Athens has always been a top destination for tourists and history lovers from across the globe. Walking around the centre of a city and seeing a two-and-a-half-thousand year old structure every time you look up is, well, kinda cool. But there’s so much more to Athens than that. Warm people, good food and drink, and great music can be found around every corner. Athens is a city that needs to be explored. It holds too many surprises. We will just give you a few a clues here and leave the rest up to you.
Where to stay
Homesharing is becoming bigger and bigger all around the world and so it is in Athens. If you want to stay in a hip area, save money and be fully independent, Airbnb may be the way to go. You can have a look at this gorgeous apartment located as centrally as can be. Or if you are looking for a place where you can basically touch the Acropolis while you are sipping your morning coffee you can check this penthouse out.
Of course, there is no shame in needing a bit of pampering when on holidays, so we have a couple of hotel suggestions for you. Cocomat Hotel Athens is owned by a mattress company, which means that they take sleep very seriously. After sleeping in one of their beds you will never look at any other bed the same way. That simple. It is also located in one of the most central parts of Athens. Urban Stripes by Aria Hotels is another excellent option. Located in one of the oldest and yet most upcoming residential areas of Athens, Urban Stripes is a complex of six suites and apartments decorated with minimal touches. Talk about chic.
Finally, we had to include the Hotel Grande Bretagne, pictured below. A luxury hotel located in the heart of the city, the Grande Bretagne will deliver a top tier experience. Even if you don’t stay there, it is a great place to stop in for a drink. Check out the rooftop bar and restaurant with stunning views of the Acropolis and other historic landmarks.
Where to eat
Ama Laxei stis Nefelis in Exarcheia is a modern mezedopoleio (meze shop) found in a beautiful neoclassical building that used to be a primary school and was later transformed into a taverna that was eventually renovated in 2014. It’s the perfect place to be on a summer night. Its huge garden covered in greenery gives you the feeling that you are no longer in the centre of a city. Enjoy Greek cuisine and a variety of fingerlicking mezedes with a modern touch and some good wine and tsipouro.
What’s the point of visiting Greece if you don’t have some fresh fish? Travolta in Peristeri is the place to do just that. They are taking traditional Greek fish and seafood dishes and giving them a modern twist with interesting combinations. Their philosophy relies on high quality products to create the perfect taste. And this is realized with every single bite.
Riza Riza is an all-day cafe-bar right underneath the Acropolis, where you can eat, have coffee, drink cocktails, or have dessert. The concept of Riza Riza is pretty cool. It has an open kitchen which is basically like watching a show. That shouldn’t distract you from the very homey interior design which combines a traditional mpakaliko (grocery store) and a vintage house. One more thing; they have amazing cocktails based on greek spirits such as tsipouro, ouzo, tentoura, and raki (we know this is the where to eat section, but they’re seriously worth giving a try).
Another must is Lukumades in Monastiraki. Loukoumas is a fried dough usually served with raw honey and walnuts and has been a huge part of every Greek’s childhood. At Lukumades you can try this amazing dessert with all sorts of sauces and toppings, including ice cream. The real upgrade is the choice of dough filling. Yep, that’s right. You can choose between chocolate praline, mastiha cream, lemon cream, or banana cream.
Where to drink
Baba Au Rum may be small but it is undoubtedly one of the best cocktail bar in Athens. You will find most Athenians agree with us on this. And not only Athenians; Baba Au Rum was voted one of The World’s 50 Best Bars in 2018. If you didn’t guess it, the bar offers an impressive rum spirit list, including rums from around the world.
You can find great cocktails in Juan Rodriguez as well. Hidden in tiny Pallados St., Rodriguez will take you to a different era. Dim lighting, paintings on wooden walls and chandeliers: every detail contributes to the story of the imaginary host, Juan Rodriguez. He brings all the experiences from his travels together to create cocktails with interesting twists and tasty snacks suitable for the bar (served until 2am!).
Cantina Social is another meeting point of Athenians worth paying a visit to. You can dance all night in the small inside space or enjoy cocktails in the yard!
Yes, we know, you didn’t come all the way to Athens to just have cocktails. Although, you really should try these places. If you are looking for something more traditional and more Greek, you should try Avli (backyard). Avli is probably one of the best hidden places in Athens, it’s door is very easy to miss! Once you find it though, you will feel like you have stepped into a small taverna in the 60s with rebetika playing in the background. They offer greek beers and spirits and a few varieties of wine in carafes. They have a food menu as well with simple, traditional mezedes just like they used to be in the old days. To make everything better, Avli is ridiculously cheap. Less than 10 Euros per person, including food and plenty of wine.
Where to explore
We will skip the Acropolis, Syntagma, Panathenaic Stadium, Ancient Agora, and all the amazing historical and art museums, assuming that they are already on your list. While you are in the centre of Athens, you have to stroll around Plaka and the unique Anafiotika neighbourhood which lies on the hill of Acropolis. The neighbourhood is built following the typical architectural style of the Cyclades island complex. Exploring its narrow streets feels like the beach may be just around the corner. The panoramic view of Athens is just the cherry on top.
If you are feeling more adventurous and active, then get in a car and go to Tatoi Palace, the old summer residence of the Greek Royal Family that has been abandoned for about 50 years. The buildings are now collapsing but you can still appreciate the architecture and explore around the estate. While the main buildings are secured, you will find random buildings and items around the complex that will make you feel like you are the first person discovering them. The estate covers around 4,000 hectares of lush forest area, so you should definitely bring snacks and have a picnic after all the exploring.
Where to swim
What about the sea, right? Right! If you are visiting between May and September you can definitely swim in the clear blue Greek waters. The waters in Limanakia are probably some of the clearest you will find around Attica. Limanakia though is not exactly a beach. And that’s what makes it unique. The literal translation of limanakia is ‘little ports’, named after the little bays formed on this part of the coast. So you can decide on any one of the bays, though most people tend to choose the second one, which has a beach bar with relaxed music and cheap beer. Fair enough.
KAPE Beach on the way to Sounio is a bit of a hidden beach with white sand, turquoise waters, and tall cliffs. After the first hour there, you won’t even remember you are in Athens. Walking past the main beach, you will find a smaller cove that is more secluded and more popular for nudism.
Both beaches tend to get quite busy during the weekend in the summer so if you can choose to go midweek, definitely do so.
After reading all this you are probably feeling the itch to explore this historic city that is home to great food and drink and magnificent scenery for yourself. As always, we are here to help you organize. Download the Nomad App on your iPhone here.