Guide to SKOPJE

Athens around the clock

Athens 24 cover

Assuming you are so busy you only have 24 hours to spend in the vibrant, bustling and versatile metropolis of Athens. Where could you go to get the best out of it? Who would be better to ask for advice than an experienced urbanist/travel advisor!

Стефано АлесиоWhile working with a downtown Athens renewal project, Stefano Alessio, a U.S. expat, has created Athens City Guide Service (ACGS); a custom city-tour service that helps visitors to explore the city’s more or lesser known treasures and become acquainted with Greek culture in a fun and inclusive way.

After being shown around his suggested spots for Balkon3 readers, I must testify that even a native Athenian can easily ignore what Stefano duly has spotted out as fun and interesting – and simultaneously, so much a part of our daily lives.

So here’s a suggested list that offers what’s in line with the true Athens spirit and particular to it.  A choice of spots off the beaten (tourist) track, inexpensive and easily accessible between downtown Metro stops.

Very close to super-busy heart of Athens Syntagma square, a popular refreshment spot is (Trip Advisor-awarded) Avocado, a vegetarian/vegan eco-friendly venture with a creative organic and fair trade cuisine.

VibrantVeganX.jpg Avocado dessert avocado

Try its freshly-squeezed fruit juices enriched with Greek Spirulina for that extra energy boost! The upstairs “Zen” Room often becomes a meeting point for travelers to Athens and away. (Metro: Syndagma)

Bordering between the old Athens district of Plaka and the ancient Athens Agora (archaeological site) lies Vrysaki, a representative of the city’s open cultural collectives, run by the Athens Fringe Network.

Vrisaki2 Vrisaki3
Before you climb up to the small yet lovely terrace café, you can glance into one of the remaining typical old Athens houses (small separate lodges built around a communal atrium). (Metro: Monastiraki)

Athens Metropolitan System

Athenians love the Italian-type of ice-cream, especially when it’s made of fresh milk and quality raw materials. “Ice Scream” gelateria is a fun and tasty stop, right inside the Athens Flea Market area, on popular Pandrossou street. (Metro: Monastiraki)

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Right on Monastiraki square, there is a recent addition to venues celebrating the Athenian panorama: “360°” and its breath-taking view could be another stop for a cocktail (prices are rather expensive for a full-scale dinner) in a quiet and pleasant milieu. Best enjoyed at sunsets! Don’t bother to take the elevator (it’s always busy), instead follow the steps to the roof garden on top. (Metro: Monastiraki)

360 Athens

The nearby once humble district of Psirri, previously the shoe & leather craftsmen’s hub, still hosts top-quality Athens sandals, a typical purchase item for both locals and tourists. Starting from Monastiraki square find small Theklas street, where Melissinos remains the most original of all such outlets, offering custom-made leather sandals – plus a spectacular display of shots of celebrity customers!

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Further down on Miaouli street, check out Karras for some supreme quality leather bags, cases and accessories, made to last a lifetime. (Metro: Monastiraki).

A walk along Athinas street (linking Monastiraki and Omonia Metro stops) can help you grasp the city’s behind-the-scenes commercial buzz while gazing up to some of the best samples of Athenian Neoclassical architecture (19th c.). Kotzia square is worthy for a glimpse of such buildings clustered together, including the Athens Town Hall, the National Bank H.Q.s and the Melas Mansion. (Metro: Monastiraki, Panepistimio (for Kotzia Sq.), Omonia).

Kotzia Square, view from Athinas st.

The Town Hall on Athinas st.

Quite surprisingly so, few tourists know that along Athinas street there is the huge Athens Central Food Market (Varvakios Agora) spreading along both sides of the main street and around Evripidou and Sofokleous side streets. All that’s freshest and best in local, ethnic and international foodstuffs (and more) can be purchased here at the cheapest prices. The Varvakios building itself (central for meats, fish and seafood) is worth visiting when the shops are open, early morning until late in the afternoon. In case you see passers-by laughing at salesmen’s comments, be sure they are talking about “the crisis”!



Don’t forget a passage from super-popular Evripidou street shops for the best in Greek herbs and condiments (such as Cretan malotyra herbal tea, Chios mastic gum or Kozani saffron). Elixirio is a typical shop of this kind.


Traditional and handy artifacts from the countryside, as well as home-improvement items can be found at nearby cute and friendly To Magazaki tis Amorgou (The Little Shop of Amorgos), surrounded by typical old-Athens food shops.

The Little Shop of Amorgos

…Hungry yet? An also Trip Advisor-awarded, historical Athenian taverna is located at Theatrou Square, right below the Varvakios Agora. Founded in 1927, Klimataria is no secret among locals who seek for authentic mezes, uplifting Athens “kefi” (fun!) and even dance to live rebetika music… And of course some local Attican retsina wine, served as it should be: straight from the casket.

Klimataria klimataria-tavern-athens

Cheers and see you in Athens!  (try to stay longer next time 😉

Sophia Nikolaou