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An insider’s guide to the best bars and nightclubs in Athens, including the top spots for cocktails, clubbing and partying with a view.
Despite the recession, nightlife in Athens is buzzing. Many of the most popular venues are in the city centre, within walking distance of Syntagma Square.
Best known for its lovely interior, with shelves of beautiful coloured bottles lit from behind, creating a warm glow, cosy Brettos has been on the go since 1909. The owners make their own liqueurs in more than 30 flavours, including cherry, lemon and mastiha, as well a classic ouzo. Take a stool at the bar for a convivial nightcap.
Address: Kidathineon 41, Plaka
Contact: 00 30 210 323 2110; brettosplaka.com
Opening times: daily, 10am-2am
On the top floor of the Hilton Hotel, with views of the floodlit Acropolis rising above the city rooftops, this see-and-be-seen bar serves pricey cocktails named after the stars, such as Jupiter (gin, Champagne, cucumber and mint), plus finger food. There’s a lovely open-air terrace with a wooden deck and potted olive trees, and occasional celebrity DJ’s playing lounge and electro, and it stays open into the early-morning.
Address: 46 Vassilissis Sofias Avenue
Contact: 00 30 210 728 1402; hiltonathens.gr
Opening times: Mon-Thu 5pm-3am, Fri-Sat 5pm-4am, Sun 3pm-3am
In the Grande Bretagne (see Hotels), Alexander’s is old-fashioned and sophisticated, like something from a black-and-white film set, with a vast 18th-century tapestry hung above the wooden bar, and occasional live music. It offers an impressive selection of cognacs and malt whiskies, plus classic cocktails. The signature drink is Mandarin Napoleon Select, combining Dubonnet Rouge, Grand Marnier, gin and essential oil of Sicilian tangerines.
Address: Syntagma Square
Contact: 00 30 210 333 0787; grandebretagne.gr
Opening times: May-Oct daily 9am-1am; Nov-Apr daily 9am-midnight
The Art Foundation (TAF) combines contemporary art with drinks in a lovely courtyard garden,with awnings creating a roof in winter. Tumbledown 19th-century outbuildings host exhibitions of painting, sculpture and photography, while the central courtyard is one of the city’s coolest bars, with chill-out music and subtle lighting.
Address: Normanou 5, Monastiraki
Contact: 00 30 210 323 8757; theartfoundation.gr
Opening times: bar: daily noon-late; gallery: Mon-Sat noon-9pm, Sun noon-7pm
A sound choice for after-hours drinking, young professionals come here for expertly shaken cocktails, served by barmen dressed in black with white aprons, plus an eclectic choice of music – think Rolling Stones, Waterboys, Klaus Nomi and Ella Fitzgerald. It’s small and often packed, with a long narrow polished wooden bar, walls decorated with oriental tiles and memorabilia, subtle lighting, plus a few tables out front.
Address: Voulis 7, Syntagma
Contact: 00 30 210 321 9225
Opening times: Mon-Sat 10am-5am, Sun 9pm-3am
Next to Monastiraki metro station, on the sixth floor of a small hotel, this rooftop cocktail bar is now one of Athens’ top after-dark venues. Outrageously popular with locals and visitors alike, it has a stylish open-air lounge terrace with amazing view of the floodlit Acropolis. Expect loud music and clubby atmosphere on Saturday nights, when you’ll probably have to queue for the lift (which only takes 3 people at a time). Alternatively, use the stairs. To avoid the crowds, come in the early evening for a sunset aperitif.
Address: Miaouli 2-4, Monastiraki
Contact: 00 30 210 324 4244; aforathens.com
Opening times: Sun-Thu 11am-2:30am, Fri-Sat 11am-3:30am
To taste some of Greece’s top wines, call at this chic wine bar, set in an arcade opposite the Russian Orthodox church, close to Syntagma Square. They stock Greek wines only, and have a vast selection of over 150 different types, mainly supplied by small-scale producers. The floor-to-ceiling shelves are crammed with bottles, and there’s a bar lined with tall red stools, and subtle lighting. They also serve light meals and snacks to go with your wine, which you can order either by the glass or by the bottle.
Address: Georgiou Souri 3 & Philellinon, Syntagma
Contact: 0030 210 323 2560; bytheglass.gr
Opening times: daily 9am-3am
In summer, several glamorous clubs set up along the coast, the most celebrated being Island. Stunningly beautiful, its décor – a sea-view terrace with lots of minimalist white and flickering candlelit lamps – is inspired by the Cyclades. The restaurant serves creative Mediterranean cuisine plus sushi, and there’s a lounge area with finely carved Indian furniture and scatter cushions. Music ranges from ambient and oriental ethnic to mainstream, and regular guests include Greek celebrities and sports personalities.
Address: Varkiza (17 miles south-east of the city centre, on the coastal road to Sounio)
Contact: 00 30 210 965 3563; islandclubrestaurant.gr
Opening times: June-September daily, 8pm-3am