You’ve planned a city trip to Athens and now you’re in the city for a long weekend. What should you (in my opinion) definitely do in Athens? Most likely, you want to see the well-known sights such as the Acropolis, the ancient citadel that includes the Parthenon. But how do you discover the lesser-known parts of the city? In this blog post, I give you insider tips on how you can experience Athens among the Greeks.
SHOPPING AROUND THE CENTRAL MARKET
Evripidou is one of my favourite streets in Athens. You can find this street just before the central market if you’re coming from the Monastiraki Square. Evripidou Street is full of traditional herb and delicatessen shops and is the best place to buy souvenirs. My personal favourite stores are:
Bahar – the most well-known herb shop in Athens. They sell dried Greek herbs, legumes, different varieties of rice, and much more.
Miran – a household name in Athens since 1922. What started as a tiny store belonging to an Armenian family of migrant workers has now grown into one of the most famous delicatessens in Greece.
DINNER OR LUNCH WITH LIVE MUSIC… AND NOT IN THE TOURIST DISTRICT PLAKA
Greeks love (a lot of) food, preferably in the company of (many) friends and with as much noise (read live music) as possible. Most tourists allow themselves to be drawn into the establishments in the tourist district Plaka. I suggest skipping this for once and venturing into one of the less popular districts of Athens, the small alleyways right behind the central market.
Here you will find the Klimataria taverna, an established name in the city since 1946. Every day, owner Maria cooks traditional Greek dishes in a gastra (a kind of traditional slow-cooker). Here you can eat deliciously tender meat and other mageirefta (cooked dishes) and enjoy the traditional music. By the end of the evening, you will be dancing on the table with the Greeks. Please note that the Greek tavernas do not have a smoking policy!
Taverna Klimataria: Plateia Theatrou, Omonoia stop
VISIT THE STUDENT DISTRICT EXARCHEIA
In Exarcheia, you will find one of the most impressive musea in Athens, the National Archaeological Museum of Athens. It is not the quietest neighborhood in the city. In addition to being a student district (the University of Athens is situated here), it is also a district of artists, young entrepreneurs, anarchists, and drug addicts. As a result, there is usually a large police presence. In Exarcheia, there are many old-fashioned bookstores to be found in Emmanuel Benaki street. This district is also the place to go if you want to enjoy (cheaper) food in traditional tavernas or cosy restaurants, which you will find in Valtetsiou street. Additionally, Exarcheia is full of fun and cheap student cafes.
DISCOVER THE CHURCHES
The Greek Orthodox faith still plays an important role in the life of the Greeks. Orthodox means “according to the proper doxa or worship”. Almost all Greeks are members of the Greek Church. You can see churches all over the city, but some very beautiful small churches can be found on the road from the Plaka district to the Acropolis. Even if the service is incomprehensible to most of us, it is still worthwhile to take a look inside one of these churches. Keep in mind that it is considered rude to enter a church with your shoulders and knees uncovered. This rule applies to both men and women.
KOLONAKI AND LYKAVITTOS
Kolonaki is the chique district of Athens, with beautiful little boutiques and stores such as Louis Vuitton and Prada. In the Dexameni Square, you will find cosy terraces, and in the evenings the district turns into a trendy nightlife centre full of exclusive bars. Not good for your wallet, but definitely a worthwhile experience.
Kolonaki is situated at the foot of the Lykavittos, the highest point of Athens. From the end of Ploutarchou Street, you reach the cable car (more like a little train) that takes you to the top of the mountain. Here you can enjoy a spectacular view over the city.
START YOUR STAY IN ATHENS WITH A BICYCLE TOUR
With a bicycle tour, you get a good impression of the city in three hours. You visit the highlights of Athens and hear interesting stories about Greek history and culture. During the Let’s Meet in Athens bicycle tours, you will have a tour guide who speaks English, Dutch, or German (according to your choice) and who will show you places in the city that you would otherwise be unlikely to discover.