If you’re mid-shopping, touring, working even, why not stop for “just that one drink”? There are plenty of classic spots for doing this in real Athens-style.
By Adrian Vrettos
Unbeknown to yours truly, I unwittingly started researching this piece 20 years ago. Being an avid lover of the ancient centre of Athens, it’s somewhere I never tire of exploring. As you can imagine this can be thirsty work, so finding the right place to satisfy that thirst is of the utmost importance. Lots of bars, restaurants and cafes spring up like fungus in Autumn and choosing the wrong one could end up being pricey and leave you with a bad taste in your mouth. All the places I’m recommending have been around donkey’s years, have their own character and idiosyncrasies and have passed the test of time (well at least one of them has).
On a pedestrianised alleyway just off Athens’ main shopping street Ermou and close to Plaka, Tazza, Petraki 5, has an eccentric Parisian flavour that would be right at home as a backdrop in a Lautrec painting. Lamps with colourful shades chaperone the seating and kitsch fake flowers hang in Babylonian style off the awnings. Wines and cocktails in a buzzy atmosphere.
On Christopoulou 2 & Ermou 57, this is my favourite watering hole when I’m downtown; down-to-earth, local, unpretentious. Perfect for a refreshing beer to hydrate your pipes. Be warned this place can be perilous. One drink can easily lead to a second, chased down by iced raki, as live daytime performances of Rebetika music by skilled musicians churn around the boisterous patrons who may burst into song at any time. If in stock, try the Ikarian beer.
Now, this is the top stop after a morning of exploring the ancient sites and Plaka. On the steps leading up to the pedestrianised road circling the Acropolis, Dioskouri is a traditional kafenion with small round blue iron tables and trussed wooden chairs thrown untidily onto the wide steps next to the ancient agora. Ice cold beers, location second to none, nice mix of locals and tourists.
Brettos Plaka, Kydathinaion 41,
This colourful little boozer has been around since forever and is a perfect place to duck into for a sly drink whilst taking in the sites around Plaka. They have their own brand of liqueurs, ouzo and wine (probably best to avoid the latter) and the beer is served nice and chilled. This bar has stubbornly refused to upgrade its look over the decades thus keeping its authenticity and a charm harking back to the Athens of yesteryear.
Psyrri, Miaouli 19
Traversing Psyrri during a hot summer day is a somewhat a redundant endeavour, but if you do happen to find yourself in the vicinity, there’s Psirra bar, even though it’s small, this popular night time hang out is a bit of a hotchpotch in its decor. In winter try the hot and herby honied raki ‘rakomelo’ and go on! why not the same in summer, make sure you don’t have a boat/train/plane to catch within the next 48hours though.
Nearby Transistor, Protogenous 10, is also worth dropping by since you’re in the vicinity.
Athinaion Politeia, Apostolou Pavlou 33,
There are few better views to be had in Athens, the rock of the Acropolis crowned with marble temples framed by the greens of pine copses and olive groves below and the Attic blue sky above. Well, this is what you get at the large open square where Athinaion Politeia parks its tables and chairs beneath large white umbrellas. This place probably only thrives as well as it does because of the view but what a place to enjoy a cold beer.
Nearby Dama Koupa, Akamantos 3, has more character. Dice clatter rhythmically on wooden backgammon boards with skill and lady luck determining who gets the next round.
Old School, Makriyianni 19-21
It has taken 20 years for Old School to actually become ‘old school’, and many a liver has been pickled in the process. Located right outside the side entrance of the Acropolis Museum and next to the metro station it’s a great stop either before or after your ancient culture immersion. In the past even up to the last time I went, summer 2019, the food on offer was delivery to the bar! But now they have branched out into becoming more foody; I hope this doesn’t ruin it as a bar.
Nearby and worth a mention
Athens Sports Bar, Veikou 3, This is a neo-pub style bar under a hostel where local sports enthusiasts and ex-pats mingle with tourists, instantly connecting, cheering or booing on teams. Rugby, cricket, as well as many ‘minor’ sports like football (for American readers, I’m referring to the European kind) live on one of the large screens.
Lastly and one of my favourites, why not find a nice shady spot under a twisting fig tree, a gnarled old olive tree, or a whispering pine, with your view of choice and a modicum of privacy at one of the many green spots around the historic centre. You can enjoy a refreshingly cold beer or a cool retsina purchased from the nearest kiosk.
Oh and one last point – all the above-mentioned places serve some kind of bites or nibbles to accompany your “one” drink.