After countless requests followed by forwards of the same email, here is the blog form of my to-see/eat/do/visit list of the beautiful and edgy city of Athens. Note that this first (and so far, only) version of this email of Athens recommendations was created in May 2017 and there are a plethora more that I would add to the list today (stay tuned).
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Lucy Xu <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Mon, May 22, 2017 at 7:03 PM
To: You, my friend
Greece is excited to welcome you! For lodging, I highly recommend Athens Backpackers & Studios. I stayed there during my first trip to Athens. It's a 5 minute walk to the Acropolis, and close to all the tourist must-see places & neighborhoods (Koukaki, Plaka, Monastiraki). The "Backpackers" building is a suepr clean hostel with great service and staff. They also have the "Studios" which is their hotel portion (private rooms), at competitive hostel rates.
I'm excited for you to explore Athens, and can't wait to hear about your adventures in the city. Here are some reccs / personal favorites broken down by category. Take a look and if you have any other preferences (e.g., cuisine style, bar type, sightseeing preferences, etc.) let me know! A quick note to add is that Yelp does not exist here, so more commonly used to explore places to eat/drink/see/etc. is TripAdvisor, Facebook, and FourSquare.
Neighborhoods — In general, the neighborhoods you won't want to miss are: Monastiraki (great for shopping, warning: very touristy), Plaka (right next to Monastiraki, with great historical sight views , Koukaki (right by the Acropolis), and my beloved Exarcheia. I've also heard Gazi is pretty popular amongst tourists and some locals, though I personally haven't explored out there yet.
General Tip — Keep an eye on your stuff! When you are on the metro, and walking around in high crowded areas (especially the touristy ones), pickpockets are abound and they are highly skilled. Keep your bags close on your person, and backpacks in front of you if you can. Greece is not dangerous by any means, but there are the small petty crimes (e.g., theft) that still happen.
Bars & Coffeeshops
- Mavros Gatos — Located in Exarcheia, a very hip local bar in a very hip/alternative neighborhood. The scene is mostly hipster locals, young students and people in their 20s who attend the surrounding colleges. Good music.
- Athens Sports Bar — Touristy/expat-filled bar, as it is owned by the awesome hostel next door (where I stayed for my trip). Come here for a much more American/touristy great time (they have Karaoke on Thursdays, which is a hit). If you go, let them know you're my friend and I say hi! I'm friends with most the bartenders there.
- Tiki Bar — Fun local bar with great cocktails located in the touristy neighborhood of Koukaki (right around the corner from Athens Sports Bar).
- Drunk Sinatra – Great jazz and cocktail bar, located in the more party/touristy neighborhood of Gazi. I've never been here myself, but it is high on my to-do list, and comes highly recommended by my Greek friends.
- Baba Au Rum & The Clumsies — Great cocktail bars, comes highly recommended by my cocktail expert friends. I've never been but I've heard good things!
- Taf — Suuuuper hip bar / coffee shop (great for day or night). They open the roof during the summer months, and the inside is part bar, part art installation.
- Public Cafe — Public is the equivalent of their "Barnes and Noble" and they have a spot right in Syntagma Square, with a rooftop cafe with gorgeous views.
- Φουάρ — Amazing Thai food and cocktails!
- Thanasis Kebab — Famous in Greece for its kebabs and gyros. It's a bit on the pricier side (when compared with the local food, since it is so popular and also gets touristy in the summer, as its located in the Monastiraki district) but is a great bet and also one of my favorites.
- Falafellas — Amazing falafels, hands down.
- Καραμανλίδικα του Φάνη — A must-go!!! Classic Greek experience, famous and popular amongst Athens and Greece for its wide selection of meats from all over the country. Definitely get what they recommend in terms of meat dishes (there's one with spicy sausage + fried egg that's amazing) and I also highly recommend the eggplant salad (a bit garlicky, if that's your style).
- Seychelles — One of the most popular restaurants in Athens amongst locals right now. Great authentic Greek food, in a hip neighborhood. After dinner you can hop over to Blue Parrot for some great cocktails.
- Axilleas — Local bar in Exarcheia, great and quick selection for authentic Greek cuisines (mousaka, pastizio, souvlaki, etc.)
- Saligaros — Popular local favorite in Exarcheia, with authentic and amazingly delicious Greek food from the north.
- Cafe Veneti — Has locations all around the city... highly recommend their spanakopita (spinach pie). Also popular in greece are cheese pies ('pies' = 'pastries' here).
- Acropolis — Obvi. Admission ticket is worth it. Go early in the morning to avoid lines (I went around 8:30 and it was perfect.)
- Acropolis Museum — Right next to the Acropolis (also obvi). It is newly renovated and now ranked as one of the best museums in the world, and admission is only €5. The exhibits are stunning, and you get great views of Athens. On the top floor, there's also cafe with amazing views of the Acropolis.
- Filipapou Hill / Aeropagus Hill — Just past the acropolis, a small hike on a hill that gets you amazing views of the Acropolisand the city.
- Palio Faliro — The west side of Athens, by the sea with a great marina filled with places to stroll and eat. You can take the metro straight here and come see the beautiful seaside and marina up close. Closer to the sea, there are also some seaside nightclub (although depending on where you're staying, getting back to Athens center can be a bitch.)
- Tours — If you're into walking tours, Athens Backpackers Hostel has a great one for €6. There is also Alternative Tours where you can learn about the city by way of its graffiti art amongst other alternative routes (sounds v cool).
- Gifts — Sure, all the kiosks and stands sell great souvenirs. But if you're looking for some authentic Greek gifts (by today's modern designers), check out Forget Me Not Athens in Monstiraki. They carry a very clever and well-designed brand called "Hommer" which is a beauty brand for men (named after the author of The Odyssey).
This wraps up the Athens sightseeing brain dump. ;) I've linked a bunch of personal Instagram photos above, but you can also check out #AthensxLucy for even more up-close Greece reccs (Athens, Santorini, Thessaloniki).