Athens is chaotic and terribly humane as it grows haphazardly day by day amidst the old and new together. It is the city of clichés, the city where people eat at all hours of day and night. The city where the smell of Souvlaki enters our nostrils wherever we are. Athens is so gray that a blue sky is almost unreal. Athens never sleeps but is full of pride and melancholy. Athens is a combination of a little dream and a little nightmare. Athens, basically is like a close relative who we have to forgive for its flaws and contradictions.
For decades now Athens has nearly half the population of the whole Greece and more than half of the cars. The development of the modern city began in 1834 when the city, which at that time numbered no more than 8,000 inhabitants, was selected as the new greek state capital. The town branched out in all directions with the construction of extensive suburban neighborhoods, first toward the north, in the plain of Cephisus and north-east, on the slopes of Mount Lycabettus and over, and then to the south, until you reach the sea.
Thus Athens, which was then little more than a village, because of this messy process of urbanization that has produced such a tremendous growth, has now become a shapeless concrete city. The outskirts of Athens is really vast and impressive with a real succession of contiguous reinforced concrete and light-colored barracks that, almost seems seamless, as it stretch for tens of kilometers across the plain of the region.
The city is bounded on three sides by Mount Parnitha, Mount Pendéli and Mount Hymettos, and inside it are no less than eight hills, among which are the Acropolis and Likavitos. In fact almost all places of interest for travelers are concentrated in the area around Syntagma Square, bounded by the neighborhoods south of Plaka, Monastiraki to the west, Kolonaki to the east and Omonia to the north.
Athens cannot be definitely considered a beautiful city, although, probably, will still have the extraordinary power to envelop you with its tentacles and seduce you with its Levantine spirit. The secret to not be disappointed is to not visit this city with the thought that the time has stopped to the history books. Life goes on. Athens then has changed dramatically in recent years.
The Eleftherios Venizelos airport is brand new, which was built for the Olympic Games. It is located in Spata, where it opened to the public in March 2001, making the arrival in Greece much more pleasant than in the past. To place it there, thirty kilometers east of Athens, they had to even move an Orthodox church from the XV century. It is about 50 minutes drive from the center. Taking a taxi to move should not be too expensive. The problem may be precisely find an honest taxi driver because many, especially from the airport, try to be clever.
Taxis in Athens, in general, are cheap, and it would be enough to always check that the meter indicates the right rate, and especially that it is in operation but the most difficult thing is often just be able to stop them in the street. Try to call them from the sidewalk, screaming your destination. If the driver is directed in the same area, it may still allow you even though it has passengers on board. But do not count on it.
The easiest and cheapest means to leave the airport is still the bus. Apart from the trouble of lugging suitcases, they are frequent, efficient, comfortable, and even with air conditioning. There are several bus lines to and from the airport. All buses depart exactly from the arrivals area, right off exit. And there as well you will find a convenient location to make the tickets.
The X94 line connects the metro station Ethniki Amina to the airport. The first bus is at 06.30, the last bus at 20:55. The frequency is every 10-20 minutes. The line for the Syntagma Square, X95 works runs 24 hours a day with a frequency that can vary from 10 minutes to half an hour. The X96 line is to Piraeus. Like the previous runs 24 hours, usually every twenty minutes or every 40 minutes after midnight.
The bus and metro lines are clearly indicated on the map of Athens which is distributed free of charge by the Tourism agencies and many hotels. Lately also the train connects the airport and goes up to the Monastiraki metro station; there then you will have to change if you are going to the square of Syntagma and Omonia. The first train from the airport to Monastiraki is at 06:30, the last at 20:30 from the airport to Monastiraki. The first train from Monastiraki to the airport is at 05:50. The frequency of routes is every 20 minutes and the last one from Monastiraki to the airport is at 19:20.
Athens has a subway that is perhaps the most efficient and beautiful in Europe. The network consists of 3 lines, which runs through the city from the south (from the port of Piraeus) to the north (the elegant suburb of Kifissia) and the new lines that crosses the entire historical center to the north and south of the Ilioupoli district. Line 1 dates back to 1800 and is the oldest in addition to being among the first built in Europe.
