The number one goal of anyone visiting a foreign country is to get to experience it the way its locals do; a task that is admittedly hard, if not impossible. Eating where the locals eat, going out to the places where the locals go, it is all part of the magic of the everyday life of the city and as a born and bred Athenian, I feel the obligation of providing you with the exclusive knowledge that will make your travel dreams come true.
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Here is a day in the life of an average Athenian you can follow to get the most authentic experience you can, including plenty of options of where to eat and go. There is much talk about the so-called ‘Greek way of life’ and you are about to get the inside scoop. Mind you, this ‘day in the life’ addresses a day of the weekend; I gathered it’d be rather dull to talk to you about all the hours Athenians spend in front of a screen during a weekday.
Rise, shine and start your day right: Breakfast in Athens!
Bougatsa pastry - credits: Alexandros Michailidis/Shutterstock.com
The early bird catches the worm, or in this case, the most luscious, scrumptious, buttery bake. The Mediterranean diet is a very healthy diet for the most part, but not on the weekends, and definitely not on the weekends’ mornings. A typical breakfast of a local involves a trip to the nearest bakery. You get in, see what’s straight out of the oven, grab it and go. A traditional cheese pie is always a decent stable, however, there are so many more mouthwatering pastry options you should explore: ‘zabonotyropita’ -ham and cheese pie-, ‘loukanikopita’ -sausage roll- and ‘bougatsa’ -custard-filled ‘phyllo’ pie- are some personal favorites, but you can always ask the baker for their specialties and make an educated choice.
Some local-favorite bakeries in the center of Athens include Ariston, an over a hundred-year-old family-run bakery that is considered as a culinary landmark of Athens and it is most famous among the locals for its handmade, buttery shortcrust pastry cheese pie. Another hidden gem is Takis Bakery the local-favorite bakery located in Koukaki neighborhood right under the shadow of the Acropolis that according to its owner, was the first bakery that brought ‘koulouri’ from Thessaloniki to Athens. Try its specialty, a praline-filled ‘koulouri’, or even a sandwich with honey tahini and apple, and savor traditional local flavors of top quality.
Last but not least, Pnyka is a family-run bakery established in 1981 recognized for its whole-wheat bread, for which its owner was called at the University of Harvard to present its productions-true story. Apart from the awards and the international recognition it has gained, Pnyka’s uniqueness lies also in the fact that it grinds the flour with his own stone mill. Don’t skip trying its cheese pie, consisting of excellent feta cheese and homemade ‘phyllo’ pastry; you’ll be scarred for life.
What if you’re not a morning person though?
A view from the streets of Athens - credits: Yasemin Olgunoz Berber/Shutterstock.com
Another option for the morning among the local Athenians, apart from stuffing their face with the delectable offerings of a nearby bakery early in the morning, is getting together with their friends and indulging in a weekend tradition that although it is a recent addition to the Greek way of life, it has quickly become one of the favorites; yes, you guessed it, brunch! One of the Millennials’ greatest culinary accomplishments, the meal that takes place in between breakfast and lunch, has taken Athens by storm, with most coffee shops in Athens following the trend and adapting their menus to accommodate the locals’ new needs. If you’re familiar with the coffee culture in Greece, you’re probably already aware of the fact that for Greeks -Athenians included- having a cup coffee is a ritual that takes time; no wham, bam thank you ma’am monkey business. Therefore, the task of choosing the best brunch place is not taken light-heartedly.
We have already mentioned in a previous post some of the most favorite local brunch spots in Athens, however, some new favorites include Philos, located in the high-class neighborhood of Kolonaki and housed in an impressive neoclassic building. This stylish and cultured culinary hub serves traditional Greek dishes that give a modern twist to age-old recipes found in every Greek home. The hot soups and savory tarts that change every day complement the small but comprehensive menu, while the wine list gets richer by the day. In the local-favorite neighborhood of Koukaki, Monsieur Barbu is a cult-classic hangout spot for locals that want to taste one of the best brunches in town in a homey setting. The eatery’s goal is to offer a cozy ambiance reminiscent of a local’s living room, with delicacies one would enjoy while lounging on their balcony; simple, relaxed, intimate and comfortable. Odori, on the other side, may not offer as intimate of a brunch experience, but it offers one just as tasty. With a menu that puts on the market full of Italian flavor, extraordinary combinations, unique is the best adjective to use when talking about this place. Last but not least, Noel, can make all of your brunch dreams come true in one of the most aesthetically pleasing settings in Athens.
