10 Reasons why a Londoner should visit Athens, by Samar Alkadhi November 20 2014
10 REASONS WHY A LONDONER SHOULD VISIT ATHENS
- The weather: Apart from a few outbursts of rain during the depth of winter, the weather in Athens basically consists of: sun, sun… and sun. It’s never really cold, t-shirt weather lasts from March well into October… and unlike London, noone in Athens carries an umbrella around “just in case”!
- The food: There are well over 1000 restaurants in a city with less than a 4,000,000 inhabitants – you can eat somewhere new every night, and in a place that caters to every kind of taste. There is simply no shortage of great tavernas serving the best Greek salads and “biftekia” (patties) you’ve ever tasted. Diporto tavern – first opened in 1887- is considered to be the oldest tavern in Greece. People come for the hearty meals and probably also to meet a handful of colorful local personalities. Lines out Kosta’s door indicate one thing: the locals go nuts for his souvlaki and kebabs. For vegetarians and vegans falafel or lahmajoun is a great alternative. Restaurants like Athinaikon or Aneton do Greek cuisine with a more modern twist. Fancy some Cretan cuisine? Head to Alatsi. Something more fancy and buzzy? Try Vezene (which serves the best Tagliata I’ve ever had!). French? Bistrot Le Mignon. Spanish? Para Siempre. Thai? Just head to Tamarind. You name it, you can find it, and usually at good prices too. Italian restaurants and sushi places are everywhere, and if you really want a meal to remember… give Funky Gourmet a call (and you can thank me for that one later!).
- The history: Greek and more specifically Athenian culture is literally all around you. The Acropolis is the most obvious landmark that comes to most people’s minds, but walking around the city centre you will realise that Athens has many spectacular architectural styles from Neoclassical and Eclecticism to Art Deco and Modernism, and of course… the odd ruin here and there!
- The culture: Museums are not anymore the old and dull buildings that we were used to when we were children. Nowadays, the architects give their best in creating fine architectural examples with strange shapes going far from the traditional way of creating a building. The New Acropolis museum, a geometrical marvel designed by Swiss-American architect Bernard Tschumi is dedicated to the celebration of antiquity. Then again the city is filled with other museums and galleries that are a great visit for anyone looking to broaden their cultural knowledge.Find a list of museums & galleries in Athens on this page.
- The islands: Hydra, Spetses, Mykonos, Santorini, and hundreds of other islands you have and haven’t heard of are only a short boat ride away from Athens’ ports – so If you are visiting for more than a weekend, definitely take a day or 2 out to visit something and get a nice tan that all your London mates will be jealous of!
- The nightlife: One thing in Athens is unquestionable: Greeks LOVE to party! Head to Kolonaki on a Monday night and you’ll still see loads of squashed bodies crammed into a bar at 2am. And the night usually doesn’t start until at least 11pm! Sophisticated (and pricey!) cocktails can be sipped on the rooftop Galaxy Bar at the Hilton hotel while you gaze at the acropolis, or if you’re after something a little more rock n roll, make your way down to Six Dogs and grab a beer while you watch the latest rock band play a set. Faust is the alternative chic bar of choice, and if you’re looking to hang out with the young Athens elite, Nixon Bar is a great place to see and be seen. But maybe the best way to kick off your summer evening in Athens is by watching a movie under the stars. There’s hardly a walled garden in town that isn’t now used as an open-air cinema but the most popular is probably that of Ciné Thiseion. Offering an amazing view of the nearby Acropolis, Thiseion was placed by CNN at the top of its list of the world’s best movie theaters. Hollywood Classics are popular, and are shown with subtitles rather than dubbed.
- Getting around is easy: Athens’s metro system is relatively new, efficient and quite clean, there are trams that allow you to get around while taking in the sites of the city, and taxis are some of the cheapest in Europe, a 15-20 minute journey by cab is usually around the 10 euro mark.
- The people: Most Greeks love to chat about their country’s history (which the majority know very much about!) to interested visitors. Virtually everyone in Athens speaks English, and Greek hospitality is very well-known, so don’t be surprised if you get invited to someone’s mother’s house for some “spanakopita” (goat cheese and spinach pie) after a 10 minute chat!
- The neighbourhoods: Athens has a wide and varied network of neighbourhoods which each give a different taste to its visitors. Make sure you visit Plaka where Byzantine churches, Turkish baths and roman ruins find themselves nestled next to blossoming gardens. Not to be missed, the scenic tiny neighborhood of Anafiotika, a Cycladic village at the foothills of the Acropolis. Monastiraki is a must-see for the outdoor tavernas and coffee shops, antiques markets and people-watching while the interlocking streets of Psyri secret away a wealth of galleries and vintage stores. Exarcheia is a place where many intellectuals and artists live and the hub of the Greek resistance movement. The walls here are plastered with anarchist graffiti and protest posters but the borough remains overwhelmingly peaceful. Kolonaki is “downtown”, and a great starting place to immerse yourself into the buzz of the city. For the beach, head to upscale Vougliameni or even further out to Cape Sounion which gives gorgeous sea views only an hour’s drive from downtown.
- Shopping: All around town discreet facades reveal hidden vintage stores, boutiques, and jewellery makers – the lot interspersed with avant-garde art galleries, cool cafés and impressive street art (use this map to locate your favorite boutique or design store in town).
And don’t forget…
It’s not that far: Many people forget that Athens is a 3.5 hour direct flight away, and hey guys, it’s still part of Europe! British Airways, Aegean airlines and Easy-jet all have daily direct flights, and with Ryanair’s latest announcement that they will be starting direct flights from April, there is always a flight to fit every budget.
Don’t worry: If you’re starting to miss the tastes of home, The Grande Bretagne Hotel in Syntagma Square serves daily Afternoon Tea.. and all us Londoners know a cup of tea makes anywhere feel like home!
Editor’s note: This guest blog post was written by Samar Alkadhi, a Londoner who in late 2013, after 10 years of working in the entertainment & music business, left her home-town and made the big move to Athens where she founded Crazy Diamond an Event Planning & Management company.
Photo Source: Vintage Matchbox Double Decker Bus The Londoner 1953-1978. On sale at Etsy.
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