How to do Athens
We've got your flying visit to the Greek capital sorted, thanks to our guide on the ground, travel writer Jane Foster.Featured April 18 Words by Jane Foster
… IN A DAY
Start the day in true Athenian style with a good strong coffee, either Elliniko kafe (Greek coffee) or frappé (frothy iced coffee). Close to Monastiraki metro station (served by direct train to Athens airport), Tailor Made occupies a neoclassical building overlooking the lovely Agia Irinis Square and is one of the hippest cafés in town.
From here, walk through Plaka, an old-fashioned residential neighbourhood with car-free cobbled streets and lots of cafés, tavernas and souvenir shops, up to Athens' centrepiece, the Acropolis. It's on a rocky plateau rising above the modern city, crowned by magnificent temples, the best known being the 5th-century BC Parthenon, classical architecture's most influential building.
A 10-minute walk away is the ultra-modern Acropolis Museum, designed by Swiss starchitect Bernard Tschumi. It displays finds from the Acropolis site, with the top floor dedicated to a life-size reconstruction of the frieze that once decorated the Parthenon. Have lunch with an Acropolis view on the second floor, where the bar-restaurant serves contemporary Greek dishes on a big terrace.
When fully replenished, stroll through the National Garden to Syntagma Square, home to the Greek Parliament, originally built as the Royal Palace in 1843. Proceed to Kolonaki, Athens' most expensive neighbourhood, which is home to embassies and designer boutiques. From here, climb a twisty path to the peak of Mount Lykavittos (277m), for a spectacular view over the city, the surrounding mountains and the sea.
In the early evening, return to Monastiraki to visit TAF (The Art Foundation), set in a lovely 19th-century courtyard. Check out the current exhibitions, then order an aperitif at the open-air bar with chill-out music and subtle lighting.
Afterwards, catch a taxi to Funky Gourmet in Kerameikos. This is a real treat and you'll need to reserve in advance. It offers just one degustation menu of 10 courses showcasing creative Mediterranean cuisine, with delights such as sea urchin roe, fresh black truffles and langoustines - no wonder it's been awarded two Michelin stars.
… IN AN EVENING
Start with a glass of raki (a potent spirit) as an aperitif at Brettos in Plaka. This family-run distillery dates from 1909 and shelves lining the walls are stocked with back-lit coloured bottles, creating a lovely warm glow. From here it's just a 10-minute walk to Strofi in Makrigianni. With tables on a romantic roof terrace, it has a fabulous view of the majestic floodlit Acropolis and previous guests include legendary dancers Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn. Feast on authentic Greek dishes, such as lamb wrapped in vine leaves and stuffed with Gruyère cheese or sea bass fillet filled with mushroom and spinach. Round off the evening with a nightcap at The Clumsies near Syntagma Square, sixth on the World's 50 Best Bars 2017 list.
… IN AN HOUR
Walk the 4km pedestrian-only archaeological promenade skirting the Acropolis and see the magnificent Parthenon; the ruins of the Ancient Agora, where all of Athens congregated in ancient times; the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, a 2nd-century AD amphitheatre, and the ultra-modern Acropolis Museum. You'll pass plenty of cafés and eateries, should you need refuelling and you can start and finish this circular route at Monastiraki metro station for direct trains to Athens airport.
And, if you've got to work… open your laptop here
Near Thiseio metro station, this peaceful café with plenty of natural light serves speciality coffee as well as a delicious brunch, including eggs Benedict and pancakes.
This super-cool multipurpose space, 500m from Monastiraki metro station, has a café with ever-changing art installations. It's normally quiet in the afternoons, so it's ideal for working while absorbing Athens' contemporary cultural quirks.
A co-working space near Omonoia metro station housing workspaces and plenty of top-notch amenities for members, as well as a free one-day trial ticket if you're in town for a short time.