If the Acropolis is the city's historic centre and Syntagma its political one, Omonia is its practical centre, a transit hub and the location of key administrative offices. It's not a destination, but you'll inevitably pass through here – perhaps on your way to neighbouring Exarhia and the National Archaeological Museum. Exarhia is most famous for its squat scene and its vocal anarchists, but it's an interesting mix of students (it’s near the universities), artists, actors, immigrants, families, old lefties and intellectuals, against a backdrop of graffiti and occasional riot police.
Most visitors to Athens come to Exarhia only to visit the National Archaeological Museum, a tour of which can easily fill a half-day. But even if you're not particularly interested in Exarhia's counterculture, it's a convenient place for a lunch break, with a big variety of affordable restaurants, from student-casual to just the right amount of elegant. As for Omonia, you don't have to plan to come here, precisely, as so many streets and metro lines lead here, but when you do, take a coffee break on Plateia Omonias to appreciate the daytime bustle and great cross-section of people.
If you want to dig deeper in Exarhia, take a stroll down side streets to look at the most modern of arts: fantastical murals and pointed graffiti, some whimsical, but most with a serious message. And on any given day, there's usually some kind of political activity on Plateia Exarhion – banners at the very least, and possibly a demonstration. The area is also known for its hole-in-the-wall collectors' shops, particularly records, so if you're a vinyl freak, allow some time for crate digging too.
Be sure to circle back to Exarhia in the evening if you like casual drinking holes, and especially if you have an interest in classic rembetika (the last of the great late-night venues is here) or the interpretation by younger musicians that has become so popular in recent years. Rather than eating dinner in one restaurant, you can bar-hop a bit, following your ears to good music and eating mezedhes (snacks) with every round of drinks.
- National Archaeological Museum Marvelling at the skill of classical artists at this enormous treasure house. You'll almost certainly get footsore before you've seen everything.
- Strefi Hill Enjoying the view over the city, as well as the uniquely chilled-out atmosphere at Exostrefis cafe.
- Live music Stumbling on a small bar like Feidiou 2 Music Cafe, with a couple of musicians and a crowd that sings along with every word.
- Cretan food Sampling one of Greece's proudest and most diverse regional cuisines at I Kriti or another one of the excellent restaurants here.
- Riviera Watching a classic film or arty shorts at this summer cinema in Exarhia, one of two with appropriately offbeat programming.
Exarhia can be politically heated even when the rest of the city is calm. Take the temperature on Tositsa, the street on the south side of the archaeological museum, as well as Plateia Exarhion – both key spots for demonstrations that can bring in the riot police.