RH

Athens – Forget About The Past

The city in 48 hours

You think you know Athens, right? The Glorious City, that city of the violet crown. You think Acropolis, Aristotle and austerity. You think the Olympics, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus and the Acropolis – again. Instead, think contemporary, think hip and think dynamic. Think boutiques in Kolonaki, think stylish cafés in Monastiraki, think luxury by the sea and think art in Gazi. Think this way, and you’ve got to grips with modern Athens.

In recent years – it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when, but for sure hosting the 2004 Olympic Games provided a pretty good reason for the city to focus – Athens has undergone a rapid transformation to become one of Europe’s most vibrant urban centres. Often overlooked in favour of other erstwhile trendier destinations such as Berlin and Barcelona, the Greek capital buzzes with a comfortable confidence and is as avant-garde and design-savvy as anywhere on the continent.

First sight of the country for most visitors is delivered on arrival at Eleftherios Venizelos – more commonly known to us as Athens International Airport, and to locals as the ‘new’ airport (cute, since it opened more than 15 years ago). 40 minutes later, and you’re in the city.

First Day:

Lunch at The Clumsies on Praxitelous: The team behind this carefully put together space strongly believe that an all-day café should be warm and welcoming and feel familiar. You can start your day there, as interior spaces are drenched in natural light; the ambience changes while the day progresses and people gather here for a night out. Grab a healthy lunch, or go for one of their the slightly less healthy but moreishly-tasty Athenian pies.

Shop throughout Monastiraki and the Flea Market. The area is a cornucopia of hidden discoveries. Its laneways and alleys open out on to large public squares, and every street is home to shoulder-to-shoulder lines of stores with everything from fashion to jewellery, great streetfood snacks, and pointless (yet irresistible) tourist trinkets.

Coffee at The Underdog on Iraklidon. A temple to the Goddess of Caffeine. A simply vast pantheon to coffee-loving hipsters. Try their espresso panna cotta – it’s a must.

Nighttime through Kolonaki. A short walk from the city centre, on the southern slopes of Lycabettus hill, Kolonaki is sure to present you with an option for every one of the many moods Athens will create within you. Jazz in Jazz; Stinking Bishop; Minnie The Moocher – take your pick and enjoy your pleasure.

Second Day:

Breakfast at Tailor Made on Plateia Agias Eirinis. Great coffee, and a light Greek breakfast. Then let your feet take you on a tour of local streets where you’ll find revealed many examples of the city’s resident’s eye for great design.

Lunch at Avocado. Vegetarian vegan restaurant. A haven for healthful living and one of Athens’ top-rated restaurants. High-quality, flavourful food, aromatic coffees and teas, and freshly-squeezed juices that are truly alive. Their philosophy is to use local, seasonal, and organic produce whenever possible.

Shop around Voukourestiou Street. Luxury and designer brands you’ll know – with plenty of Greek labels added in to the mix.

Coffee at Warehouse on Mavromichali. One of the city’s finest roasteries and coolest hangouts.

Nighttime through Gazi. It’s the new cool area to be in Athens, full of restaurants, cafes, music, and art by the old city gas-works which has been turned into a museum-cultural center that may be unique in all of Europe.

Simon Balsom