Initially created as a suburban line, in recent years it has undergone a profound restyling, with a series of highly original polychrome stations all characterized by the presence of contemporary art. In lines 2-3, the new, highly efficient, the stations are minimalist in style and postmodernism and some of them seem almost like museums. The subway is undoubtedly the ideal way to reach all the main sites in Athens.
Athens is enclosed by the two main squares of the city, Syntagma Square and Omonia Square. In these streets the hectic pace of Athenian life are balanced in some way by the slowness of yore. Here we find many shops with the modern ones, a true hymn to consumerism, and the traditional ones such as, for example, the merchants of fabrics, mostly Jews, bound to tradition, sometimes right next to each other in the same street.
And then, above all, a multitude of people, at all hours of day and night. If instead you want to understand what Greece is becoming, take a taxi, a bus or the subway and head north to Kifisia, or south, taking the coastal Leoforos Posidonos reach Glyfada and here you will breathe a new international air, where the luxury is visible to all and unreachable for many. These are the new residential areas, where new greek capitalism lives here with luxury shops, trendy bars and nightclubs, high concentration of companies, advanced service companies, banks and local fashionistas packed with beautiful gilded youth.
The ticket to visit the Acropolis may seem a little higher. And indeed it is. It, however, also includes access to some of the most important monuments of the city. Among other things, the visit can be made over several days. Just keep the ticket, of course. There are five monuments that we visit with the ticket for the Acropolis from the Ancient Agora, the Theater of Dionysus, the Ceramic, the Roman Agora and the Temple of Olympian Zeus.
All, of course, have earlier closing times of at least a few hours compared to what is expected in your guide.
Then there is a really inexpensive way to visit the Acropolis, and that is to do it on Sunday, because, inexplicably, in this day you do not have to pay at all. Without this premise, a few words about the monuments that you will find, of which you already know everything.
With religious, social and political development of ancient Athens, the Acropolis still has an immense charm, despite numerous devastations it suffered. The Parthenon and the Erechtheion are, in practice, the only remaining monuments on the esplanade. They are works that date back to classical and is believed to have been erected in the period between 447 and 406 BC.
The creator of this can be considered as Pericles, with his ambitious building program, was clearly designed to promote image of the Athenian state. On top of the sacred rock, the Athenians then erected one of the most perfect creations of human ingenuity, the universal symbol of classical beauty. Let's clear the field immediately from a cliche. The symmetries, as stated in art books, capture the senses and the soul of those who come to admire the Parthenon.
The brain then gives everything an expression of life that pervades the forms, although these remain, of course, perfectly still because there cannot be an expression of beauty without full expression of life and there is no expression of life if it is not understood in the image, column, or the human body that is, a surge of mind. Breathing life and true beauty to a building was the merit of the incomparable Greek architects.
So even after having seen a thousand photographs we were prepared to face the excitement at the sight of the immensity of this building, which is actually probably the most recognizable structure in the world, along with the golden arches of McDonald's, of course.
Towards 1450 the Turks transformed it into a mosque and then into a gunpowder store. To expel a general they did not hesitate to shoot guns on the Acropolis and one of them blew up the Parthenon. Much of the Parthenon was then disassembled and was put together with parts that were replaced.
Along the Acropolis and on the same ticket we visit the Museum where all are guarded pieces that are not interested in Lord Elgin. Doubtless you have heard about the controversy surrounding the Elgin Marbles. It is of the Elgin Marbles, and many other artifacts, which were sold to the British Lord Elgin from the Turks who were occupying Greece. They are now preserved in the British Museum though the greek government, the Greek people, and anyone in the world, with the exception of the British government, believe that these works should be returned.
To the north of the Parthenon stands the Erechtheion, the second temple in size, dating back to a period. It is a quite original construction. The one that immediately jumps to the eyes, to the south of the building, is the loggia with caryatids, the six statues of Korai, the maidens who support the entablature with grace. The statues actually have been replaced by casts and original are the Acropolis museum, but one which instead is in the British Museum.
Below the Acropolis is the theater of Herod Atticus built by the Romans and still used today for concerts, the ballet, the high cultural value events.
