Welcome to Athens

Athens has been in the international spotlight for all the wrong reasons, as images of violence and riots dominated the world view in recent years. But the hope of a new stability has now set in, and it is in many ways a more interesting and dynamic place to visit than ever. Times of political strife often foster the most interrogative art and culture, and when life is hard people turn to each other for solace. The restaurants, bars and cafes of this historic city still heave and buzz, as the nation strives to redefine itself.

This is after all the birthplace of modern culture and democracy, and a city with a rich and fascinating history of political change from the Ancient Greeks to today. The monuments are not confined to museums and galleries, but are all around you as you wander the cobbled streets. Some may say this is a city living in the long shadow of a golden age 2,500-years long gone, but nowhere else do new and old contrast so dynamically.

You can sip a glass of ouzo ogling that audacious achievement of mankind, the Acropolis, and yet the walls behind you will be graffitied and a DJ spins electro in the distance. The calm of island oasis of Anafiotika or the pretty Plaka make a striking contrast against the gritty art scene of Gazi or the rebel youth of Exarchia. This is a city where the classical past is the stage upon which a very contemporary world continues to carve its way.

Dining in Athens

Despite the incredible fresh produce available and a simple, robust national palate, the Greek restaurant scene has often been derided. Athens however, is embracing the worldwide gastronomic trend like never before with a spate of creative takes on classic Greek cuisine moving beyond moussaka and dolmades.

Kiffisia is a hotbed for culinary talent, and both Psyrri and Gazi are home to a host of hipster eateries. For home-cooked traditional grub, head to one of the tavernas in suburb Ano Petralona; in general, the further out you travel the more authentic the experience. Lastly, mezedopolios - Greek tapas bars - are popular with students and locals for late-night, easy to share cheap eats.

Nightlife in Athens

Athens' buzzing cafe culture by day slips seamlessly into an all-night bar scene with the most cutting edge venues acting as coffee shop, art gallery, bar and music venue. Gazi and Psyrri have a concentration of now quite mainstream bars and clubs, but the best backstreet bolt holes are found around Kolokontroni Street near Syntagma.

While the gig scene thrives through winter, in the heat of the summer the party takes the tram to the beach with pop-up clubs lining the coast especially around Glyfada. For the more understated, try one of the many outdoor cinemas, a distinctly Athenian experience.

Shopping in Athens

Like any major capital, you can find almost anything you're after in Athens, whether it's the designer glad rags on offer in the rarified streets of Kolonaki, Glyfada and Kiffisia or the high street apparel of Ermou. There may not be the comprehensive range as other go-to shopping destinations of Europe, but you'll also get interesting Greek designers such as Yiorgos Eleftherides and Deux Hommes.

At the other end of the spectrum is the old-world sprawling Monastiraki antiques market or the central bazaar. Avoid the overpriced mass-produced tourist souvenirs of novelty leather sandals and miniature icons on offer at the Plaka and come here for real Greek produce from olive oil to ouzo and halvas to honey.

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Quick facts

  • Inhabitants in Greece:
    10,9 million
  • Inhabitants in Athens:
    abt 4,5 mill.
  • Official language
  • Currency
  • Time zone
  • Emergency number
    112 SOS, 100 Police
  • Constitution
  • Country phone code
  • Country code
  • Local transportation
    Bus, Tram, Metro, Train