I love Athens in autumn. With the tourist crowds thinning out, kids back in school and temperatures dropping a bit, Athens has a decidedly cooler vibe in the fall. Downtown Athens is a lovely and lively place to be when the season’s cloud cover starts to appear. Athens is a gritty capital, for sure, but there is a lot of history, diversity and culture to be enjoyed.
This annual celebration of cinema is taking place from now through 9 October. With venues all around the capital and one in the port city of Piraeus (8 kilometers from the city center), this festival is packed both with some of the best in cinema today as well as tributes to some classics of the silver screen. There is also lots of interactive offerings including master classes, discussion panels and parties.
The Onassis Foundations puts on some incredible cultural happenings at their ultra-contemporary center in Athens, but also online as well as in other parts of the city and even in different parts of the country (such as an upcoming exhibit of sculpture on Tinos, the Cycladic island known for its fine marble work).
Stegi supports world-class, avant-garde theatrical performances, cutting edge art exhibitions, futuristic musical events and more.
No one gets out of Athens without at least a quick walk through Plaka, the historical neighborhood built atop ancient Athens and nestled just under the Acropolis. After you do your thing buying leather sandals in ancient Athenian styles and miniature Parthenon key chains in the main areas of Plaka, be sure to take a stroll back in time through this tiny neighborhood which many blink and miss.
Carpenters, marble and stone workers from the island of Anafi first moved here to find work in the 1800s and they built a bunch of amazing tiny homes away from home in the style of their island’s traditional architecture.
Start your day with a long walk around the ruins of this ancient epicenter of commerce, culture and politics. Walking around the open space, you begin to get an idea of civic life as it was back then. The Temple of Hephaaestus is a true highlight of the whole city and the Museum of the Agora is located just inside the most elegant portico I have ever seen.
Please note that on the first Sunday of every month from 1 November to 31 March, entrance to all archaeological sites in Athens is free (including the Parthenon!)
This museum is a treasure trove for locals and visitors alike. It is enormous and warrants many visits. The invaluable collection of Greek antiquities is housed in a stunning neoclassical building from the 1800s. I have been recommending this museum a lot recently, even to long-time expats who still have lots of time ahead of them in the capital. I do so because earlier this year it was announced that the museum is going to be completely revamped by British architect Sir David Chipperfield and his team.
The result will surely be stunning but many Athenians lament the fact that the plans for the proposed renovation and expansion of the museum will change the classic beloved Athenian view of the museum that we have all enjoyed for years, so get there while you can see it as it is today.
Eat and Drink
(Oikeio is a Greek/Mediterranean restaurant in upscale Kolonaki.)
Oikeio has quality food in a sweet setting.
Sit upstairs for a great view of this cozy classic eatery. Oikeio offers simple but super Greek cuisine at reasonable prices and this has earned it a Michelin Bib Gourmand Award recognizing restaurants that offer good quality at a good value, and not to be confused with a Michelin star.
Oikeio’ in Greek means “familiar/intimate” and those are good words to describe this restaurant with its
warm and inviting ambience, décor and service.
(Vegan/Vegetarian, Syntagma area)
A contemporary classic of the center offering a great lunch menu which includes salads, sandwiches, falafel, soups and pasta dishes. Flavorful, friendly, fresh food in a very inviting setting, popular with the yogis who come from their classes from across the street, but equally loved by anyone eager for an alternative to the endless grills around the capital.
This is a beautiful restaurant located on a pedestrian walkway in the heart of Exarcheia neighborhood, a historical hub for the city’s artists, intellectuals and progressive political activists. Salero serves marvelous Mediterranean cuisine. Be sure to check out the very special wine list which includes some very affordable organic house wines by the carafe.
Excellent music (mostly Jazz, Blues and Rock and Roll), delicious drinks, low lighting and friendly folks at a tiny bar which packs a lot of character.
This unique Athenian landmark opened in the 1950s and is one of those classic drinking holes where time has stood still—the original elegant décor is faded but largely intact and the atmosphere is unmatchable. Located in a run-down area, the spot has seen its share of both famous and ordinary Athenians through the years and has the marks to prove it.
Read more about Athens here in Dispatches’ archives.