a local in Greece
Not just another tourist in Greece!
Greece is famous all around for the combination of the 3 'S' that stand for Summer, Sun and Sea. I could not agree more, though Greece for us locals is much more than that. The most common mistake that people do is to believe that Greece is only a summer destination or even worse to believe that is for a specific target group. Below you can find advice no matter what your preferences are!
The most famous Greek islands like Santorini or Mykonos are considered touristic Champions, but truth is we rarely visit these islands on holidays! Most Greeks prefer smaller islands of the Cyclades complex or Ionian Sea. Siros Island, Amorgos, Folegandros are options that we go for. If you have the chance to choose the time of your holidays avoid August, as for Greece is the peak season and more expensive whatsoever. Try the end of June/ beginning of July. If you prefer to be more private and romantic try September. Schools in Greece operate from mid-September to mid-June so if you need to have an adult only holiday try the mid-September option when the weather is still hot with almost no rain.
Note that relatively to the Mainland, Greek islands are expensive. As most of the islands lack of international cuisine options, I do suggest to rent an apartment, or a hotel, offering cooking facilities so as to save money and take advantage of the fresh ingredients that you can buy at the local markets for your cooking. I do recommend, If you have the chance to visit a local house so as to taste real Greek food that is very rare to find in restaurants. I know mousaka is a famous Greek dish but the restaurant quality is NEVER as good as the home one! Bare in mind we never eat Mousaka at a restaurant and most of our common dishes ‘’ladera’’ (or "lathera" veggies cooked in oil) are nowhere to be found on a restaurant menu.
Athens in Winter time!
If you are looking for a city break do not surpass Athens. Normally Athens is considered the obligatory stop before hopping on the ferry to the islands. The majority of Athens visitors have a quick look to the 3 most crowded and well known places Acropolis, Monastiraki and Plaka. All of them are a must do but there is much more! Athens, especially for students or young people can be considered heaven on earth! With almost 15 different small city centers spread all over Athens you could bar crowl for numerous days! Athens is perfect for the experienced traveller. Not beautiful at first site but with plenty of options to enjoy your time! If you have the chance, meet a local and rent a car the second day you will be there. In the city center parking is hard to find so take the car on the 2ndday to explore the North of the city and the South. Most Greeks spend the weekend next to the beach even though is winter time enjoying their Freddo (The Greek way of Iced coffee). Latest years a ‘’must’’ is to visit the numerous rooftop bars or restaurants operating all year long. Greeks love going out! And most important, they love drinking coffee! All day, everywhere!
Do not feel surprised if you see people almost day and night walk by holding a cup of coffee. This is the so called ‘’freddo’’. Oh and please! Do not order ‘’Frape’’ I know this used to be the signature Greek coffee for many years in the past but trust me you do not want to be an outsider! While in Athens do not forget to taste the different Greek beers that are starting to take their place to the audience’s hearts! Plus, If you are a book lover you are staying at the city center have in mind that 2 big Book stores (public and Ianos )host different events throughout the year and some of them are giving details in English.
Skiing in Greece
Greece has never been a winter destination for International Tourists but that does not mean that we do not have winter destinations that we celebrate every winter weekend. If you are nearby Athens give a try to Arachova (Mount Parnassos). Further you can find Kalavrita. If you wish to avoid the crowd prefer to visit the ski designed areas during weekdays. You can rent all the equipment and enjoy the nature. Avoid Christmas and New Year’s period and try Beginning of December of end of January. Rates are double!
If you love walking you will have the best time while visiting the 3 biggest Greek cities, like Thessaloniki, Athens and Patra. Public transportation in Thessaloniki and Patra is scarce when in Athens is overcrowded. The well-kept secret is that you have to walk in those cities if you wish to discover hidden gems. That is mainly because even though their center has most of their monuments, shops, places to eat and drink at the same time the rents can be so high that more alternative or independent owners will not be able to cover their cost having a business at the city center. As a result various interesting places are located at the center’s outskirts. So grab a coffee and prepare to walk!
What about the nightlife? Halaro poto!
Greek people want and love to stay up all night! That means partying eating or drinking till the sunrise!
Our nights start with something we call ‘’halaro poto’’ that means a drink that will relax us and it ends up with us dancing on the tables! We may not break plates anymore I think this is pretty clear, but we like to show off by opening bottles with alcohol even though we may leave the bottle half full! Nightlife is at its best during summertime and spring and that is because all bars and restaurants have tables at the open air so you can enjoy yourself without feeling claustrophobic. Unfortunately, in most places smoking is permitted in Greece and that is why I have not been to an interior club for ages.
Greek music and international mainstream pop is to be heard everywhere but in the big cities you can visit local alternative bars or specialized bars in electronic/Jazz/Underground music.
A must do is to walk around at the crowded streets and alleys of islands and cities during spring!
Written by Ria from Greece