To quote the great 4th Century Philospher Epicurus; “You don’t develop courage by being happy in your relationships everyday. You develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity” and for me this sums up Athens perfectly! A bank holiday weekend in the UK meant that we spent a well deserved luxury city break to Athens.
I decided to have a change from our normal hotel chain of choice and went for a Starwood property and the most iconic hotel in all of Athens; The Hotel Grande Bretagne which has been welcoming visitors through its very glamorous doors since 1874. To say that I fell in love with this hotel is the understatement of the year; I didn’t want to leave and let me show you why!
The hotel has that old world charm that I just couldn’t get enough of (and I will be doing a full post on the hotel as it deserves it!) and it should be on everyone’s itinerary if you are in Athens, even if its just to try their delightful Afternoon Tea in the Winter Garden or a cocktail on the rooftop terrace.
Our room was amazing and included a balcony overlooking Syntagma Square and the Greek Parliament.
My room included two very pretty and oh so delicious gluten free cakes! I LOVED the shoe cake!! The squeals of delight could be heard as far as New Zealand; I felt like a princess!
We arrived later than anticipated into Athens so it meant we were late for our Afternoon Tea at Hotel Grande Bretagne however they were happy to change the times (thank you!) and once checked into our room, a quick change of clothes, we were eating a very scrummy Afternoon Tea. You can read my full review here and I will let you know right now, you have to read the review as G thought the scones were better than Claridges! See you want to read that review now don’t you!
Remember to have a tipple up on the roof top terrace at the Grande Bretagne so you can get the best view of the Acropolis at night time
The next day we got up bright and early and ventured upstairs to have breakfast on the rooftop terrace where the views over Athens are incredible. Nothing beats having breakfast with a view of the Acropolis.
We needed a hearty breakfast (well G did as I may have eaten those cakes for breakfast, I lack self control!) as we were walking up Mount Lycabettus. Now I’m probably telling you a bit of a fib as we took the Teleferik (Funicular) most of the way up to the top
but I did have to walk up a lot of stairs to get to that point so comfy shoes are a necessity! You may think my Minnetonka moccasins are ugly however they are most comfortable shoes for travelling.
I knew the views over Athens were going to be killer from Mount Lycabettus but I never imagined something as grand as this!
The very quaint St George’s Chapel sits on top of Mount Lycabettus where you can wander inside and light a few candles.
I felt like I was on a Greek Island not in the capital city.
G and I didn’t grab a drink however there is a lovely seating area and would be the perfect place to have a sundowner on a warm Athens evening.
After getting lost on the way back to the Grande Bretagne we found some great street art and the piece of the right reminded me of a piece of artwork that I purchased in Paris a few years ago.
We finally made it back to the Grande Bretagne and as we were all wilting in the Athens heat (wimps I know!) we decided to grab some lunch inside. My sister had the Greek burger which she enjoyed (on the right) and the hotel kindly made me a gluten free club sandwich but without bacon as they couldn’t guarantee it was gluten free.
After leaving the handbrake at the hotel (i.e. G), Lisa and I hit the shops! Athens has amazing shopping and I would fly to Athens to support the Greek economy each month if I could. There is something for every budget and Athens is a shoe shopping paradise; the ladies of Athens seem to be more obsessed about shoes than I am!
Our first stop was The Poet Sandal Maker for custom fitted Greek Sandals which for me are the perfect Greek Souvenir. Honestly, don’t leave Athens until you purchase a pair and they are super cheap starting at €25 a pair. The tiny workshop is tucked away at 2 Agias Thelas Street just off Monastiraki Square and with past customers such as Sophia Loren, Jackie O and me; you know you can’t go wrong! On this visit I purchased a pair of Hermes and the Jackie O – if it’s good enough for Jackie O then its good enough for Kelly O!
We then stumbled upon Athens Protasis after our fish pedicure (oh yes we did!) where I purchased two pairs of beautiful earrings. The jewellery is all made in Greece so it’s another perfect little keepsake to take home from your visit to Athens.
Lisa and I tried to stay out of all the tacky tourist shops that you find in the Plaka and just locate some cool Greek shops. We found a fantastic souvenir shop called Forget Me Not which all the products are designed by locals and sometimes taking the mickey of the surroundings and then there is Korres – the Greek Cosmetics company. Bright new red lippy – tick!
When visiting Athens always remember to look up as the buildings are just fantastic especially the ones that are crumbling away…
..and the cute little alleyways.
On our way to visit the Evzones we stumbled across a few men that just wouldn’t crack a smile, even though Lisa was having a Miss Monroe moment. Luckily enough, there are always a few Greek men around to show their appreciation – just not these three philopshers unfortunately!
And if you are wondering what an Evzone is – it’s the guy below with Pom Poms on his shoes!
I can’t tell you how much I love Athens and totally recommend a visit to Athens on a city break at least to get a little taster of Greece. The food, the people and the history make this city a place you must visit when in Europe!
As this wasn’t my first visit to Athens we didn’t visit many of the tourist spots but I highly recommend checking out the Acropolis and The Acropolis Museum when in Athens…
and if you fancy taking a day trip then I highly recommend the beautiful islands of Aegina, Poros and Hydra or the Temple of Posideon
Travel Tips for Athens
- The X95 bus takes you from the Airport to Syntagma Square
- If the Immigration queues are crazy and you hold a UK Resident Card then flash this as they will allow you into the EU queue
- The ladies of Athens wear heels however if you are going to do some sightseeing then flats are best especially if you are heading to the Acropolis or Mt Lycabettus
- You can walk everywhere in Athens
- The older Greek gentlemen love to talk to tourists; smile and enjoy the moment as the Greeks are most definitely the friendliest people in Europe.
- Highly recommend staying at the Grande Bretagne or if it a tad pricey for your budget then head there for Afternoon Tea in the Lounge or a cocktail or two on the roof top terrace
- Make sure you pick up some olives, olive oil and feta cheese at the airport before you head back to the UK – nothing beats fresh Greek produce!
- My final and most important tip for Athens is to buy a pair of custom fitted Greek sandals from The Poet Sandal-Maker