It’s been just over a year since I visited Greece and yet I still can’t get it out of my head. Barely a few days go by without thinking of a dish I eat in a cafe in Athens, or the view from Mount Lycabettus, the sounds of waves lapping at the boat we took out to Santorini, or that striking sight when you first see the Parthenon sitting atop the Acropolis. And with the sights and sounds of Athens in mind I thought I’d share my 5 must see sights for Athens and being a huge foodie you can be sure there is always a good cafe or restaurant around the corner. Plaka
Sitting in the shadow of the Acropolis, Plaka is the oldest part of Athens and has still retained some of the spirit of a simple local neighborhood. That ‘village’ feel extends from the winding pedestrianised streets through to the family run cafes and restaurants. Plaka was once the place to go for nightlife but that was largely closed in the 70’s. Since then it has become home to cafes, restaurants as well as tourist shops and jewellers. It might feel a bit like the area is geared to tourists and to an extent it is. But you can still find excellent restaurants serving authentic Greek food.
My favourite restaurant here is Scholarhio. It is still a family run affair and is family friendly. As opposed to looking over a menu and choosing a single dish you will be presented with a huge tray with a cacophony of 18-20 small dishes to pick from. I recommend trying the vegetarian dishes such as aubergine (egg plant).
Central Market, the Varvakios Agora
Athens has 3 agora. The ancient Greek agora, heart of classical Athens. The Roman agora, market place for the Romans and the modern Varvakios Agora. If you are continuing up from the Plaka pass through Monastiraki and head up Athinas towards Omonia. On your right you will find the vibrant, hectic and ever colourful Central Market. Here you can buy everything and anything foodie. Visit the meat market to see the hanging carcases. A treat for foodies is the fresh fish market. Everyday a new catch comes in from the Aegean and heads straight to the central market. If you’re staying in a hotel you may not be able to but too much but sample everything you can there are always breads and olives to eat whilst walking.
You can buy a lot of things here to make up a picnic of wonderful breads, olives and cheeses on the spot. Its only a short walk down past Syntagma to the national botanical gardens where you can enjoy you’re picnic in peace. By the market you can find a couple of small working class restaurants. They might seem brash and a lack of a menu can put people off but bear with it and you’ll get a great meal.
Okay a busy shipping and ferry port might not seem a foodie hangout but bear with me a minute and you’ll see why I have included Pireas. Like many visitors to Athens passed through here on my way to and from the islands. Most people only spend enough time to check in and board their ferry or quickly pass through on their way back to Athens propper. As much as I love watching shipping and seeing liners such as the QE2 in harbour what always springs to mind when I think of Pireas is of arriving early in the morning and waiting for my ferry. Sitting by an almost deserted dock in the half light of dawn till the koulouri seller set-up his stall and we got two of the largest Koulouri I have ever seen! They were so warm and fresh. The smell overpowering. Of all the breads I tried in Greece this is the one which stick in my mind the most!
Wander down to Zea marina and Kastela where young people hang out. You can find good restaurants and cafes as well as a small beach.
Psiri is one of Athens hippest hangouts. Its where the trendy go for an evening out. Start out in one of the restaurants for a great meal. Once a working class neighborhood it has been transformed into the place for nightlife. after enjoying your meal head to one of the bars, tavernas, clubs or Ouzeries. I enjoyed wandering the maze of small and large streets as well as enjoying a drink or two in the bars. Sit outdoors and take in the eclectic and dynamic atmosphere as well as viewing huge wall-side murals. You can find Psiri just off Monastiraki square.
My final recommendation is Kolonaki and Lycabettus hill. Kolonaki is the chic and upmarket neighborhood of Athens. Where the effortlessly cool come to hangout with a latte in the afternoon or ouzo in the evening. I have included Kolonaki as it is a great place to do some people watching. Sit outdoors, order a Greek coffee and watch the world go by or immerse yourself in a good read.
When evening is on its way and the sun is beginning to set make your way up Mount Lycabettus. From here you can see out over the city below all the way to Pireas. Order an ouzo or a nice glass of wine and watch the sun go down. Is there a better way to spend an evening?
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