Plaka is the oldest part of Athens. Most of the streets are closed to traffic or vehicles and is especially the area of restaurants, tourist shops and cafes. Almost all of the restaurants are tourist catcher and in some the quality of the food is not that bad, but be careful because in some places, rather, serve skewers hard like the Parthenon marbles. As for the shops most of them are a real invitation for lovers of kitsch, but you can also happen to find some interesting article.
Almost all the shops sell the same things and the same prices, but a few are diversified and sell antiques, hand-painted icons, wood carvings and paintings. In addition there are several museums to the description of which I refer to the traditional guides. The cafes are generally costly if they are on the main roads and around the squares, but very often are exceptional for the views they offer.
If you sit in one of these coffee long enough you will understand much of Greece observing people walking these streets. People are still the greatest show on earth! You will notice that there are several restaurants with menus displayed in the street. In fact it will be difficult not to notice because every time you pass someone will try to convince you to go inside to see the menu.
But if you want to eat something quickly as you turn it's good to know that in Athens, in every street and at any time there are small kiosks selling everything, food, drinks and everything else, from rubber to cards, including newspapers.
The center of town, is the best place for orientation. The Syntagma Square has a long history. It seems that every major event in the modern history of Greece was celebrated here. Its name means the Constitution and that is where there is a large and imposing neoclassical building, the former royal palace, now home of the parliament. Here is also a monument to the Unknown Soldier where it plays every day the famous changing of the Athens tripguard with the Evzoni, those high and dressed big boys in a tutu who watch on the memorial day and night. The show provided free by greek government is appreciated by children and tourists!
On the opposite side of the Parliament starts Ermou Street, the central shopping street entirely pedestrianized and full of shops and big brand stores, the main place of the Athenian shopping. Here there are plenty of coffee bars with outdoor seating. The classical style of architecture, known as neoclassical, is the dominant style of all the old buildings, houses and public buildings of Athens.
To the left of the square there is the Grande Bretagne, a strikingly elegant hotel. Considered the best place to stay in Athens, it was built in 1862 to receive the Heads of State, the purpose for which it is still used. After all it is one of the most famous hotels in the world. If you want to take off a whim to take a drink or have breakfast, better yet in this glittering super-luxury hotel, recently renovated, all stucco, mirrors and liveried waiters.
At the bottom of the square there is the McDonald's. If you find yourself on the street and you need a clean bathroom, it is the first place that comes to mind to advise you. You will find soap and toilet paper. And anyway it is not necessary to consume, because to eat is definitely better. In this square there is the metro station, the main hub, and from here also the buses for the airport and the seaside resorts of the coast.
The National Garden was reserved earlier exclusively to the royal family. It is now open to the public but really badly kept. The entrance is right across from Syntagma Square. And 'an orgy of lush plants! There are flower beds, tree-lined boulevards, tall trees, lakes, bridges, statues and countless benches. In the garden there is also a Botanical Museum.
Leaving the Garden you can enter into Vassilissis Sofias Avenue, one of the main arteries of Athens, lined with embassies. At No. 91 is the American of 1960, the work of Gropius. Adjacent to the garden is the Zappeio, a center for conferences and exhibitions in the neoclassical style. Doric columns of its facade, the impressive atrium, the main entrance stairways are framed by green tree-lined streets that serve to highlight the building's magnificence. This area is very popular with Athenians to make us the walks.
The flea market around Monastiraki
Monastiraki was, during the 400 years of Ottoman rule, the city's commercial center. And 'why, to this day, he has still maintained much of that its distinctive oriental style. This is certainly a very folkloric and lively area, almost like a bazaar. And it is also here that takes place, all the Surviving in AthensSundays, the famous flea market. This is definitely the ideal place for lovers of noisy places, animated and full of stalls. The market is spread through the narrow streets around the church of Agios Filippos, between the metro stations of Thissio and Monastiraki, just in the same area where in ancient times were held businesses retail.
Sunday morning is the time to be here. Dive among the people. You will have the opportunity to rummage through the most incredible wares from Cuban cigars, Iranian contraband caviar, Limoges porcelain just chipped, mobile of last generation and of dubious origin, Hungarian salami in the midst used blenders, repeatedly mended shoes and often mismatched, porn videotapes and irons without handle, piled on the asphalt by Bulgarians, gypsies, Trans-Siberian and Transdanubian.
