In mid-June, Athens was already jam-packed with tourists and showing signs of the sweltering heat that would overtake Europe this summer. Rich in history, this Greek city is also abundant with friendly locals, charming alleyways, delicious restaurants, and beautiful architecture. Two nights here, I believe, is more than enough time to appreciate the offerings, especially during the hotter summer months when walking for long periods is unbearable.
Where to Stay:
The staff in this centrally located hotel is extremely friendly with a concierge team that is readily available to help you with restaurant reservations and taxi bookings. The upstairs restaurant and bar boasts stunning views of Acropolis Hill and also has a rooftop pool. The rooms are well-appointed and the breakfast buffet that is included in the reasonable rate is plentiful and has more breakfast options to start your day than you can count. At less than $400 per room in this five-star hotel, you can't go wrong with staying here.
pros: excellent location in the center of Athens, striking views of the Acropolis, bountiful breakfast buffet included in rate
cons: rooms have tiny balconies that are useless
Located in the hip and bustling Psiri neighborhood of the city, where the streets are shut down for pedestrians to stroll care-free, this industrial hotel is well worth the affordable $300 nightly price tag that includes breakfast and gorgeous views of the Acropolis off the large private patio in the Acropolis Loft suite. This is not a full-service hotel, although a staff member is on-site from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. to help in any capacity. For a budget hotel, this is an excellent choice.
pros: helpful staff, low rates, great location
cons: tiny elevator with manual doors (there are accessible stairs though)
Where to Eat:
You'll love a healthy lunch in this quaint taverna. Its menu has a huge selection of healthy choices like fresh-fruit smoothies, salads, and protein bowls along with more traditional Greek dishes.
pros: many healthy food options, including vegan and gluten-free
cons: no indoor space to take refuge from the heat although the patio is well shaded
must order: cheese croquettes with citrus chutney and salmon power bowl
When a local recommended this restaurant for a true culinary experience, we rushed to make a reservation. The chef creates insanely delicious Greek recipes with a divine twist. All senses are meant to be heightened and special attention is paid to not only the taste of each dish, but also the presentation of food, and the aromatic scents that emit from the unique combination of ingredients. Everything you order will be perfect but the dishes that stand out most are the green fava, onion, egg yolk, and truffle oil dish and the shrimp ceviche prepared with spicy corn and a cucumber-celery popsicle.
pros: the kitchen is willing to accommodate dietary restrictions, modern decor, and a spectacular menu
must order: The green fava dish, the shrimp ceviche, and the octopus
This family-run taverna is accurately well-reviewed. From the second you step foot in Bandiera you will be treated like you're a part of the family. The no-frill menu offers solid meals that feel like they've been prepared in your grandmother's kitchen.
pros: very friendly staff, solid traditional Greek food
must order: the baked cheese dish and savory mille-feuille
What to See/Do:
1- Walk through the Sceneic Neighborhood of Anafiotiika
Most tourists spend a decent amount of time strolling along Plaka. If you're like me and prefer discovering less crowded areas, you don't want to miss the scenic neighborhood of Anafiotiika. Get lost in the colorful alleys, enjoy the murals, and soak in the views.
2- Take a Tour of Acropolis Hill
No visit to Athens would be complete without a visit to Acropolis Hill to view the Acropolis and Pantheon. I suggest hiring a guide to talk you through the epic history behind these monuments. We hired Nota, from Tours by Locals, who was extremely knowledgeable and took great family photos. Our three-hour tour began at 5:00 p.m. allowing us to enjoy the cooler evening hours (many tourists also take an early morning journey up the hill for the same reason).
3- Walk Through Athens and Get Lost in the Sites & Sights
You'll effortlessly encounter historic artifacts everywhere you walk. Simply walking aimlessly will allow you to discover charming streets, ancient architecture, colorful storefronts, and stunning views. Sometimes it's best not to have a plan and see where the streets take you.
A trip to Europe's oldest capital, and the center of the first democracy, should be on every traveler's list. I do think that no more than two to three nights is necessary to grasp Athens's flavors which are mainly comprised of history, culture, and great food.