On the one hand, Exarhia is known for its anti-capitalist politics and its squatted buildings; on the other, it has loads of thriving little shops, especially for collectors' items and books, and publishing houses. The bar scene is one of the city's most lively, distinctly casual and student-friendly, with plenty of live music waiting to be stumbled upon.

Plateia Exarhion

This square (triangle, really) is the centre of neighbourhood life, and there is very often some political event taking place. Pick a spot for prime people-watching – any of the cafes on Themistokleous, or, at a slight remove but with a view downhill, Ivi on Stournari.

Streets as Galleries

The walls, alleys and stairways of Exarhia are adorned with some of the world's most creative street art, often with a pointed underlying political message. At the corner of Mesolongiou and Tzavella, note the memorial plaque for Alexis Grigoropoulos, whose 2008 murder by police was a political flashpoint across the country.

Reclaimed Square

In 2009 the inhabitants of Exarhia claimed most of a city block, formerly a parking lot, to use as a green space. Now Navarino Park has a playground and fruit trees, and it's still all planted and maintained locally, and always developing.

Old-World Taverna

Lunch at Exarhia institution Barbagiannis, a low-key mayirio (cook house) on a quiet corner. Choose from the variety of big trays of traditional dishes behind the counter, such as pastitsio (layers of baked macaroni and minced meat), washed down with house wine.

Records & Comics

Exarhia's fun and super-niche shops include the chance to pick up, among other things, old-school vinyl and quirky comics. Serious music fans comb Plan 59, for instance, for vintage Greek psychedelia.

Buy Nothing

The secondhand shop Skoros represents Exarhia's community spirit. It's not actually a shop at all, as there's no money involved. The policy is 'give what you can, take what you like.'

Head for the Hill

Strefi Hill, up the (graffiti-bedecked) stairs on the northeast side of the neighbourhood, is where residents congregate around sundown. Have a beer at Exostrefis.

Go Cretan for Dinner

Neighbourhood denizens love Rakoumel and Oxo Nou for their super Cretan food, featuring mountain herbs and slow-cooked meats. These lively restaurants are just a block apart, so you could sample small plates at both.

Live Local Music

Athenians come to Exarhia for its offbeat bars, which dot nearly every block and often host music. The lively strip around the corner of Koletti and Mesolongiou is popular with students.