A ragged army with the wreck of ideologies, revolutions and counter-revolutions have stranded in the streets of Monastiraki and here sells everything it dragged with him in the exodus. Perhaps along some narrow streets you happen to turn up a little 'nose or terrify you and come back. Well, if you want this is one of the few remaining places not yet contaminated by the syndrome of the global village that now infect with the ardor of a malarial fever in good part of the town.
Along the Athinas street, from Monastiraki down to Omonia Square, you'll find yourself at the Athens market. This is my favorite place! They 'a dirty white building, a kind of carton with iron canopy and glass fin de siècle train station, perfect exposure of the delights that day after day give relief to the insatiable hunger of Athens. The fish market and that of meat lie just beneath this gigantic building: a real Fellini exposure of each human type! Lately the municipality had the wacky idea of of plasma screens connected with satellite TV music, which is totally out of place!
The morning is still time to be here. It's a movie scene. Some butchers from generations has stalls in the market for a century. Then there is the part for the fish. Exceptional are also stalls selling olives.If you love olives this is your paradise. There are also spice shops, cheese shops, canned goods, dry goods, live chickens. Well, if you want to be creative with your shopping and make the original dates also presents a look around here.
And if you were to be hungry my reference points for dining are located here. A tavern right inside the market, behind the stalls of meat, packed with all of the neighborhood shopkeepers. This place late at night, however, is a must. You can eat at any time. And in fact many Athenians, around 4 am gather here to help the body to dispose of the alcohol gobbled doing a good meal in the company.
People eat decently, quite greasy foods on display, and you can meet all kinds of people and social level. Maybe here is just a tip, take a wipe of the glasses before. Another tavern I loved is instead in a basement near there, a smoky room with the typical barrel retsina on the walls with nonexistent menu and the only language spoken is the greek. The best thing is to approach the pots and indicate what you want to eat.
In these taverns the clientele is almost always Greek, plus some accidental tourist. Sure, these are niches unsuitable for overly sensitive souls, but where at least you can not only eat well and spend very little, but capture the true essence of these people. Were it not for these things, all to be enjoyed, admittedly, Athens would be nothing but an overgrown concrete monster. No, here's the real Athens, the bulimic and insomniac who seduces and stuns with an overdose of flavors, sounds and languages.
If you keep walking down the street Athinas finally arrive at Omonia Square, Cardinal center of the city as well as almost obligatory transit point. This square, until recently, was really a disaster. For years, in fact this space it appeared completely enclosed by metal sheets and therefore inaccessible, but now it has finally been upgraded. In fact this design for many is still a mystery, or rather define it as a real tribute to architecture minimalist! Really bizarre then the metal sculpture that is located in the square. Personally I would have seen well less concrete and more trees, will be why many Athenians still wonder whether the work was actually completed.
The square now shows a double face, the morning consists of a bustle of Athenian busy to go shopping and that evening, made by immigrants that have used as a meeting place. At night, for many, it has become a place to avoid. The square is surrounded by fast-food. There are several hotels, many of which have been renovated recently. In this square, however you'll have to spend force as from here begin or end all the main roads of the city. In Panepistimiou Street there are one after the other many historic buildings of XIX century the seat of the numismatic museum by Ernst Ziller, the Catholic Church of Agios Dionysios, the Bank of Greece and, in Ionic style, the building called Academy with a central body and two wings.
The University (Panepistimio) is the building that is located in the central part of the road. The ceremonial hall is truly majestic. The National Library is the third building after college and is in Doric style: collects more than one million volumes!
On this side of Panepistimiou Street is Stadiou Street, which starts at Syntagma Square and is one of the main arteries traced within the urban plan of 1832. In the Street named 28 Oktovriou Many shops and other public buildings including the Polytechnic, another building neoclassical nineteenth century. The student demonstrations that took place in this building in November 1973 led to the end of the dictatorship.
It will not be just a tourist destination in short, but this building is certainly a symbol of resistance. Walking near the Polytechnic can be easily accessed in the Exarchia district with its square, noisy and crowded, a meeting place for college students with a busy nightlife. The palaces that overlook the three major downtown streets are mostly traversable thanks to a multitude of shopping malls.
