Athens nightlife: Chilling out at the bars at Panormou St.

If you want to take a full taste of Athens or any other large city for that matter, you should definitely sample some of the night-life offered to you. One of the most popular areas to hangout for students and overall late teens and twenties (mostly but not only) is the so-called "island of Panormou". A small cluster of night-life spots and fast food joints located between Panormou Metro Station and the intersection of Panormou St. and Kifissias Ave. 

Potopoleio and Marabou bars, at 113 Panormou St.
The area got its current character starting 10-15 years ago with a bar called Potopoleio (“Drink-Seller”) whose success has attracted others nearby, making the area a night-life hub for all of Athens.

Potopoleio and Santa Botella bars at 113 and 115 Panormou St.

A fast-food joint (one of many) at Panormou St.

Pedestrian section of Alexandrou Pavli St. - Bars left and right

Tables and chairs at the pedestrianized Alexandrou Pavli St.

The noise from passing traffic gets mixed with the music coming out of the bars and there's a constant motion of people coming in and out, making this a great spot for people-watching. When the weather is fine, tables and chairs from bars and restaurants are laid out in the middle of the street, bringing memories of island vacations to those who have chosen (or not) to stay in town for the summer months.

Tables on Alexandrou Pavli St., from the roof-terrace of Kasbah bar

But the real beauty of the place lies a few meters above. A whole ecosystem of roof-terraces, each one laid at the top of each building (mostly two-storey ones), with nicely decorated summer bars. Each one fun, yet intimate, with small corners and hidden views to nearby buildings or the streets below. The types of music you can mostly hear are rock, pop, latin, jazz, funk, R’n’B, etc. I hope you enjoy it!
Bars on roof-terraces all around the area

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European Day of Music - Free events in Athens

The "European Music Day" is a cultural institution born in 1982 in Paris, France which has then spread to many other European towns and capitals. Well-known and amateur musicians take the streets, and squares and parks and bars and play their music for free. It takes place on June 21st every year - sometimes the previous couple of days as well.

This is the 13th time that the Day of Music is celebrated in Athens and below I've listed a selection of the main musical events that will be offered to Athens residents and visitors this Thursday: There will be more shows, more geared to younger audiences at various squares mostly programmed in the afternoon hours.

Athens Concert Hall (aka Megaron Mousikis) garden
(Vassilissis Sophias Ave. & Petrou Kokkali St.)
Thu. June 21st, 8:00pm
Choir, Orchestra, Jazz and Swing
Filopappos Hill / Pnyx
Thu. June 21st, 8:00pm
Classic pop repertoire, Classical, Jazz
Thissio pedestrian area
(3 Adrianou St.)
Thu. June 21st, 8:15pm
Choir, Jazz, Classical guitar, Film music, Plucked String Orchestra
National Archaeological Museum – front lawn
(44 Patission St.
a.k.a. 44, 28 Oktovriou St.)
Thu. June 21st 8:30pm
Chamber music / arias
French Institut yard
(31 Sina St.)
Thu. June 21st, 9:00pm


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Ernesto Valverde photo exhibition - Ileana Tounta gallery

Today is the day of possibly the most crucial elections in the last 80 years of Greek history but I choose to write about something else: an unusual photo exhibition taking place at the Ileana Tounta Contemporary Art Centre, located at the fringe of Neapoli and Ambelokipi neighborhoods in Athens. The rarity (and media-worthiness) of the exhibition lies mostly in the identity of the photographer. It is Spanish professional soccer coach, and former player, Ernesto Valverde who has made a name for himself not only in Spain but also in Greece, after two successful stints at Olympiacos F.C. This is his first ever photography exhibition, titled Medio-Tiempo (Half-Time).

The exhibition's catalogue states that he has been photographing ever since he was a teenager and has studied at the Institut d'Estudis Fotografics de Catalunya, in Barcelona. So, he has been carrying a camera with him all this time, in and out of the football fields.

And this is one of the things that impressed me the most from observing his photographs at the exhibition. The man literally seems to have a camera glued on him all the time (do I smell a Leica...?). Even during the half-time of a most crucial game he finds the time (or the moment, but most of all the clarity of mind) to take a picture! This can only be a sign of dedication to photography especially when you consider the high-pressure environment of professional sports.

