The highest point in Athens. You can walk to the top using the footpaths but it is fun to catch the funicular railway (Telefrik). It is about a ten minute walk from Kolonaki square through some steep backstreets, but the funicular station is not well signposted. The little trains run every thirty minutes, and more frequently in busy times and costs six euros return. The views from the top are absolutely stunning.
10 minutes walk from Kolonaki square.
Google map: bit.ly/11w8a1O
We've been to half a dozen Michelin starred restaurants but this one has to be one of the best if not the best we've visited.
We went for the tasting menu which effectively amounted to 10 courses (including various amuse bouche) costing €140 in total including two glasses of wine each.
Service was very friendly and very relaxed.
The chef Nikos Karathanos won the Michelin star for the restaurant in 2009 and it from our experience will hold it for many years to come!
Small jewellery store in Plaka area. All items are hand made, made from semi precious stones, coral or silver to name but a few materials.
The prices are extremely reasonable with turquoise or coral bracelets retailing from €7 upwards.
Very friendly service with no hard sell.
Adrianou Str 136, Plaka
+30 210 27 75 005
Interesting bar/cafe in the bohemian Exarchia area of Athens.
The Exarchia area has drawn intellectuals and students into it from the 19th century onwards and the area was headquarters of many left wing organisations.
This establishment on the square looks straight out of 1960s eastern Europe with every piece of furniture actually from the 1960s itself. Relaxed easy going crowd pitch up here.
A cafe for the 'elite' of Athens, it is worth a visit to see that the economic downturn has not affected everyone equally. Quite exclusive shops ring the square.
Τσακάλωφ 1, Athens 10673 Greece
+30 210 3602497
Google map: bit.ly/HDb6Br
This was a real find just around the corner from the James Joyce pub. The small entrance on Agiou Filippou Street leads onto a rooftop terrace with a great view of the Acropolis, the Ancient Agora and the Temple of Hephestus.
Beers available from €2 and also serves food.
We were making our way to the Parthenon and it was quite a surprise to come across this village at the foot of the Acropolis.
This white washed village which was carved out of the rocks is reminiscent of a village in Santorini. It was dug out of the rocks by stonemasons from the island of Anafi (near Santorini) who were working on King Otto's Athens palace in the early 19th century. To remind them of home, they tried to recreate their homes of the islands. Anafiotika unsurprisingly means 'Anafi style'.
Just be aware that these are people's homes though the inhabitants (many descendants of the original stone masons) are used to tourists now.
As a matter of interest, there is a plaque dedicated to Konstantinos Koukidis who fell from the Acropolis wrapped in the Greek flag during the German occupation of Greece. The plaque is by the church of St George of the rock.
North east slope of Acropolis
Easiest way to get to the village is to go up Thespidos from Adrianou, and then turn right onto Stratonos. At the end of that street you will come to the whitewashed church of St George of the rock. This is the base of the village and you can then ascend via the winding paths into the village itself.
Google map: bit.ly/IadzQQ
Decent Irish pub in central Athens. As you'd expect it was not particularly cheap but shows all the UK sporting events and has live music as well.
The other three Irish pubs are all located a wee bit out from the centre.
This is a fantastic memoir about a man looking back on his eventful life down and out traveling homeless through Greece, and other parts of Europe, while coming to terms with his present situation, a life threatening battle brought about by his past. Brilliantly written, engaging and informative. Can't recommend this book enough.
This is an amazing beach hotel only about 30 minutes drive from the centre of Athens. It overlooks a calm bay with views up to the Temple of Poseidon (a short walk away). The service, food and rooms are superb.
Sounio Road GR-195 00, Sounio, Attica
+30 22920 69700
We stumbled on this excellent restaurant in Plaka and loved it because it's a real Greek restaurant for locals too, and beautifully set in a quiet little square with a huge plane tree (platanos.) All the food was great, but make sure you sit outside - indoors is a bit grim!
4 Diogenous, Athens
Google map: bit.ly/k5o5Pb
About an hour's drive south of the busy urban centre of Athens lies Voulgiameni, a wealthy coastal suburb and beach resort. Nestled in among its fabulously clean beaches, spectacular houses, restaurants, clubs and resort hotels (all reasons to go there in themselves) you'll find Voulgiameni Lake (sunken lake in English), a mineral/thermal lake (constant temperature of around the mid 20c) with therapeutic properties open all year, the likes of which you are unlikely to have experienced before. Story has it that millions of years ago it was a cave. But its roof collapsed due to the heat and moisture generated by the hot springs feeding the lake within it, possibly aided by an earthquake. So now its an open crater in which you can swim/bathe, exercise (assisted by the various aides within it) and lounge around for a relaxing/healing day out. In addition to the usual change/shower facilities you'd expect to find, there's a cafe/restaurant on site to complete the experience. And if you get bored at any stage, there's always the beach opposite or the trendy suburb of Glyfada not far away for a spot of shopping...