This is one of the most interesting features of the so-called zone "new" of the historic center of the city, made up of a maze of rich arcades of shops and cafes that creep in the ground floors of these great palaces. In residential areas also in the streets of Athens it is tree-lined by small orange trees and very hard; not good to eat, and therefore mainly used in the demonstrations against the police.
In antiquity this hill was surrounded trip to Athens by countryside and its slopes covered with pine trees and inhabited by wolves (Lykavittos means "the hill of wolves"). Currently, the countryside and even the shadow of wolves, on the other hand you will find yourself in front of an endless expanse of buildings, so as to not be able to embrace them with his eyes but also face a very significant view of Athens.
It's a rocky outcrop 273 meters high, and it is worth going up to up here to take some amazing photographs of your holiday. The short scene is secured! From here you can admire the entire city, from downtown areas to those along the coast and the surrounding mountains.
On top of the mountain is the church of St. George. On clear days you can see in the distance the island of Aegina and the Peloponnese, and surely you will start wondering how it is that it takes so long to get to the beach while it is not so far away. There are trails through the cypress and pine forests, and you can get there by walking on foot, but you sweat a lot, or a functional cable car service that leaves from Kolonaki district and follow the route in two minutes at a cost of € 5.00, round-trip ticket. On top you will find a very dear restaurant, which monopolizes the seating with views, and an equally expensive coffee.
It 'must also walk the streets of Kolonaki at the foot of the mountain, the fanciest neighborhood of the Athenian ruling class: the meeting place of all the gilded youth, to see and be seen! A true fashionistas look festivals and designer clothes. And 'here that you will find the more windows a la page, the grandes maisons and petites boutiques alternate with fitness gyms and beauty institutes. Gathered in these streets virtually all the boutiques and signature shops, designer labels and Greek ones that wink to the West; Prada and Gucci are strong here. Attention rather what consumed in bars, because here they plucked.
known only as the port of Athens, it really is a true city, despite constituting Athens with a single urban area, easily accessible by subway. From here almost all the boats making their way to the islands. Piraeus is the busiest and messed up, a Roman plan, composed of streets perpendicular to each other; It is a conglomerate of factories, warehouses and concrete apartment blocks and is the popular and working-class Athens.
The east side is the Mikrolimano neighborhood, where there is the port for private boats, has a lovely promenade where successive quite expensive fish restaurants, bars and nightclubs. Behind the metro station (Plateia Ippodamias) on Sunday morning the flea market takes place, which does not have much to envy to that of Athens.
Some museums not to miss in Athens
Athens is also the city of prestigious museums. Also remember that oddly enough, almost all the museums close at 5 PM, if not before, and not only in winter. The National Archaeological Museum is one of the most important museums in the world, and is a typical neo-classical building. Despite all the depredations suffered by Greece by foreign archaeologists of the nineteenth century, this museum still boasts the finest collection in the world of Greek antiquities.
The building, which still had the faded almost incomprehensible captions and not updated for years, has been renovated for the 2004 Olympics to visit it well all it would take at least a full day. The documentation touches all artistic production of ancient Greece, the Cycladic periods, Minoan and Mycenaean to the classic. Among the main attractions stand out the Mycenaean gold found by the archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann including the famous mask of Agamemnon!
In other rooms of the museum it is very interesting to see the statues of the kouros, revealing the veneration that the ancient Greeks had for male beauty in the horse and jockey with bronze statues of Poseidon Artemision. Then there is a room with several small marble idols including one depicting a harp player and another who engages with the flute. It seems to works by Picasso, but date back to 2800-2200 BC and is closed on Monday mornings.
The Benaki Museum is a short walk from Syntagma Square, on the corner of leoforos Vassilissis Sofias and odòs Koumbari, houses artifacts donated by its founder, collector of testimonies of Greek history, and subsequent donations. A museum that allows you to get an idea of Greek history, in less than two hours. The exhibition of the exhibits follows the chronological order, allowing you to learn about Greek history from prehistoric times to the late nineteenth century.
The part of the museum in my opinion is the most interesting ethnographic section with wonderful clothes, jewelry and antique textiles. The display cases have a worn look but fortunately the captions are also in English. And it remains closed on Tuesday. With the international student card you can get inside for free, as in all other Athenian museums and archaeological sites. The other way to get free is to go there on Thursday, when you do not have to pay for the ticket.
