A Girl's Guide to

ATHENS, gREECE

february 22, 2018

Land of myths, legends, and modern marvel, the ancient, seaside capital of Athens has it all, in my eyes. Athens is home to the mythical Acropolis and numerous other historical sights, while also contributing modern street art, Mediterranean bites, amiable locals,and much, much more. And the city center is only the beginning of Greece’s vast offerings. Countless ancient ruins, coastal views, mountains, forests, wineries, deserts, hotsprings, islands, and more are easily reached - many can be found within an hour of leaving central Athens! All around Greece, you will find rich history, unbelievably satisfying nourishment, and downright beauty. And the warm Greeks will proudly share these wonders with you.

sEE // Do

  • The Acropolis Museum and Parthenon are must-sees for their historic and grand references. The museum, located adjacent to the ruins, holds many sculptures, statues, and other artifacts found at the sight of the Acropolis and Parthenon. The exhibits feature literature in regards to their  historical context and  related mythology. The museum also holds a bookshop and cafe.

 

  • Following the museum, trek uphill to the Acropolis itself. Marvel at the magnificent temple of the Parthenon, along with other monuments of Greek Antiquity. I also quite enjoyed seeing Theatre of Dionysus, dedicated to the god of wine, theatre, and general Hedonism. Also note* you enter and pay separately at the museum and ruins.

 

  • Stroll around the base of the Acropolis, known as Plaka. This old neighborhood of Athens has retained much of it’s charm, with cobbled streets, ivy covered walls, and frequent remains of the ancient city. There are many touristic shops and restaurants in this area.

 

  • Nearby, the Anafiotika neighborhood offers an island vibe, with white-washed houses and narrow streets. In fact, the first residents of Anafiotika were Greek islanders who inhabited this area when they were commissioned to leave their Aegean homes to work in Athens.

 

  • Enjoy the expansive view from Lycabettus Mountain. For a bit of exercise, you can hike to the top. It takes 20-30 minutes depending on which entrance you use and it is a relatively easy incline. Additionally, there is a cable car operating the mountain. The views on top are spectacular, as you can see the entire city, sea, and several islands. There is a church, cafe, and fancy restaurant on top.

 

  • Spend Sunday at the Monastiraki Flea Market. Vendors sell all sorts of tourist-y items, but you can also find cool vintage housewares, used books, worry beads, and just about anything you’d like to get your hands on. Beware, many of these shops sell cheap and illegitimate items from China and other cheap labor/mass-producing countries.

  • The National Archaeological Museum houses some of the most relevant historical artifacts found throughout Greece from ancient times to late antiquity. It is organized by time period and location, so it is nice to see how the artistic styles develop and vary from time and place.

 

  • The Benaki Museum, housed in a mansion in central Athens, focuses on traditional Greek culture and art. You will find historical dress and daily artifacts alongside paintings and other artistic works. There's also a large rooftop cafe overlooking Syntagma Square.

 

  • Pick up supplies for dinner or a picnic at the Central Municipal Athens Market. This market covers two blocks, with additional shops reaching out to adjacent streets. One block houses the meat and fish vendors in an indoor setting. The block across the street is uncovered and sells produce and other items. Additional stalls carry bakery items, nuts, olives, candies, and spices. I especially enjoyed the Roe Olive Shop and Elixir spice shop.

 

  • To get a hands-on experience with Greek cuisine, join the Greek Kitchen for a cooking class. During the course, we made four dishes and enjoyed the meal together at the end with a glass of wine. For an additional small fee, you can also join the instructor before class in the central market for a tour as she purchases materials for the dishes.

 

  • The Athenian parks feature the tallest of trees and grandest of landscapes, as they are incredibly old, but also well-maintained. Two of my favorites include, the National Garden and the park with the Athena Statue. It’s best to visit during the day, as the recent immigrant crisis has brought a lot of homeless to create their shelters in the parks.

Eat // Drink

For traditional greek…

 

  • The Seychelles restaurant is super homey, but chic at the same time. It’s like your very cosmopolitan friend is having a dinner party and you scored an invite. That friend is also very Greek, meaning the food is amazing and the service is the most genuine.

 

  • Scholarchio is located a stone’s throw away from the Acropolis in picturesque-Plaka under a very lovely awning crawling with ivy. They serve very traditional Greek tapas.

