There's a lot more to Greece than Ouzo and Humus!
Posted on 31st May 2022 at 12:19
If you thought Greece was all about lazy summer holidays on island beaches it’s time to think again!
First, some really good news: Greece has suspended all entry restrictions. Yes all of them.
From 1st May, travellers arriving in Greece are no longer required to show a proof of COVID vaccination, a negative COVID test, or a certificate of recovery from COVID. AND, you no longer need to complete a Passenger Locator Form (PLF).
With flights less than 4 hours from the UK to ancient Athens in the south and vibrant Thessaloniki in the north, these are ideal destinations for a city break with a difference.
Luxuriate in first class boutique hotels. Visit art museums, archaeological sites, theatrical plays, concerts and open-air cinemas. Join the locals in a cafe for a leisurely breakfast and coffee before shopping until you drop. Enjoy the vibrant Greek nightlife in bars and clubs, drink your cocktails and dance by the sea. Savour traditional Greek cuisine while sipping a fragrant Greek wine.
With so many options you might want to make it a long Greekend!
Read on to discover how to end your week like a Greek (or how to kick off a longer holiday in Greece with a bang!).
No visit to Athens would be complete without visiting this iconic sight.
The Acropolis is an ancient citadel located on a rocky outcrop above the city of Athens and contains the remains of several ancient buildings of great architectural and historical significance, the most famous being the Parthenon.
But before you take a look, first head for The Acropolis Museum. It was built to house every artefact found on the rock and on the surrounding slopes, from the Greek Bronze Age to Roman and Byzantine Greece.
Opened in 2009, it is a modern, airy building and you can enjoy views across to the Acropolis itself from the floor to ceiling windows as you enjoy the collection.
Having now set the scene, wait for the cooler (and less busy) evening to climb the hill and experience the Parthenon up close whilst taking in the fabulous views across the city bathed in evening sunlight.
Open Air Cinemas
These summer cinemas are tiny green oases amongst the towering buildings.
Sited in lush gardens, parks and rooftops the experience is about the atmosphere as much as the film.
Cine Thision is one of the oldest cinemas in the city of Athens, built in 1935. It is a quaint little paradise in the historical centre of Athens with an amazing view of the illuminated acropolis. There is also a bar serving cheese pies and homemade sour cherry liqueur. What a place to be watching Top Gun:Maverick this weekend!
The Cocktail Scene
You can sip an iced ouzo with some traditional Greek meze or simply grab a beer but, for a special Greekend, why not indulge in Athens red hot cocktail scene.
Athens has not one but two bars featured in the World’s Top 20 Bars.
At number 4 on the list is The Clumsies. You will feel the warm embrace of this all day bar as soon as you enter. It's just as comfortable as a spot for a morning coffee and breakfast as a place in the evening to drink some of the most inventive cocktails that can be found anywhere, or for dancing on the bar at 2am.
At number 14 is Baba au Rum. This is another chilled and friendly haunt with a sense of fun. Their daiquiris are exceptional and the Mai Tais the best you’ll have ever had. And of course they have a huge collection of rums for the purists.
The Athens and Epidaurus Festival
This is the city’s annual music festival and a highlight of the Greek summer calendar. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to watch a top class performance in an ancient amphitheatre this is your chance.
Musical concerts take place in the stunning open-air theatre, Odeon of Herodes Atticus on the southwest slope of the acropolis.
The building was completed in AD 161 and then renovated in 1950 since when it has hosted some of the world’s best musical performances including Maria Callas, Luciano Pavarotti and Frank Sinatra to name a few.
Two hours drive from Athens is the ancient theatre of Epidaurus. Constructed in late 4th century BC, it is considered to be the best preserved and most perfect ancient Greek theatre with regard to acoustics and aesthetics. During the festival it comes alive with the works of great Greek playwrights such as Aeschylus, Euripides, Sophocles and more.
In the summer of 2006, five brand-new theatre stages were launched at the Peiraios 260. Formerly a furniture factory, this industrial space has been converted into an arts centre. Expect contemporary dance, theatre and music (including free jazz evenings) at this year's festival.
Take a Tour
There’s no quicker way to find your feet in a new town than taking a tour. Εxplore local life and venture off the beaten path to discover the authentic side of Greece. In Athens you have plenty of variety from street art to greek cooking classes; designer shopping to nightlife; or mythology to an olympic games workout. The choice is yours, right down to one personalised especially for you.
Greece’s second largest city has a spectacular location on the Thermaic Gulf forming the North West corner of the Aegean sea.
It is a beautiful, bustling, friendly port town displaying the very best of ancient and modern. As a university town, it has a youthful vibe and lively nightlife.
Here you will discover the true meaning of philoxenia as the locals extend their warm welcome making you feel instantly at home.
