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Athens off season

Winter shows Athens at its best

This beautiful and historic city is welcoming and fascinating year round, but winter shows it at its best. Athen’s museums spotlight their treasures, the city’s iconic sites are free of summer’s crowds – and Athen’s restaurants, a haven of warmth and hospitality, are bustling with appreciative diners.

Sharing a meal with friends holds a special place in Greek culture; dinner starts late and proceeds at a leisurely pace. Laughter and conversation are as important as the food so restaurants have an informal vibe. Take your time and enjoy the experience.

Here are four addresses to enjoy:

Karaminanlidika, in the Omonia district, only 5-10 min away from Monastiraki station. It is a small butcher and delicatessen that also serves as a restaurant from 12:00 to 23:00. Housed in a neoclassical building with high ceilings, the restaurant’s bare wooden tables are arranged around a counter displaying cheeses, meats, and condiments. Garlands of smoked meat hang from the ceiling. The staff will lead you through the menu choices.. or choose for you if you prefer. Try the house Ouzo in any case. Karaminanlidika is at .1 Sokratous & 52 Evripidou St., Central #Athens
tel. +30 210 325 4184 Website (in Greek) www.karamanlidika.gr

Eleas Gi. A restaurant with a view, this upmarket establishment in the Kifisia district in the North of Athens is worth a visit. It offers two ‘tasting menus’ – 14 and 24 ‘tastes’. Even the smaller menu might present a challenge to the average appetite. A favourite dish is pork and sweet potato baked in a clay pot and served with a flambeed wine sauce. Among many delights, the chocolate mousse is perhaps the outstanding dessert. Best to book. Eleas Gi Restaurant, ; tel: +30 210 62 00 005, +30 210 62 06 433 website:eleasgi.gr

Two blocks south of the Acropolis, the Strofi is an established restaurant with a firm fan base. Fine dining is the theme. The food is traditional Greek taverna style,but served in a chic setting. Try kid in parchment and the milk pudding. Booking is highly recommended (and essential for the terrace). Rovertou Galli 25 | Acropolis, Athens 11742, The Strofi is closed Mondays but open Tuesday -Sunday from 12:00pm to 1:00am. Website: strofi.gr

Sometimes a glass or two of wine and a platter of cheese is all you’re looking for. Try Heteroklito one of the best wine bar in Athens. Very small, with a few stools at the bar and a couple of tables inside (more on the terrace) it nonetheless offers a huge selection of Greek wines and serves a great cheese plate. Monday – Thursday 12:30-24:00, Friday and Saturday until 01:30, Sunday 18:00-24:00. Website: heteroklito.gr; Fokionos 2, Athens 105 63; Tel: 210 3239406
Take advantage of the seasonal lull to visit the famous Benaki Museum. It has several ‘satellite’ buildings but the main museum is in the Benaki family’s former home, a mansion in downtown Athens. Among much else, the three floors of this beautifully preserved neoclassical building house Greek works of art from prehistory to the present. Exhibits reflect a wider view of the country’s history, tracing the impact of foreign influences on Greek culture. The museum is closed Monday and Tuesday. Open Wednesday to Friday: 9:00 – 17:00, Thursday and Saturday: 9.00 – 24.00, Sunday: 9:00 – 15:00. Website: benaki.gr
The gift shop in the Benaki Museum is itself worth a detour. There’s something for everyone in their selection of unusual and beautiful gifts and souvenirs. These include a range of reproduction Byzantine icons as well as reproduction jewellery and specially commissioned works by Greek jewellery designers. Some of the shop’s best sellers: a tree of life paperweight incorporating the design of a coptic bread stamp €30; a key ring featuring a reproduction of a silver coin €105; a head of Athena on a marble base (42cm high) €240. View them on the shop’s website: benakishop.gr. If you’ve come on an evening when the museum is open late, follow your visit with dinner in the museum restaurant on the second floor. The restaurant terrace offers panoramic views of the Acropolis, Lycabettus Hill and the National Gardens.

Off season is the prime time to view the ancient monuments. They never look more enchanting – or enchanted – as when the old stones are set off by the fresh green following the season’s rains. It’s remarkable how alone you can find yourself on the trails through the Ancient Agora and Kerameikos. If you have the time and energy, climb up to the Acropolis itself. Simply keep it in view and head up towards it via twisting old streets and overgrown paths. Wear walking shoes, carry a bottle of water and don’t forget your camera.. the views are spectacular.

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