One of the world’s oldest cities and the heart of ancient Greece, Athens is a living, breathing museum of history and culture. Mr S and I absolutely loved exploring both the historical and modern side of the city, and with only forty eight hours in the city, we packed a lot in. Here’s eight exciting things that we did.
1. The Acropolis
There is just so much history in Athens (obvs) that it makes sense to do a historical tour of the city. Hotel Grande Bretagne organised a private tour for us to make sure we made the most of our 48 hours in the city. Naturally we began with the Acropolis, the icon of the city and one of the most important ancient sites in the Western world. The Acropolis can be seen from any point in the city, looming majestically from high up on the hill above all other buildings in Athens – in fact it’s the law that nothing can obscure it.
So what exactly is the Acropolis? It’s ancient citadel located on a rocky hill Athens and encompasses the remains of several ancient buildings.
The most important building in the UNESCO heritage citadel is the Parthenon, a beautiful columned temple, dedicated to the goddess Athena. Of course I couldn’t begin to recount the history on this little blog but any visit to to Athens must include a trip to the Acropolis.
And a tip, a few people saw photos such as the above on Instagram and I asked if I went very early in the morning to get the shots. Honestly, I’m not about that life, and Mr S certainly isn’t! The site was very crowded but I snatched any opportunity when the crowds parted to get that sneaky shot.
2. Stroll through Plaka
Plaka is a historical neighbourhood in Athens and the oldest, with a history going back 3,500 years. The name actually means ‘neighbourhood of the gods’ as it’s found close to the Acropolis and other historical sites.
There are some lovely looking restaurants and bars as well as museums but most of all its a charming place to take a walk through and has a really lovely atmosphere.
I spotted this utterly Instagrammable ice cream shop which well worth a stop for some Kayak Ice Cream, a famous Greek brand.
3. Stay at A Luxury Hotel
If you read my review, you’ll know I highly recommend Hotel Grande Bretagne where we stayed in Athens. Part of the Luxury Collection, this hotel encompasses some great historical moments of the city and has a beautiful rooftop bar, restaurant and pool from which you have a panoramic view of the city.
The service is exquisite and the decor is suited to those who like classic, elegant design. If you prefer a more modern look, Hotel Grande Bretagne isn’t for you though I can promise that despite appearances, this isn’t a stuffy and old-fashioned hotel. For those preferring a modern aesthetic, I also heard good things about the NEW Hotel where Jess stayed. Otherwise Binny loved the Hilton Athens, Bejal recommended Athenswas or you could look into the sister property to Hotel Grande Bretagne, King George.
4. Eat Fresh Seafood
For me part of visiting Greece is having really great seafood and I made it my mission to find the very best fish restaurant in Athens. Varoulko Seaside not only has a Michelin star but it also has a perfect sea view in the Mikrolimano marina – ideal for boat-loving Mr S.
I’m planning on going into more detail about the restaurants that we visited in another post but I’ll just say that the food was Greek with an elegant twist and it was well a truly excellent yet affordable.
5. See the Original Olympic Stadium
The Panathenaic Stadium was built for the very first Olympics in 1896.
It was actually built in the ruins of the ancient marble stadium that was built in 329 for the Panathenaic Games and is the only stadium in the world made completely of marble. You can actually go inside and take a few photos but if you’re short of time, you can pretty much see everything from the outside.
6. Enjoy Fine Dining
Athens is home to several fine dining and Michelin-star restaurants with the consensus being that Spondi is the best. I first heard about the two-Michelin restaurant on Binny’s blog and I was keen to make a booking.
Again I’ll go into more detail about Spondi in another post but expect fine dining French cuisine using seasonal ingredients in the beautifully romantic setting of a stone courtyard. There’s plenty of other options fine dining in Athen such as two-Michelin star Funky Gourmet and one star Hytra. Fellow Nobu fans will be pleased to know there is a Matsuhisa restaurant right by the sea, one on my list for next time!
7. See the Greek Parliment
Our hotel was actually located on Syntagma Square across from the Greek Parliament located in a neo-Classical building. Here you can witness the changing of the guard by the Greek Army or Evzones, known for wearing traditional Greek uniforms with the most traditional part being foustanela, a kilt-like skirt.
8. Visit Rooftop Bars
Stunning views in Athens mean there is no shortage of fabulous rooftop bars. Of course, once again I highly recommend the Bar 8 at Hotel Grande Bretagne for not only a panoramic view of the city but also fabulous service, wine and cocktails.
Another great bar with a fabulous and more close up view of the Acropolis, is A for Athens. We went there for a late night drink after our dinner at Spondi.
A few more rooftop bars that were recommended to me were Galaxy Bar at the Hilton Hotel, Couleur Locale (which is popular with the locals) and the Metropolis Roof Garden at the Electra Palace Hotel. Sadly I didn’t get to try these but they’re on the list for next time.
Now I must be honest, I was a little apprehensive about Athens as it had very mixed reviews as a city from my friends. Though the majority loved it, there was a few who really weren’t keen at all which was why I only booked to stay there for forty-eight hours. But I have to conclude that we absolutely loved it (yes, I know we stayed in a fancy hotel and went fancy places and that certainly helps!) – we loved the vibe of the city, the living history and the fabulous food. It’s definitely a city that I’m keen to return to and spend more time in.
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