The waterfronts around Athens’ city centre are home to big shipping ports and luxury marinas. So to feel the sand between your toes, you’ll need to head south, down the Attica Peninsula. The coastal suburbs here are lined with tucked-away beaches, most of which are a short walk from tram stations and bus stops.
Alimos Beach is a quintessentially Greek seaside spot. The sands are scattered with little shells, and sunloungers are lined by the water’s edge. The water itself starts off shallow, then slopes down until your feet can’t touch the seabed. A few metres off shore, you’ll find an inflatable waterpark, too. You can play on its slides, trampolines and climbing frames, then rent a pedalo from the beach’s watersports centre.
Beach near Sculpted Waterfront Flisvos
This 33-metre-long beach is so unknown it doesn’t even have an official name. You’ll find it nestled next to the Paleo Faliro Gallery and Flisvos Playground, 20 minutes’ drive from the city centre. The green scenery, peaceful atmosphere and nearby cafés make this the ideal place to unwind in the evenings, or to start your day with an early-morning dip.
Greece and olives are one of the world’s most famous pairings. And a popular souvenir visitors flock to get their hands on is traditional olive oil soap. Medical experts believe that washing with it can help prevent sunburn and have anti-ageing effects on the skin. You’ll find soap sets at most of Athens’ bazaars and markets.
Ouzo is an anise-flavoured alcoholic drink that’s a favourite with the locals, who like to slowly sip on a glass while chatting over dinner. And hand-luggage-sized travel bottles are sold all throughout Athens. Be sure to serve it like an Athenian, in a tall glass with ice and spring water.
Attica Department Store is Athens’ answer to Selfridges. The eight-storey Megaro building’s taken pride of place near Syntagma Square since the 1930s. And today, its boutiques feature the likes of Abercrombie & Fitch, Armani and Gucci.
42 Bar takes its name from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and its answer to the meaning of life, 42. Unlike most bars in Athens, smoking’s not allowed indoors, and the entertainment’s kept light with traditional Greek music shows. The cocktail menu’s the main attraction. The expert barmen put on impressive displays when mixing the drinks. And every three months, the menu’s completely rewritten.
Afrikana Jazz Club blends the Greek love of partying with music from around the world. Traditional jazz, blues, soul and afro funk performers take it in turns cranking up the volume when the sun starts to go down. It’s a small, intimate place, too, so you’ll still be able to hear the music if you slip off to get a drink from the bar.
Gyros are some of Greece’s most popular foods, and are served by both street stalls and classy restaurants. Boneless lamb’s cooked on a spit, then added to a warm pitta bread with salad, chips and sauces. Bite into it like a sandwich, or separate the individual ingredients out onto a platter.
These meaty skewers are often found at the top of a lot of Greek menus back in Blighty, and it’s the same situation in Athens, too. Chicken or pork are grilled with spices, like oregano and rosemary, plus garlic cloves, then dished up with fresh tomatoes, olives and onions.
Feta me meli’s usually served as an appetiser. Triangular blocks of feta cheese are deep-fried in pastry, then topped with honey and sesame seeds. It originated on the island of Crete, but today it’s enjoyed all over Greece, including in Athens.
For this sweet treat, a spoonful of vanilla-flavoured fondant’s dipped in ice-cold water, then licked off the spoon like a lolly. The water picks up a hint of vanilla, too, which you can sip afterwards.
In bakery windows across Athens, you’ll see spanakopita taking the front-row seats. Fluffy phyllo pastry’s stuffed with feta cheese and spinach for a creamy, herby lunchtime snack.
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