If Athens were a dating app, which way would you swipe?
The Greek capital attracts a wide variety of suitors, all finding it irresistible for completely different reasons. Check which elusive dating profile matches yours, proposes Sudha Nair-Iliades, and you’ll be rewarded with an Athens that is your perfect match!
If wafts of tear gas and spray paint fumes send you on an adrenaline high, look no further than Exarcheia. Its ubiquitous graffiti and peeling facades camouflage genteel trappings – atmospheric bars like Luxor and Alexandrino, organic stores, pop-up galleries, vegan restaurants (even a totally meat-free souvlaki joint) and neo-tavernas with old-world charms like Ama Lachei. The uninitiated, not brave enough to venture into ‘anarchy territory’, miss a rare opportunity to witness ‘artistic activism in action’ and truly understand the angst-ridden heart of a troubled but tender Athens.
If Instagrammable images of pastel-painted homes with wrought-iron balconies weighed down by bougainvilleas seduce you, succumb to the promise of Anafiotika’s narrow winding alleys. Even the cats here wear a contemplative look, as they laze philosophically on whitewashed walls. Geraniums potted in rusted olive oil cans line the streets. You become aware that the history that runs beneath your feet is as rich as the ancient columns and temples that surround you. Beauty and substance. What’s not to like?
A close contender would be Dexameni, where there’s as much island charm as there is laidback urban vibe. Perfectly coiffed and preened ladies in kitten heels negotiate the steep, uphill climb to its fountains and bustling cafe, the smell of crackling pop-corn permeates the air from the open-air cinema and old film posters lend it timeless allure. Slo-mo seduction!
Once you’ve got your MSG-fix, you feel the urge to move on to quesadillas, followed by dim-sums, but then the irresistible impulse to try out the new curry-house colonises your brain. You claim it’s not cuisine-infidelity but just a bon vivant craving for more variety. Nikis Street beckons you. Fiery, adventurous and brazen, the food options served up on this central Athens street range from Hawaiian to Colombian street food, Peruvian, Thai, Indian, Greek-Japanese, vegetarian, Korean and counting.
If you’re more inclined towards rustic rather than worldly fare, Evripidou Street might be your calling. Just steps away from the city’s central market, Evripidou is particularly famed for its herbs and spices, with huge wicker baskets of oregano, sage and thyme – and precious packets of saffron – exuding aromas of sunkissed Greek hillsides.
An over-powering urge to reach for your wallet and an uncontainable desire to bag it all – if words were selfies, you’d recognize yourself. Don’t fight your true nature, yield to the beguiling charms of the pedestrianized Ermou Street and get into consumerist overdrive, shopping for high-street brands. Want to splurge more? Voukourestiou Street is your playground. This street has all the glitter and frills you could crave, with designer brands including Prada and Louis Vuitton and a sparkling array of fine jewellery purveyors. If that doesn’t sate your wants, Attica Department Store, which stocks over 850 international brands under one roof, should do the trick.
Beard? Check. Skinny pants? Check. Cuffed pant-legs? You get the picture. You work hard to get the cool, laid-back thing going, layering vintage with new in ‘studied negligence’ as the French would say, then newly trendy central hub Pangrati and Kypseli, with its messy, unpredictable, creative vibe, will have you come knocking. In both densely populated neighbourhoods, middle-class sensibilities meet restless social entrepreneurship to take the form of design collectives, hyphenated restaurants and theatre ensembles. Cerebral and seductive.
You suffer from chronic FOMO (fear of missing out, peeps) insomnia fuelled by caffeine binges and still have loads of nervous energy to channel. This could end up being a Tinder dilemma, as almost everywhere in the city qualifies! But for bar-hopping into the wee hours, Aghias Eirinis Square and Gazi vie for top ranking in the city centre, with cool new drinking dens endlessly popping up on their labyrinthine streets, while coastal Glyfada is home to summer’s super-venues (including the live bouzouki playgrounds), for drinking and dancing under the stars.
It’s all about the deal. Scouring for treasures in what others might consider trash. You’re seduced by vintage stores, thrift shops, flea markets and antiques. Monastiraki, Psyrri and Athinas Street might quench your thirst for all things retro. These neighbouring districts are where you’ll find knife-sharpeners, shirt-makers, basket-weavers, even a store that specializes in beads and baubles for donkeys! Classic taverna chairs and copper brikis for Greek coffee dangle off rafters – the look and feel here is Levantine, of wistful melancholy! How can you possibly resist?