weekend away - Athens
Written by Antoní Loza
Olympic host 1896 & 2004
As the gateway to hundreds of idyllic Greek islands, Athens is a vibrant, picturesque capital city with impeccably preserved ruins, neoclassical architecture, and a glorious Olympic past.
Athens is bordered by green-specked mountains and the azure waters of the Aegean Sea, and it allows visitors to stroll through world-renowned archaeological sites and museums, as well as enjoy some great shopping, the arts, and a few excellent meals.
Discovered in 1870 during an excavation, the old Olympic Stadium dates back to circa 329 BC; the current structure was home to the first modern-day Olympiads in 1896 and is an impressive testament to how vital sporting has been to both past and present Hellenic society.
Athens’ iconic Parthenon is perched on the Acropolis, and you cannot visit Greece’s capital without soaking in the magnificence of this UNESCO World Heritage Site and its breathtaking 360˚ views of the city.
Below the Acropolis are Plaka and Monastiraki: ancient neighbourhoods where you can find anything from fine antiques and kitschy souvenirs to some fun cafés and eateries.
Do not miss Kolonaki, the trendy, upscale neighbourhood packed with designer boutiques, coffee shops, and restaurants. For the best coffee in town, get an outside table at Da Capo (1 Tsakalof Street) and enjoy watching Athenians go about their daily routines.
The nearby Museum of Cycladic Art houses the most exquisite collection of artefacts from ancient Aegean cultures, with special emphasis on figurines of the 3rd millennium BC. Its gift shop has beautiful, unique jewellery that will make a perfect present.
For a theatrical or dance performance, see what the Badminton Theater has to offer. The theatre was the badminton arena during the 2004 Olympiad and was creatively converted into a state-of-the-art venue for the performing arts in 2007.
The five-star Hilton Athens is centrally located and offers wonderful amenities as well as spectacular views of the Acropolis from its popular rooftop restaurant and lounge, Galaxy. Of note is Milos, the Michelin-starred restaurant that serves classic Greek fare with a more contemporary twist.
Single room rates start at approximately 220 euros.
If you want to venture out of the city for a half-day and explore other impressive ruins, your concierge can arrange for transport to nearby Cape Sounion, Corinth, Delphi, or the island of Aegina. For an Olympic experience, venture to Marathon (starting point of the 1896 and 2004 Olympic marathon) to see the Athenian Tumulus, an ancient monument erected to commemorate the fallen Athenian men who fought and defeated the Persians in the epic Battle of Marathon in 490 BC.