How to Have a Uniquely Athenian Experience

April 15, 2016

Giedre Brenciute wanders off the touristic route for an authentic experience in the Greek capital.

Combining impressive cultural sights, a happening party scene and a laid-back atmosphere, the Greek capital is the perfect urban getaway destination. While visiting the Acropolis is an absolute must, Athens has a multitude of other treasures too - think serious dance clubs, incredible food, stunning island beaches and much, much more if you know where to look. 

1. Enjoy a nostalgic pastry

Sweet Greek cuisine.

If you're looking to escape the hustle and bustle of central Athens, then head north to Kifissia, a leafy, relaxed Athenian suburb. Right at its heart stands the legendary patisserie Varsos. The interior hasn’t changed since the 50’s and by the looks of it, most of the staff and clientele have stuck around too. The shop area is stocked to the ceiling with mouth-watering cakes, meringues, pastries and tsoureki (sweet bread), all made following traditional Greek recipes. To order, you must first acquaint yourself with the old-fashioned purchasing system: first, you tell the person behind the counter what you want, they then write the price on a slip which you take to the cash register to pay, and finally you can collect your sweet treats back at the first counter. But don’t worry, there’s table service too so order a Greek coffee and chill in the garden.

2. Chant Olé, Olé, Olé! at the Olympic Stadium

Man cheering and holding a Greek flag inside a football stadium.

Football is a second religion in Greece and its fans are extremely passionate about the game. The Olympic Stadium might not fill its 60,000 seats for a regular fixture but the experience of watching a match there is definitely still worth it, so show up on a game night and buy a ticket at one of the booths outside. The crowd is renowned for its energy and you can expect lots of cheers, heckling, chants and even to see the stadium light up with flares at the end of a match. Most possibly you’ll pick up a couple of Greek curse words too, as the fans are infamously expressive. Join in the cheers and boos, do a wave and you’ll be one with the crowd.

3. Sample the best snack in town

Greek kebabs with a side of cucumber, chillies and a mint dip.

The reason why the world-famous fast food chains haven’t succeeded in Greece is souvlaki – a pita sandwich stuffed with grilled meat and various other additions, it can put any hamburger to shame. Souvlaki is sold at every tavern but the one that locals queue for is Kostas joint in central Athens. Although it may not be an eye-catching establishment, Kostas serves the best souvlaki you can find in the capital. Streaks of succulent meat are grilled on a skewer, then wrapped in a soft pita bread together with fresh tomatoes, onion and a dollop of sauce. Grab a souvlaki at Kostas and hang about the centre like a local on the go.

4. Join the party crowd

Group of people partying and dancing on the dancefloor in a bar.

Six D.o.g.s. is the ultimate venue for a big night out. Start your evening by sampling their delicious cocktails at the super cool rustic garden, move to the gallery space for an insight on modern art and then dance till you drop at a live concert. If at any point you get the munchies, there’s even a café to take care of that too. Six D.o.g.s. offers a bar, café, exhibition space and music venue all under one avant-garde roof.

5. Escape to Aegina

Lots of sun loungers and umbrellas on a sandy Greek beach.

If your budget is as tight as your schedule but you still want to squeeze in an island experience while in Athens, then hop on a ferry to Aegina. A ferry ticket costs about 10 euros and it’s only an hour away so you can have a full day excursion. Enjoy the crystalline sea that washes Aegina's many sand beaches, stretch out in the sun and take a swim in the blue waters before enjoying a glass of ouzo and octopus for lunch. An ideal island day.

For quick access to the island's main cultural sights, rent a scooter at the port. A must-see is the Temple of Aphaia which forms the so-called “holy triangle” of antiquity with the Parthenon and the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion. The Saint Nektarios Monastery – one of the largest monasteries in the Balkans - is also a must-see. While on the road you’ll be able to admire the beautiful scenery of green hills and crystal blue sea.

Giedre Brenciute Giedre loves everything about travelling, from finding the best deal to getting lost in foreign cities. She will always try the most curious dish and will never say no to a traditional dancing lesson. After Thailand, her next destination will be New York.