Once just a stopover on the way to the Cyclades, Athens is changing fast, with new and irresistible enticements springing up everywhere. Take advantage of the quiet post-season city and its milder temperatures to (re)discover the Greek capital through these ten highly recommendable addresses.
1. Fill up with jazz at the gasworks
In the Gazi neighborhood, the former city gasworks is now one of the coolest places to be. Small-scale bars, restaurants and art galleries have sprung up and proliferated around this former industrial site now converted into an arts center and party venue. Keep a close eye on the program for upcoming concerts or the next food festival. Some events here are even free...
2. Relive antiquity among contemporary architecture
At the foot of the Acropolis, the spectacular Theacropolis Museum is itself built on columns, and showcases ten centuries of sculpture and bas-relief stone carvings from the neighboring hill. The architecture of this new concrete, marble and glass building is designed to flood the interior with daylight to create an incredibly modern perspective on this collection of ancient art. The result is quite simply mind-blowing.
3. Eat well
Opened last spring, Cherchez la femme may have a French name, but this new restaurant is all about local produce and recipes, including tabbouleh with grilled pine nuts, minted meatballs and salad... greek, of course! This neo-brasserie is decorated in the 19th-century style so enthusiastically embraced by the Athenians.
4. Stroll through the flea market
There are two absolutely essential things to do on a Sunday in Athens... Watch the changing of the fustanella-wearing guard outside the Greek parliament at the end of the morning, and walk around Avissinias square in the Monastiriki neighborhood for the flea market. Old prints, porcelain and vintage jewelry: a great deal of searching to be done, and just as much haggling when you find what you want!
5. Track down some great design
In this 1930s house, fashion designer Marilena Emmanouil has created Philos, the most sophisticated concept store in Athens. On the three consciously shabby chic upstairs floors, she offers a curated selection of furniture, fashion and art objects by international designers.
On the ground floor, there’s avocado toast or soft cheese salad and one of the best cups of coffee in town.
6. Shop with the shepherds
Leather straps, hundreds of steel and bronze bells, riding gear and everything a rancher might need: Mompso is a one-of-a-kind store. It also sells the famous klitsa, the traditional carved-handle stick used by Greek shepherds. It will cost you €18 for a stick carved from maple. A new take on travel souvenirs.
7. See the stars beneath the stars
We love Thisio, the open-air cinema created in 1935 - the year in which its current owner was born... Between April and October, its red chairs are the place to sit and enjoy the latest Hollywood movies overdubbed in Greek. The screen is mounted on an ivy-covered wall, cats wander about between the legs of the audience and, as the backdrop, the Parthenon shines to the light of the moon.
8. Enjoy a drink in a secret garden
Take wooden tables, a handful of hammocks and a few fig trees: that’s the cocktail recipe for Six Dogs. This bar in a green city center backyard is open 365 nights of the year. The younger generation of Athenians love it for its cool vibe, ultra-tattooed waiters and 30-cocktail menu. Our favorite? The Vladimir: vodka, lemon juice and fig infusion.
9. Hit the road to find Street Art
Fancy a treasure hunt? Few tourists ever venture into the ramshackle neighborhood of Metaxourgeio, but it’s definitely worth a look. Here, the artists have taken over the faded sorbet-colored walls to create their frescoes and stenciled art. These narrow streets and courtyards are a fabulous gift for photographers.
10. Say thanks to corporate sponsors
Located at the highest point of a 170-hectare park, this brand-new art center is a gift from shipping magnate Stavros Niarchos to his city. Designed by architect Renzo Piano, the building houses the capital’s opera house, the national library and a lake where (pre-booked) kayaking is free. From the top of the building, you can see the sea and all of southern Athens.