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Taking the Kids: Athens like a local

Eileen Ogintz, Tribune Content Agency on

What’s on the menu this busy Friday night in Athens? A traditional menu says Katia lordanidou. An eggplant salad, fried cheese, Greek salad followed by stuffed tomatoes and peppers and a traditional dessert — mini fried donuts topped with honey and almonds.

But we aren’t in a trendy Athens restaurant. We’re in Katia lordanidou’s and her partner Thanos Nikopoulos’ apartment in the middle-class Byronus neighborhood east of the city center.

Before we arrived, we’d never met the couple, yet they were hosting us for dinner — a dinner we would help prepare in their small kitchen. Abercrombie & Kent, a tour company that offers family tours to Greece arranged our dinner.

Greece has now eased COVID-19 travel restrictions. It is no longer mandatory for arrivals to complete a passenger locator form. Individuals must still, however, show proof of full vaccination, recovery, or a negative PCR test result to enter.

And as we begin to travel again, many of us want to travel differently — connecting more with locals, traveling more sustainably, slowing down rather than rushing from historic ruin to museum.

Alternative Athens offers such local experiences as well as other tours, including special family activities. (Typically, about $104 per person). Tours by Locals is another respected company I’ve used that connects travelers with locals for various tours, including those designed for foodies (a gyros cooking class) and families (perhaps a day at the seaside).


Spyros Kagkas, a native Athenian, runs This is Athens With a Local, a volunteer program designed to connect tourists with those who live here for a free tour, whether you want to see a typical neighborhood, focus on food, architecture or what would be interesting for families. But these guides won’t take you to the Acropolis or a museum.

Instead, you might linger over coffee or a drink, sitting in a park while the kids play — perhaps for hours. Shopping in local markets, finding a favorite coffee house or ice cream spot is a reason why vacation rentals continue to be so popular as travelers, especially with kids, who not only want more space but also to settle into a neighborhood.

Kagkas takes us on a tour of the Pagkrati neighborhood where he lives — very hip, very urban, though there are retirees as well as parents with kids in strollers in the squares and parks and we do stop for a leisurely coffee.

You can also find such complimentary programs with the International Greeter Association in cities around the world, including London, New York, Paris, Chicago in nearly 40 countries. Just make sure to request a tour far in advance. Japan has a network of Goodwill Guides often led by students in Tokyo, Kyoto and other cities and historic sites who want to improve their English.


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