 

  • Oikeio in Kolonaki is cozy and inviting, with some sidewalk seating. This beautifully decorated restaurant is lovely for a quiet, authentic lunch.

 

  • Taverna Saita is a traditional tavern in Plaka frequented by locals and tourists alike. Service is friendly and portions are generous.

 

For international and specialty cuisine…

 

  • Nolan offers incredible value in the heart of the city as a Michelin Guided restaurant. Greek-Asian fusion dishes with impeccable ingredients feel fresh in this modern space.

 

  • Codice Blu serves rich pastas, fresh salads, wood-fired pizzas, and other authentic Italian noms in the heart of Kolonaki.

 

  • Gaku Izakaya offers imaginative sushi and cocktails. A great place to enjoy the fruits of the Aegean in a classy setting. For more casual sushi, check out Koi.

 

  • Mayor, serving modern Greek and international cuisine, is open all day and is quite the hotspot at night for dinner and drinks.

 

  • Zurburan is stylish and upmarket. Great for dinner, but also offers a bit of a brunch-party, complete with a DJ and Bloody Marys, for the morning after.

 

  • Blue Bamboo has the best Thai food in the city - also don’t miss their yummy cocktails.

 

  • Max Perry has the best chocolate soufflé I have ever had. Don’t miss this Greek chocolatier for dessert.

For a view…

 

  • City Zen is a casual rooftop restaurant located in the Plaka with a view of the Acropolis. The burger is spot-on.

 

  • Orizontes Lycabettus offers upscale Greek cuisine with a panoramic view from atop Lycabettus hill. It’s a lovely restaurant for a romantic night or celebration. Put on something fancy and your chariot (aka, the cable car) awaits to whisk you up to the throne of Athens.

 

  • 360 Bar has a very trendy vibe and another great view of the Acropolis and the colorful plaza of Monastiraki.

 

For streetfood…

 

  • Felafellas: for cheap and yummy chickpea patties wrapped up in pita with all the fixin’s.

  • Full Spoon serves tasty and fresh ice creams and sorbets, alongside other desserts. They also offer vegan options.

 

  • Coffee Lab, with its adorable blue dog logo, is the place to be for a caffeine fix. This micro-roaster has several locations in Athens.

  • Souvlaki is the quintessential fast-food of Greece. Smokey, meaty and incredibly filling, Souvlaki shops populate every corner of the city. I’m not much of a meat eater, but I did indulge once upon the insistence of a local and I must say, #noregrets. However, I do not remember the name or location of this particular souvlaki joint, but I’m sure upon your arrival, asking any local for their recommendation will put you on the right path

     

For the booze…

 

  • The Clumsies is ranked number 6 in the list of 50 Best Bars in the world, so you know it’s going to be good. As they create unique cocktails with local ingredients, it’s the kind of place that people never want to leave. Which is very clear as the place is always packed. I especially enjoyed how they named each of the cocktails after Greek symbolisms and motifs, giving them a story.

 

  • Baba au Rum, another of the 50 Best Bars, focuses on (you guessed it!) rum. Service is cheeky and fun.

 

  • Beauty Killed the Beast is a large and beautiful venue in an artsy neighborhood. Again, service is super accommodating, as I spilled my half-empty cocktail all over the bar and they kindly made this clumsy gal a fresh and full refill free-of-charge.

 

  • Bartesera is casual and warm. Bedecked with plants and funky prints of Frida Kahlo, cheeky quotes, and colorful animals, this bar is just nice to be in.

 

  • Noel is famous for its opulence and year-round Christmas-y decor. It’s often very packed, but worth it for the super tasty beverages. Reservation recommended.

 

  • Portrait Bar has a vintage, speak-easy vibe, although it is easy to find and not at all obstructed.

 

  • Indulge in Greek wines at Oinoscent. The bartenders are very nice about offering a tasting, so you can really get a feel for the variety of Greek wines. They also serve fresh tapas.

 

  • Material Prima, another wine bar, offers Greek wines alongside many lovely international bottles. A dinner menu is also available.

 

  • Meerkat Cocktail Safari, African themed and French owned, this bar is incredibly international. It’s also a fun place to dance as they do pump the music.

 

  • The Gin Joint serves both classic and innovative gin cocktails. Their brand variety is local, international, and quite impressive.

