Side Streets Of Athens

A love affair with Athens side streets

Let’s take a stroll through the side streets of Athens. No famous ruins, sorry, Acropolis, no glossed over architectural delights, no luxury boutiques, no perfectly made-up Greek beauties teetering on sky-high heels accompanied by hunky Adonis’ descendants.

The panoramic view of Athens. Get ready to walk…a lot

The best way to discover any place is on foot. My theory is that after a while, deities recognize your resolve and suffering (thank you, bloody blisters) and lead you to a nondescript peephole into realities of local life.

Side streets of Athens
Outside of tourist areas, side streets are empty during midday

After hours and hours of watching us walking up and down uneven sidewalks, the mighty goddess Athena, the patron of the city, got bored or distracted and gave up on luring us to the famous Parthenon. Thus, we got lost in the parts of the city that do not pop up on the pictures of travel guides.

Side streets of Athens
Siesta in style

What travel guides don’t tell you about Athens

That Athens surprised me. Naively, I thought that the capital of the nation that made so many influential contributions to western civilization must have some unique aura. To the certain extent, it does. However, not the one I expected.

Chinatown of Athens
Sign of modern times: while America wants to build walls, China is building Chinatowns all around the world

Outside of “well-to-do” quarters, Athens is rough and gritty. It is a city in a survival mode. The buildings stripped down to utilitarian purpose with no unnecessary slap of makeup. People are surviving there. There is no need (or means) for aesthetic pleasure.

Side streets of Athens
Perhaps, not the prettiest scene but any aspiring modern ruins photographer should be happy to explore buildings like the one in the middle

Construction sites were abandoned years ago. Skeletons of unfinished structures mingle with abandoned houses. Graffiti cover every reachable surface. I love street art, and the Greek capital has some fantastic murals. Sadly, the city is also overflowing with some meaningless scribbles. Furious locals feel helpless and just bundle all of them together as vandalism.

Streets of Athens
I have to agree that locals have a reason to complain
Street art in Athens
However, there is a large number of great murals all around the city.
Running from reality… chasing the dream is painted by two outstanding Greek street artists: Impe and Woozy

The discreet charm of a neighborhood life

First impression though is deceiving. By the end of the day, neighborhoods come to life. Tables and chairs of corner tavernas might look shabby, but locals do not care. By nightfall, they will be filled with loud crowds. Walk a bit further, and you will see an improvised block party. A family or two brought tables outside and enjoy al fresco dinner right on the street. Children are running and playing around, adults loudly discussing current events and music continuously blasting long into the night.

Side streets of Athens
Those are not your ordinary gates. Located way outside of tourist spots in a rundown residential neighborhood, they lead to a park with ruins known as Plato Academy. Ancient philosopher Plato used this area as grounds for his school. He established it around 387 BC and taught there for about 40 years. Locals use the park for exercising, walking dogs or playing with children. After the world’s last male northern white rhino died in Sudan earlier this year, the sad tribute to this magnificent animal appeared in the park.
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Familiar voices, familiar faces

Some neighborhoods reminded me of Bulgarian Sofia or Tbilisi of Georgia. Nothing in particular, but a virtual whiff of something familiar akin to bumping into your favorite uncle on a busy street in a faraway country.

Athens side streets
Just like in Bulgarian capital, there are plenty of small parks all around residential areas. Perhaps a bit shabby, but they still serve the purpose of providing space for kids and dogs to play
Side streets of Athens
Not quite Paris or Beirut, but so close to Tbilisi. Both capitals share similar taste in stairs
Athens side streets
In some aspects, it seemed that time had stopped in Athens in the 60s when this car was brand new

In retrospect, I am glad we took a chance to discover the less glamorous side of the Greek capital. It added another dimension to the city known for its ancient ruins and twice hosting the Summer Olympics in modern times.

In contrast to everyday life, the famous ancient sites of the Greek capital would leave you in awe. Ready to explore the dazzling landmarks? Follow this excellent guide to the places to visit in Athens.

Oh, and do not forget about unique Greek souvenirs to prove that you indeed stomped over the same stones as Athena did a mere few thousand years before you.

Read more about Greece

Read more about city walkabouts around the world

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Side streets of Athens
Side streets of Athens

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2 thoughts on “Side Streets Of Athens”

  1. I have just come back from Athens and I am still in awe from the city, Elena! I have also explored Athens on foot and saw most of these spots mentioned here. What was your favorite thing there?

  2. Awesome Elena. I gotta tell you; these side streets are dead ringers for side streets I walked in Cyprus, in the capital of Nicosia. Quite eye-popping because the scene feels so similar. Narrow alleys. Buildings the same. Even the cat sitting in the chair reminds me of dogs and cats I saw sitting on recliners outside in Nicosia LOL. Talk about a relaxing set up.

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