Museum of Illusions
How hard is it to hack your own brain? A day out at the Museum of Illusions will teach you not to believe your eyes (at least, not always).
If you like brainteasers, are hooked on solving mental puzzles or find optical illusions amusing, you’ve come to the right place. Here, you’ll find a room that makes you lose your balance; you’ll meld with a friend, thanks to a mirror; you’ll lose your head over a dinner invitation and get your fill of riddles. At all the exhibits, you’ll discover the reason for the illusions.
One of the latest additions to Athens, the museum has already proven great success, getting more than 50,000 visitors in its first few months of operation.
119 Ermou (Entrance from 12 Astiggos), Monastiraki, Tel. (+30) 210.323.8065, museumofillusions.gr
Open Sun-Thu 10:00-22:00, Fri-Sat 10:00-11:00.
Tickets at €9 per person, €6 (children 5-18, under 5s free), €7 (students), €23 (family, two adults and two children)
Athens Pinball Museum
Pulling a lever fires a small silver ball into a labyrinthine universe filled with multicoloured flashing lights. As you attempt to keep the ball out of the gaping abyss by hammering away at the flippers, you’re utterly engaged. The cacophony of electronic sounds washes over you as you’re transported back to a state of childlike joy.
Over 100 pinball machines have been completely restored and reconditioned; they flash as brightly as they did when new, LED screens keep track of the score and each one broadcasts that satisfying “ping” as the ball hits its target. These retro gems (made mainly in the USA by Williams, Atari, Gottlieb and other companies between 1957 and 2007) aren’t like most museum items; they’re all fully operational and waiting on players. The best part? There’s no coin slot, because all the games are free – which changes the player’s frame of mind.
“In the old days, people would slap or even kick these beauties!” says co-owner Makis Gountaras, who’s been a pinball technician all his adult life and is responsible for the daily upkeep of the machines. “When money’s involved, there’s stress. Here, the machines are more player-friendly. This is pure entertainment; you just keep playing.”
The museum’s two owners scoured the country for pinball machines, rescuing them from storage rooms in clubs and amusement arcades. They took out classified ads in order to buy them from their previous owners, unearthing one of the rarest examples they have at a grill house in Crete. Now you can play pinball for hours – without running out of quarters – on machines with themes that reflect the popular trends of their eras, from Star Wars to Guns N’ Roses, The Addams Family and even Playboy Magazine.
2 Makri & 7 Dionysiou Areopagitou, Tel. (+30) 210.924.5958, fb.com/AthensPinballMuseum
Open daily 09:00-23:00. Day ticket at €10.
There are rooms to which you have to bring a second set of clothes and shoes with you because you might get wet or muddy; there are some that require agility and strength; and there are even some that aren’t advisable for those with heart conditions!
In just four years since the first escape room appeared in Greece, they have become a thundering success. Athens alone now hosts more than 250 interactive spaces – which often feature live performers, too – that call on different combinations of skills and talents from those seeking to escape.
Great Escape has its own creative team which devises highly original concepts. “The aim is to activate as many of the players’ senses as possible,” says owner Ioannis Liatsos, who recently took the escape experience to the next level, creating Europe’s biggest escape room – with a floor area of 1,000 square meters. Another room is expected to open soon in a one-time orphanage downtown.
12 Lepeniotou, Tel. (+30) 213.035.4432. greatescape.gr
Tickets from €10 per person.
The VR Project
I find myself sinking in an immense sea full of coral and with a school of little fish surrounding me. I’ve survived a shipwreck but am not frightened. A whale passes by just before my field of vision is blocked by pink jellyfish – which I’m able to touch and make retract.
All of these experiences, which straddle the line between dream and reality, take place in the center of Athens at the VR Project, which showcases the latest immersive virtual reality systems. Before I finish here, I’ll have had the chance to draw in the air, to be a passenger on the Titanic and to experience the 1969 Apollo moon landing alongside Neil Armstrong, all in a multi-award-winning experience created in tandem with NASA.
“Once, a customer even cried,” says co-owner Yiannis Parcharidis. “It had been his dream to travel to the Moon. A group of friends who reached the summit of Everest came out of the room overjoyed, but also absolutely drained!” More than 60 virtual reality experiences are on offer; you can visit alone or with others, aged 10 and up. Groups of up to four playing in different rooms can meet up in the same digital environment as avatars.
18 Athinas (3rd floor), Monastiraki, Tel. (+30) 210.382.1832, thevrproject.gr
Open Tue-Fri 17:00-22:00, Sat 14:00-22:00, Sun 12:00-20:00.
Tickets at €15 per person for one hour (€10 on Thu), €50 for groups of four for one hour.