Life in Athens takes place on the street. The best way to experience the city is to join in this intoxicating mix that’s somewhere between bedlam and joie de vivre.
Get yourself in the mood with an afternoon volta (stroll) along the Ancient Promenade. Circling the heart of the ancient city, the pedestrianised route takes in The Temple of Olympian Zeus, the mighty Acropolis and the Ancient Agora. You’ll also find plenty of modernity here, with open-air art exhibitions, book fairs, buskers and street traders, lending the promenade a festival air.
Grab a table at one of Thisio’s bustling cafes (such as Stavlos), and if you want to feel like a true Athenian, order a frappé.
Take in a movie at the open-air cinema: Athenians eat late (typically 9pm or 10pm) so you’ll have plenty of time before dinner to watch an old classic or latest release. Some are set in tranquil gardens, while others, such as Cine Paris, have stunning views from rooftop terraces.
Join the rest of the city in eating out. Dining is usually a rowdy, drawn out and communal affair and you’ll find restaurants everywhere with tables spilling out onto the streets. Great authentic tavernas can be found in Pangrati, Exarhia, Petralona and Gazi neighbourhoods.
Athens has an astounding array of excellent places to drink – the ambience often made all the better by the balmy nights, restless energy and alfresco hedonism. Head to Psyrri, Gazi, Syntagma and Keramikos for the latest openings. In the summer months, bars open up gorgeous rooftop terraces and garden courtyards, but you’ll find outdoor revelry on most of the city’s street corners.
If you’re serious about staying up til dawn, head to the coast. Stretching from Piraeus to beyond Glyfada, Athens has a beautiful line-up of glamorous beach clubs. Check out Akrotiri or Balux. Ward off that hangover with a refreshing dawn dip in the sea!
This article was first published in August 2009 and last updated in April 2015.