For old-fashioned romance, there is nowhere quite as glamorous as the Hotel Grande Bretagne in Syntagma Square, with perfect views of the Acropolis from its rooftop bar and restaurant. As you would expect from a signature nineteenth-century neoclassical building, the interiors are grand, filled with marble and antiques. Rooms are sumptuous – chandeliers, swag curtains and lavish decoration – and palatially proportioned. Those higher up with views of the Acropolis are, of course, the ones to go for. This is, without a doubt, the landmark hotel of Athens. Double rooms cost from €250.
A stroll around the flea market and shops in the centre of town close to the old city, in the area called Monastiraki, is a must. Here you will find beautiful old furniture and objects for amazing prices. One of the best shops is Martinos – a treasure trove of old ceramics, decorative objects, lighting and furnishings. While in this part of town, pay a visit to Varvakios market to experience the culinary rhythm of the city and stroll down colourful Evripidou Street for nuts, spices and herbs.
There are also two wonderful interiors stores in Athens that are worth a visit: Mavriki & Co and Interni. Both have a great selection of furniture and home accessories. There are many young Greek fashion designers also making their mark, my two favourites being hippie-chic Celia Dragouni and Deux Hommes, which both offer the best in high-end Greek fashion. I also love Parthenis, an elegant Greek clothing brand launched in the Seventies by Dimitris Parthenis and now overseen by his daughter Orsalia. For jewellery, nothing beats Ileana Makri, whose contemporary creativity and old-world craftsmanship I adore.
The i-D Concept Store is the best of its kind in the city, with a well-curated edit of Greek jewellery and fashion accessories from both known and upcoming designers. And finally, don’t miss the shop at the Benaki Museum of Greek Culture where you can buy presents and items including prints, office accessories, books and jewellery, all of which take inspiration from the museum’s collection.
FOOD AND DRINK
For a morning pit stop, en route from the Hotel Grande Bretagne to the Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum, go to Philos, an elegantly decayed neoclassical mansion on Solonos Street that is part café (excellent coffee and breakfast) and part retail adventure for fashion and homeware. After a cultural morning, head to Platanos, one of the oldest tavernas in Athens. The location is beautiful and the cuisine traditional and delicious.
Don’t miss Zonars café, a legendary patisserie that exudes art deco glamour, style and spirit. For evenings, my favourite restaurants include Noel, which attracts cool young Athenians with its quirky interiors and funky music, and Vezené an easy-going, centrally located bistro with an outdoor terrace serving modern Greek food and wonderful puddings.
At weekends, I like to go to Piraeus, the port of Athens, and have seafood at Jimmy’s Fish. For a quintessentially Greek fish taverna, visit Labros in Vouliagmeni, a town on the Athenian Riviera. Both will give you a different perspective of life in Athens.