As seen on the streets of Athens: a street art guide

Athens street art guide

Athens, seen from above, is a white ocean of roofs meeting the Mediterranean sea somewhere at the horizon.

Athens, street view, is a very colourful town: posters, installations, kiosks and a lot of street art (a lot, really a lot!), including several large outdoor murals.
Some of them were made possible though various creative projects set up by the Athens Municipality (especially before the Olympic Games of 2004), which involved some well-known local street artists, many of whom are from the Athens School of Fine Arts (which runs a programme of street art studies, by the way).

If this effort to beautify the city is the sparkle that transformed Athens’ street art from a niche subculture into something the whole town can relate to, the economic crisis is the fuel that made Athens’ street art grow and evolve.
Nowadays the scenario is that of a town full of colour-washed energy: graffiti hunting around Athens can reveal both large, colourful and majestically painted murals and also rebellious, more spontaneous and protest-driven street art, sort of “social comments” on walls; and the most amazing thing is that often the same talented street artist is making both.

Unlike other towns, street art in Athens is particularly common to be found downtown, especially in the neighbourhoods of Exarchia, Psyrri, Anafiotika and Gazi, which is very close to another area full of street art: Metaxourgeio district. 

 
UPDATE 2016: check out my facebook album with 60+ photos and locations of what’s new in town!  

Athens street art guide > METAXOURGEIO

Right from my first afternoon in town, Metaxourgeio became my favourite district of Athens: it started out as an industrial district at the beginning of the 19th century and, after a long period of abandonment, Metaxourgeio is now becoming the artsy neighbourhood of Athens. But although Metaxourgeio is currently reinventing itself, a somewhat grungy heart still beats beneath its art galleries and brand-new hip restaurants.
Athens street art guide

Many people tried to discourage me from entering Metaxourgeio and yes, there are some drug users around who may not like you taking pictures while they are doing their business… but, apart from that, Metaxourgeio is an area full of creative energy and is definitely worth a visit, especially if you are into street art. An area to visit right now, before it gets gentrified.

Athens street art guide

While the redevelopment of other districts in Athens -such as Psyrri and Gazi- was due to new laws encouraging the establishment of night clubs and restaurants, Metaxourgeio’s transformation owes a great deal to the efforts of many individual artists, bar owners and cultural organizations, such as The Breeder Project and the Rabbithole Theatre (both worth a visit, not least for the great street art covering their buildings).

Athens street art guide

Another great feature of the hood is the village-like atmosphere: have a coffee on Avdi Square or a walk along the cobbled pedestrian alleys and you will enjoy a relaxed atmosphere you are unlikely to find anywhere else in Athens.

Athens street art guide

In Metaxourgeio I found a mural by my beloved Borondo and I had my first glimpse of INO’s art, and he immediately became my favorite street artist from Athens.

Athens street art guide
street art by Borondo
Athens street art guide
“System of a Fraud” by INO, 2013

Here is a unpretentious map of my favorite street art in this district, but be sure to also wander aimlessly around Metaxourgeio and explore it far and wide: I bet this area will surprise you!

Athens street art guide

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Athens street art guide > PSYRRI

The Psyrri area had a make-over before Olympics games in 2004, transitioning from a neighbourhood with a dangerous reputation and a criminal past to a gentrified district full of tastefully designed bar and restaurants, becoming maybe the most fashionable and trendy area in the centre of Athens.
Athens street art guide
“Owl” by Blaqk
Athens street art guide

But, even if the Municipality of Athens made it an area designated for nightlife, wandering around Psyrri during the day you will discover authentic craftsmen’s stores (a testimony to its past as a working-class neighbourhood full of leather workers’ shops and small factories) and you will come across beautiful large murals.

Athens street art guide

Psyrri is a very colourful neighbourhood where you can find great street art and some interesting art galleries as well (such as a.antonopoulou.art, AD gallery and Sarri12).

