City Guide: Athens

In just the last six years since we got married, we’ve been fortunate to travel to 10 countries across three continents. We’ve managed to fit in a few domestic travels too, to places like Portland, Cape Cod and the Hudson Valley, among others. I often get asked by friends and acquaintances for tips—Cape Town, Barcelona, Bangkok and Cartagena being the most popular requests—and I’ve loooong been meaning to pony up my favorite places to stay, eat and see into abbreviated city guides right here.

By no means will these “guides” be all-inclusive, as I’m simply a visitor and not a local expert. The quantity of recommendations will vary depending on whether we spent 5 days or just 24 hours in a place. And to be clear—to me, traveling is not so much a checklist of attractions but rather an exploration of a different culture. It’s discovering the pace of the people, walking around neighborhoods and venturing down alleys, exploring markets, using public transportation, tasting traditional cuisine at great restaurants (preferably recommended by a local), even just sitting at a café to simply watch life somewhere else. And then, yes of course, snapping some photos and seeing the “big attractions” along the way.

So think of these guides as my pocket-sized tidbits—a quick reference for the important highlights but also a few not-to-miss restaurants, stylish places to stay, how to get around, and what to wear. Let’s kick off with Athens today.

IN THREE WORDS: ancient, gritty, modern

WHERE TO STAY: Fresh Hotel for urban simiplicty, Hotel Grande Bretagne for opulence

MUST SEES: the Acropolis, new Acropolis Museum, Plaka, Central Market

DON’T LEAVE WITHOUT: watching sunset from the top of Lycabettus Hill

WHERE TO EAT: Dionysos Zonar’s for an unbeatable nighttime view below the Acropolis or Orizontes for romantic, sweeping city views from Lycabettus Hill

FOOD TO TRY: classic Greek food (horiatiki salata, moussaka, pastitsio, souvlaki)

BEST PLACE FOR A DRINK: the rooftop terrace at the Hotel Grand Bretagne or the Hilton’s Galaxy Bar

HOW TO GET AROUND: by foot around Plaka and the Acropolis, taxi for exploring farther

GOOD TO KNOW: you can easily see the sights in just one day, then head to the islands for R&R

WHAT TO PACK: breathable city wear, comfortable flat sandals, sunglasses

WHAT TO BRING HOME: an evil eye to ward off bad spirits, Greek olive oil

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