While the islands may lure visitors from the mainland during the summer months, Athens is a city to be enjoyed all year round. Avoid the tourist crowds and soak up the rich Athenian cultural life with us. We know you love to travel, so we are excited to introduce you to part one of our bi-annual Insider Guides where we will share with you our favourite places to stay, see, eat & drink in Greece. We start with the urban and vibrant city of Athens and have collaborated with fashion Journalist India Doyle who lives in both Athens and London, to bring you the secret Athens you may not know.
We start with Athens – where to Eat & Drink.
At the heart of Athens, mere moments away from the touristy Ermou Street, you’ll find NOLAN. This culinary hotspot doesn’t only seduce guests at the neighbouring five star Electra Metropolis Hotel, but draws in a crowd of hip creatives and well-heeled Kolonaki residents as well. The energy inside this intimately designed restaurant is almost always high octane, and with a string of accolades and a legion of fans, that’s exactly as it should be. The Greco-Japanese restaurant serves up contemporary cuisine bringing crisp, delicately rendered dishes to the heart of Athens. Founded by owner Costas Pissioti and chef Sotiris Kontizas, Nolan imaginatively fuses Kontizas’ heritage. The son of a Japanese father and Greek mother, the chef explained that from a young age, “We were eating yaki soba for lunch and Greek pastizio for dinner.” The two distinct culinary influences have fused into an exciting menu at the now Michelin-starred eatery. What’s the secret? Kontizas embraces contrasts throughout his dishes, working with nuances of texture, as well as flavour. Starters such as shrimp and anchovy in rice paper are sumptuously light. Zucchini in miso and smoked eggplant astutely balances a salty sharpness with fuller bodied flavours. Try soba noodles with smoked salmon and tahini and short fin with fennel for heartier fish dishes, and choose from the beef korroke or steamed buns with pork cheek as the meatier mains.The restaurant is also known for its signature fried chicken – an unexpectedly good take on the American classic, that packs plenty of bite. Dishes are designed to be shared, so order generously and prepare to pass plates (handmade ceramics, of course) often. Meanwhile industrial interiors provide a striking contrast to the ancient architecture of the surrounding area. In spite of these starker design elements, the atmosphere is warm and energetic – fuelled no doubt by friendly service and intimate seating. Choose indoors for the best atmosphere, though outside is perfect for people watching and serene summer evenings.
Discover this restaurant via the semi-clandestine entrance and nouveau tavern’s winding wooden staircase which will lead you to a veritable haven of Mani flavors – Mani is a small peninsula in the Peloponnese with a big culinary reputation. Although discreetly veering towards the sophisticated, this is a genuinely family-friendly location that has successfully managed to lodge itself in the heart of the locals, and has quite the reputation as a failsafe traveller’s choice. Its proximity to the Acropolis and a prominent place in The New York Times’ “36 Hours in Athens” feature might have something to do with it, but with 11 years under its belt, this cozy little spot has certainly earned its stripes.
Location: 10 Falirou St Acropoli. +30 210921 8180
What to Wear
Ancient Greek Sandals
TO MAVRO PROVATO
2. To Mavro Provato (the Black sheep) is a modern take on the traditional mezedopoleio, a place to go for mezes (small plates of food usually washed down in Greece with ouzo or tsipouro (a strong white spirit produced from wine-press residue, akin to grappa). Sit outside under the trees on a warm night or cosy up inside the pared-back space in winter. We love the kataifi eggplant dish filled with Kefalogarviera cheese. This place is full and buzzing most nights so booking ahead is a must.
Hop in a cab and travel to the northern Athenian cool suburb of Neo Psihiko to visit a place designed to embody the bistro culture of Paris and New York. Designed by Minas Kosmidis inspired by a retrospective take on the European and American bistros of the past.
Entering the establishment, you are welcomed by the bar area, a tall space of hardwood floors, floral wallpaper and coffered ceilings that immediately seduces you with its charm and elegance, pretty much like a butterfly whose french word the establishment takes its name from. Small, round tables with iron bases, bentwood chairs and a long, maroon, leather booth evince a French bistro ambiance while an eclectic selection of paintings, quirkily aligned high up, just below the ceiling on the wall opposite the bar, provide a more playful note. Meanwhile, the use of white marble, walnut wood and brass provide a sense of luxury.
Master Barista and Athenian underdog Michalis Dimitrakopoulos served and won 2nd place in World Barista Championship 2019, in Boston USA.THE UNDERDOG, true to its namesake was voted many times over as World champion coffee roasters turning over 6kg of coffee a day. This IS the place for a handcrafted coffee served up with your lime & truffle infused scrambled eggs.
Location – Iraklidon 8,Thisseo +30 213 0365393
The Clumsies has helped to secure Athens’ reputation as a cocktail capital, voted 7th out of Top 10 best bars in Europe in 2018. It’s dark, atmospheric interior is always packed with the Athenian elite, draped around the bar’s signature, decadent cocktails. With such a reputation, the drinks demand, and deserve your full attention. Savour the artistry of a perfectly made Clumsies Negroni or embrace the bar’s more experimental offers – like a citrus-based mojito which comes served with a mint toothbrush – as conceived by award-winning crafstmen Vassilis Kyritsis and Nikos Bakoulis. Reservations are a must.
Location: Praxitelous 30 . +30 21 0323 2682
ODORI VERMUTERIA DI ATENE
Venture downtown and step into this botanically wallpapered Vermuteria (Vermouth bar) and sip on some of the finest mixed drinks, wine or spirit. A great place to meet friends over a small plate of mezes under delicate bird cages that dangle from the ceiling. Better still, perch by the window for a view of the century old Byzantine old church.
8. Location – 2 Skouleniou. +302103314674
Sofia Papakosta Earrings
Trying to nab a spontaneous seat at the ever popular wine bar Oinoscent Plaka proves exceedingly difficult – especially over the weekend. For a city famed for its abundance of cafes and bars, this atmospheric haunt on Voulis has mastered the art of openness and exclusivity. It’s no surprise the bar enjoys a place the top of many Athenians’ list of favourite hangouts. Founded in 2008, Oinoscent Plaka fast built a reputation for its expansive wine list. Their cellar contains over 700 labels, with a mix of local and international makers to browse through. As one would expect from a venue with so much to offer, service – often from one of the bar’s owners themselves, is attentive and informed. However it isn’t only the wines that make Oinoscent so popular, a menu of traditional Greek food also proves a serious draw. By day, try hearty sandwiches, classic Greek meze such as warm bowls of fava or cheese and charcuterie platters. In the evenings, the menu expands. Choose from beef ragu, rib eye fillet and Peruvian potatoe puree, plates of squid and spinach, or cod and ratatouille. Each dish is designed to be accompanied by specific wines, and all make for dream starters to Athenian nights. For real wine lovers, Oinoscent Plaka also runs wine tasting evenings each week, where attendees can sample some of the best kept secrets of the bar’s cellar.
5. The Underdog, 6. The Clumsies, 7. Odori Vermuteria Di Athene, 8. Oinoscent
India Doyle is a fashion and editor and writer based between Athens and London. A contributor to Twin magazine,Vogue, Dazed and Confused, SHOWstudio and Culture Trip, India covers the international fashion scene and cultural life in Greece.