With Culture, Good Food and Shopping, this is a City Break that really has it all at any time of the year.
Thessaloniki is the only Greek city designated a UNESCO Creative City for Gastronomy so you know you’re going to be in for a treat already as it is officially a culinary paradise!
As the second city of both the Byzantine and Ottoman empires and due to its location on the sea, it has accommodated many conquerors, traders and merchants each bringing their own ingredients and recipes so it has long been a gastronomic melting pot. Its cuisine is considered one of the richest in Greece known for its quality and variety. The herbs from the surrounding mountains are part of the magic.
It is famed for perfect pastries, spicy meatballs, honey, wine, and as the birthplace of the frappé coffee. Who knew?!
In fact, it is also said to have the most cafes per capita of any European city so you will have plenty of opportunity to enjoy the typical Thessaloniki breakfast - a frappe with a Bougatsa - a pie with flaky layers of filo pastry, warm custard filling, topped with cinnamon and powdered sugar.
Fabulous Views from on High
Get a great view over the city with your morning coffee at the OTE Tower. Head to the cafe in the top floor and enjoy a 360 degree panoramic view as the tower makes one rotation in 60 minutes.
The White Tower is the symbol of the city and was built in the fifteenth century after the fall of Thessaloniki to the Ottomans in 1430. Located on the seafront, you can climb up to the top for captivating views of the area and out to sea. Today, the tower is home to a museum focusing on Thessaloniki’s rich history and its multicultural spirit which will give you a greater understanding of the city and its fascinating history.
The Castle of Thessaloniki was built on the spot of the ancient Acropolis, founded by Cassander in 316 B.C. The walls of the castle, which are still visible today, date from the 4th century A.D. when the Byzantine emperor Theodosius I fortified the town. It is located on a hill above the Old Town giving gorgeous views to the city, the port, and the Aegean Sea, especially at sunset.
Take a Stroll Along the Prom
There is no nicer way to start or end your day than a walk by the sea. With the addition of the new boardwalk along Nea Paralia, Thessaloniki's promenade now covers 4km stretching beyond the White Tower to the Thessaloniki Concert Hall. The whole area has been attractively redeveloped to include fountains and impressive sculptures including the instagram favourite ‘Umbrellas’ by Zongolopoulos.
It is also the place to jump aboard a harbour cruise for a magical view of the city from the sea. Or go further! With ferries to the Sporades, Cyclades, or Northern Aegean Islands, it’s easy to add a Greek island holiday on your trip.
Having featured in a National Geographic list of Top 10 Nightlife Cities alongside Ibiza, Thessaloniki is a city with a vivacious nightlife, one that is so varied and colourful that few other Greek cities are able to offer tempting alternatives.
Locals are good-humoured people and they love going out at night. The city’s thousands of students form a buzzing community that has blended well with the locals. You’ll find clubs and bars with a cosmopolitan flair about them; rebetadika (restaurants where live rebetiko music is played); and lively parties hosted by the student community where everyone’s invited.
Start the evening with a drink in a bar in waterfront Nikis Avenue. This is a great location to take in the lovely view across the Thermaic Gulf; just choose one of the numerous locals’ hangouts lining the avenue.
Ladadika is located in the old marketplace area of the harbour, and it’s famous for its eateries, bars, bistros, pubs, and restaurants. Stroll along Katouni pedestrian area and enjoy Thessaloniki by night.
Kastra is the place to be for those of you with a romantic soul. This is the uphill area of the city, offering great views of Thessaloniki; it’s perfect for enjoying your ouzo with mezedes (tasty titbits) in the evening in one of the traditional tavernas in Eptapyrgio (located at the highest point of Ano Poli area).
Syngrou & Valaoritou Streets are the city hotspot for the young. Go bar-hopping there and enjoy the variety of music genres both Greek and foreign, as they can cater to all tastes.
Palia Sfageia is an area just off the city centre, where you can find a variety of clubs and the well-known bouzoukia (playing live Greek popular music). In the summer, head for the airport area where all the above clubs welcome their customers for the season.
The Wine Festival
Vorοina festival is a popular wine & spirits-tasting annual festival of Northern Greece vineyards, held every September in Thessaloniki. Greece has been making wine for thousands of years – in fact, it’s where wine culture was pretty much invented. Greece’s wine industry has been having a renaissance recently and the world is only just starting to appreciate what incredible quality is on show.
The wine festival provides the opportunity for wine lovers to meet the wine producers in person, taste new and aged wines, experimental vinifications, new harvest wines and grape-wine extracts. At the picturesque site of the port area of Thessaloniki, offering beautiful, autumn nights with wine, sea and good company, this is a festival so good that you can’t miss it!
But don’t worry if you can’t be here in September. There are three wineries open to the public offering tours and tastings throughout the year.
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