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Athens Matters; Constantine Markoulakis

famed Greek actor gives us the inside line on his cherished hometown...

Athens Matters; Constantine Markoulakis

There are, I think, few cities in the world where so many different periods of history and culture come alive simultaneously. At the same time, it’s a modern western european city, with all of their properties, but in a smaller, more user-friendly scale...

A well-known public figure, Constantine Markoulakis has appeared in cinema, television and theatre since graduating from Greek National Theater’s School of Dramatic Art in 1991, so is as well placed as any of our previous Athens Matters subjects to give us the inside line on cultural happenings in his native city.

Born in Athens in 1970, Markoulakis knows a thing or two about where to see the best his hometown has to offer too – he may not be on the party circuit anymore, but the famed Greek actor has opened up about his favourite restaurants, galleries, shops, landmarks and so much more. In this, the final insider’s guide in our inspirational partnership with hip hotel chain YES! Hotels, Constantine Markoulakis shares his Athens with We Heart – it’s a good one…

ATHENS MATTERS; Constantine Markoulakis

Greek National Theatre

ATHENS MATTERS; Constantine Markoulakis

Photo © We Heart

Hello Constantine, can you tell us a little about yourself?

I have been an actor and director in Athens for the last 21 years. I graduated from the National Theatre Drama School in 1991, and since then have been working in theatre, cinema and TV. I have played a variety of roles, such as Hamlet at the National and Oedipus Rex at Epidaurus Ancient Theatre. I’ve just finished playing Billy Flynn in “Chicago” and am in final rehearsals for Gogol’s “The Government Inspector”

Have you lived in Athens your whole life?

I was born and raised in Athens, actually in a coastline suburb, Palaio Faliro. (The proximity of Athens to the sea is one of its best features). My first choice of house though was in the city centre, I enjoy the aliveness and feeling of proximity here. Apart from a short while living in Los Angeles, I’ve been living in Athens my whole life.

How is the theatre scene in Athens right now?

Athens has an amazingly maximalistic and versatile theatre scene. There is a more “West End”, commercial scene with plays and comedies from popular actors, but there’s also a very large fringe scene, with shows from smaller, artistic theatre companies, many acclaimed director-based theatres, lots of dance companies etc. During each winter season we get more than 500 different shows of all kinds, outnumbering, I suppose, even London! The repertoire has it all, from classical plays and international hits to devised theatre and stand up comedy. And, yes, even during the crisis, people still go to the theatre, and consider it one of the main ways of entertainment.

ATHENS MATTERS; Constantine Markoulakis

Piraeus Marina, Athens. Courtesy, Shutterstock

ATHENS MATTERS; Constantine Markoulakis

New Hotel

ATHENS MATTERS; Constantine Markoulakis

Rebecca Kamhi gallery © We Heart

Can you give us your top 5 tips for someone with just 48 hours to spend in Athens?

I would choose to stay in the city centre. There is a variety of choice, from classical hotels like Grande Bretagne to artistic hip boutique hotels with character, like New Hotel. I would certainly visit the Acropolis Parthenon and the amazing Acropolis Museum, built by Tsumi and Fotiadis. I’d then take the whole day just strolling on foot in the nearby historic neighbourhoods of Plaka, Thission and Monastiraki to immerse myself into the ambience of the historic centre and its people. The second day I would either choose to see the fasionable neighbourhood of Kolonaki, with its trendy shops, and museums such as Benaki Museum, or, for sea lovers, go down to Piraus to eat fish and seafood in Mikrolimano and Pasalimani ports.

A few quick-fire questions on your favourite spots: to watch plays… Too many! The National Theatre, Palace and Acropol Theatre for repertoire and large scale shows. Thission Theatre and Neou Kosmou (New World) for fringe …to find the city’s best art… Zoumboulakis gallery is probably the oldest and most prominent. Exceptional ones are also Rebecca Kamhi and Kalfayan Galleries …your favourite shops… Ianos, Eleytheroudakis and Libro for books, Public for electronics and multimedia…

…best spot for pre-theatre dinner… In Athens dinner is usually served later than in most western cities. Of course you can get it at 8pm, but more often we would go for an after-theatre dinner, instead of a pre. Kitchens are usually open till 1am, and there is abundance of choice. Alepou (Fox), Black Duck and Black Sheep are good choices with reasonable prices …to party… sadly, I don’t party a lot anymore, so I’m missing the hotspots …and to relax… The National Garden to catch the sun, the marinas in Piraus and Faliron for the sea breeze, Hilton’s Galaxy bar for cocktails, and the New Hotel for Sunday brunch.

ATHENS MATTERS; Constantine Markoulakis

Kalfayan Galleries

ATHENS MATTERS; Constantine Markoulakis

Black Sheep

What do you think sets Athens apart from the likes of London, New York and Paris?

Athens is quite different from the great western cities. Actually, it’s a genre of its own. It’s a city that goes further back in history than Rome. Its crown jewel is the Acropolis, and it’s been built with that as its centre. You can actually feel the touch of many historical periods – ancient and Byzantine – with the old stone and marbles being used again and again for ancient temples, then for orthodox churches, and then for neoclassical buildings.

There are, I think, few cities in the world where so many different periods of history and culture come alive simultaneously. At the same time, it’s a modern western european city, with all of their properties, but in a smaller, more user-friendly scale. It’s like travelling in time, without leaving the 21st century, and travelling to the East witought leaving the West.

Finally, could you tell us in one sentence why people should come to Athens?

Athens is a crossroads between East and West, blessed in the Attica sun.

Athens Matters; YES! Hotels x We Heart