1. ATHENS IS… (IN FIVE WORDS)
Bathed in light, erotic, slightly dirty, beautiful and ugly at the same time.
2. MY FAVORITE LANDMARK (MUSEUM, PUBLIC SPACE, MONUMENT)
Philopappos Hill for the walk along cobbled streets and dirt paths to the hills of the Pnyx and the National Observatory. My highlight is the historic café near the Loumbardiaris church, which, though closed, remains emblematic.
3. MY ABSOLUTELY ATHENIAN CUSTOM
A stroll along Athinas and Evripidou streets, shopping for, or to simply take in the smell of, herbs and spices for my kitchen.
4. MY MOST ATHENIAN VIEW
The tall buildings surrounding Klafthmonos Square as well as Kolokotroni, Parnassou and Stadiou streets.
5. WHAT I PREFER TO AVOID
Using a car to get around the center (though I still haven’t managed).
6. MY PERFECT SUNDAY MORNING
Waking up at noon and walking my dogs on Lycabettus hill, followed by brunch with live jazz at IT on Skoufa Street, and coffee and cakes at Filion.
7. WHERE I WOULD TAKE A FOREIGN GUEST (A NEIGHBORHOOD WALK WITH 2-3 STOPS)
Ano Petralona. We’d get there by starting our walk at Dionysiou Areopagitou – with its beautiful neoclassical mansions on one side and the Acropolis on the other – continue along Apostolou Pavlou and then wander along the narrow streets that lead to Troon Street. The neighborhood is renowned for its meze restaurants, and my favorite is Aster at number 48 for its Cretan cuisine, made mostly with Cretan ingredients, and its good raki. Plateia (Square) is a bit further up at Merkouri Square, which though in the city center, still has the aura of a village. This place serves home-style food and traditional meze – just the thing for a day out in Athens in good company.
8. A “SECRET” EXPERIENCE NO VISITOR SHOULD MISS (PREFERABLY OFF THE BEATEN TOURIST TRACK)
A shave at the brand new 1920 Metropolitan Barber Shop (23-25 Ermou, at the back of the arcade).
9. COFFEE BREAK…
At Warehouse (Mavromichali & 12 Valtetsiou) in Exarchia, for the polite and well-informed staff, the tables out on the sidewalk and the non-smoking indoors area; for its delicious sandwiches but mainly for its amazing coffee varieties.
10. A DRINK…
Baba au Rum on the Kleitiou pedestrian street: the excellent drinks, insistence on quality and the highly trained staff have definitely earned it the title of one of the best bars in Europe.
11. AND BREAKFAST…
IT is a modern, all-day venue in Kolonaki where I always feel at home. I love its fresh fruit juices and smoothies, the freshly baked croissants and fluffy brioches, as well as its amazing egg dishes (boiled, fried, omelet, etc).
12. A RESTAURANT WHERE I WOULD TAKE MY FRIENDS (AND WHAT WE’D ORDER)
Cookoovaya is one of the best places in Athens to go with friends and it has also redefined the “wisdom” and charm of Greek cuisine. We’d order the cauliflower salad with fried angel’s hair pastry and Gorgonzola Dolce, grilled porgy with orzo, fennel and botero, and to wrap it all up, the incredible cream-filled bougatsa, served with cinnamon ice cream.
13. WHAT I WOULD RECOMMEND A FRIEND TO BUY (AND WHERE)
I would recommend a walk around the so-called “commercial triangle” (between Stadiou, Mitropoleos and Athinas streets), which has so many small stores selling sundry, and amazing, things. One of my favorites is Paraphernalia behind Klafthmonos Square. Its owners, Giorgos and Angeliki, have managed to create a great collection of small objects, furniture and lights that all have their own signature style and design.
14. THE BEST EXCURSION FOR THAT “EXTRA DAY” IN THE CITY
Hydra, perhaps the most beautiful island of the Saronic Bay. It’s just an hour-and-a-half away from Piraeus by hydrofoil and always exudes an elegant and picturesque charm that makes it ideal for long walks (or donkey rides) along its small alleys and car-free streets.