You may not realise it, but there’s much more to Athens than the acropolis and the agora. Amidst the ancient columns, temples and ruins, change is afoot, with a slew of new hip bars, contemporary street art, world class eateries and trendy hotels, all beckoning a next generation of traveller.
Fuelled by the 20 or so universities in the city - and its corresponding mammoth student population - small bars are skyrocketing across Athens. Themed, rooftop, outdoors, underground, all-day and evening - there’s more than you can even attempt to cover in one visit. In fact, official figures reveal that permits for food, coffee and drink venues have more than doubled since 2011.
Start by ticking off a venue that has been named in the top 50 of the world’s best bars for the last three years running by “Drinks International Magazine,” The Clumsies (theclumsies.gr). Attracting an eclectic crowd of all ages and backgrounds, the watering hole serves fancy cocktails, upmarket sports and a basic menu from breakfast through to dinner. In the popular old gasworks precinct west of central Athens, Hipster is a rooftop bar that does what it says on the tin. There’s epic views of the Acropolis and a crowd of party hungry locals and visitors getting their groove on until closing after 4am. For a more intimate night, head to the nearby Flamme Rouge. Another all-day cafe-cum-bar with a quirky cycling theme.
Picture the scene: reclining in a retro deck chair under a starry sky with a chilled beer in one hand and a snack in the other, all the while the scent of popcorn, bougainvillea, jasmine and tobacco fills the air. THIS is how you watch a movie.
Athens and open air cinemas go hand-in-hand. Yep, while alfresco movie watching is beloved by Aussies, during its 60s heyday in Athens the locals had as many as 600 open air theatres peppering the city to choose from. And now, the 90 or so screens that remain have been given a contemporary makeover with new screens and add-ons, including a variety of food and drink offerings. Added to this is the simple fact that rain is a rarity in Athens and - unlike other countries - movies aren’t dubbed, they’re screened in English with Greek subtitles. Plus, a ticket costs next to nix. Two go-tos include Cine Thision (cine-thisio.gr) in Plaka, which is great for classics, while Cine Dexameni (cinedexameni.blogspot.com) shows popular mainstream movies.
The capital of Greece has gone from ongoing economic crisis to refugee calamity and as a response young locals have taken to the streets to comment on both these political and social issues. From murals and streets covered with personalised tags, to walls plastered in paint; there’s hardly a corner left untouched by a spray can (incidentally, the word ‘graffiti’ comes from the Greeks). Now a canvas for self-expression, street artists are no longer considered vandals, with some winning commissions for their work. Even the “New York Times” has heralded the city a “contemporary mecca for street art in Europe” which is as great an accolade as any. Visitors can easily take in the outdoor artwork yourself or sign up for some of the street art tours that now run regularly.
Athenians love to eat and they love eating outdoors more than anything else. So, if you pair award-winning fine dining with one of the best 360-degree views in the city, then you can understand why the Hilton’s rooftop Galaxy Restaurant and Bar (hilton.com) is so popular. Consistently named as one of the world’s top rooftop bars and restaurants, the Mediterranean-meets-Japanese cuisine is admittedly on the pricier side, but when you’ve got a million-dollar view it’s expected. If you are watching your wallet then come for cocktails and a snack. It’s well worth it.
Undoubtedly the coolest hotel in town, if you want accommodation that’s modern, hip, and promises the best night’s sleep in the city, then look no further than the Coco-Mat Hotel Athens ( cocomatathens.com). Located in posh Kolonaki (where designer boutiques and trendy restaurants and bars are a hop and a skip away) the hotel shares the same entrance with the COCO-MAT store, which is…a bed shop. But not just any bed shop, one of the most regarded in the world (hence the ‘best night’s sleep claim’). Concrete, white lights, no clutter and a slick rooftop are the order of the day here. In-room guests can slumber on organic linen and plush mattresses, and there’s a lengthy pillow menu to choose from. Head downstairs and you’ll find a great Honesty Bar where you can help yourselves to drinks and snacks.
There's no better way to experrience a new city than with a friendly local who knows the ins and outs of their hometown. Trafalgar offers guided holidays to Athens and other iconic European cities, so everything is taken care of, and all that's left to do is drink in the balmy Athens air - and a tasty cocktail or two!
For more information on Trafalgar guided holidays to Europe, take a look at our sale on now, visit your local Escape Travel store, or call 1300 273 482.