Prior to our trip to Athens, I didn’t really know what to expect. Is it a modern city? Will it have many things to do? I did a lot of research beforehand and found several tours (Which I then pre-ordered), as well as cafés and bars I knew we’ll want to visit – Still, I wasn’t certain if I was going to like it or not.
We landed at 10pm and decided to take a cab. A cab from the airport will run you 40 euros, and it’s approximately a 40-minute drive. You may also opt for a bus or the metro, but we wanted to get to the city center as quickly as possible. We visited in December, and so as we neared the city center – The Christmas decorations appeared before us and I fell in love then and there.
We went out for a late dinner in a local restaurant near our Airbnb apartment. The Kolonaki area is filled with shops and boutique hotels, trendy coffee houses and restaurants a-plenty. We decided to stay at an Airbnb apartment and check into the Coco Mat boutique hotel in the morning, a walking distance from the apartment.
The hotel was incredible, we stayed there for two nights – Read more about our experience at the Coco Mat. The next two nights we spent at Athens Center Square hotel in the Psiri area, a hipstery area with graffiti, markets and a huge number of bars, restaurants and cafés. Read more about our experience at the Athens Center Square. We chose two different hotels, so we could enjoy two different experiences. Read more about our experience at the hotel. The first more luxurious and the other more local.
We stayed at Athens for a week, as we wanted time to calmly explore – Time to both try cool attractions and treat ourselves to a relaxing time at the hotel. During our week, we got a lot done and so I chose to write about some of the things we liked the best off our to-do list.
Attractions and things to do
Eating at great local restaurants
Excellent local Moussaka and Kebab restaurant-Thanasis, in the Psiri area. Large portions, filling and extremely delicious. Although this is a tourist-y place, the food is great and prices are reasonable.
Local tavern tourists don’t frequent as often with very low prices, Olympion. By the acropolis. A tavern that was recommended to us by the guide of our bike tour. We ordered many dishes there and everything was great. Anyone looking for good local, non-tourified food should definitely visit.
Excellent skewer restaurant with relaxed atmosphere in the prestigious shopping area Kalamaki Kolonaki. The salmon, lamb and sausage skewers were a huge success. Fun atmosphere and great food.
Local restaurant with vegan and gluten free foods, “Avocado”. High quality good made of good ingredients. Anyone looking for a healthy meal with vegetarian, vegan, gluten free options wouldn’t go amiss with this one. The prices are a tad high, but the food is worth it.
Enjoying a local market experience
The Dimotiki Agora food market, the central market in Athens where you’ll find anything you desire, a fish market, meats, fruit and veg, spices, sausages, cheeses and more.
Monastiraki Flea Market – The market is located in a central location as well, about ten minutes from the food market. Despite it being called a flea market, you’ll have no problem finding many shops for souvenir, bags, clothes, local produce and more. This is a lively area with a large square featuring street performances and food stalls selling chestnuts and corn on a cob, as well as many nice cafés and restaurants.
Sitting in the coolest cafés
Little Kook – luxurious coffee house with a fairy-tale theme. We were there before Christmas and there was constantly a line waiting to get in. Not only is it an impressive place all year round, for Christmas it was even more magical and special. If you’d like to have coffee with a slice of cake and feel like you’re in a fairy-tale, this is the place. The prices are higher than regular cafes but visiting fairy-tales is a pricy business :). We ordered a Ferrero Roche cake which was delicious, but the two of us couldn’t even finish half of it. It was ginormous and super sweet.
Playhouse café – a cool café where you can spend the whole day, especially when it’s winter outside. You can go alone, as a couple or a group and the waiter will fit you a board game according to your preference. You don’t have to order anything, in which case you pay 1.5 euros an hour, although if you do order food or drinks off the menu – the rate is only half a euro hourly. We ordered tea and played there for two hours. It was really fun and even took us back to our childhood. Highly recommended.
Bar-café with view of the city, A for Athens Cocktail Bar
A hotel rooftop bar. There’s a roofed cocktail bar with an open balcony with a bar on top of it. We arrived during the afternoon and preferred to order coffee and enjoy the view, a vibrant vantage over the city and, of course, the acropolis.
