Last October I went to Athens on a business trip. Since I never visited this historic city before, I stayed one more day to do some sightseeing. My mom and sister were easy to convince to accompany me.
Where to stay and where to eat?
Greek hotels tend to be of lesser quality than other European hotels, so we booked one of the five star hotels called New Hotel. The hotel was renovated two years ago and is part of the Design Hotels of the World. The design was really extraordinary with gold sinks and lots of recycled wood.
On the top floor is a restaurant/bar overlooking the Acropolis. The seafood pasta here is indeed very tasty.
Our Greek hosts took us out to dinner to Fridays, a chain with several restaurants in town. They have an extensive menu from typical Greek to Mexican to Asian. The buffalo burger made from locally grown beef is definitely recommended. However, look elsewhere for a romantic night because the music is pretty loud here.
Sightseeing in Athens
Perfectly located, the New Hotel sits 200 m from Syntagma Square (the largest square in Athens) and within walking distance of the Plaka and Kolonaki.
Syntagma Square is home to Greece’s parliament. The changing of the guard is a must see, but there isn’t much else to see here. Opposite the parliament starts the pedestrian shopping street of Ermou. Here you will find all the famous brands and some nice Greek boutiques.
If you stand in front of the parliament (looking at it)and turn left, you walk in the Kolonaki district. This is the hippest and most expensive area of Athens. Tsakalof used to be one of the fanciest streets of the city. It has lost a bit of its glory, but is still worth a look. On the other hand, Shoppingmal Attica is well worth a visit.
Near Syntagma Square you'll find the National Garden where it is nice to take a stroll and escape the crowds.
200 meters behind New Hotel you walk straight into the Plaka. This tourist area is full of souvenir shops, cafes and restaurants. Usually these are not the best restaurants, but it is a nice area to explore in the evening.
Throughout the city you can find numerous terraces to enjoy a coffee or a cocktail. Be sure to take a side street and discover the most charming locations of Athens.
Taxis are not expensive in Athens, but for 4 euros you can buy a 24-hour card for public transport.
Obviously you need to soak up some culture in a city with a history like Athens. Since we had only one day, we chose the Acropolis. On this 156-meter-high table mountain are the remnants of several historical buildings. The most famous is, of course, the Parthenon (a large part is unfortunately under construction). The Acropolis of Athens is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. To the left of the ticket office you can climb a rock. From this place you have a wonderful view of the city.
The Hadrian's Gate is a marble gate built in 132 AD. This port was the passage between the old and the new part of Athens.
The Temple of Zeus is the largest temple in Greece and a place where gods have been worshipped since prehistoric times.
Of course, Athens has much more to offer, but, as mentioned earlier, our time was limited and we had to stick to the highlights.
You could not close your eyes to the serious economic crisis in Greece. We saw a lot of empty shops and many beggars around the city. The Greeks hope the elections in 2017 will revive the economy.
After a few days in Athens, you might consider a few days on the beach on one of the beautiful islands. Consider Mykonos!