An insider’s guide to Athens
The birthplace of the modern world, Athens has a rightful spot on every travel enthusiast's bucket list as a destination rife with classical history. But Athens is also reinventing itself for the 21st Century as a lively city where creativity and artistry permeates everything from its dishes and drinks to its shopping and hotels.
Down the road from the Acropolis, AthensWas is a sleek boutique hotel approved by the Mr and Mrs Smith collection. Contemporary design accents are made with marble and walnut wood, complemented with chic 20th Century furniture by designers like Le Corbusier and Eileen Gray. Each of the 21 rooms feature private balconies, along with vaguely 60s-inspired motifs, avant-garde artwork that plays with classical Greek themes, and marble bathrooms stocked with Korres amenities. Upstairs, the rooftop SENSE Fine Dining Restaurant, dishes up exquisite modern Greek cuisine along with unparalleled views of the Acropolis. Enjoy a lazy start to the day with cooked-to-order breakfasts delivered to your room or served at the ground-floor Marble restaurant.
Tucked away in downtown Athens, Aiolou 68 is an elegant, Cyclades-inspired space masterminded by chefs Vasilis Akrivos and Angelos Frantzis, and oenologist Giorgos Tarnaris. The menu puts fish front and centre, all perfectly paired with a carefully curated wine list. Opt for the inventive surf-and-turf dishes like liver with prawns, lobster on ribeyes, or beef tataki and tuna.
Probably the most iconic fish taverna in Athens, Dourabeis has been serving up the best of the sea since 1932. No doubt that's why the Pireaus-landmark eatery is an eternal favourite among politicians, celebrities and the jet-set. Perfectly-cooked fish is the classic here, and goes well with the Greek-fronted wine list. In tune with modern culinary trends, the menu features creative plates like red mullet ceviche and langoustine sashimi.
At the swanky Funky Gourmet, Greek dishes are given a molecular makeover. In the heart of historic Athens, the Michelin-starred restaurant features a conservatory-styled dining room within a neoclassical building. The food's equally stylish, with degustation menus offering dishes like Greek botargo tartlets with white chocolate and greek salads presented as a snow-white granite.
A quality champagne experience, Warehouse CO2, is a must-visit for fans of the bubbly stuff. In the Exarchia district, the bar is stocked with the best sparkling wines from all over the world, including vintage labels and magnum bottles. There are still wines too, along with a menu of alcohol-absorbing dishes like beef carpaccio with black truffle, and burrata with roe.
The Art Foundation (TAF)
A fully-loaded creative experience in Monastiraki, The Art Foundation (TAF) combines modern art with avant-garde drinks. A ramshackle 19th Century building hosts eclectic exhibitions, while the central courtyard garden is a chilled-out bar with easy-listening tunes and dim lighting.
Named one of the World's 50 Best Bars in 2016, The Clumsies, is a high-end bar where quality cocktails are just the beginning. In a restored neoclassical building, the bar offers up cocktail degustation menus for connoisseurs, along with the expected beers, wines and spirits. On weekends, the bar is also a popular spot for quality brunch and coffee.
The Poet Sandalmaker
Cute leather sandals abound in Athens, but skip the cheap takes sold at every souvenir shop and take home a pair from The Poet Sandalmaker in Psiri. Since 1954, Stavros Melissinos — and now his son, Pantelis — have been crafting high-quality sandals by hand. Former customers included The Beatles, so you know this is the good stuff.
You'll find cult Greek skincare line Korres at most pharmacies, but there's nothing like picking up them up at the original store in Pangrati. Scented with herbs and sporting quirky Greek writing on the packaging, the lush products feature everything from suncare and fragrances to apothecary prescriptions and yes, rich skin products.
A tiny boutique hidden in the busy flea market in Monastiraki, Speira specialises in handmade jewellery. Given its location, the store does make concessions to tourists with cheaper, mass-produced basics. But you're here for the handmade Greek-inspired pieces wrought in silver and gold-plating. Pick up some of the gorgeous vine leaf designs, or take home a bit of Greek mythology with their Phaistos Disc line.
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