Philosophers, literati, and other lovers of learning have been venturing to Athens for millennia, bestowing the city with a rich, multifaceted history. Today, travellers can still follow in the footsteps of Socrates along the Acropolis or gape at the magnificent temples erected in honour of Zeus and his Olympian kin. While the city’s compelling past is still its main draw, Athens now sports a vibrant contemporary creative scene well-worth checking out.
Morning 7am – 11am
Rise early before the temperature starts to climb and start your day as the locals do with a strong cup of coffee at Yiasemi, an institution favoured by Greek celebrities. Photographs of famous faces who’ve nibbled on their morning pastries here adorn the walls as a testament to the cafe’s enduring popularity. As tempting as it may be to linger, you’re going to want to get to your next destination before hordes of tourists descend. Yes, the Acropolis tends to get crowded, especially in peak season, but this vestige of antiquity is so remarkable that it warrants braving the occasional queues to marvel at it. The fascinating Acropolis Museum boasts a well-organised collection of more than 4,000 relics and more than merits a few hours.
Afternoon 1pm – 5pm
If you’re feeling particularly famished, the Restaurant at the Acropolis Museum offers creative interpretations of classic Greek staples accompanied by sweeping views of sun-bleached ruins through floor-to-ceiling windows. Should you feel inclined to venture a bit further, however, Strofi is just a short stroll from the museum. First opened in 1957, the historic restaurant specialises in dishes like grilled halloumi scattered with toasted pine nuts and doused in grassy olive oil. After a leisurely lunch, make your way to The Museum of Cycladic Art, which features an impressive array of ancient Aegean art and artifacts. If you find your energy levels flagging, grab a perfect espresso brewed by master barista Stefanos Domatiotis at Taf Cafe. The extra jolt of caffeine will help propel you to your next destination, the Stavros Niarchos Cultural Center. Housed in a striking, ultra-sustainable, LEED Platinum-certified building designed by Renzo Piano, the ambitious exhibition space was created to provide a new home for the Greek National Opera and the National Library of Greece.
Evening: 6:30pm – 12:00am
Dinner tends to start on the later side in Greece, which means there’s plenty of time for a languid sundowner. Since you may not want to spring for a whole bottle this early in the evening, pay a visit to the aptly named By the glass, a popular wine bar that allows patrons to sample a glass of 50 different local and imported bottles. If you’re craving heaping platters of slow-braised lamb, cinnamon-scented moussaka, and other hearty Greek crowd-pleasers, head to Daphne’s Restaurant. Politicians including Bill and Hillary Clinton have already stopped by this popular taverna set in an 1830s house decorated with frescoes. Adventurous foodies with a hankering for less humble cuisine should swing by the Michelin-starred Funky Gourmet, which serves whimsical molecular-gastro tasting menus. After dessert, grab a nightcap at Baba Au Rum, a speakeasy where mixologists whip up unconventional tipples like the Buccaneer’s Negroni, with Guatemalan rum, grated tonka bean, and a hint of lime zest.