On the other hand, some other photos seem more restrained and "shy" if you judge them the way you would judge a professional photographer, but still speak volumes about his passion with photography when you imagine being in his shoes.

His photographs benefit from the privileged access he enjoys to sports venues and the inside look to the life of athletes and he makes good use of this privilege.

He seems to have an eye for spotting out forms and making them stand out, whether it is in  wider, open areas or in the secluded space of hotels that professional sportsmen are forced to frequent.

I also enjoyed his portraits; some candid, some staged, like the gangster-style portrait of Algerian bad-boy striker Rafik Djebbour. He also leaves some hints about his personal life with candid photographs of his wife from the days on the road.
Photograph: Ernesto Valverde

...And if you insist on looking for a connection to the elections and Greece's current situation, here it is: Valverde has decided to leave Greece and the same is true for many soccer and basketball coaches who have been working here. It seems like the country's current financial conditions cannot support high-caliber (and high-budget) sports people any more. If that was our only problem!

Address: 48 Armatolon kai Klefton St., [Neapoli area], Athens (Ambelokipi Metro Station)
Tel: 210-64.39.466
Opening hours: Tue-Fri: 12:00-20:00, Sat: 12:00-16:00
The exhibition lasts till June 30.
More on Athens galleries here.

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Raeti - Authentic Cretan cuisine in Athens (updated 2014-11)

Address – Area: 18 Amaliados St., [Ambelokipi district] Athens
Tel: 210-64.28.206, 210-64.28.200
Last visit: 2012-06-08
Cuisine: Cretan Greek / traditional
Overall Opinion: Positive and reasonably priced.
Working hours: Tue-Sun noon to late evening (closed on Mondays)
Methods of payment: cash
Website: N/A

Our order (2 persons):
1 rabbit stew w/ rice (lagos stifado),
1 zygouri vrasto me makaronia (boiled lamb or sheep w/ pasta)
1 marathopita (fennel pie)
1 pita tou voskou (shepherd’s pie, with cheese)
2 cans of Coke
1 500ml bottle of Kaiser beer
2 bread
The bill: 33.50€

Appetizer prices range from 2.50€ to 8.00€ and almost all main courses cost 7-8€.

Presentation / Ambience: A small neighborhood restaurant (about a dozen tables) serving traditional cuisine from the island of Crete. You may have a hard time spotting it from the outside: a large map of Crete features on the board above the entrance. Inside it’s brick walls, mostly wooden furniture and Cretan decorations, including framed mantinades and words of great Cretan author Nikos Kazantzakis [check out his books at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk].
The menu is only in Greek but during the day (lunch hours) the owners’ son can help you out with your order. As is often the case, the food is kept in pans behind a glass window (to your right as you enter) so you also have the option of pointing things out. It caters mostly to locals and those few Athenians that are in the know; from college students to area employees and everyone in between. It’s much busier during the winter, or when the whether is cold or rainy, as there’s no outside seating available. In these cases, it might be prudent to make a reservation. By the way, “Raeti” stands for hospitality, in the Cretan dialect.

Food / Drinks: The food here is always well-cooked, with good quality meats and as close to authentic Cretan cuisine as you can find in Athens. Portions, especially salads and main courses are quite large. The zygouri is lamb or sheep in its second-year of life, which, when properly treated and cooked like it is here, doesn’t smell like sheep. On top, all meats we’ve ever tried here were very tender. The zygouri was accompanied by pasta, sprinkled with grated myzithra cheese; it is also available in cooked tomato sauce. The stifado was very soft and mellow and served with rice; you may ask for potatoes or fries instead. If you’re the adventurous type you may want to try the well-known Cretan delicacy of “hohlee boubouristi” (boiled snails) but I haven’t mustered the courage to eat snails yet! For something more mainstream but super tasty try the apaki, which is smoked pork cut in small bites. Both pies were full of flavor, crispy-fried and not oily at all.
Drink-wise, expect only the typical lager beers found in most restaurants and a minimal list of wines. I’d go for the acceptable house wine.

Service: Very fast and helpful, with Cretan no-nonsense attitude :)

Location / Getting there: 3 minutes from the Ampelokipoi Metro Station. You walk towards Panormou St. and turn left (walking uphill on Panormou). You then turn right at Amaliados and walk 100m to discover Raeti on your right hand side. 
See map of Athens restaurants at the bottom of this page.

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