Another museum not to be missed is that of Cycladic and Ancient Greek, a key step for the lovers of this very special art flourished in the Cyclades from the third to the first millennium BC: the marble figurines with clean lines, so-called idols, extraordinarily enjoyable thanks to a staging finally accurate and targeted lighting. I recommend you get the sumptuous residence of the Goulandris, located at the corner of Leoforos Vassilissis Sofias and odos Irodotou.
Finally, even if unjustly left in the background compared to the most famous archaeological museums of Athens, Piraeus Archaeological Museum houses some important artifacts found both in the port area and in the surrounding area, dating back to the classical, Hellenistic and Roman and consist essentially of bas-reliefs, marble and some splendid tomb reliefs of a period between the fourth and second century BC, when the port was connected to the defensive system of Athens using the Long Walls. The best known of these treasure troves and pride of the museum is the magnificent statue of Apollo, known as Kouros of Piraeus: it is the oldest statue in bronze ever discovered cable realized with the "lost wax" bronze and higher dimensions the real.
Eating in Athens
In mainland Greece we could eat more and spend relatively little and the portions were plentiful. In some taverns, decidedly non-touristy, the waiters, are often grumpy and hasty with no smiles, and in the most disreputable places obviously do not even speak English. In return you can discover delicious foods. In addition, given the abundance of dishes, you can order more things and then divide. Finding enough to eat in Athens, however, is not a problem, in fact, just look around.
The only real problem will be to find those actually less touristy where you can really taste the dishes of Greek cuisine. My advice is to have meals in the taverns. Especially in those not frequented by tourists where the influences of American and European food have not yet arrived and in case you are unable to decipher the menu, you can go directly to the kitchen to choose your own dish.
You will see, the food is excellent though it always varies. The trick is finding the right places! What I recommend is a home cooking and the places I have indicated, you will never find them in any Michelin guide. So do not look for them there. The most typical of Greek restaurants I've encountered during my travels for now is in a tavern not far from Syntagma and Omonia with traditional cuisine in a relaxed environment.
The clientele is Greek, people who live or work in the neighborhood. If you cannot afford the tavern, you can eat along the streets spending very little, ordering pita souvlaki, a pig meat cooked on a spit stuffed with onion, tomato and sauce and enclosed in a kind of rather greasy flat bread. The souvlaki is the main food for the Greeks, as the hamburger for Americans. At least it was, until the burgers have also taken the upper hand here, especially among young people.
The souvlaki shops are so transformed into places of fast food. Fortunately, you will not have too much trouble finding a souvlaki if you want one. What is a souvlaki? It is usually some sort of meat of beef, lamb, pork or chicken cooked on a giant vertical spit. The chef slice off the flesh, when it is cooked, and puts it on a round, greasy bread called pita inside with lettuce, tomato, onions and tzatziki, a cucumber yogurt sauce with garlic, which then, in my opinion, is the thing that makes souvlakia delicious.
In Greece, all in all, the food is good. No wonder when the rest of Europe is still eating the raw meat or charcoal-broiled food, here they were already beginning to use the spices, to get flavors that made the tastiest food with simple but tasty dishes, mainly composed of eggplants, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, meat, particularly lamb, cheese, fish products, especially shellfish, and fish seasoned with invariably excellent extra virgin olive oil oil, from the local spices and with a disproportionate use of lemon. Because of the climate, fruits and vegetables have amazing flavor and size.
The starters instead represent an important moment of the Greek meal. Mezedes often the entire lunch and consist of one or several courses and usually never fail olives, feta or some other cheese, grilled peppers, anchovies, or small fish, the inevitable octopus, dolmades and an infinity sauces such as taramosalata, the tzatzichi, the melitzanosalata or the delicious tyropitakia, melted cheese baked in small triangles of puff pastry. For those who love the vegetables there is also the spanakopita variation where instead of cheese there are spinach.
Among the cheeses in addition to the ubiquitous feta, salty cheese with many different ages, we taste the mizithra, which is soft and tasty and kaséri. The stuffed and baked moussaka is instead one of the must of Greek cuisine made with meat and tomato sauce and the eggplant and potatoes. In Greece they have retained the healthy habit, on the premises, using fresh potatoes, not frozen, hand-cut and very, very tasty.
