Exarchia has long been a hub of radicalism and counterculture. Wedged between upmarket Kolonaki and residential Kypseli, Exarchia is a bohemian enclave where students, intellectuals, artists and long-standing residents navigate their everyday chores with a punk rock attitude. Or in the case of local-boy-made-good Leon of Athens, a Greek indie-pop attitude. The singer-songwriter (real name Leon Veremis) developed his soulful electro sound while living in Exarchia. Despite spending most of his time in London or on the road these days, he still keeps his music studio in this idiosyncratic neighbourhood.
Elsewhere, squats and contemporary art spaces grace the streets around the namesake square and almost every surface is covered in murals by well-known street artists (and tags by lesser known vandals). Exarchia is the place to enjoy an arthouse film or an edgier take on Athens’ famous nightlife, according to Leon. “You’ll find it in the small clubs, bars and live music scenes—like the legendary An Club, where many of us cut our clubbing teeth,” he says. It’s also the heart of literary Athens: you’ll encounter as many bookshops and publishing houses here as there are cafes. “Exarchia attracts a broad crowd, from exchange students to migrants to middle-aged creatives,” says the performer. “I like that it’s a little rough around the edges; because that roughness weaves itself into the everyday sense of a real Athenian neighbourhood.”