Athens really does not sleep – the city is a haven for night owls, coming into its own once the sun goes down. Culture Trip speaks to Patroklos Pitsilis, co-owner of Rock n Roll bar, and local DJ Lefty D about the Greek capital’s diverse nightlife.
“It isn’t a myth,” says Patroklos Pitsilis. “We really do wrap up our night out with breakfast.” He notes that Athens has long been a night owl’s paradise, but that “the last 10 years have seen a significant increase in nightlife venues”, which range from electrifying underground clubs to rooftop bars. “With an avant-garde cocktail scene and live music that covers all genres, the city’s got you covered,” the bar owner explains.
Though Lefty D gives us the lowdown on the bar and club scene, he tells us that Athenian nightlife is not all about drinking and dancing to R&B, house or techno. The DJ highlights the Greek capital’s outstanding outdoor venues – Athens has been entertaining since the second century AD and knows a thing or two about al fresco performances. “On evenings when I’m not working, I like to take advantage of the city’s iconic outdoor venues. We are lucky. Our climate allows us to enjoy outdoor venues almost all year round,” he says.
Black Hole has been labelled “the chicest underground club in Athens”. Featuring deep, dark and melodic techno and progressive house, it boasts an impressive list of resident and guest DJs. The underground space is divided into a main stage, a VIP area and a seated section decked out with sofas and tables. Of the music, DJ Lefty D comments, “It’s as dark as it gets.”
As you sip on a signature cocktail named after one of 14 “gentlemen thieves” – try the Paul Batsios with Greek mastiha, Aperol and mango tea – you should know that you are doing so atop quite a bit of history. The premises were once where the Greek military kept its gold reserves, and before that, where the first king of Greece (King Otto) kept his horses. “I love this place. It’s classy with an overall great vibe and cutting-edge cocktails,” says Lefty D, who also rates the funk, house and hip-hop soundtrack.
Lefty D tells us the story of Juan Rodriquez: urban legend has it that he was a slave from Panama who somehow escaped to Athens to fulfil his lifelong dream of opening a bar. “Totally made- up story by the owners of this exquisitely decorated bar/restaurant,” Lefty D laughs. Chandeliers, gold-framed paintings and velvet seats are some of the refined details of this bar, where the cocktail list is equally nuanced. Try a classic negroni or the El Diablo tequila punch.
Upon spotting the neon pizza slice sign of Crust in downtown Athens, you could be forgiven for thinking you were approaching a standard takeaway pizza joint. The loud music tells a different story: in the basement of this (highly recommended) pizza shop is a minuscule dance club, which makes up for in energy what it lacks in size. This underground venue hosts well-known DJs who spin techno, house and disco grooves, along with live-jazz performances.
Finding this venue is half the fun. Though the address is not a secret, first-timers are in for a bit of confusion as they are confronted by a regular-looking Athenian apartment building. No sign of a bar, no people holding cocktails outside; you question whether you’re at the right place. You spot a few more wanderers looking just as confused as you. You’re very close, so you go to the door and wonder which button to press. Luckily, neighbours have stuck Post-it notes telling you not to press their doorbells as they are not The Speakeasy. If you’ve pressed the right doorbell, someone will eventually open the door and you’ll be led through a corridor and down a spiral staircase to another era. The space is minimal with quirky nuances, offers both classic drinks and signature cocktails and regularly hosts live jazz.
This ancient open-air theatre has been sitting beneath the Acropolis since the second century AD. In antiquity, odeons hosted singing performances and poetry recitals, and for the past 60 years this architectural masterpiece has again staged the very best in theatre and music. It can seat close to 5,000 people, and a diverse range of artists have performed here, from Frank Sinatra and Luciano Pavarotti to Florence and the Machine. Be sure to snap up tickets as soon as possible – they go quickly.
One of the most picturesque neighbourhoods in Athens is home to legendary rooftop cinema Cine Paris. “Watching a film with a view of the Acropolis is definitely a unique experience, even for an Athenian,” says Lefty D. “And the good thing is, unlike other European countries, films are not dubbed in Greece,” he explains, noting that this makes the cinema more accessible to international audiences. The cinema is open from May to October.