Greek capital Athens isn’t just about famous ruins – it makes a great city break


WHY SHOULD I GO? Not why, but when and how. I booked a long weekend in December with newly relaunched easyJet Holidays.

Booking times are super flexible thanks to easyJet’s huge roster of routes from all over the UK. And holidaymakers are spoilt for choice with 5,000 hotels in more than 100 destinations.

 Famous Athens landmark the Parthenon

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Famous Athens landmark the ParthenonCredit: Getty – Contributor

City breaks come under two collections — Boutique and Luxury. Mine, the 5H Electra Metropolis was firmly in the latter, but at a reasonable price due to the season.

And what a season to wander around this ancient capital. There are fewer tourists in December, while highs of 22C were perfect for strolling ancient ruins and eating al fresco.

ARE THESE STREETS MADE FOR WALKING? Definitely, but there’s more to Athens than the alleyways of old town Plaka that surrounds the Acropolis.

Central Athens is made up of a dizzying array of vibrant districts. And a great way to explore them is with local art lover Popi on the Discover Awesome Street Art In Athens tour. Bookable on Airbnb, Popi’s tour shows off all that’s cool and creative about modern Athens.

We walked through Gazi, centred on a former gasworks-turned-arts-and-culture space that hosts concerts, exhibitions and, in winter, a kids’ Christmas fair.

Then there’s Psirri, with its vibey Iroon Square surrounded by live music bars, tavernas such as local favourite, Seychelles and lots of theatres.

 The busy streets boast plenty of restaurants and shops

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The busy streets boast plenty of restaurants and shopsCredit: Getty – Contributor

Kerameikos is one of the world’s coolest neighbourhoods according to Forbes, with hip new hotels, creative restaurants, cafes, bars and galleries.

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While in Monastiraki, a flea market neighbourhood, you can see each layer of Greece’s history.

ANYTHING FOR THE BUCKET LIST? Climb the Acropolis to see the Parthenon, the monumental temple of the goddess Athena, and other temples up close.

Visit on the first Sunday of the month from November to March for free entry to the Acropolis and ten other world-class archaeological sites (normally £25.44 or €30).

But the best way to learn about Greek history is with your stomach. Book on the Delicious Athens Food Tour with Alternative Athens to learn your gyros from your kebab or souvlaki.

The three-and-a-half-hour feast for the senses will have you sipping raki, olive oil and Greek coffee, soaking up the smells of the fish, meat, veg and spice markets and eating lukumádes (light honey donuts cooked in cotton oil), koulouri (sesame seed-encrusted bread rings), souvlaki (grilled meat on a skewer) and baklava pastries.

 What a view... Dining at the Metropolis Roof Garden

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What a view… Dining at the Metropolis Roof GardenCredit: All rights reserved

WHERE SHOULD I EAT? For dinner try Boccanegra, an intimate place tucked down an alleyway off Syntagma Square where the Greek parliament building stands.

Try the pork tenderloin, cooked to perfection with espresso, leek and cauliflower puree.

Down a pedestrian street on the edge of historic Plaka district is Mono, a six-year-old wine restaurant with an international menu with a Greek twist. Like risotto with chicken liver, a nod to the local tradition of eating lambs’ liver at Easter.

WHERE SHOULD I DRINK? Heteroclito is a cosy wine bar which opened in 2012, selling all sorts of tasty Greek vintages.

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For rooftop views over the Acropolis, try MS Roof Garden. It offers a tasty freddo cappucino, the local iced coffee. Or City Zen for cocktails and 360-degree panoramas.

 An impressive mural in Athens

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An impressive mural in Athens

WHERE SHOULD I STAY? The Electra Metropolis is typical of the hand-picked hotels chosen by easyJet Holidays’ experts.

Breakfast is served at the rooftop bar and restaurant along with sweeping views of the Acropolis and the tangled city below.

The modernist building, built as the Ministry of Education in the 1950s, has been transformed with a small rooftop pool and terrace.

The water, I can confirm, is ball-achingly cold in December. Fortunately for recovery, there’s a sauna, hammam and pool indoors at Aegeo Spa.

GO: Athens

GETTING/STAYING THERE: Three nights’ B&B at the Electra Metropolis Athens with easyJet Holidays is from £340pp, including flights with 23kg hold luggage and one carry-on bag.

See easyjetholidays.com.
OUT & ABOUT: The Delicious Athens Food Tour is from £42.42pp at alternativeathens.com.

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Huge cruise ship squeezes through the narrow Corinth Canal in southern Greece





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