DestinationsWith its hip beds, contemporary cuisine and sleek bars, travel agents should suggest clients make time for a stay in this ancient city.

Because Athens packs a lot more than history

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The ancient Acropolis is a must-visit attraction in Athens.
The ancient Acropolis is a must-visit attraction in Athens. Photo Credit: GettyImages/SHansche

Athens is a city with thousands of years of documented history. But, as it’s located on Greece’s mainland, the destination may get overlooked by those in search of an idyllic island getaway.

So, why suggest that clients make time for a stay there?

For one thing, most travellers must stop over in Athens’ airport anyway as part of many routes to get to the Greek islands. More importantly, however, it is a place rich in history, culture and art, something I discovered while on my way to my own picturesque island escape to Chios, and it allowed me the opportunity to explore both the old and the new.

Where to sleep: The Modernist Athens

An Extra Large guestroom at The Modernist Athens.
An Extra Large guestroom at The Modernist Athens.

The past, present and future are all on display at The Modernist Athens, a hotel located in the upscale Kolonaki neighbourhood. Opened in 2021 in the former Canadian Embassy building, it is the second Modernist Hotel and a sister property of Ergon House.

Guestrooms and common areas feature thoughtful touches throughout the hotel, complemented by work from local designers and artists. Rooms are categorised by size, and available in Small, Medium, Large and Extra Large options. If your clients require more space, a family room can be created by combining a large and a small room — perfect for five people.

Each room also includes a collection of curated books and art, as well as record players and Polaroid cameras to document the visit.

I stayed in one of the top floor’s Extra Large rooms, which not only had a wraparound patio, but also a hot tub with a view of the Acropolis. It was the perfect place to come back and unwind after a day of exploring, and provided a relaxing retreat in the centre of the city.

Where to play: The Acropolis, and more of Athen’s best museums

An exhibit at The Acropolis in Athens.
An exhibit at The Acropolis in Athens.

According to legend, the city of Athens received its name from the Greek Goddess Athena, who planted an olive tree on the top peak of the Acropolis. An olive tree that, in theory, is still there today… even if it’s been replanted many times over the last 1,500 years.

An ancient citadel, the Acropolis is a collection of buildings atop a rocky hill. Ensure that clients have tickets ahead of time, as the lines can get quite long during peak hours. I recommend taking advantage of a combination pass, which includes additional area sites (such as the Roman Agora, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, Aristotle’s School and more) and the museum — I also opted for a ticket with an audio guide, which allowed for a leisurely museum tour.

Alternatively, it’s possible to arrange a private tour of the Acropolis with an English-speaking guide, such as those offered by Greeking Me.

After the mad rush of the Acropolis, the less-trafficked Canellopoulos Museum is a welcome sight. Split between two wings, the museum features art and objects spanning prehistoric times to the Roman Era from Greece, Egypt, Crete and other ancient cultures of the Mediterranean. There’s also a little surprise: While renovating, the museum uncovered the ruins of a medieval house built in the 13th century A.D.

The Museum of Cycladic Art is another delightful option that combines contemporary art exhibitions with one of the world’s most complete private collections of Cycladic art and objects of the ancient Aegean peoples.

Where to eat: Top spots for contemporary Greek cuisine

The Clumsies is No. 4 on the list of The World's 50 Best Bars.
The Clumsies is No. 4 on the list of The World's 50 Best Bars.

The restaurant scene in Athens has been steadily evolving in recent years. Homey tavernas and touristy cafes still dot the city, but there are also wonderful new approaches to Greek cuisine.

Locals sit among tourists at Vassilenas in Kolonaki, which started out as a taverna in the 1920s. Recently, it has evolved into a fine but relaxed dining experience, taking a fresh look at traditional flavours. The seabass carpaccio was a particular standout — I haven’t stopped craving it since my visit.

For a luxury experience with a view of the Acropolis, Point-A at the Herodion Hotel offers a contemporary, haute-cuisine approach to Greek classics.

And, for all the cool kids, The Clumsies is considered one of The World’s 50 Best Bars (No. 4 to be exact), and features an eclectic and experimental cocktail menu. Though the drinks are the draw, the food is not to be missed. I recommend the Greek kebab, which is served in the style of a Chinese bao.

Source: TravelAge West

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