Insider's Guide to Athens

27 May 2014

Greece has many fond memories for me.  My parents migrated from Greece to South Africa when they were young. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to go back to Greece every European summer to reconnect with relatives and keep the culture alive. I'm grateful to my parents for giving my sister and I this opportunity. It's probably where my love for travel began. And how lucky am I to have roots from a country that is so rich in culture and history!

The best place to get a feel for Greece is the capital city of Athens. For your first visit I recommend a 2-3 day stay. The most convenient area to stay in would be Syntagma which is the heart of the city centre. Ancient Ruins in GreeceThis is the focal point of the city with many archaeological and historic sites.

Your stay in Athens should be split in two categories: day and night.

What to Do in Athens During the Day

During the day you should arrange to see the classic sites of Athens:  the Parthenon, the Acropolis and the Acropolis museum, the ancient Panathenaic stadium (the only one in the world to be built entirely of marble) and perhaps a trip to Lykavitos to get a fantastic view of the city.

The afternoon can be spent wandering around the central city close to the tourist sites. Start in Syntagma Square where you can see the changing of the guards in front of the parliament building. Ermou Street is great for open air high street shopping or simply enjoy a refreshing Frappe or Fredo at one of the many cafés. If you are shopping for souvenirs go to Monestiraki and Plaka for wonderful Greek arts, crafts and memorabilia.

After all that walking around you are sure to have built up an appetite. Greek cuisine is not praised for nothing! Grab a gyro or souvlaki in pita at one of the taverns with a traditional Greek salad at a fairly reasonable price for such a filling meal! One of the most popular restaurants with tourists and locals alike is the O Thanassis in Plaka.

Much like our lifestyle here, everything in Greece starts a lot later. Greeks enjoy the good life and having a siesta before the night’s activities is a must. After your siesta find a roof top bar to watch the sunset and experience the start of the Greek nightlife. A great roof top bar with an amazing view of the Acropolis is at the A for Athens Hotel rooftop bar!

What to Do in Athens During the Night

Well, what do you fancy? Music, arts, culture, food...perhaps a bit of dance and live entertainment? The choices are endless in this ancient city...

There is always something happening every night: local theatre productions, music concerts, classical and symphonic orchestra shows. The August full moon concert at the Acropolis amphitheatre is a must! Ask your hotel concierge to arrange tickets for you.

If it's food and live entertainment you are after take a walk through Plaka and Thesio at night. The area is littered with many wonderful Greek taverns serving delicious Greek food along with live bands to boot. Greece is famous for its seafood, so you should try to visit to Mikrolimano (the old small harbour) where there are many seafood taverns all serving amazing Mediterranean fare in a beautiful setting.

And this is just a taste of what Athens alone has in store for you, you still then have to get to the islands and the rest of the mainland to experience why the ancient Greeks needed as many as 12 gods to protect this beautiful and enchanting country!