With its mixture of historical attractions, great food and trendy nightlife, Athens has plenty of appeal as a city break destination. Charlotte Flach looks at how to maximise 24 hours in the city
Athens has become an increasingly popular destination in its own right, rather than just a starting point for trips to the Greek islands. In addition to its ancient history, the more modern side of Athens offers great food, nightlife and affordable pricing, making it an ideal city break destination. “Bookings to Athens are 10% up this year and the city has seen a boom in cafes, restaurants and bars in recent years, meaning it is now one of Europe’s top 10 gastronomic destinations,” says Patrick Millar, Kirker’s marketing manager. Make the most of the city’s diverse offering on a limited timescale with this suggested itinerary.
There are a number of high-end hotels in which to greet the day, including the Grande Bretagne, Four Seasons Astir Palace and Divani Caravel. Clients can’t visit Athens without a trip to the city’s magnificent architectural centrepiece, the Acropolis. Go early to avoid the worst of the crowds and to maximise time. There’s also the Acropolis Museum, which will wow history buffs with its exhibition showing the semi-preserved ruins of the ancient city.
Head over to Kostas on Agias Eirinis Square in Monastiraki. Here visitors can sample the finest souvlaki in the city. The traditional dish comes with a twist at Kostas, as it is topped with homemade tomato sauce, making it a delicious and economical treat at about two euros. Don’t expect high-class dining, however – this hole in the wall is strictly a takeaway establishment and has a perpetual queue of people looking for quick, tasty street food.
Squeeze in a three-hour tour with Urban Adventures to see an alternative side to Athens. A guide will reveal second-hand vinyl and vintage fashion shops, introduce participants to one of the biggest street art scenes in the world and tell stories about student rebellions and anarchist riots. There’s also the chance to make like a local and snack on sweet treats and sip traditional Greek coffee at a popular cafe.
Stroll through Plaka, known as the “neighbourhood of the Gods” because of its proximity to the Acropolis. The oldest neighbourhood in Athens is characterised by its labyrinthine streets and neoclassical architecture, lined with quaint shops and bars. Popular with both locals and tourists, it is an escape from the noisy city streets. Head to Adrianou Street, where you will find shops selling traditional products, souvenirs, crafts and other local produce.
Dine at Daphne’s restaurant in Plaka, which has hosted the likes of Angelina Jolie, Roger Moore and Meryl Streep. The restaurant serves Greek and Mediterranean cuisine and is known for its seafood appetizers, lamb fricassee and moussaka. Its desserts include galaktoboureko, a custard and filo pastry treat that goes perfectly with local Greek wines. Indoor and outdoor seating allows clients to retreat inside when it’s chilly or eat alfresco during Athens’ warm summer nights.
Visit The Clumsies, which was voted number six in the “World’s 50 Best Bars” in 2017. Numerous plants and soft lighting complement the imposing dark wood bar. Meanwhile, The Room is a private hire space for 6 to 10 people featuring a fireplace, pool table, vinyl collection and a personal bartender. Oenophiles will enjoy Oinoscent wine bar in Voulis Street in Plaka, which serves excellent traditional Greek reds and whites.