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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. 

 

How To: Tzatziki & Taramosalata

Introducing our second monthly article – the ‘How To’. Once a month we will bring you a form of ‘how to’ piece in various different aspects – cooking, dancing, speaking Greek and so much more.

This month, we decided to start off with a yummy Greek recipe of two of our favourite dips, tzatziki and taramosalata. Add these to any meal with some pita bread and your guests will love you!

Happy cooking, happy eating! Mmmm.

Infographic designed & compiled by Eugenia Papathanassiu

Recipes sourced from:

https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/383616/tzatziki

& http://www.mygreekdish.com/recipe/taramasalata-recipe-greek-fish-roe-dip-taramosalata/

15 Greek Restaurants for Mother’s Day

Has your mama opted to take a personal day this Mother’s Day by not whipping up her typically sumptuous Sunday spread? If so, why not recreate a similar ambience by spoiling her and taking her to one of these Greek restaurants near you?

Have a look below at some our restaurant picks across South Africa! Click on the name of the restaurant to be directed to their website to see more.

Cape Town

Spiro’s Restaurant – Hout Bay, Cape Town

An afternoon drive to Spiro’s in Hout Bay guarantees customers an open-armed welcome by Spiro himself to his laid back establishment. A family-orientated appeal and a play area for the little ones top off a dining experience comprised of sizeable portions and well-priced wine. The Cycladic decor and stone-clad deck have often prompted customers to confuse the Atlantic for the Aegean.

   

Maria’s Greek Café – Gardens, Cape Town

Dining amidst the fairy-light adorned trees of Maria’s Greek Cafe resembles a romantic sunset picnic on a Mediterranean olive farm. If the family chooses to forgo this restaurant option on Sunday, why not bring a date to this rustic retreat? The anti-haute cuisine and acclaimed starters serve as the ultimate complement to some great conversation and could secure a ‘’nice Greek boy/girl’’ for mama.

   

Greek Fisherman Restaurant – V&A Waterfront, Cape Town

Many tourists flock toward this hotspot to dine amidst breathtaking views of the waterfront’s harbor and Table Mountain. With uplifting blue and white decor and an excellent location, the Greek Fisherman also serves as a suitable setting for sundowners. Check out their Mother’s Day special on their website!

   

Johannesburg

Parea Taverna – Illovo, Johannesburg

Parea possibly adheres most to the traditional, village-style theme of Greece and Cyprus on this list. Bright and bold colours with rural decor mimic Mediterranean seaside landscapes and the welcoming nature of the owner and the staff mimics the warmth of Mediterranean homes. Indulge in Parea’s festivities to experience a taste of its extensive vegetarian menu as well as some plate-breaking and belly dancing on selected days.

Mezepoli – Melrose Arch, Johannesburg

A chic and trendy take on Mediterranean cuisine characterises Mezepoli, also known as the ‘sister eatery’ of the previously mentioned Plaka. Daytime corporates and after-sunset fun seekers frequent Mezepoli to feed off of the signature fusion cuisine. As the name suggests, meze-style dining is prevalent, ensuring a small taste of everything complemented by the restaurant’s budding social scene.

The Greek Sizzler – Northwold, Johannesburg

Yet another ‘no fuss’, ‘no frills’ dining experience with a small town sentiment i.e. the Greek Sizzler. This restaurant resembles a large-scale version of having dinner at your yiayia’s house with its extensive fireplace and folk tunes lulling in the background. Their melt-in-your-mouth kleftiko and cosy atmosphere are perfect for a winter’s evening, but don’t be fooled – a courtyard closed by a wall of bougainvillea transports one to suppertime on an island with those cousins from Athens that you haven’t seen in years.

BBQ Workshop – Sandton, Johannesburg

This twisted version of Greek street food complements the South African palette so, so well. The establishment boasts an urban appeal with reasonable prices and plentiful portions, but don’t let that fool you. It is often very occupied and sometimes requires a booking during peak hours. Do not leave without trying their less than traditional yet very decadent ‘Vaflaki’ – a concept pertaining to ‘’mini waffles’’ which was first introduced in Greece.

