One of the first things you notice in Athens is that there’s graffiti practically everywhere you look.
The walls of the city are covered with tags, paste-ups, stickers, murals and any other kind of urban art imaginable.
Frankly speaking, not all of it is professional or particularly appealing, but there are some very impressive pieces of street art in Athens waiting to be discovered.
I go searching for cool urban art in every city I visit and it’s always best to do it with a guided tour.
Taking an Athens street art tour
To help us find the real street art gems, we took a guided street art walking tour with Nicos from Alternative Athens.
A lot of the street art in Athens has social and political messages. The economic crisis in Greece has inspired many of the artworks, and we needed to understand them in context.
We also wanted to know who the famous graffiti artists in Athens are.
Our guide met us in the city centre, close to our hotel, the Foundry Suites, and gave us a quick introduction to street art in general and to the urban art scene in Athens.
As I knew little about the underground scene in Athens and even less about how its different neighbourhoods have been changing and developing in recent years, getting this kind of insights from a local was super helpful.
The tour took us through different neighbourhoods, along high roads and narrow streets.
We saw different types of art, especially large murals.
Beautiful street art in Athens
Here’s a selection of some of the artworks we saw on the street art tour.
One of the first artworks we saw on our tour was a massive mural with colourful fingers on a bright yellow background on the wall of an old bus garage.
The name of the piece is Zero Stigma by an artist called KEZ.
It was commissioned by a hospital and deals with the subject of AIDS.
It was through this piece that we learnt about UrbanAct, a Greek initiative promoting alternative culture.
One of the things they do is organise street art festivals and this public mural was created during one of their events.
Da Vinci inspired murals
A series of pieces, all inspired by classic works by da Vinci, cover an entire wall.
It’s so big you have to cross the street to see everything properly.
The art was made by Ino, who’s one of the most prominent street artists in Athens right now.
This “da Vinci with a twist” series includes an interesting version of the last meal, depicting politicians, with the hands of people reaching out to them from below.
In another mural you’ll see the eyes of the Mona Lisa with an anarchist and a policeman painted inside each eye.
The Telecoms Building street art
I’m not sure what this piece is called, but we learnt that it was commissioned by a telecoms company to be painted on its building.
The subject is virus attacks and AI. These are two pieces that interact, by two different street artists: Ino and Iva.
Another piece by Ino with a strong social and cultural message.
The character wears a crown representing wealth, but has these horrible, hollow eyes…
The Athens Mosaic
A cheerful, colourful mosaic piece, covering an entire wall.
Each tile answers the question “what won’t you change in Athens?”
Make Love Not War
On the wall of a building facing Gazi Square, there is a powerful painting that’s hard to miss.
It’s by street artist Billy Gee. The tank bursts through the wall with a cool 3D effect, while the couple is embracing.
The name “Make Love Not War” is made up, though it might actually be its name…
This is another work by Ino. We learnt to recognise his style: Black, white and grey, with splashes of blue paint.
As it’s painted on two different walls, if you look at it from a different angle from across the road, it looks like the two paintings are interacting.
Books, Past and Present
This is a lovely paste-up that was covered with tags unfortunately…
You’ll notice the guy is sitting on the classic, historical Greek books (or concepts), but carrying the load of financial difficulties on his head.
It’s a really pessimistic piece about the gap between the Greeks’ ancient wisdom and their contemporary problems.
This political street art piece is about immigration from the Middle East and Africa.
The letters on top say “hello” in Arabic, a welcoming message to immigrants.
The face and hoodie of the character painted are full of symbols. It was interesting to reveal their meanings with the help of our guide.
This mural has a surprising story behind it.
The dog with the crown on his head had passed away and was immortalised on this street corner.
But it wasn’t an ordinary dog; It’s a very famous dog. A dog with his own Wikipedia entry, his own Facebook page and a spot on Time magazine’s 100 Personalities of the Year list for 2011.
Riot Dog Loukanikos used to accompany street protesters in Athens. He would join them on every protest and became a local folk hero over the years.
Seriously, Google it.
More Street Art To Discover in Athens
There’s plenty of great street art all around the city. So much you might feel overwhelmed!
The tour couldn’t cover everything of course. Our guide specifically told us he was not taking us to the neighbourhood of Exarcheia, because the locals don’t appreciate visits from groups of tourists. You can visit independently though if you want to discover more great art.
I put together a gallery of more artworks that I liked from around Athens.
More street art from around the world
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I was a guest of Alternative Athens on this tour. All opinions are my own.