Get Away! 3 Hidden Adventures in Athens
Updated: May 27
As you know, the mouth-watering cuisine at Ethos is inspired by my love of all things Greek. And with the news that Liverpool Airport is now offering direct flights to destinations in Greece, I want to share the best places to visit on your own Greek Odyssey.
First up in this short series is the fantastic capital, Athens. Let's go!
Athens, the historic capital of Greece, is a city brimming with ancient wonders, rich culture, and a vibrant buzz. You know already that it's a city with a fascinating blend of old and contemporary, where towering columns of ancient temples and ruins rise amidst the hustle and bustle of modern streets. Athens is alive with activity, the air filled with the tantalising aroma of street food (just like Ethos!), coffee aromas, and freshly baked pastries.
Credit: Itsallbee, Athens
Any cursory search of "things to do in Athens" will give you an impressive list of world-class experiences. The most obvious is The Acropolis, that majestic fortress atop a rocky outcrop. It stands tall over the city, while the narrow, winding alleys of the Plaka neighbourhood entice visitors with their quaint, colourful charm. But is it the best place to stay? Not in my view. Or rather, it's too close to The Acropolis to get a stunning view!
Credit: Safetstay, Athens
Instead, book a hotel in Makrygianni, a charming neighbourhood nestled at the foot of the Acropolis. It gives just enough distance to get you a bargain hotel room with a stunning view or an area to grab a cocktail from one of the many rooftop bars.
But Athens can get hot, which is why I love its beaches. Err what?
Just to the south of Athens, about as far as The Monro is from Edge Lane, you'll find crystal-clear turquoise waters, soft golden sands, and a sun-kissed coastline that stretches for miles on end.
The water is refreshing and inviting, perfect for swimming, snorkelling, or simply lounging in the sun. The nearby beach bars offer refreshing cocktails, ice-cold beers, and mouth-watering seafood delicacies. The beaches are dotted with sophisticated taupe umbrellas and sun loungers, where visitors can relax and soak up the breathtaking views of the Saronic Gulf as the gentle sea breeze carries the soft sounds of music and laughter.
Credit: Bolivar Beach Bar
As you pass the Glyfada area, the beaches become framed by majestic rocky cliffs and verdant hills, adding a sense of wild, unspoiled beauty to the idyllic scenery. As well as organised beaches featuring resort-style bars with exquisite loungers and attentive staff, there's something different. Unique.
Being a Scouser, I like my beach bar to be more rudimentary, earthy, and authentic. And cheap!
So a little further on, in a small cove, there's a rustic and charming oasis that exudes a laid-back and carefree vibe. Lefter's Canteen is a beach bar constructed entirely from aged, weathered wood. Polished by the relentless sun, sea and salt, giving it a distinctive, earthy texture. The bar's wooden planks creak underfoot, adding to the sensation of a cosy, homely retreat.
Photo: W. Lyons
As you descend to the approach of the bar, you're greeted with chilled music while freshly brewed coffee mingles with the salty sea air, and the waves lap against the rocks. So it's more of a rock bar than a beach bar! The wooden beams and pillars are adorned with an eclectic mix of colourful bunting, lanterns, and shells that sway gently in the gentle sea breeze. Forget the coffee. It's time for a crisply chilled Mythos.
Lefteri's is flanked by rows of weather-beaten wooden decks for lounging around and a terraced deck to the sea. You'll see people of all ages enjoying their drinks while admiring the idyllic view of the pristine blue water and the jumping spot opposite, where the locals dive and splash into the sea.
The bar's staff are friendly and welcoming, sporting broad smiles and tanned faces that reflect their laid-back lifestyle. They serve an array of refreshing cocktails, beers and freshly squeezed juices. It's unbelievably Greek, yet unmistakably Athens.
Before we get a ferry to our next destination, we must head to the port. Again just south of Athens but the opposite way to the beaches.
The port is called Piraeus, and more often than not, in guidebooks and online, it is just described as the "port area", but believe me, it's so much more than that.
That's because the area is surprisingly hilly, and much of its original 19th-century architecture is intact. This is unlike most of Athens, where many original structures were replaced in the '70s & '80s because of tax breaks. But Piraeus and its charming waterfront area, Mikrolimano, features waterside bars and restaurants that are an eclectic mix of traditional tavernas, trendy cocktail bars, and modern restaurants.