Eating Out

Travelling taste buds love the exotic and varied nature of Greek cuisine.

A traditional meal typically comes with a selection of hors d'oeuvres, known as mezedes. These include melitzanosalata (mashed eggplant with oil, lemon and garlic), taramosalata (caviar spread), gavros marinatos (marinated anchovies), and saganaki (grilled or fried cheese). Also, while many tourists ask for famous 'Greek' dishes such as dolmades and baklava, restauranteurs are quick to explain that those foods are actually Turkish in origin.

Athens has four tiers of restaurants. In an estiatorio, travellers will get the familiar but more expensive restaurant experience. Tavernas are less formal, cheaper and generally offer traditional dishes. Psistaria are Greece's version of a steakhouse. They're often buffets with spit-fired meat on display. Lastly, psarotaverna specialise in seafood dishes.

Athens also has a culture of street vending. Koulouri (sesame seed bread ring), Galaktoboureko (custard-filled pastry dusted with icing sugar) and Tyropitta (cheese or spinach pies) are among the foods on offer are. Souvlaki is another popular Greek fast food. It consists of meat and vegetables grilled on a skewer, and is often served in a pita sandwich. Visitors will find many of these foods in the Syntagma district.

The strong, anise-flavoured liqueur, Ouzo, dominates the drinking scene. Ouzo originated in Greece and is traditionally served with the mezedes. Greece also has a very long history of wine production, though connoisseurs may be disappointed by the lack of subtlety.

Shopping

Historically a crossroads for Middle Eastern and European traders, present-day Athens holds a treasure trove of goods from all over the world. The city boasts a plethora of boutiques, department stores, speciality shops and markets. Popular buys include antiques, ceramics, books, jewellery, shoes and olive oil. However, travellers should note that it's illegal to carry historical artefacts out of Greece.

Nightlife

Greece's islands have a global reputation for their vibrant summer nightlife. With everything from sex shows to traditional Greek dancing on offer, Athens is just as lively.

Most parties don't get going until well after dinner, which can be as late as 10pm during summer. The old Turkish quarter, known as the Plaka district, is a great place to start. Diners sip aperitifs on rooftop terraces overlooking the Acropolis, while violins, concertinas and bouzouki play traditional Greek music. Many tavernas host lively dancing. Later, visitors head to the city's music bars, clubs, as well as rock and jazz establishments.

One of the most breath-taking venues for live music is the theatre on Mount Lycavettos, which has hosted many world-famous artists. Visitors will find classical music programmes at the Megaron Mousikis Concert Hall, Olympia Theatre, and the Pallas Theatre. For traditional Greek theatre and dancing, visitors should try the Athens Centre or the Dora Stratou Folk Dance Theatre.

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