Visiting Athens today, is very different from visiting Athens before 2004. So let’s take a look at the things you can do in Modern Athens.
Athens has changed tremendously the last 20 years, and became a very different city, but still very Greek, as well as modern and cosmopolitan.
About half of the Greek population lives in the Greek capital. The city’s combination of the rich history, the warm southern mentality and the struggle during the financial crisis (+/- 2013-2017), have shaped a place full of diversity, creativity, and character.
Visiting the Greek capital as a tourist might not always give you the chance to discover the “real Athens”, as it is known to Athenians.
Many things are hidden in the complexity of the city. However, when you get the opportunity to stay a bit longer and explore different neighborhoods in Athens, you’ll be amazed.
After 2000 and after the Olympic Games in Athens (in 2004), the city got a major makeover.
But do not just take it from us, also Omilo students agree! Click here to read an article of an USA student, with Athens experience!
Explore Athens with Omilo, while learning Greek
As all our students know, Athens is definitely more than just visiting the Plaka neighborhood and the Acropolis.
Students who attend an intensive Greek Language Course in Athens, are always very enthusiastic and impressed by this lively city, full of surprises.
If you would like to explore Athens together with Omilo, while learning Greek, then you are very welcome to join us. Here you can find more information about the 1-week intensive courses taking place in Athens.
Visiting Athens today
Known for its Ancient Culture, we sometimes forget about the very lively contemporary culture that exists and constantly expands all over Athens. Today, this modern side is part of the everyday life of the Athenians. Learning about “Athens Today” will enrich your experience while visiting the Greek capital and help you understand Greece better.
We hereby give you an introduction to modern life in Athens, and what we believe you should visit during your stay in the Greek capital.
Of course, this is only a tip of the iceberg, so let this be a motivation for you to discover even more.
Center Athens; Sintagma, Ermou, Monasteraki, Psirri…
Petros Markaris’ book
Music and dance in Athens
Hammam in Athens
Athens Spotlighted Card
To catch a glimpse of the vibrant atmosphere in Athens, take a look at the videos below
Neighborhood Greek Parliament Sintagma Square = Constitution square
The Greek Parliament is housed in a building with interesting architecture and great history, in one of the most central parts of the city, at the Syntagma square. Most likely you have seen or passed from the building and also watched the changing of the guards, by the Evzones, also known as Tsoliades. They guard the Monument of the Unknown Soldier in front of the Hellenic Parliament.
During a Greek Intensive course in Athens, Omilo students regularly get the opportunity to join a guided tour and visit the interior of the Parliament. The parliament building was originally used as the residence of the royal family. Its construction began in 1863 and ended in 1943. The proposal for the location (in the center of Athens with a view to Acropolis) and the architectural drawings were made by the director of the Munich Academy of Arts and official architect of the Bavarian court, Friedrich von Gaertner.
The first royal family, Otto and Amalia, settled in their new home on 25 July 1843. Queen Amalia took particular care on the formation of the Royal Gardens (now Ethnikos Kipos), which were right next to the Palace. In 1862, the palace was inhabited by the new king of Greece, George the First. In 1922, the royal family left the palace and the building was used by government agencies. In 1929, it was converted into the Greek Parliament.
The electorate elects MP’s at a general election by direct, universal and secret ballot. Since 1952 the overall number of Hellenic Parliament members (MP’s) has been 300. They are elected every 4 years and they have the legislative power.
Neighborhood Monasteraki, Psirri, Ermou Street
Lively and colorful, Monastiraki is set amidst the historical and commercial centers of Athens. Together with nearby Plaka, they are two picturesque – as well as touristy – areas of the Greek capital. Read more in this article, and learn more about Psirri, Koukaki, Petralona, Monasteraki
Neighborhood National Gardens and Zappeion
The Zappeion Palace or Zappeion is a beautiful and historic building in Athens. It is located near Syntagma square, next to the National Garden. Today it functions as an exhibition and conference center.
Since the mid-19th century, there has been the thought of reviving the Olympic Games. To achieve this goal, there was need of modern facilities. The national benefactor Evangelos Zappas decided to fund the construction of an Olympic building – which is now known as “Zappeion”.
The construction began in 1874 and was completed in 1888. The building was designed by the Danish architect Theophilus Hansen. The Zappeion Mansion was the first building to be built worldwide, to serve Olympic needs.
The building was renovated in 2007. It has large indoor and outdoor spaces that can host a variety of events. The Zappeion Exhibition Room (4,000 square meters) is suitable for exhibitions and conferences. The central Terrace-Peristyle (984 square meters) can be used for conferences, concerts, cocktail parties and dinners. There are two internal open courtyards (957 square meters), one of which is used as a service area.
