City Guide: Athens, Greece

Acropolis of Athens. Google images.

We ask people who have either moved or travelled to certain areas in Greece to provide us with relevant information to help those travelling to these destinations! We provide the traveller with the headings and the rest is written by them based on their own personal experiences! Happy reading and happy travelling!

Athens is the heartbeat of Greece. It’s always buzzing with energy and with people from all over the world. The beauty of Athens is that within easy reach of magnificent archaeological sites are breath-taking beaches and relaxed Greek tavernas serving everything from Greek beer, ouzo to grilled octopus. Not to mention that the nightlife and the vibe is on a level of its own. It truly is a city that never sleeps!

List and describe your top two ‘must see’s’ of the city. These can be tourist attractions, squares, galleries or whatever. 

It’s almost impossible to have a “top two” when discussing a city such as Athens. So instead, I’ll suggest the top sights. For more information, click on the label and you will be linked to a different site for information.

Stadium.

Stadium.

List and describe the food and restaurants available as well as provide your favourite. 

Well this one is easy. Greek food is all over, gyros pita, souvlakia, Greek-style fries, fresh sea food, crepes, pancakes and loukoumades are all over. In Monastiraki, Syntagma, Glyfada and Kolonaki you should be able to find these stores easily. For those looking for something classier, once again, in these areas you will find a wide range of classy restaurants to cater for your specific taste.

List and describe the bar/club life and where you would recommend going. 

There is definitely something for everyone in Athens when it comes to nightlife. From clubs and bars playing Greek commercial music, hip hop, commercial English music to, of course, bouzoukia or live performances by your favourite Greek singers. Athens is somewhat different to other places in terms of nightlife – expect people to only show up after midnight (sometimes later) if you want a vibe and be prepared for clubs / bars that don’t close before 10am the following morning.

Head to Gazi (get off at Keiramikos subway station) where you will find a mix of bars and clubs which cater both to students and young adults. It’s a square surrounded by many clubs, bars and restaurants which makes for a very convenient night out. Many well-known clubs are in this area as well as music halls where you can find your favourite Greek artists singing live if you’re lucky. You will find similar types of clubs, bars and restaurants in Monastiraki, Psirri and Thissio areas, the good news is that you’re spoilt for choice, the bad news is that you’re spoilt for choice.

In areas like Glyfada and Kolonaki you will find a similar mix of clubs, bars and restaurants but generally these cater to young adults and an older crowd.

In addition, in areas such as Glyfada and Palaio Faliro you can also find a wide variety of sea-side bars and clubs as well as bouzoukia and live artists. Make sure to google where and when your Greek favourite artists are performing so that you don’t miss out!

Bouzoukia 

List and describe the transport available/is it necessary/do you walk/is there a bus/taxi/uber/train/underground?

I walk and mainly make use of public transport. Public transport in Athens is generally very easy to use and highly accessible no matter where you find yourself. There are 4 different modes of public transport in Athens – the Tram, Trolley, Buses and Underground. Apart from the Google Maps app there’s also another useful app called “Moovit” which I highly recommend if you never want to miss a stop and/or want the quickest route. Although generally safe, watch for pickpockets on the metro and at the markets. With regard to taxis, there’s an app called “Taxibeat” which works practically the same way as Uber and is just as easy to use – definitely give it a try for those long distance / late night trips. If taking taxis without the use of an app (which I wouldn’t recommend if you can’t speak Greek), ask the driver to use the meter or negotiate the price in advance to avoid any unexpected surprises.

Your recommended amount of days to stay in Athens?

 Forever! But in all seriousness, it’s impossible to take in all the beauty of Athens in a single trip. I’ve been here almost a year and still discover new spots or “hidden gems” practically every day. If I had to recommend an amount of days to stay I’d say nothing less than two weeks. If you’re looking for a holiday, I would recommend that you break the stay in Athens after a few days with a visit to the islands as things are very quick-paced in Athens.

Recommended area to stay in?

This one is very budget specific. The top areas I’d recommend for beach-lovers are Glyfada, Vouliagmeni, Varkiza – however these areas can be pricey and are far from the center. The best areas to stay within the city centre are Syntagma, Monastiraki and Kolonaki. Student travellers tend to opt for accommodation within the Monastiraki area.

Glyfada Shopping Streets. Google Images.

Any beautiful churches you have been to and suggest visiting?

 All over the city! In and around Monastiraki one can find a variety of churches (both new and ancient). The well-known Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens (which is regularly shown on ERT) is a 5-minute walk from either the Monastiraki or Syntagma metro stations. Monastiraki is a flea market neighbourhood where one will be able to buy anything and everything Greek (which includes komboskina, church icons and other Greek Orthodox products). The area is named after Monastiraki Square, which in turn derives its name from Church of Pantanassa located within the square.

Any close day trips that you recommend making time for whilst staying there? 

As regards islands, Aegina, Hydra, Poros seems to be a favourite day trip where one can get on a “hop on hop off” ferry. Another favourite amongst locals is to make a day trip to Nafplio (and the surrounding areas for beaching and food) Mycenae and Ancient Olympia. You may want to consider booking accommodation for a night and returning the following day as these places have a lot to offer. Otherwise a day trip to the beaches which are more outside Athens (Varkiza and further) is also a big must!

Any extra information you feel would be relevant to someone wanting to travel to Athens?

Crime has risen in Athens with the onset of the financial crisis. Though violent street crime is very rare, travellers should still be aware of visiting certain areas, especially late at night. Streets surrounding an area called Omonia have become markedly unsafe, there has been an increase of junkies and dodgy individuals in the area, avoid the area especially at night. In South African terms, the area is similar to Braamfontein / Hillbrow although still worth a visit during the day and only in selected areas within Omonia. It’s sad because Omonia was once one of the most beautiful and wealthy areas of Athens.

If you can, provide a suggested 3 full day itinerary:

Day 1 – Visit Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum (this usually takes a full half day), Lunch at Monastiraki Square @ Savvas Kabab (souvlakia) or surrounding Greek taverns, Shop at the flea market and Ermou in Syntagma and see all the various artefacts, history and churches, late afternoon sundowners @ 360 / A for Athens / Couleur Locale or a variety of other rooftop bars in the area.

Savvas Kebab. Rooftop Garden. Google Images.

Day 2 – Beach day: Take a taxi to Varkiza beach (or surrounding beaches) and rent a spot on the beach, sip on cocktails and enjoy traditional Greek souvlakia and a gyro pita on the beach, visit Galaxy Bar (Hilton, Athens) for sundowners or cocktails with a view of Athens at night.

Varkiza Beach. Google Images.

Day 3 – Visit the Benaki museum (Kolonaki) for your mix of culture, grab a bite of Greek food in Kolonaki, hike or take the teleferic up Mount Lycabettus and grab sundowners with a view of Athens, the Acropolis and the sea. My advice would be to hike up to see the beauty of Athens from all angles as you hike up and to only use the teleferic on your way down.

Interview questions answered by George Patrinos. Currently living in Athens. Some images belong to him and others are from Google images.