The most usual way of cooking meat is undoubtedly the grill, with frequent use of the spit. The lamb and pork are often cooked skewered on large skewers over hot coals. The fact remains that there is also a large variety of meat dishes cooked in the oven. A very special dish is represented by kokoretsi, made from lamb intestines, cooked on the grill. In the Easter period it will not be hard to find.
A plate instead particularly loved by tourists, especially by children, is undoubtedly the bifteki, Swiss type ground meat with a special flavor given by the local spices and then the classic Brizola served usually with rice, potatoes or cooked vegetables. As for the fish, especially in the very popular summer are the strictly fried squid dishes kalamarakia, the sublime octopus cooked in various ways, the prawns and then the real fish of the fried small fish maridas often offered between appetizers and other varieties of fish in all shapes and sizes beautifully cooked in foil, baked, grilled.
As for the wines retsina is the wine produced in large scale and is obtained mainly from Attica vineyards and an ancient process that involved the use of pine resin for longer storage of the product. I'm not a connoisseur but personally I just feel it suited our palates. But the vines of various Greek regions produce wines of various qualities both white and red but also to rosé wines or well executed liqueur muscat.
In Greece, as in many Mediterranean countries, use anise-based liqueur, ouzo. It can be an appetizer, diluted with water, but is also served smooth. A variant then is the tsipouro, produced mainly in the region of Macedonia, although the aniseed flavor still prevails. Another typical liqueur is certainly the brandy, which has linked its fame to the Metaxa brand, whose stellette indicate the years of aging.
The desserts are mostly of Turkish origin so very sweet, sometimes with a taste to say the least disconcerting nonetheless you deserve a taste of baklavá made of nuts, pasta and honey, the kataifi made of walnuts and honey wrapped in dough and rizógalo, a rice pudding with cinnamon. In Athens and Greece in general, you should know that you can choose from different types of local options. The Estiatorion is the equivalent of our elegant restaurants, where even the shape has its value and the dishes available are varied and numerous, with a kitchen that looks beyond national borders.
The waiters are or at least should be discreet and respectful and maybe also pour the wine, strictly from the bottle! Taverns with wooden tables and chairs, often rickety, paper tablecloths set the table are the typical places to eat and drink local stuff. The owner and his family members often prepare and serve meals and prices are very moderate compared to those of the restaurants. Usually the cutlery are brought together with glasses.
Wine is served in a carafe. In the less touristy areas or in the most infamous taverns do not have the menu and the information available on the plates is given directly by the waiter. The capacities available are not much but however strictly belonging to the tradition of Greek cuisine. So, what could be more romantic than a nice dinner in a Greek tavern, with good food, the tables that wobble, the straw chairs, the glasses from the kitchen and the feeling of being almost at home.
The Psistaria are taverns that specializes in grilling in spit while Psarotaverna are fish taverns that prepare good fish dishes, usually found near the beach or the harbor. Located in central Athens and even in the most popular districts new trendy cafes, bars, vast as aircraft carriers, rooms with minimalist décor and techno vibrations, restaurants frequented by high society are now sprouting like mushrooms with Athenian charm and ready to satisfy the most demanding tourists.
After the greek lunch, if you want to relax sitting at a coffee table you can order the turkikò coffee, which is is diluted and bitter. Remember sketos is the bitter coffee, metrios is one that contains one or two packets of sugar, Glykos is decidedly sweet.
And finally a few words for the famous Greek salad, which is legendary and nutritious enough to be able to replace an entire meal. Inside there are, in greater or lesser extent, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, green peppers, feta cheese, olive oil and oregano. Do not leave without having ever ordered! Finally, remember that the Athenians have lunch from 2 to 4 in the afternoon and dinner never starts before 10 PM.
Greece is no longer so cheap as it once was. Spending on the hotel varies greatly depending on the season and can save for example at least 30% of the official rates if you travel outside the high season from mid-June until the end of August. For a lousy two-star hotel you can spend from 35 up to a maximum of € 90 for a double room. For a category B that is otherwise a three-star hotel with air-conditioning, TV, towels changed every day and one of hygiene and cleanliness standards, you will need a budget not less than 60-70 euro for a double room.
