Express Guide: 48-Hours in Athens, GreeceBy Lallie Fraser
Ariana Grande sang ‘God is a woman’, Athens really is, named after the goddess Athena, the feminine deity of wisdom with one of the richest histories in Europe. She’s had a hard time over the last few years, marked by the economic crisis in 2014. Industry has been stifled and austerity measures have had to prevail, however, in the wake of hard times…Creativity has blossomed and artistic endeavours are showcased and celebrated in a sort of collective urban movement that is propelling Athens into its next era.Click To Tweet
Now, Athens is a city proud of its ancient and frankly dazzling history and bouncing into a modern and innovative future with shining stars leading the way. Here’s our guide to the best things to do in Athens (and eat, of course):
Express Guide: Best Things to Do in Athens
Two years ago, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation opened this multi-million pound cultural hub, housing the Greek National Opera and National Library, home to over two million books. The building itself is a work of art, inspired by the shipping heritage of its founding family, like a ship on its way out of the city. Each day, there is a varied cultural programme, from yoga and tai chi in its immaculate gardens, to opera and ballet in the evening. Local Athenians of all ages hang out here at the weekend, making the vibe eclectic and dynamic. Head up to the Lighthouse for a dark hot chocolate with chilli and ginger and some of the best views of Athens.
A must-do for history junkies and to find out more about the fascinating foundations of this ancient city. It is a five-minute walk from the actual Acropolis.
The Parthenon is the ancient temple which sits on Acropolis, the name of the hill where it is located. *Thousands of years old, retrace the footsteps of the gods in one of the world’s most iconic heritage spots.
Express Guide: Best Things to Eat & Drink in Athens
New hipster hotspot, this new restaurant and gin joint serves up imaginative dishes that look as good as they taste. The gin cocktails are a winner too.
Continuously voted in the Top 10 World’s Best Bars, it is easy to see why with an enormous collection of hundreds of bottles that blend up some of the city’s best libations.
Get to know a city through its culinary history and understand the importance of that with a local that lives and breathes the best places. There are several different tours every day – we took the Culinary Secrets of Downtown Athens where stops include the only dairy still in Athens, tasting proper Greek yogurt dripping in honey, a hole in the wall in the Municipal Meat Market that serves up generations old lamp patty recipes alongside a small sipping shot of tsipouros to a humble looking souvlaki joint serving the best souvlaki I’ve ever tried. Learn why proper Greek coffee is warmed over hot sand and where the best off-the-beaten track places to imbibe are.
One of the city’s most hotly anticipated openings, its whole concept and design has been inspired by Federico Fellini’s movie 8 ½, which dictates surreal interpretations of traditional Greek dishes from a re-imagined moussaka to Greek salad risotto (it really works). Original artwork has been commissioned by local artist Olga Goulandris and the music is pretty cool too.
Don’t tell too many people – this is where the locals go in Plaka, the area the Acropolis is in, which is also filled with over-priced tourist traps. A small collection of restaurants sit side by side on a busy stairwell that goes down back into the city. Kitsch and gorgeous, local tarts and salads are served up. Take an outside seat to watch the world go by.
Express Guide: Best Places to Shop in Athens
Local fashion designers create one constant line and bring out a rotation of one off items throughout the year too. Named after the owners two respective dogs, AM also has a collection of dog scarves, of which the proceeds go the protection of the local stray dogs. Woof.
Monastiraki Flea Market
A sprawling labyrinth of shops that varies from tourist tat to leather goods….make sure to muscle your way through to the actual flea market where bargains are to be had from glass lamps to paintings and vintage clothes.
Korres Natural Products
This Greek beauty brand uses Greek ingredients in its deliciously nourishing products. Head to the flagship store on Ermou for much better priced items than you would find out of the country.
The compact high street which has all the high street brands and some good local ones too
Express Guide: Best Places to Stay in Athens
The only five-star hotel with such close access to the Acropolis, this divinely decorated hotel is decked out in marble, has a serene pool area and some of the best views of the Acropolis, It even has a display of its own ancient ruins which were discovered when it was being constructed. In the summer, take to the rooftop restaurant, Secret (open from May – October) to soak in the atmosphere and even enjoy the music riding in the air from the annual Athens & Epidaurus festival that takes place across the summer months. If you have time, spend a spa day at Divani Apollon Spa & Thalasso on the Athens Riviera. It houses one of the biggest spas in Europe and Greece’s biggest thalassotherapy. Spend the afternoon soaking in its healing waters and come out feeling like Athena herself.
Express Guide: How to Get There
Aegean and Easyjet run regular flights from the UK to Athens daily starting from £100.