Authentic Athens

By Andrea Sachs
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 1, 2007

Q. We're looking for a hotel in a nice area of Athens as well as an authentic Greek place for food and entertainment.

Alice Fleming,Fort Washington

A. In Athens, visitors can find feta salad, ouzo and a comfortable bed for the night within a rock's throw of the Acropolis. "Despite the fact that Athens resembles Los Angeles and stretches out for miles, everything a traveler needs, from hotels, food, entertainment and shopping to museums and archaeological sites, is within walking distance of Syntagma Square," Matt Barrett, who runs the online Greece Travel Guide, said by e-mail.

The famous plaza is near some of the city's oldest neighborhoods, such as the Plaka and Psiri, and most iconic attractions, including the Acropolis and the Theater of Dionysus. For three-star hotels in the area, Barrett recommends the Hotel Cypria (011-30-210-323-8034,, which has Aphrodite's Bar next door; the Arion Hotel (011-30-210-324-0415, in Psiri; the Athens Central Hotel (011-30-210-323-4357,, where select rooms have views of the Acropolis; the Hotel Acropolis Select (011-30-210-921-1610,, which boasts Italian furnishings and art inspired by ancient Greece; and the Hotel Philippos (011-30-210-922-3611,, whose modern rooms are steps from the Acropolis.

For dining out, Barrett says, "there are dozens of affordable and good restaurants and ouzeries in the neighborhoods of Psiri and the Plaka." His picks include the Plaka Restaurant (corner of Kydatheneon and Geronta streets), which specializes in Greek oven dishes -- "My mom says their grilled octopus is the tenderest she has ever eaten"; Saita (corner of Kydatheneon and Sotiros), a bakaliarzidiko, or basement restaurant, known for its barrel wine, fried codfish and Greek music; Paradosiako, an ouzerie on the corner of Voulis and Nikodimou that prepares a curry-flavored sausage called soutsouki and a top-notch Greek salad; and Taverna Tou Psiri (Aiskilou 12), which Barrett claims has the best lamb chops in town. To hear Greek music, Barrett suggests Perivoli T Ouranou Club (19 Lysicratus in the Plaka), or swing by a bouzoukia for a lively club scene.

Info: Barrett's Athens Survival Guide,, or City of Athens, 011-30-210-372-2001,

I have coins from around the world. How can I change them into U.S. dollars?

Rosemary Walker, Syracuse, N.Y.

It's much easier to swap foreign bills for U.S. dollars, but don't start melting down your coins just yet. U.S. Penny & Coin Service, which has locations in Falls Church and Wheaton, buys foreign coins of various denominations and provenance. For coins from major countries such as the United Kingdom and France, the company gives 70 percent of the face value. For example, on a two-euro coin ($2.69) you will walk away with $1.88. For smaller denominations, the percentage is less (40 percent on five cents, for example), and for more obscure coinage, such as a small piece from Vietnam, the firm will weigh the money for metal content and pay per pound. Info: 703-538-5525, Also, Travelex (, which has multiple locations around Washington, buys euro and pound coins for a $5.95 surcharge.

Send queries by e-mail (travelqa@wash or U.S. mail (Travel Q&A, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071). Please include your name and town.

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