Ancient Athens still hot
Ancient ruins, cool bars and stylish shops await, writes Chris Leadbeater.
Summer lingers in Athens, which basks in a glow of 20C as October slips into November.
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).
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.
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.
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).
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).
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.
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.