Interrupt This Program

An insider's guide to the cultural and culinary delights of Athens

Experience the Greek capital the way the locals do

Lycabettus Hill (Michael Guttman/Flickr)

Lycabettus Hill (Michael Guttman/Flickr)

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As a busy freelance journalist and media professional, Theo Simantirakis has travelled travelled the world over, but for him, nothing compares to life at home in Athens, Greece. Here he guides us through his list of his personal favourites — the places to eat and drink, sight-see and party in his most beloved city. This isn't your typical city guide. But if you're looking to experience a part of Greece the way the locals do, Theo will not only tell where to do it, but how to do it. And catch more of Theo on the season finale of Interrupt This Program, January 4 at 7/7:30 pm NT on CBC.

1. Go for an original souvlaki pita right after clubbing! I also dare you to go directly to the beach for a morning dive (if you haven't consumed a sea of alcohol!).

2. Take the téléphérique and go to Lycabettus Hill or go up the Philopappou Hill for a 360-degree view and the perfect sunset. Take a beer or an iced coffee with you (espresso or cappuccino freddo will definitely add to the experience), sit and enjoy!

Theo Simantirakis (courtesy of Productions Emergent)

Theo Simantirakis (courtesy of Productions Emergent)

3. Walk around Monastiraki Square, this huge bazaar area, where you can buy anything you can possibly think of and have lunch on Adrianou Street with a perfect view of, errr, what else? The Acropolis. If you get hungry, be sure to sit down at Café Avissinia (7 Kynetou St.) for authentic Greek food with a twist.

4. Talking about the Acropolis, well, you should visit it. No true tourist should leave Greece without seeing the Parthenon or the all-new-but-still-ancient Acropolis Museum. If you are visiting from May to October, you should absolutely go to a concert at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. The setting, overlooking the illuminated Parthenon along with the state-of-the-art "sound architecture" is breathtaking. It proves that Ancient Greeks haven't been outdated!

5. Had enough with the walking around? Stop at A for Athens (2 Miaouli St., Monastiraki): A drink/food/coffee hot spot. It's open all day, but looks it best at night! The view of Monastiraki/Acropolis/Plaka is stunning and you can get great cocktails at great prices. Make sure to book a table, in order to enjoy the view front row and become a real Athenian. Another great coffee spot is Yiasemi (23 Mnisikleous St., Plaka) with homemade pies and desserts, where Athenians also meet for early drinks.

If, on the other hand, you had your daily intake of coffee, there's always Heteroclito (30 Petraki St., Athens) for a lavish variety of Greek wines and cheeses from small producers all over Greece. So, after a few glasses you'll really be saying cheese, but don't forget to focus. Nobody likes blurry selfies!

Heteroclito (courtesy of Escale De Nuit/Flickr)

Heteroclito (Escale De Nuit/Flickr)

6. If you are thinking about immersion, you should go to the Greek-style nightclubs. The so-called Bouzoukia. Not many tourists go, but this is exactly why I recommend it. It's an experience in itself. Greek singers, live music, alcohol, lots of dancing, flirting. Even if it's only for 30 minutes, go and have a drink at the bar.

Extra tip: buy a basket of flowers from the flower ladies and throw them at the singer. Don't worry; it's considered to be a compliment! I'm telling you, it's a cultural experience!

7. There are a lot of fish in the Athenian sea! If you are close to Syntagma Square, go for lunch to Triantafyllos (22 Lekka St.), situated in a small passageway, and be sure to get the sardines. Another "fishy" choice, in the best sense of the term, is Oraia Naxos (1 Hristokopidou Square, Psyrri), especially on a sunny afternoon. For real fish aficionados, there are two top places a bit further from the Athenian center. Travolta (33 Agiou Pavlou & Arkadias St., Peristeri) is an excellent choice for gourmet seafood and Thalassinos (32 Lyssikratous St., Kallithea) offers the freshest of fish.

Athenian fish (courtesy of Stevan Lung/Flickr)

Athenian fish (Stevan Lung/Flickr)

8. Shop, shop, shop, and buy, buy, buy! We're in a crisis. We need your money. Just kidding. Enjoy Athens!

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