Magical Athens is the perfect blend of style and culture


THEY say you never forget your first love — and I think the same goes for holidays.

I was 20 when I first went to Greece — it was my maiden trip abroad and I had a ball.

 You can fly direct to the Greek capital from Edinburgh

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You can fly direct to the Greek capital from EdinburghCredit: Getty – Contributor

I’ve been back to the Greek islands many times but it’s taken me until now — 20-something years on — to visit the country’s capital, Athens.

Myself and my hubby Iain flew from Edinburgh direct to Athens with easyJet.


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At four-and-a-half hours, it’s a bit further to travel than most of the popular European city breaks but I assure you it’s well worth it.

Once you’re there it’s really easy to get into the city centre from the airport.

Both the bus and the metro services run daily from early morning until 11.30pm — and at 10 euros it’s a third of the price of a taxi.

We jumped on the metro and 35 minutes later got off at the Evangelismos station, just round the corner from our hotel — the Divani Caravel.

It’s just a 10-minute walk from the city centre and the majority of the main attractions. The Divani Caravel really is the perfect base for exploring Athens.

 The Divani Caravel is the perfect base for exploring Athens


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The Divani Caravel is the perfect base for exploring Athens

It’s also the ideal place if you want to chill out and indulge in the great food and drink on offer.

We both loved the breakfast in the Amalia Restaurant. The range of fresh fruit and Greek yoghurts was amazing and all the usual hot breakfast items were available too.

If you have a sweet tooth you’ll be spoiled for choice with the extensive range of cakes and pastries.

The Fyllopolis Café and Restaurant is open all day and is a popular meeting venue for locals as well as catering for hotel guests. As well as a rich choice of refreshments there’s also an impressive menu.

In the evening The JuJu Bar & Restaurant offers a mix of contemporary music, delicious dishes and a great cocktail menu.

 The JuJu Bar & Restaurant offers a mix of contemporary music, delicious dishes and a great cocktail menu

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The JuJu Bar & Restaurant offers a mix of contemporary music, delicious dishes and a great cocktail menu

The Theo Bar & Restaurant, serving gourmet salads, sandwiches and refreshing cocktails can be found in my favourite part of the hotel — the amazing rooftop terrace.

After a long day sightseeing it’s the perfect place to relax and enjoy a drink and a dip in the pool.

For the more energetic, the Peak Health Club & SPA offers a state-of-the-art fitness centre.

For those who like to be pampered the rooftop spa has over 30 remedies including signature services that allow you to experience one-of-a-kind face and body therapies.

Then there’s the spectacular views of Athens from the roof terrace, which really gives the hotel the wow factor.

 The view of Athens from the roof terrace is spectacular

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The view of Athens from the roof terrace is spectacular

Athens is an amazing city, made up of a number of neighbourhoods, which feel more like villages, each having its own individual character.

We spent our first evening in the upmarket Kolonaki district. With a great range of classy places to eat and plenty of trendy bars and shopping boutiques, this was one of our favourite places.

We were lucky enough to get chatting to some friendly locals who gave us the lowdown on Athens and a list of things to do and see.

Instructions in hand, we set about exploring the following day starting with Plaka — one of the prettiest parts of the Greek capital.

Sitting under the Acropolis Hill, this is the best place to get a feel for the old Athens, with ancient ruins in almost every corner.

 Sitting under the Acropolis Hill is the best place to get a feel for the old Athens

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Sitting under the Acropolis Hill is the best place to get a feel for the old AthensCredit: Free for editorial use

Cafes and bars are stacked up on the steep, narrow streets, creating a bustling atmosphere. Despite the hordes of tourists, it doesn’t feel too busy.

You can walk to the Acropolis from Plaka, but it’s all uphill, so you need to be reasonably fit.

The Acropolis also has a metro station for those who’d rather not walk. We decided to walk but, whichever you choose, it’s worth taking the time to visit one of the most famous ancient archaeological sites in the world.

Inhabited since prehistoric times, it’s been a home to kings, a citadel, a mythical home of the gods, a religious centre and a tourist attraction.

It has withstood bombardment and massive earthquakes yet still stands as a reminder of the rich history of Greece.

At 20 euros in peak season, the entry fee isn’t cheap, but it’s worth it. The price halves in low season.

We also enjoyed a visit to The Panathenaic Stadium — the only stadium in the world built entirely of marble.

Its history is directly connected to the Modern Olympic Games, from their revival in 1896 until the Athens Olympic Games in 2004.

It is also the place from which the Olympic Flame is delivered to all the Olympic Games. Entry costs just three euros.

Also worth a look is Syntagma at the heart of Athens. Syntagma Square is home to Greece’s parliament, and here you can see the Greek guard in traditional dress as they perform their duties.

GO: ATHENS

GETTING THERE: easyJet flies from Edinburgh to Athens twice a week with fares from £36.99pp one-way including taxes and based on two people travelling on the same booking. See easyjet.com
STAYING THERE: Nightly rates at Divani Caravel Hotel start from £200 on a B&B basis. See divanis.com
MORE INFO: For more on visiting Greece see visitgreece.gr

If, like me, you love to shop, then enjoy a wander round Monastiraki.

Famous for its flea markets, it’s a bargain hunter’s dream, with countless antique shops and locals selling their wares along the narrow streets.

Sitting to the north-west of Monastiraki is Psiri, without doubt the most-colourful of the Athens districts.

At first glance it looks a bit rundown but don’t be put off by the graffiti. This is where the artists hang out and some of the wall art is amazing.

There are dozens of independent shops to explore and the eateries and the bars stay open late in true Greek style, making it the ideal place if you’re looking for nightlife.

We ended our Athens adventure back in Kolonaki with a trip up Lycabettus Hill.

Standing 900ft above sea level, Lycabettus Hill is the highest point of Athens.

You can walk up to the top but if you don’t fancy the hike you can climb aboard the funicular railway.

At seven euros, it won’t break the bank and, like we did, you can walk back down if you fancy it.

At the top you’ll find the Greek whitewashed church of Agios Georgios.

The viewing platform in front of the church provides sprawling views of Athens, stretching out to the city’s coastline and there’s a café offering breakfast and lunch.

We finished as we started in Athens — on a high — and can’t wait to go back.

A weekend in Greece including the Parthenon at the Acropolis, the Corinth Canal and Nafplion


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