Recently I visited Athens, the beautiful and edgy capital of Greece.  The city is known for being the “cradle of modern civilisation” and the birthplace of democracy, theatre, arts, competitive sport, and many other cultural highlights. Athens is a hotpot of Antiquity and Byzantine history, boasting architectural highlights from Greco-Roman and Neoclassical to modern day. If you prefer a combination of impressive historical sights, a bit of soul searching and a city full of buzz, then Athens is your place to visit in 2016.

What to see in Athens

Classical era oozes though the city’s walls and streets, anchored by an overwhelming number of ancient monuments and works of art. No wonder Athens is a global centre for archeological research. The city was first inhabited 7000 years ago and is now home to two UNESCO World Heritage sites. One of them is the magnificent Acropolis of Athens, also known as Parthenon. It stands high above the city, with breathtaking views over the whole of Athens, and the place when modern politics and western democracy was born. And then there is the Daphni Monastery, the Olympic Stadium and a huge number of museums to visit.

If you only have one day for sightseeing, I would recommend climbing the Acropolis to see Parthenon, heading to see the ancient Olympic Stadium (which at the time hosted up to 60,000 spectators!) and finding the time to visit at least one museum. The National Archaeological Museum contains antique artifacts that date back 5000 years and another popular place to visit is The New Acropolis Museum, an impressive modern construction at the foot of the Acropolis Hill.

Once you’ve had your dose of sightseeing, I would go walking the streets of Plaka, a district which is located just beneath the Acrolopis. Plaka is full of buzz, small little streets, craft shops, taverns, restaurants, cafes, bars, and live music. Over lunch, you’ll get a chance to try out some local specialties, haggle with a local street salesmen, and listen to some Greek music.

If you are in Athens on Sunday, I would highly recommend going to the parliament building to watch the changing of guards. Although popular with tourists (so be prepared to fight for a good viewing spot), it is one of those things that needs to be ticked off the sightseeing list if you are in the capital.

Where to stay

If you are not on a budget, I would recommend staying at the Grande Bretagne, part of the Starwood Luxury Collection of Hotels. We booked a Deluxe Suite, but their Deluxe Rooms are just as nice. The hotel is super luxurious, service is immaculate, breakfast is amazing and really, I couldn’t fault the hotel in any way, even though I am usually very picky. If you want to spend the afternoon like the English aristocracy, then you can enjoy a high afternoon tea at hotel’s beautiful Winter Garden.

Winter Garden at Grande Bretagne

Winter Garden at Grande Bretagne

Breakfast is served at their Roof Garden Restaurant which has incredible views over the Acropolis. If you are staying for longer than a day and want to have some time to yourself, then you could get all the pampering you need at the hotel’s luxury Spa.

Going out

We arrived in Athens on Friday night and headed to Orizontes Lycavittou, a restaurant situated on the hill of Lycabettus. This is the highest point in Athens, with breathtaking views over the city.  The place is popular with tourists so book in advance. The food is of good standard, but you are really going there for the view.

The next day, we headed to Spondi Restaurant, one of the oldest Michelin star restaurants in Athens. Voted in 2013 by “Restaurant Magazine” as the 97th best restaurant in the world, Spondi is a place to savor French delicious cuisine, prepared with carefully selected local produce. With stone walls, and dimmed candles, this restaurant offers a truly romantic setting, immaculate service and a culinary delights to remember.

Spondi Restaurant, Athens

Spondi Restaurant, Athens

Athens wakes up late at night, with music filling various bars and venues into the early hours of the morning.  If you enjoy live music and want to experience some local bouzouki, head downtown to the Estate Club and enjoy some local music bands, which boast fantastic voices and an amazing repertoire of local and international songs.