Despite being a holiday bar with Christmas being the time when it reaches its peak, it is a great café all year round, with mouthwatering dishes, a great variety of beverages and drinks and an unmatched atmosphere that will enchant everyone who visits it. Its luscious pancakes are a personal favorite, but whatever you choose to eat and drink won’t disappoint you. Although Noel is by no means small, when brunching in it, you’ll feel snug as a bug in a rug! As you can tell by now, one thing is for sure, a local’s life is pretty food-centered and therefore you’ll find no shortage of places to taste the Greek gastronomy!
When in doubt, walk it out!
A couple walking through the streets of Athens' center - credits: Milan Gonda/Shutterstock.com
Whether you’ve opted for breakfast or brunch, a long walk around the beautiful city of Athens and its picturesque neighborhoods are a vital part of an Athenian’s everyday life; it’s good for the body, the mind, and the soul, and it is the ultimate way to relax and savor the sunshine that Athens is -most of the times- blessed with. Get that vitamin D while marveling at your surroundings and feel just like a local when strolling along the top walking routes in Athens. Of course, there are spots in the city that often get neglected by its visitors who favor the more touristy side of Athens, however, there are tourist staples that even the locals can’t get past. Such are the neighborhood of Plaka and the exquisite Anafiotika, the alternative Psyrri, the pretty walk along Areopagus street under the imposing Acropolis, the historic square of Monastiraki, a shopping stroll along Ermou street, and a picnic at the National Gardens, home to thousands of plant varieties and one of must-visit parks in Athens.
However, praise must also be given to Athens’ underdogs, the neighborhood of Pagkrati and Koukaki, as well as Mavili square, which the locals love to frequent on their downtime and the visitors tend to overlook. Not forgetting that Athens is a seaside town, a walk by the beach is always a winning choice, and at about 11km away from the city center, a very viable one as well. You can visit the neighborhood of Faliro or Glyfada and stroll Athens’ Riviera much like a local would on a sunny day. Of course, you could also leave yourself to the hands of the experts and join one of our Athens walking tours; the reasons why you should take a walking tour in Athens with Greeking.me are plenty, but eliminating all the stress from your trip and enjoying off-the-beaten-path spots of the city you would otherwise let fall between the cracks are the top ones.
Time to get your culture on
Acropolis Museum's ground floor - credits: Paopano/Shutterstock.com
By now, a local would treat themselves in an afternoon siesta, however, if you’re a visitor pumped full of energy to discover the city, a nap may not be at the top of your to-do list. This is when the glorious history of Athens and Greek culture can come out to play. Although most locals wouldn’t spend their afternoon at an archaeological site, some would, and you should! The imposing Acropolis rock along with the modern Acropolis Museum are the two destinations you can’t afford to neglect. The more than thousand-year-old monuments on top of the rock, with the Parthenon being the best example, will leave you in awe and help you gain a better understanding of the ancient Greek world that has become internationally recognized for its ingenuity and inventiveness.
Accordingly, the Acropolis Museum will offer you the opportunity to admire the hundreds of artifacts, sculptures, and everyday items the Acropolis excavations have brought to light, giving people an insight into ancient Greek culture. Alternatively, you could visit one of the lesser-known museums of Athens that are not as famous but are just as interesting. If, however, you couldn’t care less about Athens’ history and you are determined to ignore all advice and live life like a true Athenian but would also like to engage in some cultural endeavors, your best bet is to opt for a visit to Athens’ art galleries, something a local would be much more likely to do. Additionally, you could go to the theater in order to watch a Greek play, go to live concert to enjoy a local or international artist or catch a movie at your local cinema, or open-air cinema if you’re visiting the city during summer.
In any case, you can check out the Greece Is website in order to find out what’s on in Athens during your stay, not letting even one minute of your trip go to waste. There are plenty of things to do in Athens, so being bored will never be an issue; pinky promise. By the way, have you checked our Athens travel guide and our Acropolis visit guide?
Dinner time is the best time
An Athenian deli - credits: Nataliia-Sokolovska/Shutterstock.com
I know it sounds crazy, but hear me out and picture this: you’ve woken up early, dragged yourself to your neighborhood’s bakery to gobble on some buttery goodness, made a 2-hour long walk around your beloved city, and explored its cultural side by visiting its museums, theater, and art galleries. What next? Dinner, obviously. In Greece we take our food seriously and having a bad culinary experience is an insult to Greek culture, Greek cuisine and Greek people; yes, well, we may take food a tad too seriously! We wouldn’t want you to have anything but the best and most luscious Greek dishes to refuel your batteries with and prepare for the night ahead. Thankfully, you won’t need to look hard.
