Athens: 10 new ways to experience this ancient city

From an interactive geological museum to a minimalist multi-storey space with works from up-and-coming Greek artists, there’s far more to Athens than ancient monuments.

By Greek National Tourism Organisation
Published 19 Dec 2019, 16:22 GMT
Though Athens' ancient monuments often steal the show, its lesser known cultural hotspots provide unique insights ...

Though Athens' ancient monuments often steal the show, its lesser known cultural hotspots provide unique insights into both the past and the future of this iconic city. 

Photograph by Getty Images

Intersperse a tour of the capital’s classical sights with visits to some of the lesser-known neighbourhoods that have blossomed into vibrant cultural hotspots. Discover a city undergoing a cultural renaissance, with young entrepreneurs delivering their vision via street art, pop-up galleries and modern architectural gems that stand alongside the capital’s most iconic ancient treasures. 

Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center
Head to this glass-fronted architectural gem for fabulous views of the city and the sea from a reading room on the top floor. Situated next to the city’s waterfront at Faliro Bay, the building also houses the National Library of Greece and the Greek National Opera, but is worth visiting even if you simply stroll around the 52-acre park, dotted with picnic spots and pathways that weave around a manicured Mediterranean Garden.
Don’t miss: Free activities and events in the gardens, including the dancing fountain display set to music, al fresco yoga and pop-up cinema in summer on the lawn.

The Acropolis Museum
Step inside this €130m (£112.3m) architectural gem at the foot of the nearby Parthenon, peer down through a glass floor at an ancient neighbourhood and browse over 3,000 artefacts from the Athenian Acropolis, inhabited since the fourth millennium BC. 
Don’t miss: On Saturdays and Sundays, watch 3D virtual reality videos of how the Parthenon, a marble temple dedicated to the goddess Athena, would have looked before being ravaged by earthquakes, conflict and fire.

Athens is undergoing a cultural renaissance, with street art, pop-up galleries and modern architectural gems standing alongside the capital’s most iconic ancient treasures.
Photograph by GNTO

The National Theatre of Greece
Greece’s theatre scene was born in Athens, so no trip to the capital would be complete without a visit to the country’s national theatre. Don’t speak Greek? Fear not, for visitors can watch most major productions with English surtitles. In 2020, travellers can expect more than 20 plays that have been translated, and cover all tastes from classical to contemporary, as well as offerings for younger audiences, too.
Don't miss: Trying out a play at the Ziller Building’s Main Stage, with its beautifully opulent baroque features.

Onassis STEGI
Let your imagination run wild at this cultural and artistic centre that promotes emerging, experimental and alternative artists from Greece and around the world. Located near the centre of Athens in Syngrou Avenue, the building has seven floors and nine underground levels featuring two amphitheatres, one exhibition hall and an open-air theatre. To top it all off, the on-site restaurant also has a Michelin Star.
Don’t miss: The roof terrace restaurant for magnificent views of Athens.

Basil & Elise Goulandris Foundation
Basil and Elise Goulandris opened the Museum of Contemporary Art in Andros (the island of Basil’s birth) in 1979, but the couple, who made their money through shipping, always dreamed of opening a galley in Athens. Although they’ve now both passed away, their vision has finally been completed and is housed in an 11-storey neoclassical-inspired building close to a the Panathenaic Stadium and Pangrati's hippest area, Plateia Proskopon. Visitors can see works by European masters such as Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet and Auguste Rodin.
Don’t miss: Screenings and concerts in the 190-seat amphitheatre, as well as educational workshops for kids.

The Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation displays artworks by European masters such as Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet and Auguste Rodin.
Photograph by Christoforos Doulgeris

Goulandris Museum of Natural History
Located in the affluent, leafy suburb of Kifissia, this interactive family-friendly museum gives the lowdown on the floral, animal and geological wealth of Greece and other countries, as well as offering thought-provoking displays that illustrate the impact of humans on Earth.
Don’t miss: The district has some chic shops and restaurants, one of the oldest patisserie-cafes in the city, as well pop-up, open-air cinemas in summer.

Museum of Cycladic Art
A world class collection of over 3,000 artefacts of Cycladic and ancient Greek origin. The highlight is the slender marble figurines and statues of nudes dating from 3000 BC to 2000 BC which inspired Cubist art and 20th-century artists like Picasso, Brancusi and Modigliani. The rest of the museum features Greek art dating from 2000 BC to the fourth century AD, including a display from antiquity with detailed explanation of daily life in ancient Greece.
Don’t miss: The Benaki, Byzantine and War Museums — all within walking distance of each other.

The Breeder Gallery
Push an imposing metal door to get inside this former ice cream factory in the Metaxourgio district and you’ll discover a dynamic minimalist multistorey space featuring works from popular Greek artists. New initiatives include an open studio that gives the public an opportunity to meet and quiz new artists every four to six weeks.
Don’t miss: The street art, cafes and neighbourhood in this district — now an edgy arts hub.

Eleftheria Tseliou Gallery
The buzzy, affluent district of Kolonaki is home to the greatest concentration of art galleries in the city, yet some of the best are tucked away. Discover this gallery’s unobtrusive entrance and you’ll be rewarded with a collection of contemporary Greek art from up-and-coming artists, often using traditional media such as painting, drawing and clay.
Don’t miss: Shopping in Kolonaki’s chic boutiques and designer shops, with coffee at one of the numerous trendy cafes in the area.

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