I first visited Athens when I was 15, and in the midst of the nation’s financial crisis, the hellenic capital seemed grey, gloomy and not nearly exciting enough to be the home of Socrates or hedonism. However, I visited again this year and my perception completely changed. The city was so vibrant, colourful and young. Filled with creative restaurants, new lively bars and amazing street art, it definitely captured my imagination and heart. Less busy and far cheaper than the classic weekend getaways such as Rome, Barcelona and Paris, I would definitely recommend it as either a romantic weekend away or a fun-fuelled escape.
Although Athens conjures up images of Ancient Greek antics, most of the city is very modern and built after the birth of the young Greek nation. Aside from the looming acropolis and occasional homoerotic statue, there are few traces of ancient Greece, and the modern culture is far more prevalent and exciting than its ancestral cousin.
Go to Athens not for the history, as there are far superior places in Greece to immerse yourself in the world of the ancients, but for the food, the art and the fun. Live in the present and explore modern galleries, eat the best of Greek cuisine, and pay homage to Dionysus at one of Athens’ many rooftop bars. Stay away from tourists in the lively student area of Kerameiko, where the best bars, kookiest coffee shops and most innovative restaurants are found. Here you can really relax and enjoy the laid-back Athenian lifestyle.
Where to Stay:
-The House, Kerameiko is a boutique hotel aimed at travellers who appreciate a like-minded community. Perfect for young couples, the location is good and the interior is definitely inspired. I particularly loved the tree inspired showers.
-Quinta, Neapoli was created by three Athenian students who converted a retro town house into a hostel and guest house. Located in an area known for political protests, street art, lively tavernas and delicious street food.
Where to Eat:
-Seychelles, Kerameiko is my favourite restaurant in the Capital. Away from the usual tourist route, the food is as attractive as it is appetising, as the menu changes to reflect seasonal produce, and the atmosphere is hedonistic and sultry.
-Tzitzikas & Mermigas, Syntagma is a classic Athenian haunt. Always busy and usually filled with politicians, local artists, international tourists, well-heeled Athenians of all ages and naturally, great food and wine. Located near to the tourist hot-spots, but definitely not a tourist trap.
Where to Drink:
-Couleur Locale is my favourite bar in Athens. The rooftop has stunning view of the Acropolis, great music, and is usually packed with young and fun locals. Their Paloma cocktails are incredible.
-GB Roof Garden, Grande Bretagne Hotel, Syntagma Square. A decadent rooftop garden atop of Athens' finest hotel, this rooftop bar is anything from lowkey, but drinking a glass of champagne up here whilst gazing across at the Acropolis is simply a must in Athens.