If you want to visit a local traditional tavern, Ta Karamanlidika Tou Fani is a meze-eating tavern popular among the locals where you can find some of the best local products, including cheese, and charcuterie, from all over Greece. Housed in a renovated stone-built building, you will explore the tradition of meze-tasting the proper way: over a friendly chit-chat with the welcoming locals; just make sure to taste its signature cured meats and you’ll be blown away! Another incredible tavern is Avli. With its name meaning ‘yard’ in Greek, Avli is Athens’ culinary scene best-kept secret; well, not anymore. A bayard with an eye-catching ‘60s aesthetic, its checkered tablecloths, the photos of Athens through the years decorating its walls and the Greek music playing on the speakers, complement Avli’s traditional Greek dishes like a dream; If you try its meatballs with a glass of cold local beer there is no turning back!
A more sophisticated, high-end choice is Yoleni's Greek Gastronomy Center. With the restaurant’s goal being the introduction of Greek cuisine to its visitors in an appetizing way, you can try delicacies, traditional dishes, and local products from all of Greece’s regions; fresh salads, homemade pies, and local desserts all accompanied by fine Greek wine varieties are there to impress you! Delightedly, there are a number of vegetarian options in all of the local restaurants and taverns as Greek gastronomy is based on the Mediterranean diet and is heavy on the vegetables while often leaving out meat altogether. However, if you’re a vegan and you want to make sure you stay true to your eating habits, you’re better off visiting an exclusively vegan restaurant. Vegan Beat and Avocado are both excellent choices for a plant-based diet, both offering nutritious and delicious dishes. In any case, don’t stress too much about finding a place to eat; Greek food is like pizza: even if it’s bad, it’s still pretty darn good. A walk down the streets of Athens will reveal to you numerous local eateries the locals enjoy; just keep your eyes open and your nose ready to sniff the best treats!
How about a drink?
Wine-tasting with friends - credits: Yulia Grigoryeva/Shutterstock.com
After dinner, it’s time to experience the absolute favorite time of the locals; the time they go out at a local bar to enjoy a glass of wine, or any other alcoholic beverage they prefer, while hanging out with their pals and listening to their preferred music. While I could probably write a whole book on the bars of Athens, I’ll restrict myself and present to you with the local favorites, those invisible oases that remain hidden from the unsuspected eyes. Heteroclito is a wine bar buried in a small alley in the heart of Athens that has been recognized by international wine magazines. There you can find up more than 200 Greek wine labels in a wine list that changes on a monthly basis. Another beloved spot of wine-lovers is the -somewhat- recent addition in the alternative neighborhood of Exarcheia called Tanini agapi mou, which translates to ’Tannin my love’ and therefore win the ‘best-named wine bar’ title. Tanini agapi mou is one of the most sophisticated wine bars you can come across, with its owners being thoroughly educated on the Greek wine production and very passionate about their offerings. There, you will find a number of wine varieties from small local vineyards, while its friendly staff is more than happy to help you make the best choice for your taste;
if you like wine, you will absolutely adore it. Another one of the city’s newest additions is To Lokali, although more mainstream than the rest, it is a bar that won’t disappoint, as its delicious cocktails and relaxed atmosphere will charm anyone who chooses to visit it. Its big yard is a summer haven, however, its incredibly aesthetic interior will be the best refuge from the winter cold. Last but not least, Ipitou bar, located in the homonymous Athenian street, is one of those bars you’ll hardly ever find empty; it is vibrant, it is loud and it is one of the best Athenian hangouts the locals love to meet in. From the most intricate cocktails to the most cult-classic drinks, in Ipitou you’ll find what you’re looking for and then some!
If you’re the person that never tires, the one that is determined to live life to the fullest and thoroughly explore the Athens’ nightlife, you’ll be happy to know that there are hundreds of things to do in Athens at night; this city truly never sleeps and therefore, you won’t be short of things to do, whether you want to dance or party till the early morning hours! The night is young, the world is your oyster and the choice is yours!
Here you have it. A realistic day in the life of a local Athenian that wants to enjoy their time in their hometown on a day off. You have to admit that we know how to live life the right way; we savor our food and choose to spend our free time in feel-good activities. Now you can join us too! Cheers to that!