I was so happy to hear that TBEX, the travel blog exchange will be held in Athens, Greece in 2014. There’s a simple reason for this. Although I’m not from here, it’s been my home for the past three and a bit years. In that time I’ve come to feel very proud of Athens: it’s lively and vibrant, friendly and fun, parties go on all night, food is incredible and so cheap and is nothing like what you see on tv… it’s much more than that. Everyone knows about the sites like Anafiotika, The Acropolis, and Plaka. All incredible sites that I never get tired of… but I wanted to share some practical local knowledge – when you first arrive somewhere, where should you eat, drink or dance? This list is a bit nightlife heavy and I could have kept writing all day – but seriously, who would be still going on page 55? If you’ve got any other questions about local stuff to do or see during TBEX Athens, please feel free to get in touch, I’ll do my best to help out.
Image via @ flickr
Head for the Acropolis, but instead of turning right up to the Parthenon, turn left and watch out for a metal staircase that leads you up to the open rocks opposite. A free and lovely place to soak up a glorious sunset behind the ancient temple. Known to locals or me certainly) as the slippery rocks, it’s best to wear good shoes up there. There are also lots of bars with great views in Athens, I’ve been to many of them. If you’re in Monastiraki avoid A for Athens. The overpriced drinks and rude staff don’t help you appreciate the view too much. Instead, head for the roof of the AthenStyle hostel for decent value drinks and a panoramic terrace or the cool surrounds of a 6th floor roof bar called Sole e Luna in a hotel in Neos Kosmos, where you can find a sunset to rival the Monastiraki bars and enjoy an expertly made Mojito.
One of the joys of Athens is its café culture. Anytime day or night you’ll find friends meeting and chatting for hours over a coffee and obviously that means there’s a pretty incredible selection of places to indulge in some caffeine. This list could be endless, but I’ve picked some personal favourites. A very recent discovery is a tiny secret café and library just off Exarcheia Square at Stounari Street, dedicated to Minos Volonakis, a famous theatre director. Loux on Thessalonikis 12 in the district of Petralona is in the very middle of the city, but has no cars or traffic. Even in winter it’s busy and well worth a trip!
Rakor in Kerameikos has a really authentic flavour and can be found on Paltaion 10 & Granikou. For a quick snack Thanasis in Monastiraki has delicious souvlaki, and is favoured by locals and visitors alike. Rozalia’s Taverna on Valetsiou 54 in Exarcheia is another favourite, a traditional vibe with plenty of character and fantastic surroundings. Rakaki is a cute Cretan taverna with lovely food and the most delicious tiny olives as a starter, it’s almost worth going just for those. It’s found at Moschonision 2 Kesariani. Café Avissinia, Avissinia Square just down from Monastiraki metro does fantastic food in a beautifully old fashioned way. For vegetarians, there are lots of salad and other options any tavern as well as dedicated restaurants like Avocado at 30 Nikis Street in Syntagma. In the middle of a typical downtown Athenian stoa, a shopping arcade is a fantasitc little throwback to the 60s taverna called Yperokeanio. On Perikleous 46 it’s a quintessential city experience with tasty meze dishes on offer and very decent tsipouro. The best taverna in town, however is in Panormou, and is an absolute secret. Not by choice, just because it’s impossible to find. Ask me nicely and I’ll let you know where!
It’s good to know that Athenians don’t go out until late. Things usually don’t start to get going until after midnight, but when they do, you know it’ll go on all night! Brettos in Plaka, is perhaps the city’s best known bar. Its coloured bottles create a warm glow onto the street outside, it’s over 100 years old and makes its own liquers in 30 flavours. Find it on Kidathineon 41. The Speakeasy is another secret spot in Athens. At 12 Lekka Street, you’ll find… not much actually. There are no signs or any indication there is a bar inside, but ring a doorbell and you’ll be buzzed into a time warp with some of the tastiest cocktails in town. Grab a spot on the couches outside Ginger Ale cocktail bar and lounge in Exarcheia Square, the most bohemian area of town. A relaxed atmosphere, with cool 60s furniture, it’s an Athens establishment. October weather in Athens will still be warm, but won’t be very hot, so it’s the perfect time to try out some rakomelo, this is raki warmed with honey and served hot in small glass bottles in almost every bar in the central neighbourhood of Psyrri, I especially like Psira Bar on Miaouli 19. Around Agias Eirinis Square in the centre beside Monastiraki, you’ll find a heap of bars, filled with the coolest Athenians any time of day, sipping microbrewery beer or finest selection coffee. Finally another favourite, is the 2.50 bar (my nickname) otherwise known as Poikili Stoa. It’s slap, bang in the centre of town, has great prices and a brilliant view.
Athens tilt shift via @ Flickr
TBEX hotels – just a couple of suggestions near the Megaron, if you need any other suggestions, I’d be happy to help!
Crowne Plaza Athens: walking distance to the Megaron with every modern amenity available.
Holiday Suites Athens: also within walking distance to the Megaron and good value.
Amalia Hotel: Centrally located at Syntagma, just two metro stops to the Megaron and excellent facilities.
Athinais Hotel: Walking distance to the Convention centre and right next to Mavili Square, with plenty of bars, souvlakia and shops on your doorstep
Fresh Hotel: In downtown Athens, next to Monastiraki metro, Fresh hotel is striking with its clean lines, urban atmosphere and rooftop air lounge.