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Athens: Eat and drink with the locals

August 31, 2011, 9:27 am Jane Foster Yahoo! New Zealand

Besides its magnificent ancient monuments, what makes Athens stand apart from many other European capitals is its latent hedonism. Despite the current economic crisis, young Athenians are still out and about in the city centre – ordering cocktails in the city's many late-night bars (some great music too), or eating with friends at their favourite local taverna.

Athens: Eat and drink with the locals
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Besides its magnificent ancient monuments, what makes Athens stand apart from many other European capitals is its latent hedonism. Despite the current economic crisis, young Athenians are still out and about in the city centre – ordering cocktails in the city's many late-night bars (some great music too), or eating with friends at their favourite local taverna. Here we list eight of the classic non-touristy venues in the city centre.

Drinking

Booze
Kolokotroni 57, Syntagma

The pioneer of Athens’ alternative bar scene has to be Booze, founded in 1989 and still adapting faster than the rest. Housed in a 19th century Neo-classical building, it has a ground floor cafe with a six-metre-long wooden table –complete with backgammon and chess boards – plus a small courtyard and a newly opened bar with shelves of coloured backlit bottles creating a warm glow. The upper floor hosts a dimly-lit moody club, playing an eclectic mix of gothic-rock, ambient and bossa nova till dawn at weekends – the space is also used for exhibitions, performances and installations. The founder, Nikos Louvras, chairs Greece’s pro-smoking political party K.O.T.E.S. (standing for “Smoking Groups for Art and Artistic Creation”, but also spelling ‘chicken’ in Greek) in defiance of the unpopular 2010 “no-smoking” policy. Hence the brightly coloured papier-mache chickens suspended from the ceiling in the cafe. And the smoke.

TAF
Normanou 5, Monastiraki

Founded in 2008 as an innovative gallery staging exhibitions and installations by emerging Greek and international artists, TAF (The Art Foundation) is also a popular night spot. The main exhibition space is up on the first floor, while the rest of the complex centres on a tumble-down neo-classical building from 1870. Here the former stables house 12 tiny galleries, giving onto a lovely courtyard garden with a bar. Think mellow lighting, chill-out music and jazz fusion - a great way to combine art, conversation and an evening drink.


SIX D.O.G.S.
Avramiotou 6-8, Monastiraki

What started out as a row of four bars, came together to form one new venue in autumn 2009. Aiming to be “both avant-garde and pop”, it was redesigned in minimalist style, in shades of grey, and combines a cafe, a bar, spaces for concerts and exhibitions, plus a peaceful garden with wooden tables and benches, and hammocks and swings hanging from the trees. The name refers to the ‘six degrees of global separation’ concept, that anyone on earth can be connected to anyone else through a chain of six acquaintances. Besides providing a platform for local talent, Six D.O.G.S. hosts international performers - German electronic musician Ellen Allien and American psychedelic folk duo Big Blood have played here.

POP
Kleitiou 10, Syntagma

Hidden away in a pedestrian-only street, in an area packed with clothing stores and shoe shops, Pop’s diminutive size belies its capacity to entertain. Although the cramped and slightly retro interior is hardly more than a corridor (leading from the bright pink door to the toilet), DJs here play some of the best indie music in town. It’s friendly and unpretentious, and when there’s no more space inside, people hang out on the steps and the street instead. Be sure to try the notorious zingy rum-based Zombie cocktail.

Eating

Cafe Avissinia
Avissinias Square, Monastiraki

Surrounded by antique stores and furniture restorers, Cafe Avissinia has been listed in many tourist guides. Nonetheless, it still has a loyal local following, especially on Sunday lunchtimes, when there’s the weekly flea market and they lay on gypsy-style accordion music. The ground floor dining room has an old-fashioned tiled floor, wooden-panelled walls and marble-top tables, while a narrow staircase leads up to a big veranda with amazing Acropolis views. Opt for a carafe of raki (a potent colourless spirit made from distilled grapes), and choose from dishes such as melitzanosalata (aubergine dip with walnuts), hoirini me damaskino kai prassa (pork with prunes and leeks) and syrupy baklava served with ice cream.


Byzantino tou Strefi
Strefi Hill, Neapoli-Exarhion

On hot summer evenings, residents from the grungy Exarhia neighbourhood flock here for mezes (appetisers) and carafes of chilled white wine. Nestled into the slopes of Strefi Hill, friendly and informal Byzantino occupies a semi-covered stone terrace, surrounded by towering pines, eucalyptus trees and dense Mediterranean shrubs. Popular dishes include melitzana me mastelo (grilled aubergine with mastelo cheese and fresh tomato), psaronefri hoirino (grilled pork fillet with real chips, yoghurt and fresh herbs) and prasini salata (mixed leaf lettuce, Cretan curd cheese and pomegranate).

Kapetan Michalis
Feidiou 3, Omonia

This down-to-earth ouzeri, with just ten tables inside and half-a-dozen out front, is a classic hangout for a late-lunch. Popular with local office workers and students, it lies between Omonia and Syntagma. Each day, the Cretan owners prepare a different choice of mezes (appetisers) – look out for fava (yellow lentil puree), gigantes (beans in a rich tomato sauce), keftedes (meatballs), marida (whitebait) and patatosalata (potato salad). The drink of choice here is anise-flavoured ouzo, which turns cloudy white when you add water.

Ariston
Voulis 10, Syntagma

When the ‘Secret Athens’ page posted “Best tiropita (cheese pie) in Athens?”, on Facebook, the outright winner was Aritson. On the go since 1910, it lies a couple of blocks from Syntagma. You’ll smell the warm buttery pastries before you spot the entrance, often crowded with shoppers and business people eating their pies straight from their paper bags. The fillings change with the seasons, but you can expect about a dozen different types of pie daily, which might include kolokithopita (courgette pie), prassotopita (leek pie), melitzanotopita (aubergine pie) and manitaritopita (mushroom pie).


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3 Comments

  1. Mrs Mole11:04pm Saturday 19th November 2011 ESTReport Abuse

    Great food and shopping. Would recommend it to anyone:-)

    Reply
  2. Mrs Mole11:04pm Saturday 19th November 2011 ESTReport Abuse

    Great food and shopping. Would recommend it to anyone:-)

    Reply
  3. Howard05:31am Tuesday 27th September 2011 ESTReport Abuse

    We loved Athens, wish we had more time there. Full of life and character.

    Reply
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