   

Soul Souvlaki – Maboneng, Johannesburg

Soul Souvlaki defines the urban interpretation of Yiayia’s cooking and is nestled in the heart of the trendy Maboneng Precinct a.k.a. hipster central. It is fitting, of course, that this eatery is situated in an old shipping container with a charming antique kitchen that produces mouthwatering tzatziki. Grabbing a bite here is a bargain but doing it while experiencing post-modern graffiti, chatty markets and artists painting or taking photographs is priceless.

   

Mythos – Bedfordview, Johannesburg

When planning a Sunday lunch, one place comes to mind: Mythos. This multi-award winning franchise features 10 restaurants in the Gauteng region. The items on the menu are inspired by the head chef’s family recipes, and she insists that all key ingredients are imported from Greece. Each restaurant is exclusively designed in clear-cut Grecian contemporary style, which is perfect for authentic al fresco dining.

      

Platia – Emperor’s Palace, Kempton Park

Situated in Emperor’s Palace, Platia affords its customers the opportunity to take a trip from Rome to Mykonos in an instant. Enjoy a classic Greek meal and Mediterranean hospitality in a modern setting with the occasional entertainment such as belly dancing, traditional Greek dancing and plate breaking. This restaurant’s location also makes it convenient for yiayia and pappou to indulge in a little gambling sesh after their meal.

  

Plaka – Eastgate & Cresta Shopping Centers, Johannesburg

Replicating the minimal architectural styles of Santorini, this franchise incorporates all the elements necessary for unpretentious Grecian dining. Picturesque tones of white and dashes of blue exude a sense of belonging and calmness. These guys take their heritage very seriously, and it shows in the quality of food and undying filoksenia towards their customers.

   

Pretoria

Prosopa – Waterkloof, Pretoria

Prosopa, meaning ‘’faces’’, may be witnessed in excess at this intimate restaurant. With its upmarket appeal illuminated by candles and elegant decor, it is no wonder that customers keep returning. Look out for the manager whose succinct food and wine pairing skills mobilise the overall dining experience.

Toula’s Taverna – Silverlakes, Pretoria

Visit Toula if half of the family is feeling traditional and the other half is looking to expand their palettes in a more eastward direction. This one of those places that is considered a jack of all trades with a Greek restaurant, a deli selling mediterranean products, a children’s play area and a sushi bar called Chop Chop Sushi. Imagine the convenience of having a hearty meal and then not having to go out of your way to pick up some imported olives and kefalotyri for yiayia.

    

Durban

NIKOS Coalgrill Greek – Durban North

This little slice of Hellenic authenticity recently hit the shores of Durban in March this year. The upbeat energy and cool interiors splash onto the pavement, mirroring a sought-after European feeling and the attentive staff will certainly ensure a first-class feast. Drop by NIKOS if you’re in the mood for a quick gyro or if you want to spend quality time with friends and family. Check out their Instagram account, if the pictures don’t have you drooling – then we don’t know what does.

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Bloemfontein

Flames Restaurant & Bar – Preller Square, Bloemfontein

For 3 years, this establishment has been at the forefront of Greek/Mediterranean fine dining in the city of Bloemfontein. Designed with the looks and feels of ‘art deco meets modern illumination,’ Flames gives its patrons an irreplaceable impression of sophistication and class. Customer satisfaction is the name of their game, which means that: Mama will be taken of, and she will be super impressed that you took her to an ‘ωραιό μερος’ with ‘ευγενικους ανθρωπους.’

Let us know your thoughts on these restaurants in the comments below! Or let us know if we left any of your favourite restaurants off!

Article written by Eugenia Papathanassiu – NAHYSOSA Editor. All images belong to Google/Instagram.