An­cient Athens still hot

An­cient ru­ins, cool bars and stylish shops await, writes Chris Lead­beater.

Sunday Star-Times - Escape - - FRONT PAGE -

Sum­mer lingers in Athens, which basks in a glow of 20C as Oc­to­ber slips into Novem­ber.

Stay here

A five-star peer­ing over Syn­tagma Square, the King Ge­orge has dou­bles for around $365, room only. To the north east, St Ge­orge Ly­ca­bet­tus has fine vis­tas of its own from Ly­ca­bet­tus Hill. Dou­bles from $204, room only (kingge­orge athens.com).

Walk here

Syn­tagma Square is one of Athens’ hubs – a broad space at whose east end the Greek Par­lia­ment stands. Take a stroll along Mitropoleos and you pass the Metropoli­tan Cathe­dral, a mar­ble joy fin­ished in 1862. Fur­ther west­ward foot­steps will bring you to Mona­s­ti­raki Square, where a turn south on to Areos will prof­fer Hadrian’s Li­brary, a second-cen­tury AD rem­nant of an­cient Rome.

See this

The Acrop­o­lis (odysseus.cul­ture.gr) is an ob­vi­ous but un­miss­able part of Athens, crowned by that ma­jes­tic fifth cen­tury BC tem­ple the Parthenon. The ad­ja­cent Acrop­o­lis Mu­seum (theacrop­olis­mu­seum.gr) mourns the El­gin Mar­bles with great repli­cas.

Try this

Af­ter 19 years in ges­ta­tion, the Na­tional Mu­seum of Con­tem­po­rary Art fi­nally opened in Novem­ber of last year. Its lat­est ex­hi­bi­tion – of mod­ernist sculp­ture and paint­ing from the Na­tional Art Mu­seum of China in Bei­jing – is in situ un­til Novem­ber 14 (emst.gr).

Shop here

Athens shows its flair for de­sign at Mikos (mikos.gr) on Mitropoleos, which rev­els in funky so­fas and cush­ions. To the north­east of Syn­tagma Square, Kolon­aki is a hub of chic stores like Box Ar­chi­tects (boxar­chi­tects.gr).

Drink here

Taf (theart­foun­da­tion.meta­matic.gr) is a hip wa­ter­ing hole in Mona­s­ti­raki, with art in­stal­la­tions in ru­ined rooms, and beers for 3 eu­ros (NZ$5). Mean­while, Kolokotroni is dot­ted with some of the city’s best drink­ing venues – not least The Bank Job (12) (the­bankjob.gr), which pours cock­tails from 6 eu­ros in, yes, a for­mer bank.

Eat here

Thissio and Psiri have the mother lode of Athe­nian restau­rants. The for­mer has The Sowl (the­sowl.com) – Latin fare such as shrimp tacos with gua­camole for 5.50 eu­ros. The lat­ter has Gostijo (gostijo.gr), a Greek-kosher op­tion whose sti­fado (beef casse­role) is 15 eu­ros.

Off the map

Take Line 1 of the Athens Metro (stasy.gr) from Mona­s­ti­raki Square to the ter­mi­nus at Pi­raeus – the port district that is in­trin­sic to Athens’s econ­omy.

See the cruise ships from a bar such as El Chapo (elchapo.gr).

Athens’ an­cient Parthenon, a preChris­tian tem­ple of the city’s pa­tron god­dess, Athena, is still a tourist mecca.

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