Athens street art guide
Athens street art guide
Look for Alexandros Vasmoulakis’ and Vangelis Hoursoglou’s art: they are both from the pioneering generation that brought public art into the streets of Athens for the very first time.
Athens street art guide
Alexandros Vasmoulakis in Psyrri, Athens
Athens street art guide
Vangelis Hoursoglou (a.k.a. Woozy) upon Monastiraki metro station

Here is a street art map of Psyrri:

Athens street art guide

Athens street art guide > ANAFIOTIKA

Nestled under the Acropolis, Anafiotika is a village-like neighborhood of few small typical Greek houses which make you feel as if you were on an Greek island. But the real surprise is that within Anafiotika’s maze of narrow streets and stone houses you find a lot of street art!
Athens street art guide
two black cats (one of which is by the French artist Oré)

Despite the fact that almost all street artists you find in Anafiotika are from France (go figure), the first piece I found at the beginning of my hunt is one of Dimitris Taxis’ poetical and melancholic characters.

Athens street art guide

A few steps forward, I stopped to look at the panoramic view over Athens’ roofs and I was surprised to see a Gregos’ mask stuck on the corner of a building, which reminded me that the French artist spent a couple of years in Athens when he was younger and that he still has a strong bond with the town.

Athens street art guide
mask in clay by Gregos

I entered Anafiotika’s maze from a narrow alley hidden between Prytaniou and Stratonos street all covered by LOAF’s artworks, whose bright colours look even brighter on those Greek-white walls.

Athens street art guide
Athens street art guide
As I had the farsightedness to venture close to the Acropolis on 1st of January morning (when everybody else was still recovering from NYE and all souvenir shops were firmly closed), I had the village-like atmosphere of Anafiotika all to myself; I was amazed by the authentic charm this small area of Athens still retains, hidden somewhere within its characteristic tiny houses, and I meditated on the fact that this very touristic and very central hood has a lot of street art! For some reason, this still seems surprising to me: I’ve always found street art in outer areas (the further from the historic centre, the better) but Athens definitely breaks this rule.
Athens street art guide
black cat by Oré
Athens street art guide
Oré + Basek

Here is my street art itinerary in Anafiotika (…and that’s the closest I got to the Acropolis!)

Athens street art guide

 

Athens street art guide > GAZI

Gazi is the neighbourhood developed around the former gas factory, which was transformed by the Municipality of Athens into a trendy cultural centre (Technopolis).
Athens street art guide
Technopolis, the former Gas Factory of Athens

The Municipality also designated Gazi as a night-life district and the area is now full of clubs and restaurants (as seen here).

Athens street art guide
“Clockwork” by INO, 2013
Athens street art guide

Street art played a great role in this transformation: you can find many large murals along Pireos street by INOSTMTS and many others, while, if you venture as far as Konstantinoupoleos street, you will see a few windows of Borondo’s “Shame” left intact, a work-on-glass originally showing eight tormented, faceless and naked bodies engraved majestically.

Athens street art guide
“Access Control” by INO, 2014
Athens street art guide
“Shame” by Borondo

For some more street art head to the southern and western exterior walls of ILPAP, the bus depot, beside the Kerameikos archaeological area.

Athens street art guide

Here is the street art map of Gazi:

Athens street art guide

Athens street art guide > EXARCHIA

As I said last time, I chose to stay in Exarchia during my week in Athens, despite many locals trying to scare me away from this hood, a “stronghold of dangerous anarchists” according to many. But I figured that beginning every day from Exarchia’s colourful streets would allow me to explore local street art far and wide, as far as the last hidden pedestrian alley. :-)
Athens street art guide
Athens street art guide
Oré in Exarchia
Athens street art guide
WD: Wild Drawings
Exarchia’s walls attract both internationally renowned street artists -such as Borondo and INO– and rebellious kids coming from Athenian suburbs with a spray can in the jacket.
Athens street art guide
street art by Borondo in Exarchia
Athens street art guide
“Wake Up” by INO, 2014

Some very colourful spots you really shouldn’t miss are the Polytechnic, the Alexandros Grigoropoulos memorial (a shrine to the 15-year-old guy shot dead by a policeman in 2008), the autonomous park at the intersection of Navarinou street and Zoodochou Pigis street (a tiny park which was meant to be turned into a parking lot but was taken over by activists and turned into a garden instead, on the cry of “their parking, our park”) and one more “autonomous area” at the end of the stairs on Koundouriotou street.

Athens street art guide
inside the Polytechnic
Athens street art guide
at the autonomous park

Besides the street art, what I liked about Exarchia is the communal spirit, a sort of neighborhood pride and mutual self-help, or -as my Greek friend Nikolas put it- “we are all anarchists, when there is the need to”, meaning that even in other parts of the city Athenians are sympathetic with the social and political fights taking place in Exarchia.

