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The Athens City Guide

Ancient history + feta cheese = the perfect long weekend

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The idea of jetting off somewhere warm as the cold weather closes in on us is a new one to me. When I was younger my family were very much into U.K family holidays, hunkering down in a tent, as the rain seeped through the groundsheet and the wind angrily slapped the sides. My sister and I became pros at Connect Four and I’m pretty sure that my Dad taught us both the rules of poker at the grand age of 12 as my Mum rolled her eyes and cooked up a camp stew (a.k.a everything that is tinned, into a pot, served heated up). So for me, getting sun on my bones at anytime of the year is a real treat; let alone a three night and four day trip to Athens where the thermometer ticked up to almost 30℃ every day we were there, back in late October. Not only was the weather spot on, there is SO. MUCH. TO. SEE. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever walked so many steps in one day (22,000 is definitely a record for me). There was no need for me to crack out my card game knowledge as we pounded the pavements soaking up the history and refuelling with the odd wedge of feta. So if you fancy a visit full of culture, cheese and some autumnal rays – here’s my Athens city guide…

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How To Get Around

You know me. I’m not exactly wild about air travel (I’m the one who’s gripping onto my chair during turbulence, looking around and wondering why everyone else looks so darn calm), however we flew with Aegean Airlines and the leg-room was so spacious that I spent the flight kicking my legs around just because I could. Plenty of room and I didn’t feel like a sardine.

Taxis seem like the best way to get from the airport to the city; with a short 30 minute journey costing us around €35. Although during our city stint the only time we used transport at all was to get to and from the airport. The rest of the time we walked – no metro, no taxis, no buses! Just lots of blister plasters. Everything in the centre of town was all within 30 minute walking distance, so just make sure you don’t do as I did and bring some comfy trainers with you.

Accommodation-wise, the lovely guys at Discover Greece hooked us up with a room in the Hotel Grande Bretagne, which was stunning. Our tour guide told us that all the celebs stay there when they’re in town and as we left there were paparazzi lining up outside – ‘I’m ready for my close-up!“. I’m pretty sure the Airbnb scene out there is banging as we passed lots of cute apartments on our wanders. However, even if you do go down that route, head up to the top floor of the Hotel GB for either the breakfast if you can because the spread was insane, or an afternoon drink; the view over the city and the Acropolis is B.E.A.Utiful.

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Where To Eat

On the plane ride over I realised that after Italian, Greek food is my favourite genre to chow down on. The feta! The feta and spinach pitas! The feta wrapped in filo dipped in honey and sprinkled with sesame seeds! You get the gist. So it’s fair to say that my jeans felt a little more snug on the way home. One way to make sure that you don’t miss any stops on the culinary experience is to book in for a tour, which I’d never actually done before, but boy would I do it again if I was visiting somewhere new. Nicoletta from Athens Urban Adventures took us on the Taste of Athens tour (we did their Bohemian Tales of the City tour too) and we ate a bit of everything; from a stop to the local health food producer – Yoleni’s – to trying traditional Greek coffee, which put hairs on my chest.

Brunch-wise Zanna and I visited Estrella which was recommended by the bucketload when I mentioned that I was visiting. You see those Red Velvet Pancakes? Need I say anymore? For lunch we tended to pick on local street-food, or Lukumades, which are small circular doughnuts dished out by their namesake café. As Zanna is a veggie, we headed to Mama Tierra, Avocado and Nice n Easy for dinner and all three get a thumbs up from me. The one thing I would say is that all the food and drink we had were reasonably priced. We barely paid more than the equivalent of £15 for a shared starter, main meal, drinks and dessert each.

Despite us both being Grandmas when it comes to going out in the evening, we signed up to do an Athens Nightlife Tour with Athens Insiders. Our guide George was a good sport and took Zanna and I around the best bars in the centre, which included Baba au Rum and Six Dogs (the latter was super vibe-y and made me feel all cool like we were in a film). We even stayed up till midnight. SHOCKER.

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Where To Explore

Where to start, eh? On the first day we tackled the Acropolis; visiting the museum, walking up the site and taking a look at the Parthenon all with our guide Nikos who did the whole thing in a blazer whilst Zanna and I melted in the afternoon heat. What a trooper. There’s so much knowledge to get knee deep into there, so I’d recommend splashing out on a guide to take you around to fully swot up. Plus Nikos did a great job of telling us where else was worth a visit during our long weekend to get the most out of it.

We passed so many archaeological sites and ruins during our wanders around on foot, so I’d definitely recommend just getting a bit lost and seeing where you end up. We did that one morning and ended up in the backstreets of Anafiotika; an area of town which had some serious island flavour and where a lot of these pictures were taken. It was seriously stunning for the views (it’s tucked just to the side of the Acropolis), the white-washed buildings and narrow paths.

On our final day we hiked up Mount Lycabettus. It looked pretty daunting from the bottom, but it’s a gradual winding path that actually didn’t take too long to get to the top. Of course you get some stunning views (and there’s even a restaurant up there if you feel peckish). We also wandered around the National Gardens, Plaka, Monastiraki, Kolonaki and the flea market, all of which I’d recommend covering between ice cream stops. See what I mean about the comfy shoes, eh?

Photos by yours truly & edited by Lauren Shipley

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