A local’s guide to Exarchia, Athens

April 21, 2018
Rebecca Skevaki

Exarchia (also spelled Exarcheia) is one of Athens’ oldest neighbourhoods and full of life, largely due to the presence of the nearby University of Athens and the Technical University of Athens. But despite its youthful energy, it isn’t a touristy district, and rather has become associated with protests and anarchists — a connection that has given a bad reputation to an otherwise fascinating neighbourhood.

The district was formerly called Neapolis, which means ‘New City’ in Greek, as it was one of the first areas where people chose to live outside the inner city circle. If the centre of the capital and the areas around Syntagma Square were the hub of the country’s political and commercial life, then Neapolis was the meeting place for the intellectuals of Athens.

Over time, the name Neapolis gave way to the name Exarchia, named after a resident who ran a grocery store at the junction of Themistokleous and Solomou streets, above the current Exarchia Square.

This authentic neighbourhood is an architectural maze, packed with bohemian shops, hidden courtyards and squares. Here you can explore paved alleys with street art, politically charged murals and some of the most unique shops in Athens. All of which is why I think you should explore Exarchia for yourself — to see what it’s really all about. And if you want to learn more about this alternative part of the city from a local guide, we can customise a private tour of Exarchia just for you, or you can book our Exharcheia Neighbourhood: Sweet Sins & Anarchy Tour.

The largest museum in Greece is in Exarchia | Photo by Athens Urban Adventures.

What to see and do in Exarchia

Starting from the main square, two things will grab your attention: the coffee shops, including Café Diplo, which is always full and offers live music from time to time; and the “blue building” from the 1930s, which is part of the area’s history. Many famous people, politicians and artists have lived there through the years.

As you continue from the square, walking through the back streets, you’ll find small restaurants and tavernas, alternative bars, vinyl record stores, cinemas, bookstores and colourful street art that depicts Exarchia’s history.

Just a few minutes’ walk from the Square, you will encounter the amazing view of Athens from Strefi Hill — a very nice spot with pine trees in the heart of Athens. Every summer, interesting events are hosted at the stone-paved open theatre at the hill. Try to visit during daylight to appreciate how lovely it is.

The National Archaeological Museum of Athens is the largest museum in Greece and is housed in a neoclassical 19th-century building. It’s one of the most interesting museums to visit, packed with more than 11,000 exhibits showcasing Greek civilisation from the beginnings of pre-history to late antiquity. Admission is EUR 10. Patission 44. Tel: 213 214 4800. 

Exarchia has many appealing places to eat | Photo by Athens Urban Adventures.

Where to eat in Exarchia

Ama Laxei on Kalidromiou street is a beautiful restaurant with a lovely courtyard, surrounded by trees and quite cosy inside. It serves traditional recipes at a low cost. Kallidromiou 69. Tel: 21 0384 5978.

Peinaleon is a restaurant housed in a neoclassical building and has been around for almost 40 years. The restaurant offers Greek cuisine with a variety of choices, and to-die-for traditional desserts that come free of charge upon ordering your bill. What makes the atmosphere even more appealing is the live music. Mavromichali 152. Tel: 21 0644 0945.

Frumel is a ‘rakadiko,’ which means a place that serves raki (a local spirit from Crete) but also many other alcoholic delights with meze, or Greek tapas. This vintage meze shop only uses products from small producers, and is a great place to enjoy authentic Greek food and drinks along with a lot of rock music.

And as we’re talking about food, if you are around on a Saturday, visit Laiki Agora, an outdoor market that has a great variety of fruits and vegetables. Walk among the producers’ stalls and try some of the seasonal products. Kalidromiou Street. 

Discover the unique shops of Exarchia | Photo by Athens Urban Adventures.

Where to shop in Exarchia

There are many little shops in the district with interesting things to buy, so bring your wallet and lots of free time for browsing!

If you’re a vinyl fan, Sound Effect Records in Spiridonos Trikoupi is your place. Covering a wide range of very old vinyl from the 60s, 70s and beyond, as well as CDs. Trikoupi Spyrou 50 and Kallidromiou. Tel: 21 0825 9883.

Love creativity and secondhand clothes? Then you must go by Hotsy Totsy at 77-79 Ippokratous Street, which has a flair of old Hollywood and an international collection of secondhand clothes and accessories.

Feeling nostalgic? At Yesterday’s Bread in Kalidromiou Street, you will find old-fashioned vintage dresses, leather jackets or boots. Kallidromiou 87.

For people who love comics, Solaris in Botasi Street is a comic book store with vintage and new editions. Botasi 6. Tel: 21 0384 1065. 

Exharcheia Neighbourhood: Sweet Sins & Anarchy

On this Athens walking tour, we’ll head off the beaten track to Exarcheia, the most alternative neighbourhood in Athens, and one that retains an unconventional, youthful identity thanks to its residents. This is where youth culture blends with revolutionary ideas, street culture, and creativity.