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Athens the Best, the Bad, The Ugly

Harry Loves Athens

Something I used to be able to appreciate a lot more and that was been key for me, is that Athens has a small town feeling with separate neighborhoods and readily available basics.

Pan-cosmio-pee-isi or Globalization is eating away at this aspect of Greece too however.

Today there are fewer Mom and Pop food operations than there were 10 years ago and there are fewer independent vendors too. Supermarkets chains almost predominate but even when you can get to the central market or local farmers market, vendors there are all complaining about their prices further up the supply chain being high and foreign competition.

If its not that, the news is often running stories about products sold to the Greek consumer like foreign fish and meat that has been mislabeled as Greek but that is really imported but sold at the higher rate. Where are the regulating bodies?

The once active textile industry has all but disappeared due to competition from cheap Chinese labor. Athens has filled up with over 1,000 Chinese operated clothing stores since trade barriers recently went down too. Farmers markets have many more clothing vendors than they used to as well and there are signs that the economy is, as predicted, due to years of indiscretions by government, in decline.

Libations: Still if you like great coffee and inexpensive beers and who doesn't Athens has some attractions. Beers like Amstel, Henniger, Alpha, Mythos and many imports too! Try a Mcfarlands why don't you? At 4 bucks for a really small bottle its worth it even so!

Transportation lookIng up: Athens the rates just went up again but Taxis are still inexpensive compare to NYC or Paris or London, the metro is immaculate and now does go to the airport and the Syntagma tram to some beaches.

Ambrosia: The local koutoukakia (small restaurants as opposed to tavernas) often are surprising with their imaginative variations on a theme often without variation and sorely lacking! Please see my food and wine guide for a complete guide to Greek cuisine.

Authorities don't issue a lot of parking tickets or have parking meters. (When they tried to install parking meters a few years ago people rioted!) Its safe, no gangs, or in your face tough guys with something to prove. There are pickpockets however and bank robberies occur every day!

There Ought to be a Law in Athens!

  • The Euro raised prices up to 30%.
  • Ferry Boat pollution wafts over from Piraeus, car pollution.
  • Athenians selling over priced trinkets, drinks and food!
  • Tenured Museum and site staff, no flash, expensive entrance fees!
  • Long Lines & Short Hours for Post Offices and Banks.
  • Sales people who wont let you browse in peace.
  • Business hours are different for everything.
  • Surly Greek customer service people, dishonest taxi drivers
  • Greek TV!!! Greek TV newscasters! Commercial volume.
  • Over priced farmers markets.
  • Sidewalks: they are: none, tiny, blocked, cars parked on
  • That idiot(s) with the really loud 50cc scooter.
  • 50,000 Homeless Animals some of whom bite!
  • Absurd, misleading road signs, esp. to airport!
  • Parents of the professional child beggars/hustlers
  • The too many in your face street musicians / flower vendors
  • The police protected heroin dealers.
  • The police that protect them.
  • Refuse Re-cycling? Still minimal in Greece!
  • You pay for TV on your electric bill even if you don't have a TV.

Great Stuff You Can Buy In Athens!

Metaxa & Bretos Brandy, herbs, honey, pistachio nuts, nuts, spices, teas, coffee, natural cosmetics & soaps, gold, leather bags, shoes, ice cream, pastry, chocolate, sweets, imported fashions. I quit smoking but cigs are only 2.50 Eu a pack or buy a limited selection of them from the immigrant ladies on Athinas St. by the veggie. market for even less! You can buy bootleg Cd's too from the African guys all over the bloomin' place even on the beach. Of course they are protected by the corrupt police/politicians too!


Leisure Activities in Athens

Spas, Gyms, Pilate's, Yoga, Tai Chi. Massage, Beauty Institutes & Consultants. Cosmetics, Hair Nails, Tennis, Horseback Riding.

Clothes & Shoes For Men in Athens

Men looking for Italian and French fashions are in luck and should walk around the Kolonaki area where Nino Cerruti, Ted Lapidus and many others have their own boutiques. Armani is there and other clone Italian stores with Emporio in the name too! Shoe stores are everywhere as well. See the shopping section for more tips and the outlet stores called "Stock".

Clothes & Shoes For Women in Athens

Zara's in Kolonaki is where to start but then scour Ermou and Metropoleos Streets for many more. Shoe stores are ubiquitous with the latest Italian styles made here in Greece for less! Kolonaki will have the trendiest styles.

Kid Stuff

For the most expensive clothing and brands Kolonaki wins again. Children's shoes you can find everywhere. Hobby shops are clustered on the corner of Hippocratous Street & Valtetsiou in Exarhia/Neapolis where metal toy soldiers, model ships and airplanes vie with metal miniature cars and more! Toy R Us doesn't exist in Greece.. yet.

Just off Syntagma Square The National Gardens Zoo, although small, is probably one of the quickest and easiest ways to entertain the kids for a couple of hours and its free! Ducks, turtles, gold fish, peacocks, and an ibex or two are some of the animals which were in residence at last census. If you are stuck near the airport consider the Zoo nearby... details via below link.

Best Views of Athens!

Mt. Lykavittos, Kessariani, Acropolis, Strefi Hill, The Pnyx.

Best Parks in Athens

National Gardens, Areopagus, Philopapou Hill, Pedio tou Areos, Strefi, Alsos Pangratiou.

Athens has very few parks and less than 2% of the city is green as of this writing. Changing the old airport into a park wont help most Athenians who live no where near it, including yours truly.

Best Beaches Near Athens

Free: Vouliagmeni's small Cavouri beach the Neriadas, Deftero Limanaki Cove. 5 eu to park and 6 eu to rent an umbrella and recliner.

