This season, our wanderlust has taken us to new horizons. After Portugal, Spain, and the Bavarian Alps, we’ve hit the road again and headed to Athens for our Summer '18 Campaign. The reason we chose this destination is not so much the various mezze and feta cheese, or the envy to (re)visit the Acropolis while remembering our history lessons, but the curiosity to discover a city that has been reinventing itself thanks to a new generation of creatives who put all their energy into their artistic scene all while preserving what makes Athens truly unique.
Forget about Ancient Times museums, we’ve taken our exploration to the streets, guided by recommendations from the Athenians we met along the way. Vintage shops, local bakeries, trendy cafés and afternoon strolls—Here’s our alternative guide to discover the new Athens.
MONASTIRAKI & PSIRRI
We were looking for a lively Athens and Monastiraki was the ideal starting point for our exploration. Located between touristy Plaka and gentrified Psirri, the plaza of Monastiraki welcomes all kinds of visitors. Its flea market (which didn’t amaze us, to be honest) mostly attracts tourists in search of souvenirs, while some locals with a trained eye roam the side streets to pick up vintage clothing and furniture. This scene wouldn’t be complete without Syrtakis music coming from nearby restaurants and a view of the Acropolis.
Despite the hustle and bustle, we did find many worthy spots in the area. No need to look very far to eat good & local food. Try O Thanasis—even though it doesn’t look like much from the outside, they serve generous and truly delicious Gyros. Next head to Psirri: the rhythm slows down, walls get more and more covered with graffiti and the passersby seem to be getting younger. Starting on the charming Iroon plaza, Protogenous street is filled with interesting spots. Dig in the vinyl selection at Syd, before grabbing a cup of coffee at industrial-looking Barrett, a popular nighttime hangout among locals.
Going up Protogenous, you’ll find several second-hand shops full of treasures, but our favorite retailer has to be The Real Intellectuals, a motorcycle accessory shop managed by a bunch of passionate graphic designers. Their motto? “Getting our hands dirty and seeing what comes out of it is what we do”. That’s the spirit!
A stone's throw away, the scenery changes again. Locals flow to the Central Municipal Athens Food Market while enjoying the lovely smell of fish. We were especially amazed by the market’s mouthwatering selection of aromatic herbs, dried fruits and nuts: oregano, thyme, tealeaves, almonds… The perfect opportunity to bring some Greek flavors back home.
Getting hungry? Head to Feyrouz! This hidden spot is going to rock your world. Not only are they extremely kind and welcoming, their home-style food and its Turkish and Lebanese influences is to die for. We’ve had the Vegeterian Lahmatzoun and we still dream about at night. Die-hard vintage shopping fans should take advantage of being in the area by visiting Retrosexual Vintage and its impressive selection of Space Age furniture from the 50s.
At sunset, enjoy the views from the rooftop of Couleur Locale, a trendy café and bar. Both the drinks and the music are on point, what more could we ask for?
Syntagma is considered to be the center of Athens and we really liked exploring it on a late afternoon. We recommend taking a look at Paraphernalia, a shop offering a nice selection of Japanese stationary and decorative items from local and international brands. At night, you’ll find more than enough bars around Kalamiotou street. Our favorite one among them has to be Baba au Rum and its comprehensive and original selection of cocktails.
After a day spent in busy Monastiraki, exploring the quiet and narrow streets of Plaka feels like a bowl of fresh air. The street that goes up towards the Acropolis from Monastiraki leaves graffiti behind and replaces them with colorful little houses reminiscent of the Cyclades. In fact, just go all the way up to Anafiotika and you’ll feel just like in Mykonos. Get ready for blooming lemon trees, blue skies, street cats and a breathtaking view of Athens. Despite the more touristic atmosphere, the food is good! We really enjoyed Restaurante Plaka, where we feasted on tzatziki, baked feta and grilled octopus.
After this touristy stroll, let’s head back where locals hang out. At the feet of Filopappou Hill, Koukaki is a residential area with a high quality of life. Calmer than the city center, it boasts a very bobo-relaxed atmosphere mixing hip cafés and traditional food stores. We especially loved Bel Ray, a former automotive repair shop that was turned into a vintage-looking brunch spot.
Another highlight would be Kinono, a minimalistic space that turns into a jazz bar at night. A few meters away, you’ll find Athens’ best pastry shop, called Takis. It’s the kind of place where everything looks delicious but there are no signs describing what is what, so you just point at whatever catches your eye and of course that pastry amazing. Right across the street, Drupes and Drips, founded by the same family, is the perfect spot to have a drink and a plate of cheese and cured meat.
Although our guide focuses on these three areas, Athens is a very vast city and there are other neighborhoods worth visiting. Here are a few words on some of them:
This western neighborhood right next to Koukaki really feels like a seaside town. That’s where we met the duo of architects Marianna Rentzou and Konstantinos Pantazis, in their Petralona house.
Known as Athens’ anarchist neighborhood, Exarchia is a festive area due to its closeness to the University. We had a blast at Warehouse wine bar but were a bit less enthusiastic about our visit during daytime, crossing a mix of drug dealers and protesters. However, we feel like our experience wasn’t representative and if we get the chance to go back to Athens, we would give it another try for sure.
Just a few minutes from the city center, the Pyree is the point of departure to de Cycladic islands. Want to spend the day exploring the coast on a private boat? Have a look at www.clickandboat.com, the boat version on Airbnb.
Transportation in Athens is super easy. From the airport, the subway takes you right to the city center. It’s also very convenient to circulate in the city. Another option is taking a taxi, they’re everywhere and the rates are quite low.
MONASTIRAKI & PSIRRI
/EAT O Thanasis, Cabezon, Zampano, Feyrouz /DRINK Bios, Cantina Social, Barret, Couleur Locale, S.I.X d.o.g.s /SHOP Mofu Vintage, Kilo Shop, The Real Intellectual, Athens Municipal Food Market, Habeat records, Syd Records, Retrosexual Vintage /SEE Latraac Skatebowl