Athens Basic Information
Wondering what’s up with those bright blue eyes? Ubiquitous in markets, souvenir shops and stores throughout Athens, the matia, as the bright blue eye charm is known, is a good luck piece said to ward off the curse of the evil eye and protect the wearer against negativity. Whether in charm, keyring, worry bead or bracelet form, a matia is a great memento or gift from your trip to Greece. For more essential Athens info, read on.
As Greece is one of the Schengen Convention countries, Australian passport holders going to Greece on holiday for less than a total of 90 days within a 180-day period do not need a visa to enter the country. For a fee, Australians may also apply to extend their stay in Greece at a local Kentro Allodapon (Aliens Centre). Make sure your passport has at least six months’ validity from your planned date of return to Australia. Please be aware that this information is only a guideline. For up-to-the-minute visa information, contact your local Greek Embassy or Consulate.
Greece is part of the European Union and uses the Euro as currency. The exchange rate between the Australian Dollar and the Euro changes constantly so keep an eye on the exchange rate and purchase Euros when the rate is at its best. For safe spending while overseas, consider using a credit or debit card.
You can’t go to Athens and not have a souvlaki. The traditional street food of a pita bread filled with grilled meat, salad and tzatziki is a must, and the Monastiraki is considered to be the neighbourhood to go to for the best souvlaki in Athens. Other culinary hubs to hit up include the alfresco cafes, all-day tavernas and bistros of upmarket Kolonaki; Plaka for traditional ouzeri (Greek taverns serving ouzo and mezedes or finger food); and Kerameikos and Gazi for multicultural hangouts, rakadika (taverns serving the Cretan raki spirit), mageria (spots serving home-cooked casseroles) and international cuisine. Head to a café to sample coffee Athens-style – a frappe – iced, shaken and stirred. Also, don’t miss trying the fresh fish of the day on the menus at Athens’ tavernas!
Like most Mediterranean locales, the after-hours scene in Athens doesn’t get started until late – think 10pm for dinner and after midnight to hit the clubs and bars. Athenians are renowned for their party-hard style and vibrant nightlife. For traditional tavernas and live bouzouki music, head to the areas of Plaka and Monastiraki. Psirri is the mainstream choice with a mix of Greek, Latino, rock and pop music in its venues. Gazi is a former industrial neighbourhood and former gay hotspot that’s now the most popular destination in Athens for a night out. Here you’ll find Greek pop singers performing live in remodelled warehouses. For boho nightlife, check out the grungy and arty haunts of Exarchia. In summer, many clubs decamp to the coastal areas of Voula and Glyfada.