Poseidonos Avenue, Voulgiameni.
Beach A bus stop.
One of the hippest, not to mention most stylish places in the center of the city is all about jazz! Open all day for coffee, drinks or food, hosts live jazz music every night. Delicious Mediterranean cuisine by chef Kostas Stavrou, cool art exhibitions, excellent decor, and a line-up of top-notch local and international jazz bands, show off modern Athens at its best.
Most people visit the three main buildings of the Acropolis - the Parthenon, Erychtheon and Propylaia - and then they go home. But as you go downhill from the Propylaia, turn to the right, almost back on your tracks, and you'll find yourself on the north slope of the Acropolis, and probably alone, despite the crowds a few yards away. Here are caves and springs in the rocks; in the Cave of Pan, we watched the water slowly bubbling up in a muddy spring. Here are little rock-cut niches for worshipping the gods. The great buildings of the Acropolis give you a feel for the 'official' Greek culture of Pericles' time - but underneath it, there's a different world, more in touch perhaps with its Mycenean roots.
Google map: tinyurl.com/33pwp8s
Should you ever travel in Greece, there is one thing you definitely must do: taste the “frappé”. It is a mixture of instant water coffee and sugar shaken and served in long glasses accompanied by a straw. It is iced and a thick foam layer covers its top. Some people add milk in it and some others add a scoop of ice cream, dependent on one’s preferences. I have also tasted it with Bailey's and I got excited!
To cut a long story short, Frappé is a cultural issue in that country. Vivian Constantinopoulos and Daniel Young have written a very interesting book entitled “Frappé nation” where they analyze every aspect of the Frappé as a cultural item. They call it “The Modern Greek Elixir” and I totally agree with them. I have experienced the Frappé ritual several times as I visit Greece every summer. I have a lot of friends there who are fond of the Frappé and so am I. It is a long drink that helps Greeks to wake up in the morning, provides them with energy, thanks to caffeine, during the day at work, and relaxes them in the evening, at a café with fellows. Many of them, who travel abroad for a long stay, carry in their luggage the Frappé equipment because they can’t stand missing it.
According to the writers of the “Frappé nation”, Frappé should be considered as the Greek coffee instead of the small hot coffee that has come from eastern countries and is also known as Turkish. In my opinion, it is a reasonable point of view and Greeks should take it seriously into account. Moreover, I have read a thought expressed by a Greek film actor in that book that attracted my attention. He says that ancient Greeks would have been perfect Frappé drinkers had it arrived in their country earlier than it finally did. They had plenty of free time and lots of issues to discuss, so Frappé was ideal for their daily life as it reinforces brain activation and is a perfect drink within a brain storming company!
Frappé is a Greek trademark that reflects the easy going way of living of this country, a way that dates back Greek ancestry, as Constantinopoulos and Young mention appositely, where “the thirst for conversation began” among the “pioneers of the culture of dialogue”.
I think Craft is Greece's only microbrewery. Its excellent beers are on sale in various bars in the city and elsewhere in Greece. The bar/restaurant on Alexendras Ave also houses a brewery and serves beer-friendly grub.
The smoked lager is particularly unusual and goes well with the sausage platter. Red Ale, Black Lager and Weiss beer also tasty.
205 Alexandras Avenue
Tel: +30 210 646 2350
Nearest station: Ampelokipoi
I've not been to its namesake on top of the Hilton but I imagine they couldn't be more different. Located in a shopping arcade (!) the Galaxy is an old-school bar that doesn't feel like it's changed since the 60s. Pictures of Kerouac, Balzac, Jack London and Beethoven behind the bar. Dapper barman serving seasoned drinkers.
Stadiou 10 (in shopping arcade)
210 322 7733
Nearest metro: Syntagma
Wonderful private museum housed in a beautiful mansion. What's great about the Benaki is that it offers a brilliant overview of Greek history (not just classical) through its collection of artifacts, art works, costumes and furniture.
Koumbari 1 (cnr Vasilissis Sofias)
Nearest metro: Syntagma
Budget hotel a short stroll from Plaka and Monastiraki metro stop. It's certainly no frills but also clean and friendly. Double rooms start at 57 euros (in season).
29, Eolou Street, Athens
Nearest metro: Monastiraki
Pleasant live music venue, featuring local jazz and "world music" musicians, along with some more interesting contemporary Greek acts.
Popular jazz trio Human Touch are highly recommended, although they do not play here as often as they used to. Armenian Haig Yazdjian is another regular who is always worth hearing.
Konstantinoupoleos & Agiou Orous, Kollonos,
Post code: 10447
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