It was December 1st and I realized I was 10,000 miles from tippy top status for the year (sup Delta!) After 48 hours of weighing options that were far enough, enjoyable for 4 days, not a fortune, not miserably cold, and fun for solo travel, Athens rose to the top (note: other 10K mile considerations were Hawaii and Moscow) – 5 days later, I was off. Athens is the most underrated city I have ever traveled to. It’s modern, has incredible food, you can walk everywhere, and on top of everything else it has such a deep history that you feel all around you in the soul of the city. The people are warm and friendly and everyone speaks English. It also did not hurt that they were having a warm December, everyone was in the holiday spirit, and the streets and outdoor cafes were buzzing.
STAY: The three hotels that stood out from a slew of recommendations and research were AthensWas New Hotel and Fresh Hotel. I went with Fresh Hotel as this was not really a TreatYoSelf trip and it looked simple but nice and was the least expensive of the three. Turned out to be the perfect pick, everything you need- good design, comfy bed, lovely staff, bomb breakfast and beautiful rooftop. There’s this breakfast buffet scene that at first I was so taken aback by, it’s bustling and loud and pre-coffee is startling the first time you enter but then you get into it, I grew to love it. The hotel rooftop has a bar, pool, and lounge areas that are very well done. I’m sure in the Summer months it’s packed, it was about sixty degrees and sunny when I was there so not pool weather but nice to have a drink up there and lounge around. Fresh is well located but the blocks right around the hotel can be a bit dicey at night, they have very good hotel security. Everyone who works at the front desk is friendly and helpful, they have delicious sweet cookies in the lobby at night and when I left for the airport in the wee hours of the morning they sent me on my way with a brown bag breakfast for the road.
EAT: Without knowing anything about Nolan, it just draws you in, it’s very chic, minimalistic, and throws great vibes. It’s a fairly new restaurant that is getting a lot of attention with a young chef and mediterranean and asian flavors (seemed mostly a combo of Japanese and Greek). I had a delicious jar of salmon, some pork buns, and squid with a side of rice and veggies (squid was tops!)
Friends of mine who were in Athens this Summer could not stop raving about Vintage Wine Bar & Bistro. Whenever people recommend a wine bar to me, I file it in the section of you’ve been to one wine bar you’ve been to em all. Nope, not this time. Vintage is exceptional. The servers and sommeliers are extremely knowledgable and want you to have the wine experience of a lifetime. They let you try a bunch and somehow always find you the best wine you’ve ever had and their collection is massive. I sat at the sommelier bar, chatted and watched as wine was poured and shared. It’s a true family that works here and the place was packed with good looking locals and everyone knew each other. The food is as good as the wine and of course the charcuterie is incredible paired with the wine.
On my last day of exploring I wanted an authentic, old school Greek lunch and boy did I find the SPOT. It’s a place in Kolonaki, I’m not even sure what the name is, on Google Maps it says Liokoukoudaki, M., & Co E.E. (truly not sure what that even means) but the address is Patriarchou Ioakim 56, Athina 106 76, it’s authentic and delicious. I went straight for the chicken souvlaki, obviously.
SHOP: I shopped a lot. I bought a lot. There’s quite a few great stores in Athens and in my opinion the best thing by far to buy there is jewelry. The one gem that I did not read about before I went and highly recommend is a jewelry store in Kolonaki called Petaei-Petaei. It’s a narrow sliver of a shop that is easy to miss. There’s so much to discover in this little shop and one tip is that there’s way more in the drawers of the jewelry cases that are worth asking for help with to dig even deeper into discovery.
DO: The fact that the ancient Acropolis and all of its history sits right there in the middle of the city is the coolest part of Athens. I spent about three hours up there exploring and reading about the various structures and architecture. Because it was off-season it wasn’t mobbed and I could take my time and enjoy. There’s great museums in Athens as well but it felt too nice out to be cooped up in a museum all day so I passed this time.
KNOW: You don’t have to know too much before heading to Athens. It’s not a place that requires much planning because it’s all in walking distance (for the most part). Have a few things in mind that you want to do and figure out the rest once you arrive. So many travelers only stop in Athens on their way to the islands in the Summer and don’t get a real taste of the city- take a long weekend, anytime but Summer, and SPEND TIME!