The Omilo Greek Language school is located in North Athens, in Marousi, at 300 meters from the metro station Maroussi.
The green line, takes you from Piraeus, to Monasteraki and finally to Maroussi and terminal Kifissia.
Click here for more information about North Athens
Take a look at the metro map below, and the green metro line, so you get a better idea of the North Athens areas along the Green line
is a quiet and family-oriented neighbourhood, a little suburban “village”. Marousi has plenty of green spaces as it’s full of trees, small parks, squares, picnic areas, etc. Some areas close to the station are pedestrianized so people can move around more freely when doing their shopping, having a walk or visiting the open street market on Saturday morning, or listen to some street musicians.
The Marousi metro station is 1 stop away from metro station Neratziotissa, which is conveniently located next to the Mall (a big shopping mall, also with bars, restaurants and cinema), and 2 stops away from metro station Irini, which is also the entrance to the Olympic facilities (O. A. K. A. stadium) – another must see if you’re visiting Athens. In these Olympic facilities, also the Olympic Games of 2004 took place.
Good to know! There are not that many parcs in Athens, but the Sygrou Park, which belongs to the suburbs of Maroussi and Kifissia, is for sure a nice place to go for a walk or pick nick.
The park has an area of 950 acres which houses greenhouses, crops, parking, a school for agricultural education, the neoclassical Villa Sygrou and the church of St. Andrew (built by Ernest Schiller, it is the only Orthodox Gothic-style church in Greece). The park has a rich network of dirt roads and different paths, some surfaced, some narrow footpaths, between fruit trees, pine trees, etc.
Today a variety of seminars are taking place in the park: seminars of oinology, floriculture, of horticulture, of gardening, beekeeping etc. It is one of the best places for walking, cycling or even for a picnic in the heart of the city! Syngrou Park is best described as an area of unspoiled countryside where people can forget for a while that they are near the center of the capital city.
Note: during winter sometimes we have some days of snow in Maroussi, and then the park looks even more beautiful 🙂
Click here to take a look at Maroussi center as well as the Singrou Park, covered in snow. (video was recorded in February 2021)
Of course Athens has many more neighborhoods, which we can not cover all. Most visitors stay in centre Athens, but if you want to discover the « real Athens », then we suggest you also try other areas.
A suggestion could be to read Petros Markaris’ book, about all the neighborhoods along the green metro line (the oldest metro line), and their history.
THE ACROPOLIS and THE ACROPOLIS MUSEUM
The Acropolis in Athens and its monuments are very important symbols of the classical times, and modern civilization.
Even if you are not interested in history or philosophy, a visit will give you a much better understanding of Athens, Greece and the Greeks.
A lot is written about the Acropolis, so no need to add even more! Since in 2009 the new Acropolis opened, we decided to write about the museum instead 🙂
Read more about the Acropolis museum, its past and its present
The National Archaeological Museum Of Athens
This beautiful and important museum in centre Athens, was created with the aim to bring together antiquities from all over Greece, to protect and maintain them. That way visitors get the opportunity to learn more about ancient Greek history and appreciate the historical, cultural and artistic value. Keep reading to discover more about its history and its rich collection, with this article.
The Benaki Museum(s)
is well known for its main building, located very close to the Syntagma Square in centre Athens, which provides a historical overview of the Greek world. But what fewer people know is the Pireos Street Annexe of Benaki, where modern exhibitions and interesting architecture are combined. This museum is not restricted to one kind of art: photography, fashion, paintings, video art, and many other contemporary art forms are represented. Even their museum shop is a real treat!
The National Gallery In Athens
Founded in 1900, the National Gallery of Athens is home to more than 20,000 artworks by Greek and European artists. The collection follows a chronological order and includes paintings, sculptures, engravings, drawings, and many more, covering a period from the post-Byzantine era until today. The museum was renovated museum and reopened in 2022, after an almost decade-long expansion and refurbishment . It now became the ideal place to learn about Greek art.
Click here and read more about this renovated museum
The Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST)
In 2016 the EMST Museum opened its doors in the redesigned Fix building.The museum has eight levels. Three of these are being used to house the permanent collections, while the others will be reserved for the periodical exhibitions. The eighth level has amazing capabilities for outdoor multipurpose use during the summertime.
Click here for more info.
The National Gallery In Athens
Modern Art & Architecture
Just like most big cities, Athens has several cultural organizations that offer a wide variety of contemporary cultural events.
The Onassis Cultural Centre (Stegi)
Another example of impressive modern architecture going hand in hand with contemporary art is The Onassis Cultural Centre. Here Greek and foreign artists are bringing performances and exhibitions of all shapes and kinds. Several performances and lectures are also being held in English.
Click here for more info.