Organized Pay: Grande Beach Lagonissi, Asteria Seaside, Apollonia Akti Voula, Limani Vouliagmeni.

The Disabled in Athens

I cant think of a worse city for disabled people to get around, come to think of it I can't think of a worse city for anybody to get around. Thank God the extremely narrow sidewalks don't ice over in winter or there would be real trouble with the elderly. In 20 years I have seen very few people in a wheel chair on the streets of Athens and they weren't smiling. These links may help however: Directory | Disability Network |

Theater in Athens

If you speak English there is very little theater in Athens. If you speak Greek, there is a lot. 

Opera, Classical Music & Ballet

Read about the spiffy Athens Music Hall making Athens a legitimate contender for world class high brow entertainment.

Dance in Athens

Ancient to Modern they've got it all.

Best Souvlaki/Gyro Joints in Athens

Thanassis (Monastiraki), Ta Agrafa (Exarhia), Livadia (Platea Kaningos), Dionyssos (Platea Aghiou Giorgiou, Kypseli)

Tired from your flight? Agrafa in Exarhia (near Omonia) delivers 210-380-3144/380-7764

so does Dionyssos in Kypseli 210-821-1369/823-6320

Athens Answer to Mcdonalds, Wendy's, KFC, and Pizza Hut

Mcdonalds, Pizza Hut, KFC, Applebees and Wendy's all exist in Athens, particularly in the Omonia and Syntagma Sq. areas, but since you are here be sure and try the Greek Chains of Everest and Goodies. Not only is the food fresher its more varied and healthier too! The burgers at Applebees are like shoe leather, trust me! I have had better from Greek no name joints. The Colonels chicken is not the same you are used to back home.. Don't even bother! It isn't crispy at all! Pizza Hut is over rated and priced compared to Greek pizza which rocks.

Try Napoli Pizza in Exarhia.. they deliver! Tel: 210-330-4374/314. They can bring you canned beer or soft drinks too!

Best Pastry & Sweets

Aristokratikon: 9 Karageorgies Servias, Asimakopoulos: Mavromichali St (Exarhia), Leonidas (Citywide), Lalaghies (Dexameni, Kolonaki), Hara (Kato Pattisia), Mikes (Platea Mavili, Victorias), Delicieux (Kolonaki), Varsos (Kifisia), Krinos: 87 Aeolou, near Omonia, Mitropolitikon: 39 Voulis St. for Loukoumades (fried dough).

There are loads more but these stand out. Greece has an incredible variety of sweets and sweet shops with the Athens telephone directory having several pages to choose from.

Greek pastry chef's draw on the European traditions of French, Italian and Viennese sweet gurus as well as the Turkish! Try the kaimaki me ekmek at Hara's in Kato Patisia!!!! They also make their own ice cream too.

Hagen-Daz and Dodonh or Hedonism is a good ice cream chain you'll see around a lot too! But kiosks usually have a wide selection in their freezer bins and some of them are excellent: Evga, Delta, Kri Kri, Algida, Scandal are all good brands to try.

Best Cheese Pie in Athens

Marina's Artopoiia Zacharoplastikhi, Emmanuil Benaki 64, Exarhia, Tel 210-381-3267, cheese pies, ham & cheese pies, village cheese pies, spinach pies, sweets, ice cream, fresh breads daily, village, rye, sourdough, white, other traditional Greek baked goods. All baked on premises! This isn't one of your fancy, hoity-toity, over priced, gourmet bakeries. Its where real Greeks go. I go here almost every day! So does everyone from the neighborhood! Tell Marina Harry sent you!

Ariston 10 Voulis Street, makes cheese pies the old fashioned way since 1910. Pay first, go counter, yum!

English Language Bookstores in Athens Center

Jeez! books are expensive ardent they? Better come prepared!!!!

Compendium is just ok but its central and has some used books: Nikis 28

Eleftheroudakis is a US style large bookstore with several locations the main being: Panepistimiou 17

Papasotiriou is computer-digital oriented at corner Hippocratous and Academias, also several locations on Stournara St. in Exarhia.

Leader Books is decent with a studious/technical slant: Emanuil Benaki 45 & Penepistimiou 40.

Hippocratous St. has several more book shops and some are decent depending on your tastes, i.e., the loft of Pyrinos Kosmos  (Hippokratous 18) is good for Esoteric and New Age titles and others carry classical translations and pulp fiction. Lots of kiosks have mass market publications too!

Bookstall 6 Harilaou Tricoupi St., decent!

Folia tou Vivliou 25-29 Panepistimiou St. , decent!

Kaufman 28 Stadiou St. , decent!

Pandelidies 9-11 Amerikis St. , decent!

Best Radio Stations in Athens

After 18 years of college radio in Boston I am spoiled. Try Rock 96.9 or spin the dial and try your luck.

Foreigners living in Athens can tune into radio stations that broadcast news in their languages.

Here is a list of radio stations in Athens that appeal to foreigners living here.

ERA "Voice of Greece" program: 91.6 FM. A live multilingual broadcast that consists of 12 half-hour program from 4 to 10pm in Arabic, German, Russian, Spanish, Romanian, Turkish, Serbian, Bulgarian, Albanian, French, Polish and English. Tel 606-6305

GALAXY: 92.1 FM. CNN Radio news every odd hour on the half-hour. Tel 995-9970

FLASH: 96.1 FM. English news bulletins at 9am, 3pm, 8pm. Tel 619-6100

ATHENA: 98.4 FM. Ten-minute news broadcasts in Albanian, Polish and Pilipino beginning at 6.50am Monday to Friday. Tel 341-1822

SKAI: 100.4 FM. The Voice of America program can be heard live at midnight