Athens is a multifaceted city with a rich history and honorary status, such as the birthplace of democracy, philosophy, theater, the Olympic Games of modern times, and with an ancient heart – the Acropolis. The Greek capital is contrasting and temperamental, as are its locals. Athens is a city beyond time and space, full of wonderful places and pleasant discoveries.
Zhanna Kutepova has been a permanent resident of Athens since 2013. In this article, she talks about secret and cozy places in the city, which only locals know about.
Which area to choose for living?
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The historic center of the city is compact. All the main attractions are close to each other. They can be reached on foot if you live in one of the areas such as Plaka, Thissio, Kukaki, Makriyanni, Syntagma, Monastiraki, Kolonaki. With clear planning and leisurely rest, all significant historical monuments can really be seen and visited in 2-3 days.
During long trips in the warm season, and especially in the hot months (from mid-June to mid-September), in Athens, it is better to relax according to the scheme: a center with attractions for a couple of days and a sea holiday in the southern regions of Athens in the remaining days. Few people know, Athens is the only European capital with access to the open sea, with city beaches and a huge promenade, called the Attic Riviera, with a length of almost 70 kilometers. In this case, the areas of Palio Faliro, Alimos, Glyfada, Voula, Vouliagmeni, Varkiza are suitable for rest by the sea. For a quiet and secluded holiday – Anavissos and Saronida.
Along with the list of the best areas, there is an unofficial list of the worst areas. It is advisable NOT to stay because of the non-parade side of life: Omonia, Exarcheia, Neapoli, Victoria, Kato Patissia, and near the Larissis railway station.
Where to eat
Most Greeks instead of breakfast – a cup of coffee, and cold. Frappe is served in a tall glass with a straw. The tonic coffee drink comes from the Greek city of Thessaloniki. It is perfect in the summer heat. At other times of the year, greeks prefer cold fredo cappuccino. Traditional Greek coffee is prepared in Turk and on hot sand.
Delicious coffee of different types can be tasted in Mokka (Athinas, 44). The cost of 1.5 euros per cup, in addition, as a complement to greek coffee, a handmade piece of rakhat-lukum is served (with the taste of rose and mastiha – delicious!).
It is customary for the Greeks to buy coffee with them in local establishments: Mikel, Everest, Grigoris, Coffee Island for 1 euro for a paper cup with a drink.
In the morning hours before work, the Athenians can afford to run kuluri – a sesame bagel. Sold at a fixed price – 50 cents apiece right on the street.
However, the freshest freshly pulled out of the oven, hot coolies can be bought at the bakery To koulouri tou Psirri (Karaiskaki, 23). By the way, this is one of the few stores operating in Athens around the clock, offering delivery of bagels to homes and offices on branded mopeds.
For a snack, the locals choose pies from thin phyllo dough, called pitas in Greece. Spanakopita is a pie with spinach, tiropita with cheese, kotopita with chicken. The cost is from 1.2 euros for a huge piece of cake.
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The high and fresh are sold at 98 Ermo Street at the Cardia café fresh bar. The owner of the Greek Vasilis also offers freshly squeezed fresh juices from 80 cents per glass.
It is best to taste authentic Greek Mediterranean cuisine with fish and seafood at the central market of Varvakios (Athinas, 42). A huge selection of fresh sea delicacies – octopuses, squid, mussels, shrimp. For gourmets – oysters, local shellfish, the caviar of sea urtics. The advantage is that there are taverns in the market, where you can taste all this: grilled Dorada fish, octopus on coals, squid rings, king shrimp, mussels in the olive-garlic sauce.
Pay attention to the tavern OI FILOI, where the hostess, Greek Anna, treats sweet compliments at the end of the meal. Portions are large. It is better to take at the rate of one dish for two. The average check for one is 15 euros. Please note that the opening hours are daily from Monday to Saturday, from 7 am to 5 pm.
In Greek cuisine, the preparation of the first hot dishes is not provided. If you really want soup, then for magicreia from giblets or rich patzas for 8 euros per serving, you should go to the Epirus Tavern (in the Varvakios market).
Delicious soups of pumpkin, spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes are prepared in the vegetarian café Avocado (Nikis, 30) for 6 euros per serving.
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In the Greeks, the main meal is a late dinner. It begins no earlier than 21:00. Until that time, at lunch and afternoon tea, light snacks in the form of a Greek salad are welcomed, and in Greek, the salad is called “rustic” – horyatiki.
Athenians eat Greek yogurt with a sweet filler of jam and marmalade. Be sure to try a smoothie based on goat yogurt (without a specific smell) with hazelnuts. The awesome and unique taste is made in Fresko Yogurt Bar Acropoli at Dionysiou Areopagitou, 3. A glass of smoothie costs 4.5 euros.
To visit Athens and not taste the sieve gyros (minced meat, removed with a knife from the spit, including french fries, onions, tomatoes, and cucumber-garlic sauce dzadziki, all this wrapped in a cake)? The most delicious gyros are cooked on Monastiraki Square in kebab Thanassis, Savvas, Bairaktaris. The cost of gyros – from 2 euros.
Delicious ice cream in the center of Athens: in Le Greche (Mitropoleos, 16A), be sure to try with a mojito taste, in DaVinci (Adrianou, 50) choose from more than thirty different flavors, and in a small homemade gelateria, Cremino (Nikis, 50 A) offers ice cream with natural and rare flavors. A scoop of ice cream costs 2 euros.
