You got us, we did mean to reference the Lovin’ Spoonful here. But unlike their all-time classic song, our version of a summer in the city doesn’t involve ‘people looking half-dead’ – the inventive Greek mind (that’s us) has used its years under the burning Mediterranean sun to figure out a way to make peace with it. And since you’re no good to us as readers if sightseeing in Athens has left you sunstroke, dehydrated, or just with a general feeling of ‘the life-force has now exited my body’, we are prepared to share with you our heat survival kit. So, without further ado, here’s how to beat that crazy Greek summer heat (with a little help from your friends).
#1 Fight the Greek Weather with Other People's A/C
Someone pointed out to us that old people in Greece all hang out at the banks during summer to get some free A/C. But hey! There is a good reason old people have managed to stay alive for that long, so watch and learn. We are obviously not telling you to hang out at the bank during your summer in Athens, but we are telling you to seek shade while you're walking around Athens' tourist attractions like the Acropolis, and Monastiraki, and definitely include in your schedule activities featuring (free!) air-conditioning. One way to do so is obviously by visiting Athens' museums and galleries, but another interesting option is to try out one of its many malls and let Athens' shopping life release your inner consumerist - under favorable temperature levels.
Tip: Some of the best museums in Athens, for us at least, are the Goulandris Museum of Cycladic Art , and the Benaki Museum , both of which also host very nice cafes by the way. If you aim to indulge your inner consumerist head to Attica stores just off Syntagma square or Athens' pemium mall 'Golden Hall' in Marousi (Neratziotisa metro station). Bear in mind that shops are usually closed on Sundays (with a few exceptions - the next one being 16/11/2016).
Spend a hot day in one of Athens' top museums
#2 Prepare for Athens' Tourism with a Vitamin Potion
Even a heat-survival rookie knows rule number 1 is hydration. But did you know doctors suggest not sticking to just water but including other non-alcoholic and non-caffeinated fluids? Well, good thing that Greeks take medicine so seriously and a few years back (we’re a little slow sometimes, we know) people started opening fresh juice places all over Athens. So now if you find yourself, let’s say in Monastiraki, Athens, you can take a quick break from sightseeing to fuel up with a tall (plastic, but oh well) glass of healthy, fruity goodness. Yums!
Gastronomic experiences in Athens you don't want to miss
#3 Pair Up Local Weather with Local Coffee Culture
You know we hate to brag, but we just don’t get why in so many places abroad the only kind of iced coffee you can get is something closer to a cake in glass. Now we know we said ‘non-caffeinated fluids’ just a few lines above, but you must have noticed by now we are very proud of our coffee culture (yes, we do mean sipping on our coffee for a good 2-3 hours while we catch up with our good buddies) and if you want to blend in with the Greeks you must be prepared to participate in it. But don’t worry, we’re positive you’ll enjoy it, as Frappé, Freddo Espresso and Freddo Cappuccino are three of life’s best creations: they’re both refreshing aaand give you that strong taste of real coffee you need to keep your power-walking through Athens on point.
Tip: If you’re forcing us to only choose a couple out of Athens’ many fantastic coffee places (fine, fine) we would say Kimolia Art Cafe and Portatif in central Athens or alternatively Balux Cafe and Moorings along the Athens Riviera.
We all know the next best iced thing is ice-cream (obviously), so here's our guide to Athens' best ice-cream spots.
#4 Head South and Make the Most of Today's Weather
The weather in Athens is yet another glass-half-empty-or-half-full question in life: you can either see it as something making your walking around Athens somewhat painful, or as the perfect incentive to go to the beach. That’s Greece’s most famous tourist attraction after all, right? Right, but keep in mind that locals love the beach too, so on the weekends it can be hard to find an umbrella and a couple of seabeds on any of the beautiful beaches of the Southern suburbs (Glyfada, Vouliagmeni a.o.) of Athens. Try visiting during the week if you can, and even better, on a weekday's morning, because you don't want to put yourself through the torture of a burning sun and roaring traffic that are generally the rule after 12:00. Speaking of heat and traffic, if you have a car it's probably best to leave it at home and opt for the tram in this case - it'll most likely save you time. And we wouldn't encourage you to go through this slight hassle if it weren't for the fact that apart from a good swim, most beaches also offer you good DJ-ing and food options. Remember though, most awesome beaches in Athens have an entrance fee, but these may vary, so make sure you explore your options thoroughly. For example, Yabanaki only charges an entrance fee till 7pm, while the sun is still up, so a good idea would be to go for an evening swim and still till late to enjoy a drink at their bar.
