Image Source: http://www.discovernafplio.gr/
Athens is an entertaining city, some would say on a par with the great entertainment centers of the world. A common query I get from my friends in Greece who love to go out is “OK…which is better in terms of nightlife… Athens or New York?” This is a more difficult question than it would seem because Athens Rocks! On any summer night there are outdoor concerts from your favorite rock stars to classical music, ballet, Byzantine music, and the Dora Stratou Dancers. There are giant indoor-outdoor discos and clubs where the most famous Greek singers perform nightly to packed houses. In the winter Athens club scene comes alive with shows ranging from blues-rock-jazz to traditional Rembetika, laika and of course punk-rap and whatever is happening in the west. The clubs are located around the city with many of the bars in Psiri, Gazi and other central areas. In the summer all the big clubs by the sea open up. These are discos and giant progressive techno clubs that hold thousands of people mostly outdoors where you can enjoy the night though some are indoors in giant converted warehouses.
Two of the best places to see a show are at the Herod Atticus Theatre next to the Acropolis which shows mostly classical, ballet and theatre, and the Lykavettos Outdoor Theater on top of Lykavettos mountain where stars like Ray Davies, Leonard Cohen, Peter Gabriel, James Brown, Roy Harper, Nikos Papazoglou and many others have played. If there are major concerts going on you will know about it because posters will be everywhere, in fact by the time I get from the airport to my hotel I pretty much know what is going on in Athens just from looking at the posters affixed to the light poles or on the facades of empty buildings and walls in Psiri and other hip areas of Athens. Artists of the magnitude of the Rolling Stones, Springsteen and Pink Floyd usually play the Olympic Stadium. Megaron is the primary classical music venue, a state of the art concert hall with its own metro stop and a wide variety of performances of all styles of music and dance. The Badminton Theater, one of the few Olympic buildings put to good use after the games, also has a wide array of performances, good sound and not a bad seat in the house. Come here for the Broadway Musical you could not get tickets for in New York, or the best in Greek laika, international jazz and pop and dance and theater groups.
There are excellent ouzeries and cafes all over the city where you can quietly drink, snack and talk all night long. The neighborhood of Psiri has lost market share to Gazi but you can still go there and find good food, conversation, ouzo, tsipuro and beer and conversation. In fact on a weekend night the streets literally buzz with conversation as students, former students, and young people in general fill the cafes on Miaouli Street, puffing on hookahs, nibbling at meze and making a drink last as one does when one is unemployed. If you are a night owl, a night in Psiri, beginning at a quiet ouzerie like Cafe Evi or Mavros Gatos or a less quiet place on Miaouli like Arodou, great for people watching, or any of the other former ouzeries, now cafe-bars, on Maiouli. The 7-Times Club at 13 Maiouli Street right by the Monastiraki Metro Station in Psiri plays international music, a mix of live and DJ. Their house band plays everything from Elvis to Depeche Mode and you can hear anything from rock and roll, to swing, different varieties of jazz, pop, funk, bozza-nova, sixties and even Irish music on St Patrick’s day.
You can still get traditional snacks with your ouzo and tsipuro as well as Greek craft beer at Iliosporo and serious beer fanatics can cross the street to Beer-Time and get your Fix of most of the Greek craft brews as well as the best Belgians, German, British, Irish, and other international brews, including American. Afterwards you can hit the bars and clubs in the area like Thirio, which has outlived most of the others or walk down Ermou street until it ends and keep going until you come to the smokestacks and industrial buildings that tell you that you are in The Gazi neighborhood where there are lots of bars, clubs and live music places and plenty of ouzeries and restaurants. You can also get Gazi to by taking the metro from Monastiraki and getting off at Kerameikos, the next stop. Just wander around until you find a place that is playing the music you like or the clientele look like people you would like. The ouzeries in Plaka are a mixture of older Greeks, a smattering of youth, and adventurous foreigners, but are a bit more sterile than those in Psiri. If you are young you are better off staying close to Monastiraki and Psiri, and if you are your parents you may be happier near the Plaka. Just as each neighborhood has a favorite taverna the same goes for ouzeries. If you want to find a cool place to hang out, drink and eat mezedes, and you are not within striking distance of these places just ask everyone from the concierge at the hotel, the waiter at lunch, the guy at the jewelery store or the woman at the bank or exchange shop and they will tell you where to go because it is their favorite place or their friend owns it.
