a local favourite. Massively upgraded during the last decade, it now hosts many theaters, bars, and restaurants. It is the spot of gathering for the intellectuals, and you might even come across a Greek actor or writer. The best places in Metaxourgeio are the krasadika (wine-places) in which you should taste several mezedes (small appetizers) with the company of Greek wine. Τhis is also the spot for chasing down street art.
A word on safety in Metaxourgeio
Metaxourgeio was once considered an undesirable spot for tourists and travel agents would advise people to avoid the general area. Nowadays, drug deals and prostitution are not what one notices and the streets in Metaxourgeio, especially during the day, are safe. Late night wonderings should be avoided in certain parts, which, however, is the case in lots of neighbourhoods around Athens.
- These are some of the lesser known spots in Athens that you can explore during your next visit. Anything you would add?
Hello! My name is Marianna and I am originally from Piraeus, Athens. After moving to Thessaloniki for my studies, to a small city in Hungary and in Paris as an exchange student, I returned back to my hometown. What do I like? Traveling, exploring new cultures, sports, everything that has to do with the sea, reading a good book, hanging out with friends and, of course, writing about amazing destinations!