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Athens - Greece
The Greeks are renowned for their hedonistic lifestyle and the long nights they like to spend eating, drinking and dancing. Few other places on earth can match the city's lively nightlife scene. Late dinners (taken at around 10p) and nightclubs that fill up after midnight are extremely typical here, so don't be alarmed by the empty tables if you show up early for dinner!
Several factors make dining and partying pleasurable in Athens: there is the contagious joy shown by Athenians as they savor their food, their tendency to dance on any available surface including tables, and the endless chats. The picture perfect scenery, be it a traditional taverna located in a vine-covered backyard in Plaka or a seaside fish restaurant in Piraeus, will add to your enjoyment. Finally, the pleasant weather means that you can dine and party outdoors for most months of the year. What better way to end the day than by dining under the stars beneath the Acropolis?
A restaurant that stands out for its great city view is the Dionysos Café and Restaurant at the foot of the Acropolis. For a romantic evening, one of the most beautiful dining rooms is G.B. Corner, which shares the old-world charm of the adjacent Grande Bretagne Hotel on Syntagma Square. A large number of nightclubs can be found all over Athens. Some feature live Greek music, while others play the latest international hits and attract the city's clubbers: Wild Rose and Kalua near Syntagma Square are both fantastic options. Symposio offers a grand view of the Acropolis as well, and has a wide selection of expertly seasoned meats that come paired with exotic sauces. While Furin Kazan, near Syntagma Square is ideal for a quick sushi lunch or dinner.
Classic Greek cuisine is also served in the elegant Daphne's in Plaka. Bakaliarakia is a comfortable Greek tavern with a large crowd of regulars. For delectable ham and pork dishes, try Xynou, where your meal will be accompanied by live music. There is also a backyard garden for those interested in dining outside. Eden Vegetarian Restaurant isn't just for vegetarians, they have many menu items that contain fresh seafood. For a sampling of some traditional Greek fare, try Akropol Resaturant Tavern, where there is live music from local bands. Scholarheion is a family owned and operated restaurant that focuses on serving guests quality meals at reasonable prices. Taverna Tou Psarra features a lovely rooftop garden with stunning views of Plaka. Among the numerous tavernas of the old town of Plaka are Damigos and Xynou, the latter serving food in its garden during the summer.
Great alfresco dining is offered on the terrace of Ta Kioupia in Kifissia, with its splendid view of the city and the culinary cluster of around forty traditional dishes you will find on your table. Cuisine of the highest quality is served at the elegant French restaurant Vardis. Souvlakia Kifissias is a popular take out restaurant where you can go to get some souvlaki on the go. Be sure to try the garlic pie, one of the restaurants specialties. Il Salumaio di Montenapoleone represents classic Italian dishes like lasagna and risotto with truffles and foie gras. The wine list also offers selections from Italy.
Try Le Grand Balcon in the St George Lycabettus Hotel in Kolonaki. Kafenio in Kolonaki serves traditional Greek fare. Athens boasts a large selection of ethnic restaurants featuring cuisine from every continent. These range from informal eateries to gourmet temples such as the sophisticated Italian restaurant Boschetto, the excellent Polynesian restaurant White Elephant and Kiku, the best Japanese in town.
A major component of each dining experience is not just the food but also the excellent Greek wine, which has played an important role in the Athenian way of life for thousands of years. The Attica region is actually one of the oldest wine-growing regions of the world. Vintners have been providing Athenians with their elixir for thousands of years and wines range from the simple retsina to excellent reds and whites. Excellent pasta and other Italian specialties are served at Casa di Pasta.
Eating out in one of the traditional tavernas is a must for any visitor. These serve tasty Greek dishes (made from meat, seafood and vegetables) that are preceded by mezedes. These mouth-watering appetizers are varied and can constitute an opulent meal in themselves. A good place for sampling mezedes is the Psirri district, where there are several tavernas such as Silfio, located on Taki Street, as well as Athinaikon near Omonia Square and Vlassis near Mavili Square. Fans of modern cuisine should try the innovative Kouzina Cine-Psirri. Athens also features several elegant wine bars such as Aspro in Psirri, and Thirio.
Visitors interested in a more authentic experience should opt for a club featuring rebetiko music, such as the Stoa Athanaton. Meanwhile, the cuisine of ancient Greece has been revived by Archeon Gevsis, a restaurant chain with branches near Omonia Square and in Piraeus. Neon Omonia was built inside what was once one of Athens' oldest hotels. Serving coffee and breakfast food, it's a popular place for people in the hurry in the morning. Olive Garden shares its name with the American chain, but the food here is Mediterranean, Greek, Italian, French and Moroccan all rolled into one. For a rustic dining experience, try Athinaikon, a tavern that serves traditional, hearty Greek dishes such as stuffed spleen.