Athens in the summer is the apple of every tourist’s eye. As the days grow shorter, the crowds in Plaka begin to thin and the city settles into a new gear for the coming winter. Athens in the autumn transforms into a city with a special kind of charm, so if you find yourself in the city on the cusp of autumn instead of the height of summer, here are some the delights you can look forward to.
1. Drinks in the open
When returning from summertime holiday breaks, Athenians tend to continue spending a great deal of time outdoors, for as long as the autumn weather permits, roaming about town and enjoying drinks at café-bars on pedestrianized streets, rooftop settings and terraces. Ipitou St has developed into a new downtown hotspot. Thirty-something crowds overflow from the strip’s three bars, blocking, in a pleasant fashion, this small street to generate a cosmopolitan buzz. The same more or less goes for pedestrianized Thiseos St, but the music is generally louder there. The Drunk Sinatra bar is the area’s signature spot.
2. New wine labels
You don’t need to visit one of the Greek capital’s more expensive restaurants to be served by a leading sommelier. At Oinoscent, one of the city’s most renowned wine bars, Aris Sklavenitis, declared Greece’s Best Sommelier 2016 by the Panhellenic Sommelier Association, is on duty at the bar just about every day, offering guidance to Greek wine enthusiasts. Of the roughly 700 Greek and international wine labels on offer, he currently recommends three new domestic wine labels. One of them, the Douloufakis Vidiano brut from Crete, matured in its sediment for 24 months, possesses a delicate, creamy sparkling texture offering citrus flavors. Nassitis, produced by the Vassaltis Winery in Santorini, is made using three local grape varieties, Athiri, Aidani and Assyrtiko. This wine, offering summer-fruit aromas, possesses high acidity and minerality. The award-winning sommelier’s third recommendation, a very refreshing Moschofilero that leaves an aftertaste of rose and loukoumi (the local version of Turkish delight), is produced by Bosinakis Winery in the Arcadian plateau of Mantineia, in the central Peloponnese. This up-and-coming winery is generating a buzz.
3. Music all over
The celebrated Johann Strauss Orchestra is scheduled to perform Viennese waltzes on October 10 right below the Acropolis, at the world-renowned Odeon of Herodes Atticus. Also performing at this venue, the Budapest Gypsy Symphony Orchestra, which features 100 violins, has been booked for two evenings, October 3 and 8. On the weekend of October 1 and 2 look out for performances on streets and at squares around the city center by four choreographers from different parts of the world – Trisha Brown, Boris Charmatz, Willi Dorner and Ioannis Mandafounis – as part of the open-air Dancing Athens festival organized by the Onassis Cultural Center.
4. Visits to museums and archaeological sites, without heatwaves
Begin your outing along cobbled Dionysiou Areopagitou St, below the Acropolis, for a look at the marvelous neoclassical buildings along one of Europe’s most prestigious and expensive strips. Also take in the Theater of Dionysus and the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, both at the foot of the Acropolis, as well as the district’s wondrous Acropolis Museum, designed by architect Bernard Tschumi and Michael Photiadis, before winding up at the Pnyx, the nearby hill where ancient Athenians gathered for their popular assemblies. An art exhibition featuring a collection of works from the Russian Hermitage Museum, one of the world’s largest and oldest museums, is currently on show at the Acropolis Museum and runs through October 2. Live jazz music nights are staged at the museum restaurant, which offers a stunning view of the Acropolis, every Friday.
A visit to the National Archaeological Museum is always fulfilling no matter how many times one has been, even if just for a coffee in its outdoor space, where a fabulous botanical garden featuring various uncommon plants referenced in Greek mythology has been developed. Information signs explain the names and history of the plants.
Currently on show at the Museum of Cycladic Art, until October 30, is a fascinating exhibition by Chinese activist-artist Ai Weiwei, depicting his perception of the refugee crisis. This show is the artist’s first ever worldwide to be staged in an archaeological museum.
5. Classic Athenian food delights in unlikely spots
Try the street food at Uberness, a cult-status pop-up restaurant set up by chef Vassilis Kallidis in Athens central wholesale fruit and vegetable market in Renti, close to Piraeus. The makeshift setting, featuring lots of plastic white chairs for seating, resembles rural Greek festivals. It will be open for several more weeks, until the colder weather sets in. (1 John Kennedy, Tel. (+30) 210.481.6320). At Aster, enjoy Cretan cuisine in the grand setting of a neoclassical building decorated with furniture that is reminiscent of old Athens. (48 Troon, Tel. (+30) 210.341.6668). Fairytale enthusiasts or parents with young children should try the cakes and other multicolored sweets at Little Kook, a Brothers Grimm castle-like venue. Getting to the top level, where the sweets are served, requires passing through spectacular themed areas such as a Wonderland and Jack and the Beanstalk room. (17 Karaiskaki, Psyrri, Tel. (+30) 210.321.4144).
6. Greek designer shopping
From the wonderful Circus collection, the sterling silver Helias ring, which takes the form of an acrobat who bends her back around your finger, is among the creations at Ariadni Kypri’s workshop and gallery (28 Parthenonos, Acropolis, tel (+30) 211.405.9512). Akira Mushi, a small boutique named after its owners’ two dogs, sells stylish neckerchiefs for four-legged pets as well as special casual-chic fashion for their masters. (2 Fokionos, tel (+30) 213.024.5341)
7. Filmgoer fest
Athenian film buffs begin their winter viewing season with the annual Athens International Film Festival, or Premiere Nights as it is more commonly known. The event stands as a major attraction for the city’s considerable following for quality, independent productions from all over the world. It also features thematic tributes. Sections dedicated to Italian film and the work of French director Louis Malle are highlights at this year’s event. A panel comprised of local and visiting judges will present various awards, including for best director, best screenplay and best new actors, at the festival’s closing ceremony. Already underway, the festival runs through October 2.