There are some clubs and restaurants on Misicleous Street where you can see Rembetika and Laika stars during the winter like the Misikleous Music Club on the corner of Lysiou. There is a great Rembetika Club in the Central Market called Stoa Ton Athanaton where you can see some old-time heroes of Rembetika. Many of the current laika and rembetika musicians did their share of gigs at the stoa including afternoon matinees. There were a number of rembetika tavernas and clubs in Kypseli, like Pondiki, Taxidi Tis Anatolis, Ambelofillo, usually open only on weekends in the winter though. They started at around 11pm and it is a good idea to have a reservation. Probably you will need directions too though once you get to Kypseli you can usually ask. Pondiki and Taxidi are in the vicinity of Platia Agios Georgios and Ambelofillo is close to Fokionos Negri, a large pedestrian avenue lined with cafe-bars and restaurants. These places come and go now because of the economy so you may want to check Athinorama weekly music and culture magazine. Yes it is in Greek but you can find someone to help you read it. But really if you wander around Psiri or go to Adrianou Street in Monastiraki, right next to the Ancient Agora and them metro tracks, you will find restaurants and ouzeries with a couple guys playing what you would call ‘Greek Music’. And if you go to the hipper ouzeries like Kafeneion to 111 at 111 Ermou Street(photo), kids often show up with bouzoukia and guitars to play and sing and there is nobody to stop you from dancing in the street.
A good choice for where to go to hear good Greek music is the conveniently located Perivoli T Ouranou Club at 19 Lysicratus in the Plaka where Babis Tsertos used to play. You can check Athinorama to see who is the current musical resident. The phone number for the club is 21O 3235517. Tsertos in my opinion is the finest Laika and Rembetika singer in Greece with a captivating and beautiful voice and good taste for the finest material from the last seventy-five years of Greek popular music. His album Erotopoleion is a near masterpiece. His rendition of the old song Pino kai Metho(I drink and Get Drunk) is the national anthem of Psiri or anyone who lives life for the enjoyment of it. If you are looking for authentic, quality Greek music this is the guy. If Tsertos has moved on to another club you can find him in Athinorama where there will probably be an ad for him as there are for any major singers playing the clubs. One of the more fun places that won’t cost you an arm and a leg is the Rembetiki Istoria (tel 210 6424937) at 181 Ippokratous street in Exarchia where they play live rembetika, laika and Smyrnaika and serve mezedes. If it is full just go down the street and around the corner to Mpoemissa (tel 210 0383779) at Solomou 13-15 and hear Dimitris Lembesis and his band. Keep in mind that most of these clubs are not open in the summer. The season is usually from the beginning of October until late April and then everyone goes to the sea. So call first if you are unsure. Some of these places are only open during weekends too.
Jazz, Folk, Rock and Blues
Rock clubs like An Club at 13-15 Solomou street (Tel 210-330-5056) are close to the Polytechnic University in the area called Exarchia, the wild west of youth culture where young people fill the cafes and bars and they even have rock concerts in the square which sometimes end up as battles with the police, which may deter most people my age but attract many of those of college age looking for a good time.
Mike’s Irish Bar in the basement of the Athens Tower in Ambelokipi has a smoky college town bar atmosphere and features bands like Johnny Vavoura and the Cadilacs who have been playing traditional Chuck Berry-style rock and roll for the last 20 years and play it well. They also have karaoke nights, stand-up comedy and DJ’s. Mike was recently killed during an argument with a bouncer, well I can’t say he was killed because I think he had a heart-attack during an argument a few moments before he might have been killed. Anyway he is gone but that should not keep you from going there if you miss that kind of atmosphere. The Half-Note Jazz Club in Metz, across from the First Cemetery, brings name acts from the USA and Europe who usually do a week there to make enough money for airfare home. Those who don’t make enough end up staying in Athens forever. If you go into Psiri on a weekend night there will be live Greek music coming from many of the restaurants. The Party at 31 Kariaskakis Street in Psiri, has live rock and pop music just about every night of the week and on Wednesday nights there is a live jazz jam that goes on well into the morning hours. Very easy to find, just half a block from Iroon Square.