From a bird’s eye view, Athens appears even more majestic and immense white city with dense buildings. Enchanting views of Monastiraki Square, the old town of Plaka, and the Acropolis Hill open from the panoramic roof located in hotel A for Athens. There is a bunk café-bar, and a restaurant with a stunning cocktail list and cold snacks on the top floor, and the view from there is just a peek (Miaouli, 2). In the daytime, cocktails cost 6 euros.
Gourmets and connoisseurs of Greek cuisine should go to the restaurants Kuzina (Adrianou, 9), Kiouzin (Likavittou, 16), Avissinia (Kinetou, 7). Average bill from 50 euros.
Greek wines are not inferior to French and Georgian. A huge selection of local dry wines is on the tasting canvas: Vintage Wine Bar & Bistro (Mitropoleos, 66), Oinoscent (Voulis 45-47), Yoleni’s Greek Gastronomy Center (Solonos, 9). From red dry order agiorgitiko and mavrodafni, from white – malaguzya and assyrtiko. The tasting glass costs 3 euros.
What to see (non-tourist places, unusual places)?
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The National Botanical Garden is located in the heart of the city next to Syntagma Square. The former royal garden was artificially laid out in the middle of the 19th century. Seedlings of trees and shrubs were brought from all over the world. Nowadays, for residents, the garden serves as salvation in the hot heat and from the bustle of the city. A pond with turtles and goldfish, geese and ducks, enclosures with deer and rabbits, peacocks, and parrots are transferred to the world of wildlife. The palm alley and sundial are the pride of the park. The Botanical Garden is open all day long – from dawn to dusk.
The picturesque and miniature church of St. Demetrius of Lumbardy (Church of Agios Demetrios Loumbardiaris) was built in the 17th century in greenery on the slope of the philopappou hill. A special and very quiet place transfers to another era, where you do not feel the frantic rhythm of the city, but only silence and harmony.
Calimamarro Stadium. The marble “horseshoe” was built for the Olympic Games of our time in 1896 and can accommodate up to 50 thousand spectators. This is the only place with an audio guide, including in the Russian language, but tourists inside the unit prefer to look at the stadium from the outside. Few people know that on the territory of the stadium, there is a cave that leads to the Museum of the Olympic Movement, where posters and torches are stored, including from the Moscow Summer Olympics of the 80th year, from the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi in 2014. The cost of the entrance ticket is 5 euros.
The old district of Hisio with old mansions is in no way inferior to the tourist area of Plaka, but mostly locals walk there. One of the first open-air cinemas, an operating observatory, the Church of St. Marina, are only some of the objects that can be seen in Thisio. The main thing is to wander through the city’s streets and sit down at the table of any of the cafes you like.
Anafiotica is an island-type residential area located at the foot of the Acropolis. Descendants of builders from the Cycladic archipelago live in closets surrounded by lemon and fig trees, and among the whitewashed narrow streets walk well-fed cats. In this area, two dozen residential houses have been preserved, and from the “balcony” of Anafiotika, one of the best views of the city opens.
The Stavros Niarchos Cultural Center opened its doors in early 2017. The complex, built with the latest technology on the former hippodrome site, consists of the National Library and the National Theater buildings. An ideal place for walking with children and for going to the sea. Nearby is the picturesque bay of Marina Flizvo, where the military battleship Aferof is moored – an active museum on the water.
The OAKA Sports Complex is located in the north of the city in the Athens suburb of Marousi. It was here that the 2004 Summer Olympics were held. Objects on the territory of the complex are active and bizarre forms. On the way to the OAKA on a suburban train (green metro line), there is an opportunity to see how and what the northern Athenians live. Almost the entire way along the rails is ground.
Things to do?
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1. Trips to museums. A rich collection of coins is kept in the Numismatic Museum, which occupies the former residential palace of self-taught archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann. An interesting exposition of Greek treasures of different bygone years is kept in the Benaki Museum of Modern Art. For originals and car lovers – a unique museum Hellenic Motor Museum.
2. Open-air SPA. 25 kilometers from the city center is the thermal lake Vouliagmeni, famous for its healing properties and inhabitants – fish Garra rufa. When bathing, fish surround the human body and bite it, thereby massage and cleansing from rough skin. All year-round, the temperature in the lake does not fall below +22 degrees. On weekdays, the entrance costs 12 euros, weekends – 15 euros.
3. With children, you can go to the zoo in the Spata district in the suburbs of Athens, near the international airport “Eleftherios Venizelos.” A visit to one of the best zoos in Europe does not leave indifferent not only children but also adults. Local life hack: to combine business with pleasure after the zoo, go to a large designer outlet McArthurGlen, located next door.
4. Mount Parnitha. Wildlife lovers should go to the north of the city to the Parnifa Park-Reserve, where deer, foxes, hares live freely. At 1000 meters above sea level, the Mont Parnassus casino was opened for gambling lovers.
5. Islands of the Saronic Gulf. One day you can drive to the Athenian port of Piraeus and buy a ticket to one of the six islands of the Saronic Gulf with unique architecture and nature. Fisherman Salamis, pistachio island Aegina, emerald Agistri, royal Spetses, bohemian island hydra, artistic Poros are relatively close to the Greek capital.