I wanted to tell you about one of my favorites place in the world: ATHENS.
Let me take you in a roller coast ride, in Athens’ coolest spots.
There are a few options regarding hotels. You can either stay in the city to be close to the sites and the shopping districts, or you can stay by the beach. Keep in mind that the beach from the city is a distance of about 15 km.
Hotel Grande Bretagne: one of the “grandes dames” hotels of Athens. Right on Syntagma Square with a fantastic view of the Acropolis from the famous rooftop restaurant and spa.
O&B Hotel : this hotel is close to the Acropolis and within walking distance from other sites. A good option if you want quick access to the city center. Comparable neighborhood to a Soho/Tribeca location – a little more artsy and recently ‘reclaimed.’
St. George Lycabettus Hotel: this beautiful hotel is located in the chic neighborhood of Kolonaki (the high end shopping district of Athens). Also close to the sites.
Fashion House Hotel: this funky hotel is located in the city center close to the shopping district and in close proximity to the sites. Caters to specific tastes. See if you like it and make sure to leave your comments.
Magna Grecia Hotel: a small boutique hotel in Plaka (old city) very close to the Acropolis. Well located and intimate. Beach hotels:
The Margi: Located in Vouliagmeni, one of the most beautiful seaside resort suburbs of Athens. Distance from city center about 15 km; a 20-minute ride with a taxi.
Astir Palace: Also in Vouliagmeni, a beautiful resort complex where the new W will be opening shortly. It has its own private beaches and is made up of the Westin and the Arion Luxury Collection resort. Brand new Matsuhisa (Nobu) Athens restaurant there as well.
Athens by Day:
A must program to do while in Athens is to visit the Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum. If you visit during the summer, I suggest visiting the Acropolis early in the morning or late in the afternoon because of the heat (it is open from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm Tuesday to Sunday; on Fridays it closes at 10:00 pm and it is closed on Mondays).
On the west side of the Acropolis where you will find the beautiful theater of Odeon of Herodes Atticus. You can check the program and maybe catch an evening show under the Athenian night sky with an unforgettable view of the Acropolis fully illuminated (see if anything interests you – the atmosphere is simply amazing). Then, you can take a leisurely stroll to the brand new Acropolis Museum – it was inaugurated in 2009. It’s worth to visit the gift shop. There is also a good restaurant at the terrace of the museum. In the same area you will find magnificent shops at Monastiraki (filled with tourist stores with souvenirs) and Plaka (which has more authentic/higher quality products, art galleries and antique stores).
Explore the area while combining your shopping activities with sightseeing (antiquities throughout the area), an occasional coffee and maybe a lunch break at one of the traditional tavernas. Café Melina is a great option. Located in Monastiraki is Bairaktaris, it is also a good option for trying souvlaki, one of the most popular quick “street” meals in Greece. The other souvlaki places around Bairaktaris are also good for this traditional snack.
The Parliament, located in Syntagma Square, stands up for its architectural beauty. It is also interesting to see the change of the guards, which takes place hourly in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Take a walk down Panepistimiou Street and you will run into three beautiful neoclassical buildings: the University, the National Library (the oldest library in Greece), and the Academy.
Northeast of this area you will find the chic Kolonaki district, with expensive boutiques and refined cafes. All the major European labels are represented. A short distance on Stadiou Street is the largest Athenian department store, Attica, which is also surrounded by more exclusive boutiques.
Athens is a concrete jungle with the advantage of having paradisiacal beaches right in the center of the city. I would recommend experiencing the VIPing treatment at Astir Beach in Vouliagmeni. It is an exclusive beach that will cost you about 15 euros (entrance fee includes access to umbrellas, beach beds and chairs – but bring your own towel). Another great option is Asteria Beach in Glyfada, also a fully organized beach with great seaside lunch spots such Acanthous.
If you want a slightly more bohemian scene, try Bolivar Beach in Anavyssos (no entrance fee). Great beach bar with a party vibe.
Zouboulakis Gallery – Located at 7 Kriezotou Street. One of the oldest galleries in Greece.
Glyptotheque National Sculpture Gallery – Located in the Army Park set the scene for the Neo-Greek plastic art scene.
Onassis Cultural Centre – 107-109 Syngrou Avenue. It was recently inaugurated. Theatre, music, and dance productions, seminars, discussions and exhibitions by personalities and groups that bring art’s most inspiring forms to Athens.
The Cycladic Art Museum – The MCA is housed in two separate buildings, which are connected by a glass-roofed corridor: the Main Building, housing the permanent collections and the New Wing, and the Stathatos Mansion, housing the temporary exhibitions. More info here.
Benaki Museum – one of the most important museum collections in Athens featuring art from the revolutionary period of 1821.
Athens by Night:
Athenians are well known for their bohemian spirit and they know how to celebrate life like nobody else. What make it so unique, is the combination of amazing food, cool drinks, great music and beautiful people in most of the places listed below.
Spondi – one of the top restaurants in the world (number 53 in the Top 100 of the esteemed Restaurant Magazine).
Matsuhisa – Greek-Japanese fusion with cutting edge sushi and spectacular views of the Mediterranean Sea.
Nobu’s iteration in Athens – A place to see and be seen You can get there with a taxi (around 10 to 15 euros from the city center and about 20 minutes).
Ithaki – high end traditional Greek cuisine located in Vouliagmeni.
Mamaca’s – contemporary Greek cuisine. It is located in Gazi, a newly developed industrial-chic neighborhood (easily accessible by metro –Keramikos stop–). After dinner, there are a lot of other options within walking distance for drinks to continue the night.
Tou Psara – Traditional Greek taverna. Try maridaka (very small tasty fish), mousaka (with eggplant), pastitsio (a version of lasagna), tzatziki (with garlic, yogurt and cucumber – try it with bread) and taramosalata (fish egg spread to be enjoyed with bread). The restaurant is located in Plaka.
Bars and Clubs
Balthazar- located in center of the city. A restaurant but also a great place for drinks after 11:30 for drinks; hot spot to see and be seen.
Grand Bretagne Hotel – Roof top with panoramic view. Whenever I travel, I love going to hotel bars. Besides a great environment, this bar offers panoramic views of the city and the Acropolis. So don’t feel guilty because the drinks are overpriced – think that you are paying for the view.
Hilton Galaxy- Roof top bar. Located right in the heart of Athens. Super popular and very lively. It also offers a spectacular view.
Akrotiri Boutique – Located in Agios Kosmas. Premier mega club with glamorous vibe and many celebrities. Dress to impress!
B.E.D. – Mainstream club in Glyfada with an amazing view of Asteria Bay.
Island – Definite destination for the Athenian high society to gather in an exclusive lounge scene overlooking the Bay of Varkiza.
Leaving Athens to the Greek Islands
Highspeed boat transportation: Piraeus is the departure city, which is the port in Athens. To get an idea of prices and destinations, please check the website or www.gtp.gr (a comprehensive site with schedules for all highspeed and boat departures from and to the islands).
Air travel: Depending on the island of choice, flying might be more appropriate and not much more expensive. Choose an airplane for farther islands such as Corfu, Rhodes or Crete. You can check with Aegean Airlines, a member of Star Alliance, or Olympic Airlines.