Yes, Athens is an impressive historic city, but you know what else it is? Quintessentially cool. I consider the center of Athens to be one of the coolest places in the world and today you’ll discover why; here are the top cool things to do in Athens to experience the Greek capital in an alternative, modern way that will make you feel cooler than a polar bear’s toenails!
Spoiler alert: climbing the Acropolis will not be included, come on now.
Seek an adrenaline rush in one of Athens’ escape rooms
Escape rooms are all the rage right now. Having experienced a rapid increase in popularity in recent years, there is an abundance of choice in regard to different themes, levels of difficulty, and interaction with the actors that aim to scare the bejesus out of you. Of course, there is always the option of copping out and booking a room that focuses on problem-solving over running from the hands of a psychopath that wants to cut you into pieces, but where’s the fun in that? There are even rooms that have been inspired by Greek Mythology, like the Minotaur room in Game Over, where you can immerse yourself in ancient Greece and solve the puzzles that will lead you to modern-day Athens. Some of the best escape rooms in Athens are Paradox Project, Sherlocked Holmes - you’ve gotta give props to that punalicious name, Great Escape Rooms, Athens Clue, and The Mindtrap, which you can find in various locations across Athens. A fun activity to indulge in with your friends that will make your trip to Athens remarkable; let’s see who loses their cool first!
Choo-choo goes the Lycabettus Funicular
Lucabettus Hill - credits: Milan Gonda/Shutterstock.com
Lycabettus Hill is one of the spots of the city you must not leave out of your itinerary. Offering you a panoramic view of the whole of Athens -being the highest point of Athens at 277 meters above sea level and all- you can see every archaeological site of Athens from above while the view reaches the sea at the southern part of Athens. it’s is an incredibly romantic and picturesque spot, while at its very top it hosts one of the most luxurious restaurants in Athens that serves delectable Greek gourmet dishes that will make your mouth water. Although you can climb up to Lycabettus with your car until a certain point, it’d be incredibly cool if you took the famed funicular of Lycabettus that leaves from the corner of Ploutarhiou and Aristippou Streets every 30 minutes. It is a 10-minute ride, but it is fun in its obscurity; the ultimate cool Athenian experience that is worth your time!
Out-culture everyone in the Goulandris Museum of Cycladic Art
Visiting Athens and not exploring its cultural aspect would be a crime. I’m not going to state the obvious and tell you about the archaeological sites and museums the city predictably boasts of. I will encourage you, however, to get your culture on with a visit to the less-talked-about Goulandris Museum of Cycladic Art. Dedicated to the examination study of the ancient civilizations of Greece, focusing on the Cycladic art of 3 BC, it was originally founded in 1986 to house the private collection of Nicholas and Dolly Goulandris and gradually expanded to accommodate other major donations. From its impressive exhibits to its incredible ambiance and the cozy cafe it houses in its premises, a visit to the Museum of Cycladic Art will be one of the coolest -and most educational- things you will do in Athens, as well as a great conversation starter!
Dance a passionate round of tango in the streets of Athens
While tango may not be a customarily Greek dance, the spontaneous spirit of the dancers that begun this weekly occurrence that already counts 8 years of age was definitely Greek. The absolutely starry-eyed, lovey-dovey story of ‘Street Dancing Milonga,’as it is called, goes like this: Almost a decade ago, a young couple deeply in love both with each other and the art of tango, put a portable stereo on a marble platform on Ermou Street, near Pireos Avenue, and started dancing the popular romantic dance! Friends and passers-by, enchanted by their whimsicality, joined the impromptu dance ball and brought life to the busy Athenian street with their positive spirit. Since then, every Monday, people from all ages and backgrounds gather to enjoy tango, and now you can join this boisterous dancing party; as the crowd grows bigger every week, you are sure to find a dancing partner to share the fun with! I can’t think of a better way to fight your Monday blues!
Steam bath in the city center
If there is one time when you have a free pass to utter relaxation, it is during your vacations. In the oldest neighborhood of Athens, the arresting Plaka, you can revel in leisure and pleasure in a traditional bathhouse, where you can enjoy a relaxing and therapeutic steam bath. Al Hammam, as it is called, follows ancient routines from Asia to come up with unique hammam and spa treatments with the highest-quality products of the market. It is a small-capacity bathhouse that fits only 8 people at a time, so the experience is much more intimate and cozy, especially if it’s shared with a group of friends and family. You can lie on the hot marble, and let the experts scrub you with the traditional Turkish exfoliating sponge, ‘ketse’ and organic olive oil soap. Without paying through the nose, you can also get your hair washed and your body massaged, or even take advantage of a special offer for couples. To top it all off, following your unwinding experience, you will be served a warm cup of tea. How cool is that?
Enjoy a picnic in the Diomedes Botanical Gardens
You wouldn’t expect me to say something as cliche as the National Gardens, right? A picnic might not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of cool activities to embark on in Athens, however, you must admit that if it takes place in a 1,860-acre botanical garden its cool factor goes up a mile! Speaking of miles, the Diomedes Botanical Garden is located in the suburb of Haïdari, 5 miles from the heart of the city. Despite its proximity to the city center, however, not many people -not even the locals- know about this botanical oasis in the middle of the concrete jungle. Established in 1975, the botanical garden it’s a nature lover’s dream come true, and the ultimate destination for long walks and delicious picnics. Breath in the exquisite aromas of the thousands of plants you will come across and, if you feel like it, request a tour of the facilities, which includes a seed bank; it’s worth it, no ifs, ands or buts about it, especially if you have a green thumb!
