Athens, seen from above, is a white ocean of roofs meeting the Mediterranean sea somewhere at the horizon.
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.
Athens street art guide > METAXOURGEIO
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.
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).
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.
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.
|street art by Borondo|
|“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!
|“Owl” by Blaqk|
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.
|Alexandros Vasmoulakis in Psyrri, Athens|
|Vangelis Hoursoglou (a.k.a. Woozy) upon Monastiraki metro station|
Here is a street art map of Psyrri:
Athens street art guide > ANAFIOTIKA
|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.
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.
|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.
|black cat by Oré|
|Oré + Basek|
Here is my street art itinerary in Anafiotika (…and that’s the closest I got to the Acropolis!)
Athens street art guide > GAZI
|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).
|“Clockwork” by INO, 2013|
Street art played a great role in this transformation: you can find many large murals along Pireos street by INO, STMTS 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.
|“Access Control” by INO, 2014|
|“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 > EXARCHIA
|street art by Borondo in Exarchia|
|“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.
|inside the Polytechnic|
|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.
BONUS TRACK: NEOS KOSMOS (AND MORE!)
|“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).
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. ;-)
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: NEW WALLS, NEW SPOTS!
Two years ago I wrote a quite comprehensive guide to street art in Athens, with pictures from and maps of the most…