A travel writer's guide to Athens

Most baby boomers 'did' Greece in the far off past and we have held that time fondly in our hearts - so, time for a revisit - there are bargains to be had. Prices have dropped and the reduction of the value-added tax (vat) on hotels from 13 per cent to 6.5 per cent is making it more and more attractive.

If you haven’t seen Athens since before the XXVIII Olympiad in 2004 you’ll see a very different city from 20 or so years ago. The underground Metro is fantastic, the stations immaculate and beautifully decorated and the service fast and regular; Syntagma Square has fewer cafes now and Omonia Square is buzzing during the day but pretty seedy at night.

It's best to go back to basics in Athens and spend a day on the hop-on hopoff bus to reaquaint yourself with the city, see what’s new and stop off at unfamiliar spots. Then, walk...

The Parthenon is the most important surviving building of classical Greece. Walking around the Parthenon, and trying to imagine the original scope of this magnificent site still sends shivers down the arms – now if they’d just tidy up those old broken columns!

Next stop is the New Acropolis Museum, designed by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor, which houses all the remaining treasures of the Acropolis including the day-to-day objects found that belonged to the folk who lived around the base of the mighty mount.
From inside the museum there’s a wondrous view of the sacred rock. This museum is user friendly and is full of interesting objects that will keep you enthralled for hours.

Take a walk along the beautiful pedestrian road to Thission (with its ancient ruins alongside chirpy cafes and restaurants) and Monastiraki.
Monastiraki and Avissinias Square are full of narrow alleys providing a haven for stalls and little shops.

Visit the Agora, the focal meeting point of ancient Athens. The Agora, with its elegant, creamy columns provides a welcome relief on a hot and heavy summer day. The Agora museum has a fine collection of ancient jewellery and old costumes.

Then take Amalias Avenue to visit the temple of Olympian Zeus and Hadrian’s Arch. End this tour in Syntagma Square in front of Vouli (the Greek Parliament) and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The much photographed guards dressed in the traditional Greek uniform change the hour in an impressive, stamping march.

Bev's favourite places in Athens:

1.   Acropolis
2.   New Acropolis Museum
3.   National Archaeological Museum
4.   Museum of Cycladic Art
5.   Benaki Museum (recently refurbished and extended)
6.   DESTE Foundation
7.   Eleni Koroneou Gallery
8.   Byzantinon Restaurant in the Plaka
9.   Kafeneion Restaurant in Kolonaki
10. Eleftheroudakis Bookstore
11. Metro of Athens
12. Athinas Street, meat market and fish market
13. Herodes Attikikon Theatre.

Fact File

  • Bev Malzard stayed at Hotel Novotel Athenes, a 10-minute walk from
    Larissa Station.
  • Feel the rhythm of the city in the Novotel at night next to the swimming pool with a breathtaking view of the Acropolis and Lycabettous Hill.
  • Visit novotel.com.

This story first appeared in Get Up & Go and has been edited.

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