- Go gaga for Ancient Greek monuments from the Acropolis to the Parthenon and Ancient Agora
- Swap souvlaki for sundowners atop Filopappou Hill and dance the night away at scenic rooftop bars
- Know your honey from your herbs on a half-day foodie tour through markets and street stalls with a local guide
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The place where Socrates founded western philosophy and Athens founded the Olympics, Athens is a city brimming with character and culture. And on a four-night big Greekend, filled with souvlaki, sundowners and extraordinary landmarks, we promise to place you right at the centre of it. Hit the ground running on a walkabout of its historic centre, taking in the mighty Acropolis, Parthenon and more. Stop by local Athenian haunts for a cooling cocktail and party until the early hours – the Mediterranean way – in rooftop bars and underground clubs. On an alternative Athens half-day tour, you’ll be treated to sights tourists rarely see, down bustling alleyways in Monastiraki Flea Market and atop untrodden hills in the city’s centre to watch the sun sink behind the sky.
Swap paperwork for passports as you make your way to the airport for your short flight (just three-and-a-half hours) to Athens. Once on Greek ground, you’ll be met by a local driver and transferred to your hotel in the heart of Greece’s capital. With all the city’s main sights on your doorstep, we recommend stretching your legs round Syntagma Square, taking in the National Gardens, Zappeion, the Parthenon and old Plaka neighbourhood as you go, before swinging by Oxo Nou for a traditional meze meal.
THE ACROPOLIS AND MORE
The saying goes ‘go big or go home’ so we can’t think of a better place to start your big fat Greekend than the Acropolis. The greatest symbol of Ancient Greece’s glory, its monuments and sanctuaries stand sentinel over the city – visible from almost any part of it. Its history spans 3,300 years, during which it became a religious sanctuary (in the fifth century BC), a site of rebellion (in 1687) and a UNESCO World Heritage site (exactly 300 years later). Continue your history lesson at the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the Ancient Agora, where Socrates expounded his initial philosophies. Athens is much more than ancient history though. Start the evening at one of the city’s unassuming yet well-stocked wine bars and grab a bite at a neighbourhood taverna before dancing the night away – the Mediterranean way – at Crust, Athens’ best kept clubbing secret hidden in the basement of a pizza joint.
COFFEE AND CULTURE
Start the day like an Athenian local – at a kafeneion (Greek café). Watch the world go by on stone-paved streets in the picture-perfect Plaka neighbourhood and fill your boots on ibrik (Greek coffee) before embarking on a half-day alternative Athens tour. Catch the changing of the guard at the Hellenic Parliament in Syntagma Square, check out galleries such as The Breeder and the National Museum of Contemporary Art and rummage for hidden gems at the Monastiraki Flea Market. If you’re after a good sunset spot, take your pick between Filopappou Hill and Hill of the Pnyx. Studded with small ruins, stone paths and speakers’ steps, they are often empty leaving you to watch the city slip into its evening slumber in total silence. Before falling into bed, we recommend stopping for some loukoumadhes (fried dough lathered in honey and cinnamon) on your way back. We promise you won’t regret it.
We’d hate you to leave Athens hungry, which is why we’ve planned a private gourmet food tour for your last morning. Spend three hours getting to know your honey from your herbs and your olives from your oils. Stop for souvlaki at the legendary Kostas and get your hands on tyropita (cheese pie) from bucolic bakeries in Monastiraki for the journey home. After a final meze, you’ll have the early afternoon to do as you please before grabbing your bags and heading to the airport for your flight back to Blighty.
A la carte
WITH A FEW EXTRA DAYS - HYDRA ISLAND
If you have a few spare days, Hydra is the perfect destination to extend your trip and enjoy nature's peace and quiet. Located off the Argolida peninsula an hour-and-a-half from the port of Piraeus, this tiny arid island does not allow motor vehicles - you can walk, take a boat-taxi or ride in a traditional caique fishing boat. Its harbour has retained its traditional charm, like the beautiful shipowners' mansions adorned with bougainvillea, and on the hills, olive trees and lemon trees blossom against a backdrop of deep blue sea.
THE ACROPOLIS AND THE NEW MUSEUM
During the latter half of the fifth century BC, Athens gained ascendancy over other cities of the ancient world. It was a very rich period of history when art, politics and philosophical thought flourished. It was at this time that a group of artists decided to bring the designs drawn up by Pericles - an Athenian statesman - to life. The rocky hill of Athens were transformed as they built the iconic monuments that we know so well. At the foot of the Acropolis, the new museum houses more than 350 exhibits including ceramics, bas reliefs and ancient sculptures from the places of worship on the different sides of the Acropolis. The view of the Parthenon River is striking from the top floor of the modern building.
Optional - with a private guide
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