WHERE TO STAY: The Pinnacle Athens
When Americans think of Greece, oftentimes the image that pops into our heads is that of white buildings with blue roofs clinging to the sides of sheer cliffs high above the crystal clear blue waters of the Aegean Sea. While you will find images like this all over the Greek Isles, Athens is often overlooked when it comes to the beauty of Greece.
When staying in Athens, we found Aiolou Street to be everything that we wanted. There’s great dining, shopping, incredible sightseeing and easy walk-ability to some of Athens most iconic destinations. Our hotel, The Pinnacle Athens, was a newer hotel in the area and offers some great amenities including a delicious breakfast and one of the highest rooftop lounges in the area, providing wonderful views of the Parthenon.
When researching for the trip, nearly every article and site I came across spoke about how you shouldn’t spend too much time in Athens, and instead, spend more time on the isles. While the Isles are beautiful, Athens definitely deserves its moment to shine and I actually wish we had spent more time there and less on some of the islands that we visited. If planning a trip, plan on spending at least two full days in Athens to give yourself enough time to explore. Trust me, it’s worth it and the islands aren’t going anywhere.
DAY 1: Wake up nice and early, grab a cappuccino and a quick breakfast, and stroll on over to the Acropolis. If coming from Aiolou street, this should allow you easy access to the southeastern (side) entrance. That’s a good thing, avoid the main entrance on the western side and it’ll save you a ton of time. Also, buy the upgraded ticket that gets you access to some of the other main sites, it’ll save you money in the long run. Try to be at the gates right as they open and quickly make your way up to the top so you can get some photos without people all over the place. There’s a lot to see just in the complex that makes up the Acropolis and it’ll take you a few hours to explore the structures and snap some photos. There’s a gift shop and concession stand where you can grab a cold drink while you stroll around.
Once you’ve explored the Acropolis, stroll around the area and view sites like the Temple of Hephaestus, Dionysus’s cell, the many Stoas, the Roman Forum, and literally hundreds of other interesting sites. You can spend hours exploring the city just at the base of the Acropolis. Several restaurants and shops have glass flooring that allows you to see down to the ruins that they’re built on top of. Our favorite spot to grab lunch in the area is a restaurant called Antica, on Adrianou street, just at the base of the Acropolis. Aside from the serving staff being comprised of literal greek gods, the food is absolutely amazing too. Still wanting to explore, we opted for some tzatziki, hummus, and bruschetta, and a side of incredibly fresh, pillowy pita bread. The ingredients they use in Greece are on another level of freshness. It’s impossible not to like the food.
DAY 2: Your second day in the city is your chance to see and do anything that you missed out on the first day. We decided to head over to the other side other Acropolis and saw sites like Hadrian’s Arch, Temple of Olympian Zeus, The National Botanical Museum, and many, many more stops along the way. We also used this day to visit the Plaka, one of Athens oldest neighborhoods and some of the best shopping in the city. Many of the streets have been closed to automobile traffic which adds to the charm and character of the ancient neighborhood.
For dinner, do yourself a favor and book a reservation at POINT a on the rooftop of the Herodion Hotel. This restaurant offers one of the best views of the Parthenon in the city and is a lively, swanky place to grab dinner for the evening. You’ll dine on high end traditional dishes as you take in the sweeping views of the Acropolis and surrounding city. Our server, Alexios, was incredible and happy to talk to us about a locals perspective of the city and the rest of the country. At one point he even stated that true Greeks were “descendants of the stars.” He was delightful. We started off our meal with the Loukoumades, and trust me when I say, you HAVE to try these. They’re basically fried, cheese stuffed donuts drizzled with honey and topped with sesame seeds and herbs. The savory, sweet, butter, crunchy, melty comb is absolutely do die for, and the presentation is very Instagram worthy.
One of the things we liked most about Athens, and really Greece as a whole, was that restaurants and cafes are open late! It’s not uncommon for restaurants to switch into “nightlife mode” and be open until 3:00a. We definitely took advantage of that and had a few late night drinks and bites at a couple of the eateries along the stroll home. This lead us to finding our favorite souvlaki place that we tried during our time in Greece. The little eatery called TYLISXTO is surrounded by a ton of other dining options, but the line at this place is always around the corner. When you see that, you just know that it has to be good and this place was amazing. It kicked off our souvlaki obsession and we had at least one everyday of our trip.
Athens is truly a special city, and I know I say that often, but this one reigns higher than most. It’s a beautiful city, the locals are friendly and vibrant, the history of the place is some of the most famous in the world and the food and wine are outstanding. I could see myself living in Athens, strolling through the many ancient structures, petting the thousands of cats loving cared for by the locals, and venturing North into the mountains that are so rarely seen by tourists. Ignore what you may have read elsewhere and go, you won’t be disappointed. Trust me.
Cheers readers & happy travels!