Can´t get enough of Athens
After my stay at the fabulous Kinsterna Hotel in the southern Peloponnese, I was keen to get a breath of city air. So I drove to Athens in just over three hours. I have already reported several times about my preference for the Greek capital. This time, too, I was not disappointed, even though I only spent two days in Athens.
What do I like about Athens? First of all, the location of the city, nestled between the mountains and the sea. Of course, the many witnesses from ancient times, such as the unmissable Acropolis Hill with the Parthenon Temple, with a romantic illumination in the evening, are an absolute highlight. But you will also find many modern things in the Greek capital - funky coffee shops, chic restaurants and lots of design. The many crises have made Athenians extremely creative - and fun-loving anyway. Even in economically less refreshing times, most places are full. Life is in full swing here! Not to forget the excellent museums, which I will touch on later.
The New Hotel Athens - design at its best
This time, I stayed in two boutique hotels of the YES Hotel group. The NEW Hotel in a great location (just a few minutes' walk from the famous Plaka and Syntagma Square, the heart of Athens) makes the hearts of design fans beat faster. Opened in 2011, this 5-star hotel got its name from the complete renovation of the former Olympic Palace Hotel. The owner Dakis Joannou - a great lover of art and design - wanted to integrate new ideas. They hired Fernando and Humberto Campana, two award-winning Brazilian designers, who directly set up a workshop with Greek architecture students. The result was a small masterpiece with lots of crazy ideas and contemporary art that partly reflects the culture of the favelas in Sao Paulo, but also that of Greece. What an exciting concept!
The designers reused old furniture from the former Olympic Palace Hotel was reused in creative artworks. A whole armada of old lamps adorns the entrance to the restaurant. But the absolute highlight of the NEW Hotel is the chic Art Lounge with roof terrace on the 7th floor, a meeting place of "tout Athens."
My tip: find out when the sun sets and take the lift up a few minutes early. You will enjoy a rooftop with an incredibly chilled-out atmosphere with lounge music and breathtaking views of the Acropolis and Lycabettus Hill, the highest point in Athens at 277 metres. In the Art Lounge, you can eat very well or celebrate the sunset with a delicious cocktail. What a start to the Athenian evening!
Breakfast is served in the already mentioned NEW TASTE restaurant on the ground floor. You can choose all kinds of delicacies from a rich menu; I opted for a "healthy breakfast" with boosters, fresh fruit, yogurt, and an egg-white omelet. Chic: the designer lamps and the furniture, some of which are very unusual.
Lots of design in my room
My room is also full of design objects. Incredibly chic are the wooden armchairs (though only lovely to look at, not sit on) and the matching floor lamp. In front of the balcony with a pretty view of a church is a chair with a ladder as a backrest. You have to come up with that idea first. On the wall hang several of the so-called "evil eyes" - a symbol against the evil or envious gaze from the Orient and is prevalent in Greece.
Gold rush and the best suite
A small gold rush awaits me in the chic bathroom with a shower cubicle - even the toilet paper holder is golden. Another tip: Book a room at the side or back of the building.
If you want something extraordinary, stay in the chic penthouse suite with a vast roof terrace.
You can work out in the hotel gym after your city tours or treat yourself to a massage in the small spa.
You will find cafés and restaurants of all kinds (and for every budget) near the NEW Hotel, and the famous Plaka is not far away. So you're right in the middle of the lively Athenian hustle and bustle.
The Periscope Boutique Hotel
I then had a look at another boutique hotel of the YES Hotel group, the friendly little Periscope, with a total of only 22 rooms in four types. It is located in the chic district of Kolonaki (see and be seen!), also just a few minutes walk from Syntagma Square. Lycabettus Hill is almost within reach. This hotel almost feels like a private home and is therefore very popular with many business travellers. "Our hospitality is noticeable here even between us employees," Nadia, the charming marketing manager of YES Hotel group, tells us. "Whenever I'm here, I'm immediately offered a coffee by my colleagues". I drink it in the small breakfast restaurant in the lounge. Guests can enjoy a small buffet with snacks and juices all day long. The highlight is an art installation under the ceiling. You can admire best while lying on one of the comfortable sofas.
Black and white photographs of Athens, some spectacular aerial shots, are displayed throughout the building. The Periscope is a small museum for modern art. I quickly take a look at the 65-square-meter penthouse suite on two floors and with lots of design. The highlight is the huge terrace with a private jacuzzi and, of course, the irresistible view of the Acropolis. I already know where I'll be staying next time I am in Athens.
