Want to know where the locals go for a beer or a cocktail in Athens? We’re sharing the under-the-radar bars and neighbourhood favourites we frequent when we need a drink.
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Athens is a city that comes alive at night. It has more bars than anyone could explore in one visit. That’s where we come in: the editorial staff at This Is Athens has been hitting the town for years, and now we’re here to give you the lowdown on where the locals go after the sun goes down. Our favourite spots are spread across different neighbourhoods, from Petralona to Pangrati and beyond. So no matter where you’re staying in Athens, you’ll most likely be close to one of these resident-approved bars.
Katherine Whittaker, Contributor
When I’m going out, it’s rare that I start my night somewhere other than Platia Varnava, right next to my apartment in Pangrati. No matter how I feel or what time it is, I find myself heading to Cafe Varnava, right there on the square. It’s just a straightforward cafe and bar (with an exceptional charcuterie platter too). But when the weather is nice—and, now that I think about it, even when it’s not—everyone grabs a table outside under one of the big trees, and you can stay there all day and night, chatting and catching up over a beer or a glass of wine.
I have a few go-tos on nights where I feel like getting a little dancey, and almost all of them are in or very close to Exarchia. Tsin Tsin is in the top 10 for me and apparently for half of Athens because that place is always packed. But the music there is always interesting, and the decor is fantastically eclectic. If you go on a weekend, especially if you’re going after 1am, it will be extremely crowded, but on weekdays it’s pretty much the perfect spot.
It can be kind of hard to spot this bar, but you’ll know you’re at Falaina when you see the neon whale on the back wall. This dive bar is narrow, tucked into a bar-heavy area on Asklipiou Street in Exarchia. If you’re looking for a fun, casual spot for a quick (or not so quick) cocktail, Falaina is a good choice. They have DJs that spin interesting sets throughout the week, so check their Facebook to see who’s playing.
I haven’t been around Petralona as much as I’d like, but when I wander in that direction I always end up at Rudu bar. It’s a relatively new café-bar located where Petralona meets Keramikos: right under the electric railway bridge. Sure, it helps that it’s owned by friends, but even if that weren’t the case, I’m sure that Rudu would have won me over, mainly because of the music. The owners care about what’s played there, booking funk, disco and indie DJ sets on a regular basis. There’s a big space in the front where you can grab a table and spend hours going over coffee, brunch and strong cocktails while trainspotting.
Thomas Gravanis, Head of Photography
Grain in Kolonaki is a tiny—I mean tiny—and extremely cosy place to enjoy your morning coffee or your after-work drinks. I always go for a beer, which comes with peanuts still in the shell, baseball game-style. If the stools by the window are free, go grab ‘em.
My personal all-time favourite bar is Lotte in Acropolis. It’s just a quick walk from where I live. It’s always crowded, but I’m usually lucky enough to find a little table in the corner where I can order a beer, or a cocktail if I’m feeling fancy. It’s the perfect spot to go with a friend if you want to chat, and it’s definitely ideal for a date night.
Arhaggelos has a very special place in my heart. Located somewhere between Metaxourgio and Kolonos, this spot has the best owner and DJ you could ask for. Expect to hear lots of Greek music, mainly from the 60s and 70s—everyone will be singing along, but don’t worry if you don’t know the words, you will still get into the spirit. Nothing beats the atmosphere of this place, trust me.
"The mellow coastal vibe means you can come exactly as you are; the urban polish means your whiskey sour will be every bit as good as you’ll get downtown."
Amanda Dardanis, Senior Editor
Dentro All Day Bar is a sociable day-to-evening nook, curled around a shady eucalyptus tree (dentro means tree in Greek), at the far end of Voula Square. We locals love it because you get the best of both worlds. The mellow coastal vibe means you can come exactly as you are; the urban polish means your whiskey sour will be just as good as downtown. It’s hard to say what’s better here: the food or the drinks. My friend raves about the passion-fruit cocktail and the Bloody Marys; I’m hooked on the conchiglioni (pasta shells on steroids) with bolognese, chili and parmesan foam. The sapphire and dark wood décor feels like you’re in a Parisian bistro, minus the airs. Get a decent round in and you'll get posh bruschetta on the house. It’s reasonably-priced and kid-friendly (they’ll love tearing around the car-free square and pestering you for ice-cream money while you get your drink on).
Time your sundowner just right at Avra, a slinky cocktail bar inside the Four Seasons Astir Palace hotel, and it’ll perform a neat parlour trick for you. Just before the sun sinks below the sea, it shoots a laser beam of light inside to strike the art deco mirrored tiles and for a brief moment, the whole room catches fire. Avra is the kind of place you pull out for date nights and other special somethings, so don’t be shy about putting on the ritz (though if you do dress down, you won’t be made to feel out of place either). The same designer who decked out London's famous Annabel’s and The Ivy — Martin Brudnizki—is behind the look of this shiny watering hole, so expect it all to feel a bit “London on the Med” (in a good way). Ask the lovely head barman Michael to fix you one of his impeccable Negronis; then settle in to watch the beautiful people come and go.
Courtesy: Avra Lounge
Photo: Thomas Gravanis
Maria Kostaki, Senior Editor
I used to live ten steps away from Platia Mavili and have been a faithful fan ever since. You feel like you’re in a laid back, hip village square, while at the same time the sounds of sirens and traffic never let you forget that you’re in the middle of Athens. A drink at tiny Briki in the winter (you get a little bowl of huge green olives and cucumber slices as a free side dish) and an icy spritz or two outdoors at shady Flower in the warmer months are my faves.
Rachel Howard, Editor-in-Chief
Galaxy is my favourite place for after-work drinks. Look for the retro, neon blue sign in a scruffy arcade just off Syntagma Square. Inside, it’s a scene straight out of a Jim Jarmusch movie: wood panelling, low lighting, and clouds of cigarette smoke. Old-school bartenders, always immaculate in shirt and tie, tend the polished mahogany bar, where grizzled journalists nurse Scotch on the rocks and graphic designers gossip over bone-dry Martinis. If you manage to get your picture on the hall of fame behind the bar, then you’re a true Athenian.
When winter kicks in, and even Athenians are forced indoors, I sneak into Jazz n Jazz, a shrine to jazz and whisky. Though it’s been here since 1995, the atmosphere is more Prohibition era: the low-lit interior is cluttered with musical instruments, vintage gramophones, and pictures of jazz titans. The soundtrack (never too loud for lively conversation) is strictly vintage jazz: the original owner amassed over 12,000 albums. The dapper bartender is his nephew, and the crowd a mix of greying Kolonaki regulars and hip young things. A very good place for a solo drink. (A word of warning: this place is shrouded in cigarette smoke and it shuts for the summer, so don’t show up in August.)