Some of the most interesting up-and-coming areas of Athens – Thissío, Gázi, Keramikós and Roúf – lie to the west of the centre, where the recent extension of Metro line 3 has acted as a further spur to the pace of change. Nightlife and restaurants are the chief attractions here, but there’s also a cluster of new museums and galleries. Here too is Kerameikos, site of a substantial section of the walls of ancient Athens and an important burial ground. South of Thissío, things are rather more traditional. The hills of the Pnyx and Filopáppou offer a pleasant, green escape from the city as well as fine views down over the Acropolis and Agora. On the west side of the hills, the residential zone of Áno Petrálona is a real delight, entirely untouristy, with some excellent tavernas and a great open-air cinema, though absolutely nothing in the way of sights.
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The cafés of Thissío, with tables set out on huge terraces above the Agora site, offer some of the finest views of the Acropolis, especially at night. Head south from Metro Thissío and you can follow pedestrianized Apóstolou Pávlou past these terraces and right around the edge of the Ancient Agora and Acropolis sites. It’s an especially rewarding walk in the early evening, when the setting sun illuminates this side of the rock and the cafés start to fill with an anticipatory buzz. As you follow the street round there are a number of small excavations at the base of the hills on your right. First, immediately below the church of Ayía Marína, is a rocky area identified as the earliest known sanctuary of Zeus in Attica; there’s not a great deal to see through the fence, but it’s clear that the rocks have been cut into terraces.