Places I didn’t get to but will next time:

 

Sushimou (for super authentic suuuuush), Monsieur Cannibale (circus-themed cocktail lounge), Ather (for classically beautiful space and food/drink), Ellevoro (for traditional Greek), La Greche (for gelato), Kepameio (cozy bar with live music), Belleville (colorful rooftop bar), Vezene (for upscale dining), 42 Barstronomy (vintage cocktail bar), Lukumades (traditional Greek dessert), and Odori (pizza and cocktails).

Shop // splurge

 

  • Forget Me Not is a nice shop for design-forward souvenirs. They sell t-shirts you’ll actually wear, home-goods you’ll be proud to display, and jewelry your mom (or you!) will cherish.

 

  • Yolenis, a place to ‘explore Greek flavors’, sells packaged Greek food products, such as honeys, teas, baklava, spices, olives, and much more. Pop in to the resident cafe or wine bar, before stocking your suitcase with all the Greek goodies.

 

  • Melissinos Art -The Poet Sandal Maker has been frequented by the likes of countless celebrities, including John Lennon and Sarah Jessica Parker. This shop is known for expert craftsmanship and service. You pop in, pick from a few dozen styles, and then the artisans shape and cut the sandals to fit your unique feet! Not only is it a fun, tailor-made experience, it is also incredibly affordable for the service and quality at €40 per pair.

 

  • Oxette, Greek jewelry chain, offers very pretty, affordable pieces.

 

  • Attr@tivo, another Greek chain, sells cute, alternative style clothing.

 

  • Alicia, a women and menswear boutique in Kolonaki, has contemporary and European style clothing and accessories.

 

  • Ioanna Kourbela somehow creates oxymoronic unique staples and classy basics. These are the kinds of garments that will last for years and receive endless compliments.

  • Lina Gavra uses globally sourced, high quality textiles, with interesting prints, such as African designs, to create truly unique garments.

 

  • Lifestyle and concept store, Graffito, is like a stream-lined Anthropologie. Pick up a coffee at the shop in the front of the store, before browsing the modern clothing and versatile homewares.

 

  • Booktique is a lovely shop satisfying all your literary needs. They also sell locally-designed jewelry and some cute gifty-items.

 

 

  • The suburb of Chalandri also has really great boutiques and is a pleasant area to walk around in for an afternoon. If you’re able to make the short trip (15 minutes by car from central Athens without traffic), I recommend stopping into 7th Thought - Coffee & Fashion House and Anthologia Humana.

day Trip // Weekend Away

 

  • Want to see the Greek islands but are pressed for time? This one day cruise on the Aegean sea is exactly what you need. A large ship leaves the Pireaus Harbor around sunrise, sailing to the islands of Hydra, Aegina, and Poros. You are allotted 1-2 hours per island to explore, with the option of joining a walking tour for an additional fee. Along with the transport to three islands, the cruise includes lunch, and also has a bar on board to purchase beverages (of both the non-alcoholic and alcoholic variety) and snacks.

 

  • Poseidon’s Temple on Cape Sounion is stunning in every way. These unobstructed ruins are arguably more grand than the Parthenon, which is under seemingly endless construction and renovation. Additionally, the outlooking view of the coast, sea, and islands is absolutely gorgeous. The temple is about 1.5 hours from Athens by car. You can arrange group tours leaving from the city. If possible, I recommend driving, so you can stop for lunch at the seaside tavern, Ta Votsala, meaning pebbles in English (pictured below). Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a website or online, but it can be spotted by it’s white and blue sign and outdoor seating. On the way back, stop for a coffee or cocktail at Moorings, a trendy bar located on the marina.  

 

  • There are several beaches accessible from Athens. Some can be reached by public transit, others are best accessed by car. Nearby suburb, Gylfada, is nice for its beachy resorts, especially Balux Cafe House Project.

 

 

  • The coastal and historical city of Nafplio is often overlooked by tourists, although it is very accessible from Athens and totally underrated. Click here for the full guide.

Getting There // Getting Around

 

Thanks to RyanAir and other budget airlines, flights in and out of Athens are very affordable. Within Athens, the public transportation network is well-connected and safe. Additionally Ubers are inexpensive compared to other European capitals and are very convenient. Lastly, most sights are within 30 minutes by foot.