Check out who is playing at Gargarin 205 Live Music Space by keeping your eyes open for posters which are placed all over Athens and especially in Psiri. The list of famous people who have played there continues to grow. It’s a little off the beaten path at 205 Lliosion Street (tel 210-854-7600) in Kato Patission so you will need to take a taxi or walk from the Attiki Metro station. It’s in a converted warehouse and like your favorite club back home is painted black and has a has a PA that will satisfy the visiting heavy-metal bands and their fans. Many Greek rock and folk acts as well as a smattering of international bands passing through town including Vanilla Fudge and Mark Lindsay of Paul Revere and the Raiders.
Kittaro is a longtime club on Archaonon and Epierou streets near Platia Victoria (tel 210-822-4134), Look for posters or check Athinorama magazine. Savopoulos and Socrates both had residence here in the early seventies and if you are lucky you may see them here again. Rodeo is right off Platia Victoria at Heydon #34 (tel 210-881-4702) and is another rock club which also has live Greek and foreign bands. In Vivo at 79 Harileos Trikoupi and Methonis street in Exarchia has live jazz, rock and blues bands on weekends. The band Socrates Drank the Conium are a legend in Greece and if you like high energy rock music with a guitarist that even Hendrix would be impressed with keep your eyes open for posters of their shows. Blueswire play no-nonsense blues and sound like they could be from Chicago or Memphis instead of Athens or Thessaloniki. There are dozens, hundreds, maybe thousands of Greek bands, plus lots of foreign bands based in Athens. Rockwood which is right next to the National Archaeological Museum has live music on Wednesdays and some weekends, American food and lots of different beers. After Dark at 31 Didotou and Ippokratous Street(tel 210-360-6460) is just a short walk from Panipistimiou Street and has the best bands for the money according to knowledgable rocker-journalist Perri Pagonis of the Athens News. The Texas Necropolis Club at Themisticleous and 5 Gamvetta (tel 687-280-2171) near Omonia Square has goth, industrial and metal. Fuzz Music Club in Metz at 22 Vouliagmenis Ave (210-922-4641) features metal, including some touring name acts, DJs, worldbeat and rap. Music House Diavlos at Drakou 9 in Koukaki is more arty, has great sound and nice waitresses and bartenders and is the easiest place to find if you are escaping from your parents while they are having dinner in the Plaka.
One place to find cool indie bars, where you would least expect them is near the intersection of Praxitelous, Lekka and Kolokotronis Street between Karitsi (Ag Giorgos) Square and the National Historical Museum(Old Parliament building). There are a number of cool bars close to each other, often packed with people spilling out into the sidewalks and narrow streets. Some bars have DJs and others have live bands. Key Bar at Praxitelous 37, Pairidaeza at Parnassou 3, Seven Jokers at Voulis 7, Toy Cafe at Karitsi 10 and Use at Karitsi 5 are all close enough so that if you don’t like one or it is too full, you can just move on to the next. If you continue down Kolokotronis towards Athinas street and follow the path of on-coming cars, right before you get to Athinas is a small street called Avramitiou(photo) where there is a very cool collaborative collection of bars and cafes called 6 D.O.G.S. usually with at least one or two live bands playing. On weekends the street is packed with young people but even during the week there is life here after 11pm. Right around the corner around Agia Irini Square next to the historic Athens church that used to be the center of Athens religious life, the square and adjoining streets, including Aeolou street, are now home to a number of restaurants and cafe bars that are full day or night. Have dinner at Osterman and stay on to drink at your table or at the large bar inside. And this is just one of many. You can find the square blindfolded just by following the buzz of voices.
