Thessaloniki is usually overlooked by visitors to Greece as it lacks an outstanding feature like Athens’ Acropolis. However, it is in many ways a more interesting city with a far more turbulent and diverse history from the times of Alexander the Great through to the Byzantine and Ottoman eras.
It’s a city you need to explore as it’s quite hard to find the interesting monuments in the chaos of the modern city. Thessaloniki was burned down in 1917 and of the wooden buildings only the Anopoli survived, this used to be the old Ottoman quarter and with its narrow cobbled streets and charismatic overhanging houses it’s a magical escape and it has the best tavernas in the city.
Check out the monasteries there as well with amazing views and on a clear day you can see Mt Olympus across the bay.
Tourists never make it here because they never find it and the Greeks don't see it as a tourist attraction. Make for the Trigonian tower (you can see it at the top of the city) and then begin walking West down the street 'Eptapyrgio' along the Byzantine walls, at any point if you walk down towards the city you will find the Anopoli, the best of the Anopoli is the western side.
Arguably not the best choice amongst hundreds of reasonably priced tavernas, mezedopoleia, souvlakeries and restaurants, but this is why you may (be pleased to) find it hard to spot a McDonalds. Expect to get a much more culturally-sensitive and healthier range of choices than what you would normally expect from a fast food chain.
In nearly every neighbourhood
Go to eat in Chinatown, but instead of being persuaded into one of the main restaurants by a tout, get off the main street and find one of the places where you sit at outside tables on the street and the chef cooks everything in a huge wok right in front of you. The food is fantastic and so much cheaper than you'll pay in the other restaraunts.
Athens has a number of important and interesting museums. The Museum of Musical instruments in Plaka may not be on the top of the list, but it is a very pleasant small museum, where you can examine beautifully handcrafted traditional musical instruments, listen to recordings of their sounds and meet the ancestors of the famous bouzouki. The location is tranquil and on the little square next to it (Platanos Square), you will find excellent traditional food (Taverna Platanos), and Rere's cafe, one of the few remaining hangouts for the locals of Plaka, where you can relax over a decent cup of Greek coffee made the way it should be. This is not hip Athens, it is Athens old style.
In Plaka, next to the 'Tower of the Winds' and the ruins of the old Madressa of Athens (one of the few surviving Ottoman landmarks), just of 'Platanos' Square;
Superb ice cream bar. Sculptural blocks of unusual but totally scrummy ice cream dished up by the scoop until late in the evening. Frequented by young and old alike. The word is that this is THE best place to get ice cream in Athens. Sitting outside and watching happy people munch ice cream is enjoyable as shared knowing looks of indulgent bliss cross all linguistic barriers.
Takis / Aisopou 21, Psirri
Traditional and delicious. The hot chocolate, eaten with little doughnuts (bunuelos), natch, is thick enough to remind you of school days’ chocolate custard. If you're hot, drink horchata (orxata in Valenciano), icy-sweet and refreshing drink. Particularly nice drunk in the traditionally tiled horchaterias around town.
An excellent choice for carnivores that don’t enjoy touristy spots. The other branch of La Brigada in San Telmo is always packed with tourists.
Jars of Clay is an amazing little cafe near to the Russian Market. They bake the best cakes ever, the kind of ones you always wanted your gran/mum to make, and it's air-con so you can really escape the craziness of Phnom Penh and chill out with your cake and coffee. It's perfect.
39B, Street 155
OK, it's not that cheap but it could be the best hotel in the UK and things ain't budget in the Isles unless you're camping in the rain or in thrall to midges. The Argyll is right on the Sound of Iona and you can watch the tiny ferry loop round and round from Mull to take you over the waters. The place has its own garden for fresh food and the bellboys can't find the room keys because 'why would ye wannae lock the door anyway?' Big steaks, fresh veg and good desserts. And afterwards take a walk and get lost on this historic scrap of land.
Isle of Iona
(right near the ferry landing)
Tel: 01681 700 334
A listed Georgian town house in this remarkable river town in SW Scotland. The place is immaculate and you are minutes from the magical River Dee and its miniscule working port. The owners do a great haggis breakfast and the drawing room looks out one way to the estuary and the other to the Georgian high street.
48 High Street
01557 331 734
Ishimura-Manseido is a leading confectioner that has been based in Fukuoka since 1905. Part of their success has been an innovative ideas department, a division that in 1977 dreamed up White Day. For those of you in the dark, White Day is celebrated on March 14th and was created in response to the injustice of Valentines Day, which has traditionally been when Japanese women give confectionary to men.
Originally a day for men to give marshmallows to women (hence the name), White Day is now a national phenomenon, and woe betide any man who thinks that a bar of Meiji Chocolate will do.
The Foksal is full of restaurants and bars, but this cafe was pleasantly uncommercial. There's a list of drinks and dishes on a board and you order at the counter. The prices are very reasonable and the waitresses are helpful and charming.
Ul Foksal 21
Coyoacan is a lovely leafy suburb of Mexico City. The area inspired artist Frida Kahlo and you can visit her beautiful blue house here. It is famous for its markets, on a Saturday and Sunday, for its great second hand bookshops and also its ice-cream (you should try mil flores flavour - a thousand flowers).
A great place to escape the hectic city centre, it is easily reached on the metro or by bus.
Coyoacan, Mexico D.F.
lots of buses from the centre, Frida Kahlo's house is on Calle Londres
Legal Seafoods is a great seafood restaurant which has several around the city. Delicious, fresh food and knowledgeable, charming staff. All round a winner. Try the lobster.
Park Plaza, in the Prudential centre and next to the New England Aquarium
Rick's is a great bar/restaurant with rooms on Frederick Street just off Princes Street.
The food is lovely and the place very buzzy. The rooms are pretty stylish in a luxurious minimalism sort-of way. Rooms with breakfast cost £129/night - pretty good value.
Frederick St, Edinburgh
Italian Restaurant in the shadow of the Millennium stadium. Friendly, good value, authentic Italian food - the sort of place which would be unremarkable in Cremona but helps it stand out amongst the pizza'n'pasta joints of Cardiff. Good value set lunch menu.
Quay Street which runs between St Mary St and the stadium
The best restaurant in the Cardiff Bay area by some distance - in a nicely converted old dockside building with a rooftop terrace in summer. The food is modern British bistro food with lots of good fish and other local ingredients.
Stuart Street at the rear of the 'Mermaid Quay' development, which is dominated by forgettable chain catering
Melbourne does great coffee. We sit around in cafes all day reading the Guardian Weekly and dreaming of the day when the rest of Australia wants to become a republic. All the places below do a decent soy flat white and a mean espresso.
Degraves Espresso - 23 Degraves Street, Melbourne
Ray - 332 Victoria Street, Brunswick
A Minor Place - 103 Albion Street, Brunswick
Wall 280 - Rear 280 Carlisle Street, Balaclava (near St Kilda)
St. Ali - 12-18 Yarra Place, South Melbourne
Atomica - 268 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
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