The best things to do this summer in Athens' beaches
#5 Take a Day-trip to the Greek Islands
Okay, we know telling you to survive living in the city by escaping the city may sound a bit self-contradictory. But to be fair, if you’re back in your bed by 10PM or so, no one can accuse you of abandoning the ship. Now that we resolved this, we feel obliged to tell you that island visiting is one of the most unique things to do in Greece and that you can still take a ferry to some of them even if your initial plan was to only stick to sightseeing in Athens. And you want to experience the Greek islands like a true local, you absolutely must make ouzo your late-lunch-on-the-beach island ritual. You know what they say (or well, what we say); when life gives you lemons make lemonade, and when the Greek weather gives you hell make meze and a glass of ouzo with ice and have it by the beach. Heaven! As citizens of the world we also embrace non-Greek cultural influences though, so ice-cream is another refreshing holiday habit we'd like to see you embrace. We only want what's best for you.
Tip: Hydra, Aegina and Spetses are the most popular destinations for those with limited time in their hands. If you’re the camping kind of tourist, maybe you’ll feel more ‘connected’ to the beauty of the small but relaxed Agistri. For an extraordinary experience visit the exotic Moni island, where inhabitants are deers and peekocks (!), only a short ferry ride from Aegina.
Escape Athens for a day (or more!)
Need more ideas on activities? These are another 15 things you must try in Athens this summer.
#6 Grab a Sun Bed by one of Athens' Hotel Pools
Alright, we must warn you this is one of your expensive options, but it’s also one of the most extraordinary things to do when the weather in Greece gets too hot to breathe. Some of the posher hotels in the city open their pool to the public, so as long as you pay their entrance fee you don’t have to be staying there to spend your day by the water, order coffees and drinks, and in some cases even get spa treatment. Spoils!
#7 Be a Creature of the Night
The good thing about when the temperature in Athens rises, is that its nightlife also does. It's pretty straight-forward: less people want to get out of the house during the day, so more of them will during the night. And that's great, really, because it makes Athens' nightlife one of the most vivid ones you'll come across. Not to mention that most Greek bar owners have designed their bars with the summer months in mind, so if you're looking for cool bars in Athens you'll find many of them have interior gardens, rooftops, and inventive, refreshing, ever-so-delicious cocktails.
Explore Athens by night
#8 Remember Athens' Summer Nights are Movie Nights
Now this is less of a tourist attraction in Greece and more of a local's favourite summer night activity, which is why we suggest it: almost every neighbourhood in Athens has an open air cinema, but they only open their doors during the summer months, which makes a visit there all the more exciting! Most open air cinemas in Athens are relatively small and resemble an interior garden or a patio, which means they are cool and pleasant in the evenings when they start showing movies. Another reason why we love them, though, is that they normally offer hot nibbles, slushies, and cold beer at their bar, so you can watch your preferred movie feeling positively blissful. As you can anticipate, Fridays and weekends are pretty busy days for open air cinemas.
Looking for more insight into Athens' nightlife? We've got you covered. Read about our top 12 hidden bars in Athens.
We love to spoil you so we'll save you the hassle of looking up all the addresses of the places me mention.
Here's a map of Athens to help you find our suggestions.
P.S. All opinions expressed above are entirely personal, and not promotional in any way.
P.S2: Last but not least, cover picture shows The Margi Hotel's pool (picture courtesy of The Margi Hotel).