With the Semiramis, there is a third house of the YES Hotel group in the Athens district of Kefalari, which I will also look at during my next visit to the Greek capital. "We are planning to open a luxury hotel on Santorini in spring 2022," Nadia tells me. Those are attractive prospects!
HOW TO GET TO ATHENS
There are direct flights from Berlin, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, and Munich, among others. I like to fly with the award-winning Aegean, a member of the Star Alliance. A taxi from the airport to downtown is about 38 EUR (as of October 2021). Alternatively, you can take a train or an inexpensive bus to Syntagma Square.
THE BEST TIME TO TRAVEL TO ATHENS
The months of June to August are too hot for a city trip with lots of sightseeing. Tip: Athens has a mild climate even in winter - ideal for lots of exploring!
OUT AND ABOUT IN ATHENS
I did most of my sightseeing on foot and discovered a lot. However, you can also use the comfortable metro, which was inaugurated back in 1869. It consists of three lines, also connecting the international airport with downtown. For more information, click here.
If you want to discover more of Greece, check out Fly Me to the Moon Travel. Here you'll find tailor-made packages to suit your needs, with lots of insider tips. If you wish to go to a beach after your city stay, I can recommend the dazzling island of Mykonos, have a look at my article.
TOP SIGHTS IN ATHENS
Acropolis - choose between a single-use ticket and a special ticket package. The combination ticket is especially worthwhile if you want to see other sights such as the ancient Agora. The ticket costs 20 euros per adult in summer (April to October) and half that in winter (June 2021). Tip: In summer, you should go to the Acropolis in the morning from 8 am or in the late afternoon, and it gets too hot at midday, and there are too many people.
Syntagma Square, the heart of the city
Home of the Greek Parliament, once a city palace and surrounded by a magnificent park that is freely accessible. Not far away is the Olympic Stadium, the 2004 Summer Games venue, and the famous shopping street Odos Ermou starts right at Syntagma Square.
The 277-metre-high Lycabettus Hill is the highest elevation in Athens. You can climb the hill on foot or by cable car, which runs every 30 minutes and costs €1.50 per ride.
The famous Plaka is the most historic quarter of Athens. A stroll through the romantic alleys with their cafés and boutiques right in the centre is not to be missed. Tip: Every Sunday, the Monastiraki flea market takes place in Plaka. There is a lot of junk here, but also art and antiques.
STAVROS NIARCHOS FOUNDATION CULTURAL CENTRE
An impressive public complex where everyone can take part in cultural and other activities and events. The complex includes the Greek National Opera, the National Library of Greece, and the Stavros Niarchos Park, one of the largest green spaces in the city. Ideal for a break after walking around the city centre. I particularly like the ultra-modern architecture of the building on the site - a great contrast to Athens's antiquities.
MUSEUMS IN ATHENS
Suppose you are curious after your first tour of history-rich Athens and would like to learn more about Greek antiquity. In that case, you should visit the National Archaeological Museum. The museum tells you about the various cultures developed in Greece over time and includes the most important exhibits from Greek antiquity. The city has quite a few excellent museums. Highlights are certainly the Acropolis Museum and - my favourite - the recently reopened National Gallery.
Where to sleep in Athens
16, Filellinon Str. & 1, Navarchou Nikodimou Str. 10557 Syntagma sq. Athens
T: +30 210 3273000
F: +30 210 3273100
22, Haritos Str., 10675 Kolonaki, Athens
T: +30 210 7297200
F: +30 210 7297206
48, Charilaou Trikoupi Str., 14562 Kefalari, Kifisia, Athens
T: +30 210 6284400
F: +30 210 6284499
Tips from a Local
Queen Bee - A lovely cozy place in the elegant neighborhood of Kolonaki in central Athens, with delicious snacks and pastries.
Vezené - New York style bistro with Greek inspired dishes.
Dopios - New age tavern where guest can enjoy local cuisine with a modern twist.
Aesthet - Shopping spot with Greece’s top designer brands - fashion, jewelry, bags and gifts. The store is in the heart of Athens. Aesthet have also an outlet on the island of Mykonos.
Tip for an excursion:
Limni Vouliagmenis, in the southern suburbs of Athens, is a natural thermal spa in a lovely natural environment with the water temperature ranging between 22 to 29⁰C all year long. (Note: I was there in 2018 and really enjoyed it).