One of my favorite hangouts is the James Joyce Pub at Astiggos 12 in Monastiraki. With an extensive bar menu, lots of imported beers, great music and lots of energetic X-pats who seem to be mostly Irish and Greek-Irish. They open at noon daily and stay open late. Their bigscreen TVs show sports from all over the world including NFL Football, Major League Baseball and NBA Basketball as well as Cricket, European Football and whatever else happens to be on. In my opinion this is the best bar in Athens and over the Christmas holidays I ended most nights here. But I could easily begin my nights there too because they have great food. Introduce yourself to Diedra and Tom (the tall guy) and settle in for a night of beer and conversation with whoever happens to be sitting next to you since they will most likely speak English. Some nights they have live music. To find it from Monastiraki just walk down Hepheston or Iphestos (next to the old metro station) to the end. Turn right and then left and it is half way down the block across from the big hole the American School of Archaeology left. A couple doors down is the Kallipateira which has some nice mezedes and there are often guys playing rembetika music on the street. Its got a great town square feeling and the food is pretty good as is the music. For those who like the Blues check out Poikili Stoa at 14 Agiou Filippou Street right around the corner from James Joyce. Its easy to miss because the entrance looks like it’s just a tiny cafe or snack bar but if you go inside you will find an endless series of rooms, all adorned with original paintings and antiques, with a piano as the centerpiece of the downstairs. But upstairs is a rooftop cafe with a spectacular view of the Acropolis, the Ancient Agora and the Temple of Hephestus. They serve ouzo and mezedes as well as coffees and all sorts of drinks. And if you want to talk traditional American blues and jazz, the owner, waiters and bartenders are happy to oblige. Open day and night.
Euro Jazz Festival Technopolis Athens: Let’s get… jazz
The European Jazz Festival in “Technopolis”, Athens welcomes some of the most creative European musicians. Artists of the European Jazz scene and many promising young musicians will perform for the biggest jazz event of Athens.
Athens Bar Crawl is a new service for up to date entertainment and fun opportunities in the city sort of an educational meze-platter of bars and entertainment and a great way to visit the best bars of Athens while bringing your own friends along for the ride. The party goes on a daily basis, all year round currently, visiting more than 20 bars and clubs in the city – most of them located in the historical centre of Athens. Every night of the week they cover a different itinerary depending on the clients desires and current events. Visit unique Bars, authentic Pubs, cosy Coctail Lounges and finish the night in some of Athens most happening clubs (a different one each night!).Your entertaining guides will tell you about Athens nightlife, interesting stories about the History of the place, and much more!
PARAFONO is a live-music club dedicated to jazz and blues – located near the center of Athens. Open since 1981, it has attracted a devoted following of music lovers that come to hear the most respected names in jazz and blues. Its cabaret setting, superb sound system and lively audience are what make Parafono the ideal venue in which to experience some of the very best JAZZ and BLUES entertainment offered in Greece. Sunday night is Dan & Katey’s HOOTENANNY Country, Rock, Acoustic Jam so if you are a musician bring the tools of your trade. Parafono is on 1 S. Kirinis str & 130a Asklipiou str which is on the back side of Lykavettos.
Cafe Boheme at 36 Omirou Street in Kolonaki is a bistro-style restaurant (maybe the best in Athens) with a great little bar, interesting patrons and a DJ with terrific taste in music. Listen to cool traditional jazz and blues as well as stuff like Frank Sinatra, big band and music that your parents might have listened to if you don’t. Cassandra Wagstaffe is the owner and host and is the daughter of the drummer of Wishbone Ash. Wonderful ambience and attentive and beautiful bartenders make this a place to go anytime. If you are looking for a small, intimate bar to make your home this is it. On weekends it usually turns into a party and gets a lot louder. Walk up Omirou from Stadiou street across from Kolokotronis Statue and it is just past Akadamias Street. Tel. 210 3608018.
Allotino is for those who like to listen to sophisticated jazz in a small classy bar while drinking fine scotch and whiskies, a dozen different high-end tequilas, and hard to find imported beers on tap. A hangout for the actors and actresses who live in Kypseli, its an intimate place, hard to find but once you do you will probably come back. The owner is Andreas, a very nice guy with a firm knowledge of good music and spirits. They also have a very nice menu of salads, sandwiches and tapas to go along with their drinks. When you order a glass of Paulaner Beer from Munich it comes with a plate of kielbasa sausage. In the warm months people sit outside and watch the neighborhood pass by. This is my favorite hangout in Athens. It also has the best beer-nuts I have ever eaten in my life. Its at Eptanisou 16 in Platia Georgiou, Kypseli. If you walk down Patission past the National Archaeology Museum and cross Alexandras Ave, keep walking a few more blocks and turn right on Tinou you will come to it. Tel 210 8215331. Its at Eptanisou 16 in Platia Georgiou, Kypseli. If you walk down Patission past the Archaeology museum and turn right on Tinou you will come to it. Tel 210 8215331.