Athens street art guide
Athens street art guide
The hood is inhabited by students and politicised youth, left-wing movements and intellectuals, a pretty interesting fauna mirrored by a bunch of pretty interesting shops and alternative businesses such as independent bookshops, bo-ho cafés, vinyl shops, co-ops and social enterprises.
Athens street art guide
Athens street art guide

You are now entering free Exarchia ;-)

Athens street art guide

BONUS TRACK: NEOS KOSMOS (AND MORE!)

Still on 1st of January, from Anafiotika I walked all the way to Neos Kosmos, going through all those underrated residential neighbourhoods behind the Acropolis where tourists never go, such as Koukaki and Makrygianni. My destination was the Onassis Cultural Centre, where INO painted a large outdoor mural with the image of a woman’s face on crushed paper.
Athens street art guide
“Creasing” by INO, 2014

Wandering around the inner part of Neos Kosmos, which –by the way- I found to be a very “Balkan” area of Athens, I arrived as far as Kasomouli street, where I spotted a beautiful and very colourful large mural by A. Kouvari (painted by M. Anastasakos and Kretsis Crew).

Athens street art guide

This mural was painted in 2011 as part of the project “Art & public space – paintings on the buildings of Athens” by the Athens School of Fine Arts and the Greek Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change. Two other large murals were also realized thanks to this project and they are located in two completely different areas of Athens but, as this is already a “bonus track”, I will include them here. ;-)

The first is the one I used as an opening picture and it speaks against Greek economic crisis. It’s an artwork by P. Tsakonas, located on Piraeus street, and it is based on Albrecht Durer’s drawing “Praying Hands” (1508).
The other one, again from 2011, is near Syntagma square: “No Signal”, from an artwork by P. Sklavenitis, painted by M. Anastasakos and Kretsis Crew.
Athens street art guide

Going around graffiti hunting was one of my favourite activities in Athens, not only because I love street art but also because, as INO put it in an interview for the New York Times, “if you want to learn about a city, look at its walls”.

UPDATE 2016: check out my facebook album with 60+ photos and locations of what’s new in town!  

PEEK THROUGH | You find these murals in my video “7 days in Athens…in 70 seconds

 You can hover over these (or any image) to quickly pin it!
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  • Great post! Athens is my adopted home and even though I’ve lived here a while now, you’ve introduced me to yet more for me to go and discover. Thanks for sharing!

    • Hi Rebecca! thanks for commenting, that’s a great honor coming from you (I follow your blog!) Hope to see you around often! :)

  • Anonymous

    Frm the Onassis Centre there is another INO work very nearby at a school in Nea Smyrni. https://www.facebook.com/streetartgalerie/posts/206174072921623?stream_ref=5

    • Hi! thank you for adding such a useful info. so bad I missed it! :( but that’s a good reason to come back to Athens soon!

  • globejunkie

    One of the few interesting posts about Athens :) Planning a trip there and Meteora in a month and I always ‘choose’ a destination for its street art (and food). Hoping to find new stuff added to the above!

    My favourite destination till now for Street art is Istanbul, hoping to have another city added to the list!

    Thank you for your post and love your blog :)

    • Hi, thank you for your comment! I’ve been to Meteora as well, have you read my post? There is no street art over there, but I’ve been to Thessaloniki during the same trip and there I found some great murals. :)
      Another great destination for street art lovers is Lisbon, have you been there? Or at the moment I’m living in Bristol, Banksy’s hometown, and there is a great street art scene over here too!

      • globejunkie

        Yes seen the article about Meteora and found some useful things over there too! Haven’t been to Lisbon but need to go there soon, just the flight connections from Malta are not so good to Portugal! :(

        Another two destination I’ve been with good street are Warsaw (upcoming) and Naples!

        Checkout my instagram shots from both cities

        Warsaw: https://www.instagram.com/p/BFo6GGBDTCq/
        Naples: https://www.instagram.com/p/_HnlzrjTBJ/

        I should update my blog but always gets lazy! My travel blog is basically Instagram at the moment :)

        • yeah, I love Naples and I love its street art scene! I’ve been to Ponticelli (in the outskirts of Naples) and written about it on this blog… check out the Thessaloniki post as well, great street art over there. I haven’t been to Poland yet, but Lodz looks very promising ;)

        • ps. I’m about to publish a post about street art in Manchester… I’m editing the pics right now, almost done! :)

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