Catch a screening at one of Athens’ open-air cinemas
Open-air cinema in Athens - credits: gezginadvisor/Shutterstock.com
If the weather allows it, catching a screening of a cult-classic or contemporary best-selling movie at an open-air cinema in Athens is an authentic, cool experience you need to jump on. Summer nights are made for those open-air cinemas that promise our evening entertainment. With or without company, no one can question the magic of an open-air cinema, glorious in its simplicity. During summertime, there is not one neighborhood of Greece that doesn’t open the doors of its summer cinema. A proper open-air cinema smells of the sea, so our favorite ones in Athens are the ones you’ll find in the neighborhoods along the length of Athens’ riviera. From the neighborhood of Kallithea and Faliro to Sounio, there are countless options to choose from, with our favorite being Cine Flisvos. Additionally, an excellent choice is the legendary Cine Paris, located in Plaka and offering an unmatched view of the Acropolis by night. If you choose to have a true open-air cinema experience, though, do it right: with a glass of cold beer, heaps of popcorn, or even freshly-prepared 'souvlaki'. Nothing compares to watching a good movie while eating delicious food under the starry summer sky!
Run Forest, Run on Strefi Hill!
This one is for all the romantic souls that appreciate a great view and the urban aesthetic the district of Exarcheia generously offers. Not as impressive as the hill of Lycabettus, as it is significantly shorter and comparatively uneventful, Strefi Hill is still one of the most Instagram-friendly spots in Athens. Located at the top border of Exarcheia, Strefi Hill is one of the lesser-known green havens of the Greek capital, but one of the prettiest nonetheless. With trails that allow its visitors to go running and walk their dogs in peace, uninterrupted by the hustle and bustle of the city. The view from the hill is something to write home about, however, I’d avoid wandering around its grounds alone after dusk, as it is rather secluded and therefore not the best spot to hang out in the dark; I’m all for living life on the edge, but maybe figuratively, not literally!
Strefi hill in Exarchia - credits: Milan Gonda/Shutterstock.com
Taste delectable Greek beer in an Athenian microbrewery
The traditional Greek spirits of ‘raki’, ‘rakomelo’ and ‘tsipouro’, as well as the delectable Greek wine varieties have gained recognition worldwide for their incredible taste. Greek beer, however, is much less talked-about, often getting overlooked for not being a traditionally Greek alcoholic drink; a missed opportunity, if you ask me. Despite being on the low, there are numerous Greek beers that are delicious, with new breweries popping up at a rate of knots during recent years. Case in point: the first and only microbrewery in Athens, Noctua Brewery. Noctua Brewery is the brainchild of four daring friends who all quit their jobs to devote themselves to beer production, and thankfully, it paid off. Located on Pireos Avenue, less than 10 minutes from 'Kerameikos' Metro station, it has opened its doors to visitors who are eager to learn about the process of beer-making, indulge in beer-tasting of local varieties and take a bottle or two home as a memento of this original, enjoyable experience. Beer is a cool, rock-n-roll drink; everyone knows it!
Get your geek on in Athens Comics Library
You don’t need to be Sheldon to appreciate a good comic, and even if you kind of are, geeks nowadays are considered rather cool. That’s why you can wear your geek badge with pride and visit Athens’ Comics Library, based in the heart of the fashionable neighborhood of Psyrri. This lending library consists of over 2,500 titles of both Greek and international graphic novels and comics that address a wide audience of all ages and tastes. The ticket to the library is incredibly cheap, coming up to the grand total of 2€, and you are welcome to stay as long as you want, reading as many comics as you want. You can also borrow comics as you would do in a regular lending library; all you need to do is sign up to become a member at no cost whatsoever! The awesomeness of Athens’ Comics Library doesn’t end there though; there are constantly various events, such as interesting seminars and workshops, being hosted on its premises, catering to people sharing a love for comic books. Look at Athens bringing us closer to each other, awww!
Smash things in a rage room
You’ve finally reached the destination of your dreams. All those days counting down to your visit to Athens have led you to the magical city, however, the pent-up stress and anger you’ve been hoarding due to the struggle of everyday existence don’t seem to have gotten the memo. Well, I’m here to give you a way out: a rage room! I know you think this such a Millennial thing to suggest, and you’re right, but it is so incredibly fun that if you give it a whirl, it will become one of the highlights of your holiday! Smash things to your heart’s content: scream, kick, and punch everything within your reach at Limba Rage Room and continue your Greek vacations relieved and calm. Smashing an old telly into hundreds of pieces with a bat will make you feel like a renegade and the uniform they will give you will only enhance this feeling. No harm done and a lot of fun had, a win-win situation!
Give in to your love for cinema at the University Cinema Club
Being cultured is always cool and being a cinephile is only an asset for your trip to Athens. If you live and breath cinematic excellence, you are guaranteed to fall in love with Irida, the university cinema club. The association organizes many cultural activities in regard to the art of cinematography, such as free screening and open workshops, bringing cinema-lovers together under the same roof. The University Cinema Club is housed in Irida cinema, located on Ippokratous Street, near the ‘Panepistimio’ Athens metro station, convenient to those with no means of transport. If you’re lucky, you can also catch one of the infamous parties the association organizes, who aim to entertain and enhance the relationship between the members and loyal fans. Yes, the crowds are mostly consisting of younger ages -its a university club after all- but that doesn’t take away from the club’s allure. Don’t think it twice, your fellow movie maniacs are waiting for you!
There are countless cool activities, spots, and neighborhoods to discover in Athens and, since you wouldn’t want to feel left out from all the fun, you should try to cover as much as possible during your stay in the city. Whether you’re traveling to Greece with a group of friends, with your family, as a couple or even solo -let’s be real, especially solo- the list above will help you find your way around the city with ease and attitude.