Athens Can Delight the Eye and Be an Eyesore

Athens is world famous for its incredible archaeological sites and…for its pervasive, building defacing, graffiti.

It’s easy to find online reports packed with examples of wonderful “Athens street art”, some of which is quite good indeed, but it is a lot harder to find such art while wandering around graffiti-strewn neighborhoods such as Exarcheia, just north of Syntagma Square in central Athens. What I saw were blocks and blocks of spray painted walls and rollup doorways. It was simply mindless, ugly tagging of private property.

Some commentators attribute it to sky-high youth unemployment (currently over 30%) and a sense of hopelessness engendered by the 2008 financial crisis, which Greece has yet to fully recover from, a recovery made harder by the crash of tourism during COVID. Others point out that Athens graffiti has been an issue for many decades, and blame a general lack of civic pride, exemplified by the national pastime of doing whatever it takes to avoid paying taxes.

Whatever the reason, it made exploring Athens on foot a wildly inconsistent experience, and it certainly cannot help the country’s image; tourist complaints online are legion.

Regardless, Athens is also full of pleasant surprises, such as a vintage typewriter shop (who uses these anymore other than Tom Hanks?) and the Central Market packed with meat and seafood but astonishingly not a single fly that I could see.

And if you are in the Exarcheia neighborhood and seek an escape from the spray paint, visit the fantastic National Archaeological Museum or climb the Lofos Likavitou Hill and enjoy the view.

One thought on “Athens Can Delight the Eye and Be an Eyesore

  1. Hi Barry,

    When Mary and I visited and stayed in Barcelona last June we noticed a lot of graffiti everywhere in the city. Almost all the roll up shop doors had graffiti plus walls and buildings. We don’t remember noticing it on the Island of Mallorca or in Palma the largest city on Mallorca.


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