Athens’ best blues bar at 20 Panormou, called Blues Club, which has been open since 1981. This bar is owned and frequented by musicians and people who love American blues, the kind of place you can easily get drawn into musical conversations that are quite esoteric, while you listen to the best recorded blues, from vintage delta-blues, to Chicago style and British electric blues. The club also has live music, blues of course, from local musicians as well as artists that happen to be passing through. Located in the neighborhood of Ambelokipi you can get there by metro, going towards the airport. Get off at Ambelokipi and look for Panormou which should be just east of you, if you happen to have a compass.Turn left up Panormou from Alexandras Avenue and it is about three blocks up.
One of the most enjoyable and unique ways to spend an evening in Athens is by going to one of the outdoor cinemas like the Cine Paris in the Plaka. There are others around the city, some on rooftops and some in parks and some on valuable pieces of property in the center that make you wonder how they could hold out so long. Most of the cinemas show films in their original language which 90% of the time happens to be English. Unlike other European countries Greece does not dub foreign films into Greek. They just have Greek subtitles at the bottom of the screen. Unlike theaters in other countries Greek cinemas have a bar and sell beer, brandy, ouzo and of course snacks to go with them. Usually there is a man with a cart selling hot nuts in the vicinity of the Cine Paris and I buy a variety to eat in the theater. Greek Cinemas also have an intermission and you can go out and buy some more if you run out. (Hold on to your ticket stub). When the movie is over you are right by the cafes of the square where you can discuss the film while watching people. The movies used to change every couple days but in the last two years the theaters have been forced to sign contracts with the distributors and keep the films there longer. If you are only in Athens for a couple days this won’t bother you but if you live there and you are stuck with The Mummy Returns for a month, life can seem cruel. In the off-season there are plenty of movie theaters downtown. Another easy outdoor theater to get to is in Thission right on Apostolou Pavlou, the pedestrian road that faces the entrance to the Acropolis.
If you want a nice quiet adventure follow Adrianou street towards Monastiriki and take a left on Misikleous street and continue to the top of the stairs until you come to the road that rings the Acropolis. You will know you are on it because there will be woods and the Acropolis on your left and a view of the city on your right. Keep walking past the last shops and cafes until you come to a big rock on your right, the hill of Aeropagus. When your eyes have grown accustomed to the darkness find the stairs cut in the stone. You may want to take off your shoes because it’s a little slippery. Actually better yet, take the brand new stairs they built which are easier and safer since to break an ankle so early on your trip would be unfortunate. Climb the steps to the top and find a seat on the rock. In front of you stretches Athens. Behind you is the Acropolis. Enjoy the moment. To get home walk on the small road with the Acropolis on your right and the Panarama of Athens below on your left until you can’t go any further. Walk down the steps and make your first right where you can follow Tripodon Street, back through the Plaka to the statue of Lysikratos.
With all the new pedestrian streets and squares that surround the Acropolis you can walk for hours in the evening and when you get tired there is always a cafe-bar or restaurant to take a break at.
Jazz-Online is a Greek site that will tell you everything there is to know about Jazz in Greece including concerts, festivals and the clubs that play jazz. There is also a page that introduces you to Greek jazz musicians, articles, interviews and everything you need to know about jazz in Greece. Of yes, I forgot to mention that it is in English.
The Athenoroma magazine has a listing in Greek and there is one in this guide as well but you may want to call and make sure a club is open before you go since many of them are seasonal.
For a listing of bars and clubs in Athens see Nightclub Listings but it is really a pain to keep it up to date with places opening and closing and I am not sure anyone ever looks at that page so don’t use it to plan your evening in Greece six months from now.
Many places close in Athens when the weather gets warm but Stoa Athanaton in the Central Market of Athens (in the meat section) is one of the best places to hear authentic rembetika. Also the Kallipateira, mentioned above in the James Joyce section has some live rembetika. In the daytime go to Kapni Karea Cafe which is between Metropolis and Ermou Streets in this little alley a block down from the small church of Kapni Karea in the middle of Ermou street. There is usually good music going on there in the afternoon.