The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre
Athens keeps amazing every visitor! Apart from beautiful new museums, concert buildings, artistic metro stations and roof gardens, now Athens also has a new spectacular cultural landmark: the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre (SNFCC). Needless to say, a must-see, during your next Athens visit.
Click here for more info.
The former Public Tobacco Factory
The emblematic building of the former Public Tobacco Factory in Sepolia, Athens, has now opened its doors to the public. From the building’s total area of 19,000 sq m, 6,500 sq m that until now remained closed and unused, have been renovated thanks to funding from NEON and are already in use. Besides being a cultural space it’s also home to the Hellenic Parliament Library and Printing House.
Click here to read more
When walking in Athens, the big amount of graffiti and street art will quickly draw your attention. The center of Athens, more specifically the area of Psirri and Exarchia, are the perfect places to have a walk and enjoy the Street Art. As is often the case in all kinds of art, the Street Art expresses what is going on in society and in the lives of the artists. Therefore this walk might give you some more understanding of what Athens is going through at the moment.
An example of street art in Athens
Entertainment and Nightlife
Athens offers incredible possibilities for entertainment and nightlife. Whether it is for a coffee, a cocktail or dancing until the morning, Athens has it all. As usually is the case, the best places are the ones that are hard to find. Here some suggestions you might give a try!
TAF (The Art Foundation)
Somewhere in the chaos of streets around Monasteraki, behind a small wooden door, a beautiful courtyard is hidden. As the name says, TAF found a very nice harmony between bar and art. While the courtyard is an inviting place to relax and have a drink, the first floor has been turned into a space for exhibitions.
Another well-hidden pearl is Six Dogs, located only a few minutes’ walk from Monasteraki, but almost impossible to find without specific instructions. Looking like a dodgy place from the outside, the surprise is even more when you enter the beautiful garden. Especially during summer time, this is a great place to relax and escape from the busy city. Concerts are regularly organized here.
Bios is a successful mix of a platform for cultural events and a pleasant place for a drink, offering an even bigger variety than the first 2 bars. Opera and DJ sets, festivals and theatre. Tip: have a drink on the roof terrace during a warm summer evening and enjoy the beauty of Athens.
Gazitechnopolis – Gazi
Blending nightlife with an almost endless range of events, the neighborhood of Gazi has become one of the most popular places for locals of all ages in Athens.
The square at the metro station Keramikos is surrounded by bars and restaurants, creating a very lively atmosphere during the night. Right next to this square you can find Technopolis, which used to be The Athens Gasworks factory. Today, Technopolis is a Cultural Centre, welcoming (both out and indoors) exhibitions, performances, festivals and many other. A place to discover!
Roofbars and roofgardens
Nowadays, you can find roofgardens in every Athens neighborhood offering a spectacular view and special atmosphere. It seems that every month a new place is opening up, and you can get some spectacular and creatives views of the Greek capital
Read this article with 10 suggestions
Going for food in Athens, is the easiest thing to do. You can find thousands of places, from simple souvlaki places, taverns, to upscale restaurants, etc… It is nearly impossible to list some places, since 85% of all food places you will find in Athens, offer excellent food for a very good value.
Entertainment and evening performances are many times combined with going for dinner. Nothing better than a Greek meal before or after going out in Athens!
Read more about Greek food culture here
During the summer
You might think it is better to avoid Athens in summer because of the high temperatures?
Actually, summer is great in Athens with all its festivals and fewer tourists! Check it out!
If you like Greek dancing and Traditional Greek Music, then we definitely recommend you to go to the Dora Stratou Performances, in their outdoor theatre, opposite the Acropolis. (from the end of May till mid-September)
Athens Spotlighted Card
Athens Spotlighted is a program that wants to promote the city of Athens in all its aspects: culture, food, shopping, nightlife, etc. The card is free and offers all visitors discounts to several museums, shops, restaurants etc.
The Athens International Airport and the “Athinorama“ weekly magazine cooperated and initiated this program.
What can I do with this card?
While learning Greek in Athens, you will also explore the city of Athens.
The Athens Spotlighted card provides you with discounts all over the city of Athens. Together with the card, you will get a list with a selection of restaurants, cultural sites, museums, art galleries, night clubs and shops. Simply show your card at the entrance and get your discount.
You can also find an overview of all participants of the program on the website of Athens Spotlighted.
At the same time, this card also gives you some extra ideas when looking for a specific activity, since it includes details and opening times.
Where can I find this card?
You can collect your free city card upon your arrival at the Central Information Counter (Arrivals Level) in the International Airport of Athens.
So you can only receive this card at the Athens airport! (Note: you do not need to show your flight ticket, so you can also get it when you pick somebody up from the Airport.)
More information: http://www.athenspotlighted.gr/
Ready to visit Athens and book accommodation?
Then take a look, and start planning your trip