To really save, my advice is to book on the internet and maybe choose a hotel near Omonia Square where they are cheaper. In Athens it's worth trying something better, spending a little more. Anyway in Athens there are all choices, from super-luxury to the most infamous hotels. For the budget or solo traveller, there are many small hotels in Plaka, in Monastiraki and Psiri. It might be a good idea to stay in the neighborhood of Larissis Station, where the youth hostels is good value for the city.
One thing that is not really the case of saving in the summer is still the air conditioning or at least of the fans on the ceiling! In Piraeus then the hotels are cheaper than in Athens and is also easier to find. They are almost all on the seafront and around the square of the port. To eat during the day you can resort to traditional stalls of gyros, souvlaki and pitta but you could also do with a couple of Fage yogurt bought from the supermarket to fill your belly and drink that they sell in the kiosks with newspapers.
In the evening, however, do a side trip to the tavern! Those of Plaka are very tourist catchers. I recommend rather some near Psiri and the general market area. The right ones have the low lights and blaring televisions and the recommended menu is the classic Greek salad and the meat on the spit, with chips of course. The fish is quite expensive.
Almost all the shops, restaurants and hotels accept credit cards. Most banks have ATMs where you can access your account. The prices, in most shops, are clearly defined and non-negotiable, but the art of haggling can be helpful to get back in the markets. It is always advisable to also negotiate the price of hotel rooms, especially if you plan to extend your stay for a few days.
Other useful information
For visiting this city avoid the months of July and August for the fact that the multitude of tourists raises prices, but above all to avoid melting under a relentless sun. March to June and then September onwards is better, especially between Christmas and New Year, when the city glows. The month of May is still the best time to experience this city to its fullest.
The language could be a problem, but if you speak a bit of English you can rest easy. From thirty years down virtually all speak English. The Greeks however, are usually courteous, especially young people. Be warned though, the Athenians are not all so open and welcoming, even when it will only to give simple information. As for shopping in Athens, most shops are in the Syntagma Square and in its vicinity.
The crafts certainly interesting are articles in marble and alabaster, in engraved and enameled, coins and medals, icons, old books as well as local food specialties. Very interesting also are the jewelry, pendants and jewelry in gold and silver, but pay close attention to gold: do not be attracted by the price, but check the title that is often not 18 but 14 carat and sometimes even 12. And if you were to get the more preposterous goods it is always on sale on Sunday morning at the Monastiraki flea market!
As for the clothing, the stores are not much. The souvenir shops then are downright dull and tacky. If you want to enjoy the night, the Athenian nightlife is called glentie and as to intensity has nothing to envy to that of Barcelona. At Gazi, along Pireos and Iera Odos in the former industrial area around the main gas municipal, there are the coolest rooms of the moment, but the Athenians are not afraid to shoot kilometers and never stop moving from north to south as balls crazed pinball.
Then the most chic bars and cosmopolitan are in Kifissia, the immediate north, but on a lot of movement especially in the area of Glyfada summer, the sea, where the Athenians are focused to escape the stifling heat of the city. Here a number of local alternate along the coast and pumping music into the night. For disco hottest must go to Odos Vouliagmenis. The names is useless to them, because you know, fashions change quickly.
Many Athenians then conclude the evening near the meat market in Athinas Odos, where you can eat something within the market. If someone is looking for more cultural evenings, the Athens Festival is held from June to September with a series of concerts and shows in theaters by the exceptional acoustics and a magical atmosphere.
Things to Know
The coffee in Greece is a real rite but while on the other hand can last several minutes, can become an aperitif, or the drink that accompanies you the day, work, and sipped from time to time is drunk very quickly and often standing in Greece. The greek coffee is the same as turkish, and before drinking you have to decant. If not it seems grainy. The Greeks always take the Coffee shaken with ice in tall glasses, a mash made with instant coffee, sugar, water and plenty of ice.
Beers are pretty big. Obviously you can smoke anywhere. However, be careful where you stop, because if it is true that you can easily eat with little or very little almost everywhere, having a coffee in some places can cost half of the dinner.
The kiosks and newsstands are everywhere and they sell everything from cigarettes to sandwiches, and some even remain open at night as well.