Destination of the Week: Athens
The mighty capital of Greece is known as the birthplace of democracy and the cradle of Western civilisation. Its recorded history dates back over 3000 years and it’s now a magical blend of cosmopolitan chaos and archaeological splendour.
The glory of ancient Athens remains with the iconic Acropolis, visible from almost all vantage points in the city and modern Greece comes alive with stylish restaurants, a magnificent pedestrian-only promenade and a vibrant nightlife.
What to do
The Acropolis and its monuments, inspired by the sculptor, Pheidias, paint a striking picture of the ancient civilisations of Greece. Discover the Parthenon, built on the highest part of the Acropolis, explore The Temple of Athena Nike and marvel at the Erechtheion, where Poseidon struck the ground with his trident.
When you just can’t get enough of history, head to some renowned museums, including The Acropolis Museum, the National Archaeological Museum and the Benaki Museum. Check out Ancient Agora, the Theatre of Dionysus, Panathenaic Stadium and Lykavittos Hill with the picturesque St George Chapel and an observation platform with panoramic views over the city.
Syntagma Square boasts the changing of the guards by the Evzones, in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and it’s a popular place for picnics with grassy areas, statues and fountains. After a long day of sightseeing, rest your weary feet at a restaurant in the Plaka District for a taste of authentic Greek culture, before heading to Miaouli Street for trendy bars and clubs.
Where to stay
Accommodation options are abundant in Athens, with the most popular places in and around the Plaka District. You can also escape the city chaos by choosing pensions around the relaxing neighbourhoods of Koukaki and Makrygianni.
Electra Palace Hotel (£££)
With superb views of the Acropolis, the Electra Palace Hotel offers a rooftop pool and restaurant in the heart of the Plaka District. The hotel is elegant and luxurious, has a wellness and fitness centre and the rooms have everything you’d expect from a 5-star property, including slippers and bathrobes.
The Philippos Hotel (££)
Located just steps from the Acropolis Museum, the Philippos Hotel is in the perfect spot to explore Athens on foot. The hotel has an all day café and you may even be lucky enough to score a room with views of the Acropolis.
Athens Backpackers (£)
Athens Backpackers is popular for its vibrant, rooftop bar with happy hour from 7 pm to 8 pm every night. Only 5 minutes’ walk from the Acropolis, the hostel also serves free breakfast, has a free cinema, a communal kitchen, a laundromat and a barbeque area.
Where to eat
Mouth-watering, regional Greek cuisine is made with ingredients fresh out of the garden and direct from the boat. Enjoy dining out in neighbourhood tavernas, cookeries and hip restaurant/bars with renowned chefs and DJs.
Dionysos Zonars (£££)
For dining with a view of the Acropolis, it’s hard to beat Dionysos Zonars. The menu is a mix of traditional Greek and modern cuisine, with highlights including Sea bass fillet and risotto with wild fennel and zucchini, Octopus in aromatic wine sauce with couscous and vegetables and, everyone’s favourite, Moussaka.
The Fisherman’s Tavern (££)
The Fisherman’s Tavern is a popular restaurant with locals in Plaka, with a pretty outdoor terrace set between two old mansions. Try oil-oregano marinated octopus or pork chops with ouzo.
There’s always time for a quick souvlaki and Bairaktaris, a busy, family-run taverna, is the place to get one. Located in Monastiraki Square, the taverna also specialises in hearty, traditional Greek dishes for great prices.
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