Guide to: Athens

It’s been a few years since Europe’s most well-connected urbanites pronounced Athens cool (‘it’s the new Berlin!’), but guess what? Athens has been pretty cool for much of its recorded history — some 3,400 years. As one of the world’s oldest cities, layer upon layer of civilisation exists here, from the ancient ruins of its old centre to the foundations of The Ellinikon, a vast new neighbourhood being built on a former airport base, which will connect the centre and the glamorous, breezy coastal suburbs of Glyfada and Vouliagmeni. Athens is hectic, friendly, dirty and vibey. Spend any time there and you’ll become expert at hopping on and off pavements, dodging cars and weaving around bins. Unless you’re passing through to head to the Acropolis, avoid Plaka and instead try out neighbourhoods like Koukaki, Kolonaki, Kypseli, Exarcheia, Metaxourgeio, Pangrati and Neos Kosmos. While the city is vast and sprawling, these areas are well-connected and walkable. While many people used to pass through Athens en route to the islands, or for a few days to tick off the ancient sites, increasing numbers of young travellers are coming here to spend time hanging out and absorbing the nightlife, food scene and culture. The energy is palpable. It’s the new Berlin!

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Eat Day

Athens isn’t short of delightful outdoor dining, but it doesn’t get much more gorgeous than the Yiántes courtyard. It’s great at any time of day, but especially lunchtime, when the colour-washed walls glow in the sunlight and the greenery casts dappled light over your table of simple tzatziki, sardines and salad.For the complete opposite experience, head towards the main market and past its goat carcasses, olives and spices and descend into the dark cellar of Diporto, where a battered metal jug of wine (straight from the barrel) will be slammed down in front of you, whether you fancy a drink or not. You’ll also have no choice in what you eat here: they bring out a few set dishes tailored to your group size. Gorge on fava (a yellow split pea dip), fresh bread and fish next to a few small tables of in-the-know tourists and plenty of old Athenians. We defy you not to make a massive mess on the table and emerge tipsy and blinking back into the afternoon sunlight. With more food options, there’s also Atlantikos, a fish spot that runs down an alleyway not far from the Ancient Agora. Brilliantly brusque staff serve up whole fish, shellfish and lip-smacking accompaniments. You’ll be frowned upon if you don’t also order some ice-cold white wine. 

Eat Late


Book ahead for Seychelles, one of the most popular places for dinner in all of Athens. Be prepared to walk down some fairly dodgy streets to get here, but when you do, you’ll be rewarded with something like feta and quince paste, rooster pasta and veal with barley. For a more chic experience, try Linou Soumpasis k sia which is on a sweet side street a couple of doors down from the fun bars Handlebar and Marika, which lend the block a real buzz. While the steel tables here look severe and slightly sterile, the food, from lamb chops to langoustine pasta, is made with tender love and the natural wines are picked to perfection. While we’re on wine, try new hotspot Wine Is Fine. Yes, it seems odd to recommend a French restaurant in an Athens guide, but the vibe here is immaculate, with stylists, socialites and new foodies coming along for some beef bourguignon, super select wines and even some killer merch (what’s better than a boujee restaurant tee?).

Do / Visit

Of course you’ll be hiking up to the Acropolis, but don’t miss spending time walking around the Mouseion Hill gardens around Nymphs Hill, Deaf Man’s Cave and the Philopappos Monument. Without the tourist throngs, it’s easier to conjure up a sense of real history here, imagining ancient Greeks walking around the breezy, shady hills or sitting on rocks discussing democracy (or where they’re going to go for dinner). Strange that tourists flock to see the Acropolis and skip this old seat. You’re spoilt for history museums in Athens, with the Acropolis Museum, the Archaeological Museum and the Benaki Museum, but try the sharply-focused Museum of Cycladic Art, which focuses on the ancient civilisations of the Aegean and Cyprus from around the 3rd millennium BC. Enjoy the minimal beauty of the art and make sure you stop for coffee and cake in the beautifully designed café in the back. If you want something decidedly more modern, there’s plenty to do in Athens, be it the large-scale EMST (National Museum of Contemporary Art) and Stavros Niarchos Park or the small-scale Hot Wheels or Breeder Gallery



If you want to see how the posh part of town does it, try a drink at the Athénée, a 1930s Art Deco bar where the people-watching is off the chart. Prop up the bar (although be warned, some of the cocktails here are pre-mixed) and join the local and international, old and new money for an aperitif. Round the corner in one of the city’s bizarre little shopping arcades is Galaxy, one of the oldest bars in Athens and a big vibe any time of the week. All kinds of characters sit at the wood-panelled bar here, or spill out into the arcade itself. Come alone or in a small group, but end the night talking to someone unexpected and forging a new momentary friendship. For later-night drinking and a cooler, majority-queer crowd, head to the Cantina Social bar. Some nights are quiet enough to have a casual drink, while others are a fully lit springboard into an endless night of clubs and after-parties.  


Hyper Hypo

Hyper Hypo is more than just a great book shop — it’s also an occasional gallery, talk space and wild party spot when someone like BUTT magazine decide to throw a launch party here. It’s generally a place to go to plug into the city and its happenings, since its owners Andreas and Stathis are at the heart of the creative community and DJs, designers and international visitors all pass through. Less of a social space is the surprising mini Comme des Garçons/Dover Street Market-backed Number 3 store, which feels like a silent shrine to good taste. It’s got a small selection, but it’s a great place to pick up cult local designer brands such as Serapis Maritime. It’s also great if you need an emergency bottle of Comme fragrance. Another place to stock up on smellies is The Naxos Apothecary, from the family behind Greek’s super success-story brand, Korres. It’s perfect for picking up relatively inexpensive, expensive-looking perfumes, soaps, creams, oils, candles and ceramics. And since its products aren’t so widely available internationally, it feels like an old-time treat to be able to buy something that feels slightly specific to a place. 


Perhaps the most genius off-shoot business idea in Greece: mattress brand Coco-Mat decided to open hotels to put its comfy eco mattresses in. Now they have three hotels in Athens and two more around the country. They’re fresh, comfortable and not excessively pricey. It’s probably worth trying their Acropolis-adjacent BC hotel, which benefits from a roof pool. Even though it’s fairly small and you’ll have to fight influencers for a place on a lounger, it’s a treat to have somewhere to splash, especially if you’re there in the peak hot summer months. A good deal more monetarily and aesthetically excessive is The Hotel Grande Bretagne. It’s a classic (or even a cliché) and if it’s good enough for Elizabeth Taylor, Bruce Springsteen and Jay-Z . . . If you can’t afford to stay there, head in for a cocktail at their legendary rooftop bar. Unlike in some cities (eg New York), the Airbnb options in Athens are excellent and affordable. If you’re lucky, for under €100, you can even find yourself in a bright penthouse with a vast wrap-around terrace. And if you want to stay in one of the cooler, younger neighbourhoods, these are pretty much the only accommodation options you’ve got. Be aware though, in areas like Exarcheia, there’s resistance to the Airbnbification and gentrification of a historically anarchist area. 


For the most part, people only head to Piraeus to get the ferries to the islands. But there’s a little scene down here, centred around the Carwan and Rodeo galleries. If you’re lucky, you’ll coincide with one of their exhibition openings, which turn into chic little street parties replete with drinks from the next-door Paleo Wine Store

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