I think Athens is really under-rated when it come’s to European cities. Despite it’s economic problems over the last few years central Athens is still a bustling, interesting city. Busy coffee shops, chaotic markets, beautiful parks, it’s a city that has it all. It also appeals to me as it’s a city that feels so much foreign to me than European. It’s a city of contrasts: Chaotic yet well polished, historic yet cosmopolitan, the centre is compact yet easy to get lost in. Athens is known for the acropolis; one of the wonders of the world, it looms high above the city centre, and also for it’s other cultural attractions: it’s museums and it’s architecture. However Athens is a place for getting culturally enriched in other ways too such as, drinking coffee.
Here’s my guide to Athens like a local
Grab breakfast in Kolonaki
Kolonaki is a neighbourhood popular with the locals, a little walk away from the popular Syntagma square. Like Plaka, the old town, there are plenty of coffee shops and restraunts here, however those in Kolonaki tied to be quieter and more authentic. These cafe’s are a great place to sit outside and watch the world go by.
Enjoy the coffee culture
From the moment the sun comes up, it seems to be coffee hour in Athens. Whereas in the UK it’s just a drink, coffee in greece is a way of life. cafe’s and bakeries are on every corner, bars double up as coffee shops even in the evening. It’s the norm to see groups of locals chatting over coffee at 11 at night in a high end bar. The most popular coffees are freddo cappuccino or espresso, which I developed a serious addiction to over the last couple of weeks in Athens.
These coffees are iced, freddo espresso, essentially is an iced black americana and freddo capuchino the same, except with the most amazing frothy milky topping that i’m not sure exactly what it is. Its generally whisked up in front of you but taste’s so much more creamy than regular milk. You’ll also be asked if/ how sweet you want it. I made the mistake of ordering mine medium, which is the norm. It was so sweet but so addictive.
If your heart is beating faster than you ever knew possible after all of the caffeine, sugar and pastries the you’ve consumed than what better way to self medicate than to go on a hike up Mount Lycabettus. Clearly visible over the city this high mountain offers incredible views across the city, stretching out to the sea and the islands beyond. Also high, it’s only the initial steps that make it a little tricky, and the view once you get to the top is well worth it. There’s even a little church and restaurant up the top.
Most people tend to go to A for Athens, a popular rooftop bar located in busy Monastraki square. However we found the 360 degree cocktail bar, at the other side of the square must nicer, and filled with locals. This bar offers amazing views of the acropolis that lies opposite it and serves good cocktails, wines and coffee. The entrance is anything but impressive but it makes the bar so much more of a suprise once you’re up.
Relax in the National gardens
As much as I love Athens, the heat in the city can be unbearable and walking around all day doesn’t help. If you’ve got the time, go and join the local teens, and find a shady spot to eat some food and relax in the National gardens. This beautiful park is located just outside of plaka and makes a good respite.