1. ATHENS IS…
Noisy, dynamic, inelegant, multifaceted, lovable.
2. MY FAVORITE LANDMARK
The Museum of Cycladic Art, because it’s one of the most active museums, hosts work by contemporary artists, as well as exhibitions of archaeological content – offered through a modern perspective – lectures as well as parties, events for children, and many interesting tours and excursions. One wing of the museum is a neoclassical mansion – an architectural masterpiece by Ernst Ziller – and the other is more modern.
3. MY MAIN ATHENIAN RITUAL
A morning walk at the Pnyx with my dog. It’s the most beautiful spot to start your day because of the view of the Acropolis, Athenian neighborhoods, and the sea, the people you meet daily and the stories they tell, tourists asking directions, the Observatory, the two horses that inhabit the spot and the hoopoe and wagtail birds.
4. MY MOST TYPICALLY ATHENIAN IMAGE
Television antennas, roof-top solar panels, laundry hung to dry, pot plants, loft apartments and makeshift pergolas on apartment building rooftops. This is the Athens seen from up high, from every vantage point of the city.
5. WHAT I AVOID IN THE CITY
Chewing gum stuck on pavements. But they do form interesting polka dot patterns. I also avoid pigeons for obvious reasons.
6. PERFECT SUNDAY MORNING
A visit to Monastiraki, its antique stores along Ermou Street and Avyssinias Square, even if you’re not planning to buy anything. My favorite antique shops are Tsitsas on Ermou Street and Nikas on Lepeniotou Street. After spending hours looking around, I end up having brunch at either Mama Roux on Eolou Street or meze at the Ivi café, depending on how I feel.
7. A NEIGHBORHOOD I WOULD TAKE
A FRIEND FROM ABROAD TO
My neighborhood, Petralona, beginning at the old stone houses below Filopappou Hill, then on to Troon Street for food at Economou or the Cretan eatery Aster, Mercouri Square for coffee, the Zephyros open-air cinema in the summertime, and, for the day’s finale, cocktails at Klouvi or Kyrios Hou.
8. A “HIDDEN” EXPERIENCE THAT
NO VISITORS MUST MISS OUT ON
The Athens arcades. They are an integral part of the downtown shopping areas. Mostly small shops of all sorts, from shoe repair shops, key cutters, printers, book stores, headwear stores, to cafes and tavernas, are tucked away in the arcades. Tours of the city’s arcades are also offered by Into Stoas – Athens Walkthrough.
9. COFFEE BREAK…
At Dexameni in Kolonaki. This is a great spot, below Lycabettus Hill, usually offering plenty of sunshine, relatively quiet, and ideal to settle at after shopping or on Sundays. Coffee at this side street café can easily turn into an ouzo-and-meze session of many hours. The open-air cinema of the same name is also located here. All can be combined if there’s a good film playing.
10. PIT STOP FOR A DRINK…
Galaxy at the top end of Stadiou (towards Syntagma Square), within an arcade, in the winter. This spot is simple, plain, unadorned, and small but features a long bar, old-style service, and meze to accompany the drinks. Discussions rather than music dominate. If you prefer something louder, I like going to 7 Jokers on Voulis Street, offering an elegant atmosphere, good music, and a wide choice of drinks. In the summer, the rooftop of Bios is great. It offers an unobstructed view of the Acropolis while you sit back in your deckchair, or from the less comfortable beer-barrel seating arrangements.
11. A PLACE FOR BREAKFAST…
Bel Ray in Koukaki. An old car wash, it was transformed into a very smart-looking and hospitable snack bar with small tables, both inside and outside. Tasty eggs, great coffee, fresh juices, delicious sandwiches, and very friendly service offered here. I can have breakfast here every day. I usually do.
12. A RESTAURANT I’D INVITE MY FRIENDS TO
Kritiko, meaning Cretan, at Kaniggos Square, because Cretans know their food better than all others. I always find it difficult to order here because I want to try everything – the sausages, apaki (smoked pork), the mushroom dishes, dolmadakia (stuffed vine leaves), pies, stamnagathi (spiny chicory) salad, and, definitely dakos (rusks topped with cheese, tomato, olive oil and herbs), accompanied by Cretan raki.
13. WHAT I’D ADVISE A FRIEND
VISITING FROM ABROAD TO BUY
Definitely kitsch souvenirs from the city’s souvenir shops, especially in the Plaka and Monastiraki areas such as the ATHENS t-shirts with ancient Greek letters in gold, the ouzo bottles like ancient columns, the tsarouhi, traditional Evzone shoes with tassels, to the more stylish sandals, evil eye designs, worry beads, travel-size backgammon sets, and so on.
14. THE IDEAL EXCURSION FOR THAT
“EXTRA DAY” IN THE CITY
The beach, needless to say. If it is summertime, then one of the small coves before reaching Sounion, followed by a visit to the Temple of Poseidon, and Lavrio for fresh fish. If the weather is cold, I’d opt for a visit to Palio Faliro, along the palm tree-lined coast, coffee at Flisvos marina, and then on to Piraeus for fresh fish at Yperokeanio near Akti Miaouli Street, or for more refined seafood, Varoulko in the Mikrolimano district, overlooking swaying boats in the water.