When it comes to the romantic holiday of a lifetime, the Greek Islands are at the top of most people’s lists! But, after a three-day visit to Athens, Tanya Joslin says that no trip to Greece is complete without at least a few days in Athens. Here she maps out an easy three-day itinerary.
Check into one of the city’s funkiest hotels, New Hotel (yeshotels.gr). A member of Design Hotels, this boutique destination is the first interior that Brazilian designers Humberto and Fernando Campana have completed, in collaboration with Architecture graduates from the local University of Thessaly. Housed in a 1950s building, New Hotel’s design philosophy strikes the perfect balance of daring and harmonious. Local artists created much of the bespoke furniture from recycled materials. One of the quirkiest aspects of the hotel is the wall-mounted characters, which symbolise elements of Greek mythology and superstition, in the 79 guest-rooms.
You’ll be staying in one of the best locations in Athens with New Hotel situated just a two-minute walk from the centre of Plaka. So, after dropping off your bags and checking out your funky digs for the next three days, head down to one of the local restaurants for some Greek food. Fried calamari, dips, olives and village bread with a glass of local wine will get you on your way to settling in! You’ve probably disembarked from a long trip, so take it easy this afternoon and get your bearings. Walk the streets of Plaka and take in the view of the Acropolis, which seems to follow you throughout the neighbourhood.
After a massive investment by the Greek government for the 2004 Olympic Games, Athens is now one of Europe’s most sophisticated urban centres. Today is about discovering this edgy city’s museums, galleries and designer shops!
From New Hotel you are close to everything – the hotel is next to Constitution Square (Syntagma Square) and within walking distance of the main sites, including the one that most visitors come for: the Acropolis. But today is museum, gallery and shopping day so first stop is The Acropolis Museum (which really you must see before the Acropolis in any case!). theacropolismuseum.gr
Built at the foot of its namesake,The Acropolis Museum is dedicated purely to the findings from the archeological site of the Acropolis. It is like a stroll through history, beginning with the entry where you literally walk over (via a glass walkway) ancient Athenian streets and neighbourhoods. Inside, you’ll view Greek masterpieces and get a full understanding of the mammoth importance of the Acropolis, the myths, the legends, the festivals, and a feel for everyday life thousands of years ago.
Next stop is The National Archaeological Museum. This is one of the best museums in Europe, and as it contains only Greek treasures, it truly is a national museum. You’ll be stunned at the size of the collection of ancient Greek artefacts and works of art. Athens boasts a number of great museums – if you are a culture vulture, then 72 hours in this great city really will not be enough! What you choose to see after these first two ‘must-sees’ will largely depend on your interests. Other options include The Museum of Greek Popular Musical Instruments, The War Museum and, not far from Syntagma Square, the impressive Goulandris Museum of Cycladic Art. Be sure to leave time on the way home for a pick-me up coffee and snack at one of the oh-so-European-cafes around Kolonaki, perhaps Athen’s most ‘chic’ neighbourhood and home to many aristocrats, before indulging in a spot of designer shopping in the area’s luxurious boutiques.
Tonight is party night! Athens is famous for its nightlife, in fact some say it rivals that of New York and London. Ask your concierge for the best place to head to let your hair down – from chic bars to bouzouki taverns and nightclubs to ouzo bars, it’s all here.
After your late night you’ll want to sleep late and enjoy New Hotel’s unique breakfast (forget the typical buffet – think sumptuous fresh pastries from the on-site bakery, a cooked meal delivered to the table, fresh orange juice, cappuccino and gorgeous fresh fruit) at a leisurely pace, before heading to Athen’s pièce- de-résistance – the Acropolis and Parthenon. You’ve spent time at the Acropolis Museum, so by now you will have an understanding of how important the Acropolis and the Parthenon are to Greek society and, indeed, modern Western civilisation. The Acropolis is the broader area – the ‘hill-city.’ The Parthenon is the ancient temple at the top. Designed by the famous sculptor Phidias, under the direction of Pericles, one of Ancient Greece’s most important politicians, the Parthenon has survived wars, been turned into a mosque, a Turkish harem, been rocked by earthquakes, and looted. You will need a good four hours to walk through the extensive grounds and ruins, and if traveling in summer be sure to start early and bring sunscreen and water.
This afternoon is the perfect opportunity to walk the streets of Plaka again before enjoying a late lunch. Be sure to choose a restaurant with a view of the Parthenon – it won’t be hard to find one. Leave tonight free for a fantastic dinner at New Hotel’s restaurant, New Restaurant. This could potentially be the best meal you enjoy in Athens – it was for us. We visited over the Orthodox Easter and enjoyed a traditional ‘village Easter five-course meal’. Expect a contemporary Mediterranean- inspired menu, a good wine list and slick wait staff to ensure your last evening is nothing short of perfection. visitgreece.gr