Tips from an insider – Athens

Liz Mestheneos has called Athens home since 1983, when she moved there to be with her Greek filmmaker husband in. Liz worked closely with him until sadly, he died in 1988, but she loved the light, the people and the warmth so much, that she decided to stay there rather than return to London.

Since then, Liz has forged her own career, firstly as a self-employed social researcher with a focus on ageing. In 2005, she started the NGO, 50plus Hellas, to promote active healthy ageing, and she’s also on the Board of the Hellenic Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics.

Despite the economic crisis, she’s enjoying a good life in Athens and she never tires of seeing the Acropolis every day. Liz has taken the time to share her favourite parts of the city and we’re sure they will be enough to inspire a few travellers.

I live in the centre of town, in Thisseion, so obviously my choices are based on accessibility to me – I walk everywhere or go by train/metro.

Best coffee
Chocolat, Apostolos Pavlos, Thisseion – it also sells wonderful hot and cold chocolate, cakes etc. – but I’d recommend it for its fabulous view of the Acropolis alone.

Best cocktail
Hotel Herodion, 4 Rovertou Galli Street, Koukaki, Athens, 11742, Greece – again a fabulous view of the Acropolis and it also looks into the Museum, so you can see the Parthenon Marbles.

My girl friend tells me that Tiki Athens (Falirou 15, Koukaki) is good and reasonably priced, as is the old Briki (Plateia Mavili) without any view-  but you may be staying near there. The Galaxy Hilton I have been to, again because of its fantastic view and premium cocktails but you do pay for it!

Best breakfast
I don’t eat breakfast out much but I am told the Acropolis Museum Cafe serves a mean Greek breakfast. And if you are desperate for afternoon tea or a cup of  English Breakfast, try the Grande Bretagne, Syntagma, – very luxurious, super loos and expensive, but a real treat.

Best local view
Walk up Philoppapou Hill and sit on some marble benches and see the Parthenon and Acropolis, the theatre of Herod Atticus, clearly in front of you. If Lycabitus Hill is nearer to where you are staying, you can also go up there and enjoy a great view.

One fun thing you can do for free
There’s so many!
Walk down the pedestrian street of Apostolou Pavlou, listen to street musicians and see street artists. Also a great place to find handmade artisan and artistic products.

If you are visiting in August during the full moon, you can go free to the archeological sites

During election weekends, which have been happening somewhat frequently, you can catch any means of transport and see Athens for free.

Watch tsoliades  (the Guard outside the Parliament in Syntagma Square) changing shifts and walk through the lovely National Gardens that are next door. Museums and galleries may have free days – worth checking

The daily central market on Athinas Street is great for those who like seeing local colour and products – fish, meat and vegetables.

Something only a local knows about
Don’t stop on Ermou street, a main shopping street, where people will offer you little gifts In reality, they are sprouking for beauty salons and they end up taking you upstairs to the reception for various unneeded beauty treatments

Sunday mornings off Monistiraki – down Pandrossou, the Abyssinia Square sells junk, second hand and antiques all jumbled up – great fun if you like looking for treasures.

Favourite thing to do in and around the city/region/town
My nearest open air cinema is Thisseion with the best view of the Acropolis – but there are many open air cinemas with views and good films – subtitled so you can understand them. Of course there are also open-air theatres that are well worth checking out, including my nearest theatre, the Odeon of Herod Attikos. Athens is very lively all through the year and people nurse a cold coffee (Freddo) or a beer all evening if they have no money. So you can wander and enjoy the atmosphere – try ouzo (with aniseed) or tsipouro (a grape spirit) – often served with a meze (a snack to keep you sober!). If spirits aren’t your thing, try a Greek beer – Dioni, Septem, Vergina and others. There are plenty of cheap food places and don’t forget the ubiquitous souvlaki.

Why do you love this town?
It never sleeps and yet there are always quiet, occasionally green corners even in this very ungreen city. Although there are 4 million people living here, it has very local feel even in the centre. There is a sense of complicity amongst Athenians, as we get stuck in the same traffic, suffer from the same strikes, take part in the same street protests and socialise through light political discussions with complete strangers in cafes – it’s great fun!

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