A Local’s Guide to Athens with Alex Kavdas
As Athens editor of Savoteur, Alex Kavdas has the inside track on the Greek capital’s best spots for food, music, art, culture and nightlife. Alex recently took some time out from his hectic schedule to share his top Athens tips with Into the Blue. Check out his guide and get ready to explore Athens like a local…
A Local’s Guide to Athens with Alex Kavdas
“When a friend visits me in Athens, the first place I take them to is for a walk through the little streets of Plaka – it’s a great way to get a sense of the city. For an amazing view of Athens, go to the Hilton Galaxy Bar or the Grande Bretagne Hotel Roof Bar. You can see both the Acropolis and the Lycabettus hills and have the whole city at your feet. Alternatively, if you’re more adventurous, you can get a gorgeous view by going up the Lycabettus Hill – there’s even a ski lift to take you straight to the top! The underground (or Metro as we call it) is the best way to get around Athens. It still feels brand new, it’s very easy to find your way around it and it has stations in most of the crucial spots you’ll want to visit. If you need a taxi it’s best to use the Taxibeat app on a mobile device. Of course, walking will always give you the best introduction to the city.
Where to Eat
For breakfast, I usually go for a koulouri – a traditional bagel-like circular bread, typically encrusted with sesame seeds. You’ll find several street vendors selling these from stands in the city centre, but you get the best ones at the Koulouri of Psyrri which has been around for over 70 years. Grab a Greek traditional coffee and roam the city streets – the early bird catches the worm!
For great coffee you can’t beat the Black Duck Garden in the courtyard of the Athens City Museum and of course the very up and coming area of Koukaki . In the evening, head to Ratka, 48, Vezene, Cookoovaya, Hytra (at the top of the Onassis Cultural Center), Dinner in the Sky (literally!!), Melilotos, Funky Gourmet, Oikeio, Spondi. These are all situated in the greater down town area, so they are easy to reach.
Don’t leave Athens without trying our national fast food, souvlaki at one of its temples: Kostas’ Place in Pentelis Street, close to Syntagma is open only during the day, from 9am till 2pm, in the shop his grandfather opened 76 years ago. You might have to wait a bit for one of the over 400 souvlakia of the day, but as the sign right over the grill says: “No Stress”!
Before You Visit Athens
Before you come to Athens you should read something about Greek mythology and the architect Pikionis who configured the archaeological area around the Acropolis and Filopappou hill. If you only do one touristy thing in the city, make sure you visit the Acropolis Museum because it will immerse you in the city’s history and give you a glimpse of the ancient wonders.
Shopping in Athens
Psyrri is a good neighbourhood for shopping, here you’ll find two very different kinds of shops: on the right side of Ermou Street, in the heart of the area amongst the narrow streets you’ll find contemporary stores such as The Real Intellectuals and vintage clothes shops such as Magadaskari. On the other side of Ermou, there’s the Athens flea market, filled with antiques and collectibles. Even if there’s nothing you want to buy, it’s still well worth a stroll.
Athens for Free
The best thing to do for free in Athens is go for a swim in one of the nearby beaches. If the weather is not ideal you might not want to go in, but you’ll have experienced a blast of summer for a moment at least.
Hammam is a place not many people know about in Athens but they should visit because it is the best place to chill out from everyday life. You can relax on the heated marble bed under an imposing dome and soak up the atmosphere and healing qualities of the oriental baths.
My Favourite Neighbourhood
Anafiotika is my favourite neighbourhood in Athens. It’s like a small Greek island located just under the Acropolis. When Athens was first proclaimed as the official capital of the newly founded Greek state, the great builders of Anafi island came here to construct the first public and private buildings in the city. They settled with their families in the north and west side of the Acropolis creating an “island district”. They built homes according to the traditional architecture of Anafi, at the foot of the sacred rock. This neighbourhood of narrow streets and humble, one-floor houses built their tiny foundations on Greece’s most important archaeological rock. Anafiotika (or what’s left of the neighbourhood after the archaeological digs) are still inhabited by some residents, descendants of those masters, all living in a time capsule district.
People think Athens is old but it’s actually a contemporary city, that’s vibrant and filled with extremely creative minds. The downtown area around Kolokotroni Str. and Karytsi Square has the best nightlife – you’ll find plenty of bars with cool music and excellent cocktails. Check out Noel, Key Bar, Drunk Sinatra, Speakeasy, Huge, Kitty Cat, 7 Jokers, 9 , and many more.”
Are you an an Athens local? Have you visited Athens recently? We’d love to hear your tips, leave a comment and share your advice!