Written by The Heloni Team | Sept. 16, 2020
If the Acropolis, the Museums, and the walking tours no longer float your boat, here is an out-of-the-ordinary itinerary where you can experience something truly special and truly Greek. We have listed 10 things that we think offer interesting and local experiences, some are unusual, some are hotspots, some are special in their own sense, but we are hoping each of these will create an unforgettable memory for you to take back home.
If you are seeking a green oasis,
Julia and Alexander N. Diomedes Botanical Gardens, just 8k from the center of Athens is an ideal spot to let the 18.6-hectare of the natural landscape take over you. The gardens house 500 plant species and more than 2,500 plants from all around the world. They are organized by categories such as ornamental, medicinal, aromatic, and historic. Here you will be able to enjoy the sounds, sights, and smells of nature under the blooming pergolas while enjoying a picnic (you will have to pack that). You can also take an official tour of the gardens where you will be able to get all the background information. The best way to get there via Public Transport is with Metro line 3 to Aghia Marina and then one of the buses A16, 866, or 811 and get off at Diomideios bus stop. The stop is right by the entrance.
Halandri is a northern suburb of Athens and this neighborhood has built up a reputation of being a top nightlight and food scene for young people of all of Athens. It is a nice place to grab a drink in one of its multiple bars like having a draft cocktail in the exotic and colorful Mr.Peacock or how about trying some beer from local breweries in Nomad, while Spiti Cocktail bar will make you feel at home and Melouk will be able to satisfy any nighttime food urges. There are several pedestrianized streets in the center of Halandri making it a really nice bar-hopping experience.
If you are looking for a seaside experience of the Greek capital, one of the nicest, closest, and most popular trips for locals is spending a day walking around, strolling, jogging, drinking, eating, and having fun in [
Flisvos Marina] (https://www.flisvosmarina.com/). There are several wonderful places there to grab a drink or an ice cream while having the sea breeze caress your skin while watching the sea horizons and of course admiring the endless mega-yachts parked there. The atmosphere around sunset feels magical and the nighttime illumination creates an ambiance of warmth. A great place to kick back and relax and let your worries pass.
Stavros Niarchos Foundation
The new cultural playground and architectural landmark of Athens is absolutely worth a visit. The cultural center has restored and taken over a seafront area and created a new sense of identity for the neighborhood. The center is home to the Stavros Niarchos Park and to the modern building designed by Renzo Piano which houses the National Library of Greece (NLG) and the Greek National Opera (GNO). There are many beautiful things to see and do here, like relax on the nicely designed outdoor seating, explore a circular labyrinth, enjoy the landscaped pathways on top of the building, read a book in the spacious Reading room, have a snack or a coffee in one of the multiple cafes, watch children interact with the clever urban design, or go for a leisurely walk. If you get a chance, try visiting one of the concerts, exhibitions, or other events being held at the time. They also offer free yoga, pilates, and aerobic classes in the summer. It will definitely be a story worth telling.
Athens has several open-air cinemas and they are a big hit during the spring and summertime. One of the most enchanting experiences is in the Cine Thisio, found right beneath the rocks of the Acropolis. It first opened in 1935 and it vibrates with an old-timers nostalgia charm. While enjoying your movie, you can complete your experience with traditional Greek products like homemade spoon sweets, gourmet Greek fish roe (avgotaracho), or tsipouro. Do not worry they also have popcorn. Another summer cinema with views of the Acropolis is Cine Paris which started operating in 1920. It was the first outdoor cinema in Athens. Both cinemas show old and newer movie classics and are usually open until September.
If the old ruins and isolated columns no longer inspire you, try taking a trip down a more unusual lane of touristic discovery. The Wax Museum of Andreas Syggros houses a grotesque collection of 16,600 wax pieces depicting the symptoms of venereal disease. The wax models, from faces to limbs to entire bodies show the reproduction of symptoms caused skin conditions and sexually transmitted diseases between 1913 and 1958. It is one of the largest in the world of its kind. It is located in the center of Athens, close to Evangelismos station, and in the Andreas Syggros hospital of dermatological and venereal diseases.
Platia Eirini or Agia Eirini Square is a bustling volcano of young people, delicious food, good coffee, funky interiors, and spirited energy. It is a very popular hangout spot for the young and old, with tons of cafes and bars around the square, and it's close proximity to Monastiraki and Ermou Street makes it always alive, day and night. Tailor-made, right at the square is known for its terrific coffee, Kostas just right around the corner makes one of the richest and best souvlakis according to many Greeks, Throubi serves cocktails in a jazzy, soulful setting, and in Mama Roux, you can have a very fulfilling meal of fusion cuisine. To start or end the evening, we would recommend some warm, soft mouthwatering cinnamon honey balls from Loukoumades, just a couple of minutes from the square.
Lake Vouliagmeni is found in the southern suburbs of the Vouliagmeni neighborhood, just a couple minutes from the sea. It is a mineral spa and the water is rich in salts and minerals like potassium, lithium, ammonium, calcium, chloride, iodine which are known for giving relief to the skin, bone, and muscle problems. The water in the lake is constantly being refreshed by the sea and by the underground thermal springs which creates a natural thermal spa experience. At the lake, you can swim, snorkel as well as let the tiny spa fish (Garra Rufa fish) give you a relieving massage. The lake is surrounded by beach chairs and umbrellas where you can relax and the cafe-bar-restaurant will help you with any gustatory needs. You can swim here during the summer as well as winter months and during the summer Lake Vouliagmeni offers hot-spring baths, hydrotherapy, and physiotherapy. You will leave here with a feeling of natural rejuvenation.
Fun fact: There is also a mysterious urban myth around the lake, saying that some American scuba divers disappeared while exploring the undersea caves in the sixties. Their bodies were discovered more than 35 years later.
Pittaki street before 2012 was an industrial alleyway of little use and care. Although located in the energized Psyrri neighborhood, Pittaki Street was mainly filled with warehouse and industrial sites and received little attention. In 2012 the non-profit Imagine the City, the creative lighting studio Beforelight and the locals decided it was time for the fate of Pittaki Street to change. It was time to restore it. They gathered unused light fixtures from all over Athens and suspended them throughout the street with the aim of bringing light into this dark alleyway. Athenians donated all kinds of lights, from Chinese lanterns to Moroccan colored shades reflecting the multicultural community of Athens. The alleyway was painted like a home, with soft pastel colors and cozy scenes of a living room and kitchen with the aim of making the street more comfortable. Ever since then, the rise of boutiques, shops, and a new life has created a new sense of place, a new home for Pittaki Street.
If your heart calls for some smooth grooving and an extraordinary night out, then grab a couple of drinks, maybe a picnic blanket and some comfortable shoes, and head out to Ermou, near Pireos Street. On Mondays, around 22.00 pm, it is time for “Street Dancing Milonga”. Here, tango-loving people dance on the pedestrianized marble platform to the music of a portable stereo. Street Dancing Milonga gathers people of all ages from different dance schools of the city, to practice, to dance, to be free.
We hope you find these little Athenian "go - tos" as fun as we do!