Athens has been enjoying somewhat of a renaissance in recent years since the financial crisis of 2009 with Athenians keener to embrace edgier concepts, more diverse cultures, and hip designers. I visited this historic city recently to discover why it is still as relevant as it was back in the days of Plato and Aristotle.
I stayed at the uber-hip 18 Micon Str boutique hotel in the trendy district of Monastiraki (think the Shoreditch of Athens). The distinct industrial vibes are hardly surprising given that the building was once a storehouse for one of the very first tool traders in Athens, Mr. Kostas. The reception area also doubles up as the living room, kitchen and breakfast area, where you’ll find mismatched seating, exposed, rustic brickwork and weathered wooden tables and benches. It feels effortlessly chic, but you get the sense that someone has spent a considerable amount of time assembling everything, including a strategically placed shiny, red Smeg fridge in the middle of the kitchen area.
No two rooms are identical at 18 Micon Str and the suites and lofts are particularly spacious. I stayed at the appropriately named Deluxe Suite with Acropolis view which has uninterrupted views of the famous, ancient citadel. At a palatial 270 sq ft, including one of the largest terraces you will find in Greece, this is one of the most impressive rooms you will discover in an area renowned for tight streets and narrow buildings.
All the modern amenities are present from complimentary Wi-Fi to a Nespresso machine to a 40″ smart TV. Sparkling white marble adorns the bathroom space which is stocked with Molton Brown amenities. The most helpful thing is the soundproof windows which guarantee you a great night’s sleep even though metres away you’ll find some of the most popular bars in Athens.
One such bar to consider is Mavro Provato: Press Cafe aka Black Sheep Cafe. This casual restaurant has been impressing the residents of the Pangrati district for several years. The first thing to note is the relaxed, casual atmosphere with black walls where you can write your messages in chalk. The food aims to be Greek tapas-style and some dishes are on the expansive side like their signature lamb marinated in thyme with roast potatoes and Cretan Gamopilafo rice cooked in a lamb broth (it is the primary dish in traditional Cretan wedding feasts).
But they do offer lighter dishes and, surprisingly, many vegetarian options compared to the more traditional Greek taverna. The traditional Greek salad is given a modern update with olive crumble and white balsamic vinegar, whilst the mashed fava with onions, parsley, and thyme is always a crowd-pleaser, especially with their home-made bread.
The must-do things include visiting the likes of the Acropolis and seeing the Parthenon to the ancient Agora with the remarkably preserved, The Temple of Hephaestus. However, why not take a walking tour with a twist and have an Athens highlight mythology tour with a talented guide from Alternative Athens? The ancient landmarks of Athens are brought to life with fascinating stories of myths from centuries gone by.
Walking past a historic amphitheatre on the way up to the Acropolis, I hear stories about Dionysus who was the God of Theatre and wine-making amongst many other things. In the ancient Agora, I hear how Hephaestus was mistreated by his mother Hera and who he married, the sultry Aphrodite.
There are also many other types of tours such as food tours and nightlife tours, so you can see Athens in a new light.
There are currently five airlines that fly direct from London to Athens and many connect directly from regional airports. Flights typically take over 3.5 hrs from London to Athens.
In a nutshell
Discover the most happening city in Europe at the moment from one of the hippest boutique hotels in town in the form of 18 Micon Str. You will find everything from ancient Greek mythology to cutting-edge modern Greek cuisine.
Rooms can be booked from 90 euros.