Nancy’s sweet home – A coffee house of chocolate delight
If you’re chocolate fans, this is the one café you have to visit. Honestly, Roman and I aren’t into chocolate that much and had tried to order fruit cake there but they ran out. So, I ordered a chocolate truffle and Roman had a cream cake. We looked over at the tables around us and noticed everyone ordered giant chocolate cakes and appeared to really be enjoying themselves.
Fun bike tour
In the morning, we arrived at the company’s bike store ,Athens by bike, which is located right next to the Acropolis metro station. As it turned out, we were the only ones to book a tour for that day, and so we got a private tour. Our guide was Dimitris, a charming and funny guy who was really patient and interesting and made the tour a huge success.
We did a four-and-a-half-hour tour. We visited a beautiful and esoteric vantage point, rode along the only bike trail in Athens, visited the opera and the library. We rode along the beachline, had coffee by the sea, ate traditional Greek food and learned a ton about Athens.
This tour is highly recommended for anyone who enjoys riding a bike and is looking for another way to explore Athens – and not only it’s main areas. Read more about the bike tour and our experience of it.
Must-visit molecular cocktail bar in Athens
We arrived at the early hour of 8 o’clock to Momix bar. We were hyped about the place’s cool design since before even entering. We sat at the bar, so we could see the action. The bartender, Fotis, gave us the box shaped menu (So we could think outside the box :)) and we decided to start the evening off with a molecular cocktail in a spoon, along with a bubbling cocktail and a gelatinous textured one in a syringe.
That’s when the show started – Lots of smoke, mixing of drinks and when it was done we were served our drinks. It was such a success in our minds that ten minutes later we ordered 2 more cocktails, with more to follow. Consider yourself warned, those drinks are addictive! They’re so special and of such a high-quality that you just can’t stop drinking them.
We’d consider this bar a “mandatory recommendation” for anyone looking for a cool, intoxicating experience full of new flavors – With great service and of the highest quality. Read more about Momix bar and our experience of it.
Tasty and fascinating food tour
We booked our tour through Alternative Athens. I’ve seen several companies offering food tours, but the length (4 hours) and number of culinary stops (8 stops) seemed an extremely worthwhile deal considering this tour’s price.
The choice turned out to be an excellent one – Our guide Andreas was charming and knowledgeable; his English was very clear and his stories were a joy to listen to. We finished the tour full and very satisfied. I think any foodie who likes to try new dishes, learning about the city and its cuisine all the while, will really enjoy this one as we did.
Read more about the food tour and our experience of it.
Viewing cool graffiti area
In the Psiri area there are whole streets sporting beautiful graffiti. As we had some time left over during our bike tour, our guide decided to take us for a ride along these. I found a blog detailing the streets for both Psyri and our areas of Athens. Link to article about graffiti in Athens.
Going to wine tastings
We booked a wine tasting through Athens Walking Tours. Our tastings were scheduled to 18:00 and we were given the name of the bar they’ll be held at. We arrived at a lovely bar with a modern design. We met the owner, Miki, and the sommelier, Vangelis, and both were super nice.
Miki told us a bit about the bar and the wine, then we started the tastings. We sat at the bar and started off with rose wine. We followed it up with white and red wines. We really liked the wine itself, which was of high-quality, and the staff were really charming. The combined effect of the wine tastings, the nice food plate and the explanations themselves served to turn our hangout at the bar into a fun and enriching time. Read more about the wine tastings and our experience there.
Visiting the acropolis
Obviously, you can’t visit Athens without going to the acropolis. My recommendation (Which I got from our bike tour’s guide) is to go in through the lower entrance adjacent to the acropolis’ metro station where the museum is. Start with the museum and make your way up to the acropolis. While this way is 15-20 minutes longer, it’s also much more impressive. If you just want to reach the top, you can go through the upper entrance, from there it’s only a 5-10-minute climb.
Exploring the city
Athens is a fun city to wander around in, especially in central areas like Syntagma Square in the Plaka area. There you’ll find many places to shop, alongside restaurants, cafes and night life. There’s also the lively Psiri area, which is home to the flea , the ancient Agora and the food markets, graffiti and tons of cool cafés. The Kolonaki area is a luxurious shopping area with boutique hotels, delis, trendy modern cafés and high-class restaurants.