THE LOCAL: Alex
WHY YOU SHOULD TRUST HER: Alex was born and raised in Athens. Because her family still lives there, she plans a ten day visit home each year. On these annual trips, she enjoys going out with friends to her favorite spots, but also to try new restaurants and cocktail bars. Below, some restaurant and sightseeing tips from Alex to help you plan your trip to Athens and avoid the tourist traps!
1. Favorite place to stroll?
The National Gardens of Athens is an excellent area! In the center of the gardens is the Zappeion, a structure built in the 1880s for the Olympics that is now often used for meetings and ceremonies. Another great park to explore is Philopappou Hill, southwest of the Acropolis. The park is where the Philopappos Monument is located, and it’s known for beautiful landscaping and stone pathways. Finally, you can spend lots of time wandering in the Plaka district through the mix of cafes, restaurants, shops, museums and homes.
2. Best coffee shop or bakery?
Ntemonte has excellent coffee and pastries in a cozy, home-like setting. If you’re interested in pastries only, Despina Patisserie is excellent.
3. Essential Athens tip?
Because of the heat, do not plan visits to sites that are outdoors between 1-3pm in summer. Also, cab prices are reasonable except when you’re traveling to and from the airport. Bus/Metro tickets cost 1.40 euros and are valid for 90 minutes. To get to and from the airport, you can either take the metro for 10 euros or the express buses for 6 euros, which travel downtown in 30-45 minutes.
4. Local food/drink you must try?
You have to try Mezedes, the greek equivalent of tapas, and a glass of ouzo or tsipouro as starters! Mezedes can be found at of all sorts of places and there are many different kinds. Some of my favorite mezedes include grilled octopus, grilled cheese or saganaki, spreads like tzatziki, taramosalata (with tarama: fish eggs) and tirokafteri (spicy cheese). Some people shorten mezedes to ‘mezes’.
Also, in Athens, no one will light saganaki on fire and shout “Opa!”
You also shouldn’t leave Athens without trying a pita gyro or souvlaki. Both can be found almost everywhere on the street in Monastiraki (the city center). This is the equivalent of the greek hot-dog. The local Athens tradition is made with pork in a pita with tzatziki, tomatoes, onions and sometimes fries, but you can customize it to your liking with different types of meat (chicken, lamb or beef) and different sauces. There are two local Athens places I recommend: Κώστας in Agia Irinis Square and Souvlaki Bar.
In Greece, there are a lot of homemade dishes that take a long time to prepare but can be excellent if you have enough time to cook. When dining out, beware of menus with more than one or two pages- these are usually tourist traps! The best places are traditional ones that don’t even have a menu; these places often have a dish of the day that they simply serve until they’re out. One of these places is Fagopoteion.
5. Your recommended Saturday night agenda?
Head to the cafe-bars in Kolonaki Square or Platia Agias Irinis area. Both areas buzz both day and night. At night, either spot is great for bar hopping or for going to a fun night club. Some places I recommend:
- La Esquina– great spot in Kolonaki area for drinks and burgers
- rock’n’roll– A club for dancing
- Tailor Made– Hip, relaxed cafe that also serves great coffee during the day
- Faust– Bar with live music
- Six d.o.g.s. in Monastiraki
TripAdvisor’s Top Athens Attractions
1. Acropolis Museum– Thumbs Up!
It’s a pretty new museum (built in 2009), and is very modern. From their cafe and from various vantage points throughout the museum, you can witness great views of the Acropolis. The cafe’s food is delicious as well.
2. Acropolis– Thumbs Up!
Do not miss the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, the Propylaia (the gateway), the Parthenon, and the Erechtheion with the famous Caryatids. This is an Athens attraction that you simply cannot miss.
3. Parthenon– Thumbs Up!
The Parthenon is the main temple of the Acropolis. You can’t visit the inside, but from the outside it’s very impressive and the history of the structure is very interesting.
4. Private Tours– Thumbs Down.
Private tours in Athens are usually very expensive and very touristy. It’s better to buy the Michelin travel guide and plan your own tour! If you’d rather not plan your own guided tour, GPSMyCity has published several walking tours for different parts of Athens that you can download in the App Store and use- even offline. (Psst and these are free!)
5. Temple of Hephaestus– Thumbs Up.
It’s nice to walk around this temple. The size and the history make it an attraction you shouldn’t miss.
Did TripAdvisor miss any top attractions? Would you add any to the list?
The peak of Lycabettus and Philopappos hill are both places that have very nice views of the Acropolis and the city.
The Anafiotika, a picturesque neighborhood on the northern slopes of the Acropolis hill, is a great area to wander. The Roman Agora is the marketplace that, in Socrates and Plato’s day, was the heart of public life, and is a great area to explore as well.
The National Archeological Museum is very well known and houses beautiful pieces of sculpture and jewelry. The only downside is that most of the museum does not have explanations in English, so if you’re planning to visit, you will need a guide of some sort. I would also recommend the Cycladic Museum if you like artifacts and prehistoric art.
Alex’s Recommended Local Athens Restaurants
Kuzina: One of the best restaurants in Athens, with traditional as well as modern Greek cuisine. Very beautiful decor and atmosphere.
Strofi: High quality food with a view of the Acropolis. You may need reservations for Strofi.
Ta karamanlidika tou Fani: This place has delicious Mezedes and is situated within a delicatessen shop. Try the Pastourma!
Epirus tavern: Located in the meat market, the ambiance is not very fancy but the food is homemade! This location serves a different menu each day, and you’re always bound to get something delicious.
The Zillers / 360 Athens: I strongly recommend both places for cocktails on a rooftop with a view on the Acropolis. At the Zillers, expect American food and good burgers.
Did you enjoy this Local Athens Greece travel guide? Or are you a local from Athens too? If we missed any of your favorite spots, tell us about them in the comments below!