Inside tips for getting around in Athens
Best transportation means
In Athens? We proudly present you "the Metro", the fastest way of getting around. We love it! Where else can you combine a train with a museum?
No tea and cucumber sandwiches here. Coffee-shops are crowded all day long, because the Greeks that frequent them are either addicted to coffee or simply lying back and relaxing. It's not as if we have nothing else to do, but our nation is manic about analysing everything; everyone has an opinion that needs expression. So we need the coffee-shops - they serve as mini neighbourhood parliaments. Join us and let's exchange viewpoints, but don't forget that we like to think we know better.
Worst traffic hour
24 hours a day. We've been promised an excellent network of public transport - we've even got a spanking new tramway, so getting around Athens may actually be fun - for a change.
All over, but chiefly Ermou Street, Kolonaki and Patission Street, where most Athenians do their shopping. Nevertheless, each area has its own high street. It's sales time in August and you're likely to find some decent bargains, though Greek prices are more or less the same as in most European cities. At the flea-market in Monastiraki you can find more unusual things, like a fireman's uniform for that fantasy of yours.
Outside the Greek Parliament, in Sintagma Square, there are always two soldiers dressed in the Greek traditional uniform (yes, the one with the skirt). They are always tall, always muscular, usually good looking men. Whatever you say to them they will not respond, they are trained not to; but they are not deaf. Many tourists, leave their phone-number with them, some say. You can try, but be careful, as there are army officers present guarding the guards from prying eyes and pushy tourists - you can also check out the guards or pretend that you are merely feeding the pigeons.
Thissio. The pedestrian street of Apostolou Pavlou is one of the most historical strolls in the world, with the Parthenon imposing on every step you take. When you get to the end of the walkway, you can lounge in one of the numerous bars, coffee-houses or restaurants.
Second best stroll
In Thissio again, on the other side of the Acropolis, between the railway lines and the flea market, there is another pedestrian street, Adrianou Street, full of chic cafes and restaurants.
Best time for clubbing
1am to 7-8am. Before that you'll either think that the Greeks have moved to another country or you'll be sweeping floors with the waiters. Afterwards you can have breakfast at one of the numerous Everest or Grigoris fast-food outlets or go to church for an orthodox blessing. Beware the dress-code!
Best vegetarian restaurant
Eden (Lusiou Street 12 & Mnisikleous Street corner, Plaka) is the only 100% vegetarian restaurant in Athens. You can combine a visit to the Acropolis with a non-meat meal. Don't forget, however, that Greek cuisine is based on vegetables, so you'll have no problem having non-meat dishes almost everywhere - apart from psistarya, which are grill-houses that serve mostly meat.
The ancients beat us to it when they built Poseidon's temple at Sounio. As it's not that close to Athens, you'll need a taxi (expensive!), a rental car, the bus, or a Greek lover with transport. You don't want to miss the endless blue of the Aegean blending with the dying sun.
The National Archeological Museum. Fully renovated, it's bound to receive thousands of visitors and you must be among them. Greek art and beauty spanning 4000 years on show in one place. Don't forget to pay a visit to the museum shop - the reproductions are awesome and not at all tacky - for a change.
Best one-day trip
The islands of Egina, Poros, Spetses and Aghistri are all within quick and easy reach from Piraeus. These are all relatively small picturesque islands, roughly an hour away from the port. Go in the morning, have a swim, eat fresh fish and come back in the evening in time for the gay party that's raging somewhere in Athens.
It'd be foolish to miss the open-air cinema experience that only Greece can offer. Watch a film under the starry sky in the cool of the night, while sneaking peeks at people's flats around the cinema wall. Some cinemas offer more than just boring old popcorn - food, cocktails, beers and hard liquor are often available.
Although we are frequently seduced by modern fashions in coffee (espresso, capuccino, fredo etc.), there is only one coffee for the summer: "Frappe", from the French frapper, to shake, it's a Greek patent which matches our mentality - frozen and well-shaken, you can have it with sugar, milk, ice cream or straight. Shake it, baby!