1. 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”!
  2. The food: There are well over 1000 restaurants in a city with less than a 1,000,000 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” you’ve ever tasted. 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? Bistro 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!).
  3. 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 centre of Athens you are surrounded by Parliament, Panepistimio (the University), the library, and of course.. the odd ruin here and there! The New Acropolis museum is a must-see, and for the city is filled with other museums and galleries that are a great visit for anyone looking to broaden their cultural knowledge.
  4. The islands: Mykonos, Santorini, and hundreds of other islands you have and haven’t heard of are only a short boat ride away from Athen’s 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!
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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 after a 10 minute chat!
  8. The neighbourhoods: Athens has a wide and varied network of neighbourhoods which each give a different taste to its visitors. Kolonaki is “downtown”, and a great starting place to immerse yourself into the buzz of the city, but make sure you visit neighbouring Plaka and Monastiraki which are a little on the touristy side but a must-see for the outdoor tavernas and coffee shops, antiques markets and people-watching. Kifissia in the Northern suburbs is a mini-city all in itself with fancy boutiques and lots of ladies who lunch. Glyfada in the southern burbs is a great place to wander around even more boutiques and have lunches where everyone around is checking you out. For the beach, head to upscale Vougliameni or even further out to Cape Sounio which gives gorgeous sea views only an hour’s drive from downtown.
  9. 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, Aegaen airlines and Easyjet 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.
  10. 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!

(BTW I would add point 11 which is the random sleeping dogs that you see everywhere, but I think people will think I’m crazy. Ok yes I know, I’m crazy.)

Posted by Samar Alkadhi

10 Reasons why a Londoner should visit Athens, by Samar Alkadhi