More than just a stopover to the Greek islands, Athens is a destination in its own right. With a burgeoning bar scene that makes it one of the coolest cities in the world to drink right now, restaurants that range from uber-hip to timelessly classic, and a front row seat to ancient human history, there is something for everyone in Greece's capital. Whether you're dipping in and out of shops in Psyri, hiking up one of the city's many hills or making a beeline for the riviera, we've got you covered.
Where to eat in Athens
Sokratous 9 &, Theatrou, Athina 105 52
There are some meals that feel so perfect you know before you’ve even left that talking about them will be an enormous cliché, and Diporto is just that place. It’s everything you think you’re going to get from holiday dining: off the beaten track, fairly rough and ready, no menu, and some of the best food you’ll eat in Greece. Descending the stairs into Diporto’s subterranean space is like stepping back in time. You’ll be directed to a free table, equipped with an overflowing carafe of house wine, and then the food will start arriving. In spate, we might add. Brothy chickpeas punch with flavour. Sardines are heavily salted and grilled until charred, the meat slipping easily off the bones. Creamy fava beans are drizzled with lethal amounts of olive oil and, of course, accompanied by half a loaf of crusty white bread, to mop up all of the goodness. Pure joy.
Evripidou 52, Athina 105 52
Sneak through this dinky deli, trying not to get distracted by the incredible charcuterie along the way, and out the back where, as is the set up with most places in Athens, the corridor between two buildings has been turned into a restaurant. The aforementioned cured meats feature heavily in the meal, both in the cured ham delivered as a snack while you peruse the menu, but also in dishes like slow cooked gigante beans in tomato sauce with spicy sausage, or whole sausages on a bed of pita bread with tzatziki. Break up all that meat with perfectly lemony dolma and the unctuous, glistening folds of aubergine dip. It’s the perfect restaurant to introduce diners to what it means to eat in Athens.
Pl. Theatrou 2, Athina 105 52
If Karamanlidika is where you want to start your holiday, then Tavern Klimataria is definitely where you want to finish it. Opened in 1927, it’s one of the oldest remaining tavernas in the city and you can almost feel the decades of bonhomie permeating the walls. Book a later table and settle in for a riotous evening full of Greek music and incredible food, all washed down with cloudy glasses of iced ouzo and innumerable carafes of house wine. The carnivorous will want to pre-order the lamb kleftiko, some of the best in the city.
What to do in Athens
Crawl some of the world’s best bars
Make sure to pre-hydrate, as Athens is home to two bars on the World’s 50 Best list, and a number of plucky new spots sure to find their way onto it in future years. The city is a cocktail hotspot with a thriving late night culture: dinner often takes place at 10pm and post-meal drinks are borderline compulsory. Kick things off at The Clumsies with the bar’s infamous Aegean Negroni, which is an uncanny shade of blue, before heading over to Baba Au Rum, where the selection of rum cocktails is unsurprisingly impressive, and the energy is always high. Pop into The Bar in Front of the Bar for a quick tipple and then finish off at the namesake bar through the secret door behind Jungle.
Hike around the Acropolis
Want to visit The Acropolis? Of course you do. Swerve the classic tourist trail and take the long way around instead. Beginning at Monastiraki Square, travel uphill towards the Horologion of Andronikos Cyrrhestes. Continue onwards past the cafes that spill out onto the tiny lanes, and ascend toward the crest of the hill. If you swing a left, you’ll find yourself in Anafiotika, a series of tiny lanes that weave through houses more reminiscent of the Greek islands than the city of Athens. Built in the 1800s, the village was modelled on the island of Anafi, and inhabited by residents who were brought to Athens to assist with the refurbishment of King Othon’s Palace. After inevitably getting lost in its warren of pathways, you’ll eventually pop out at the base of the Acropolis, where you can continue along the boulevard until you reach the top of the hill. After exploring the temple itself, traverse across and hike up to the top of Philopappos Hill for panoramic views across the city and a front row seat to the Acropolis. Do your feet a favour and pack some comfy kicks.
Visit Lake Vouliagmeni
While Athens is absolutely a destination in its own right, it’s also a gateway to many of Greece’s world-famous islands. With its crystalline waters and wonderfully laid-back pace of life, if you’re planning a visit, there’s a high chance you’ll go via Athens. And, while there is much to keep you busy in this city, when the temperatures rise, all you’ll really want is to cool off. The best spot to do so? Lake Vouliagmeni. About an hour on public transport from the centre of Athens, this brackish-water lake fed by underwater currents is not only the perfect place for a refresh, it is also purported to have healing properties that help soothe a number of ailments including eczema and muscle pain. Blessed relief.
Where to stay in Athens
Kolokotroni 3-5, Athina 105 62
Central, yet slightly removed from the hustle and bustle of Monastiraki Square, Xenodocheio Milos is a haven in the heart of Athens. Quiet luxury is the watchword here.Rooms are bedecked in neutral tones and warm woods, and make the perfect spot to unwind after a day exploring the city. Opt for a terrace room for your own private outdoor space with views of the city – some have panoramic vistas featuring Athen’s most iconic monuments. Astute foodies might recognise the name of the hotel restaurant, Estiatorio Milos – it has a sister eatery in St James. Breakfast takes place in the elegant, white-washed space, while dinner is an indulgent affair that reinterprets classic Greek dishes through a fine dining lens.
Sarri 40, Athina 105 53
If you picked up your dream NYC loft and plonked it in the heart of Athen’s coolest suburb, you’d get an approximation of The Foundry Suites. This selection of sizeable suites comes with all the benefits of a hotel, alongside the freedom of your own apartment, including well-stocked kitchens (not that you’ll ever need to cook with the number of great restaurants in Athens). The cherry on top is the rooftop bar, which boasts some of the city’s best views of the Acropolis. Breakfast – a charming affair where guests are provisioned with well-stocked wicker baskets packed full of pastries, Greek scrambled eggs and other goodies – is served up there, and it remains open to guests throughout the day, before turning into a vibrant bar that stays open well into the evening. For the supreme sundowner, settle in with a cocktail and watch the setting sun turn the Acropolis
a vibrant shade of orange. Cheers.