The Ultimate Insiders' Guide to Athens
The question I am asked most often (after “What jewelry should I get my wife for Christmas?”) is “Where should I go
My Ultimate Athens Itinerary
DAY 1: WHERE TO STAY AND WHAT TO EAT FOR BREAKFAST
Wake up at the Hotel Grande Bretagne and have breakfast on the top floor, overlooking the Acropolis. Order your first frappé of the day, a shaken Nescafé iced coffee that is the unofficial drink of Greece. I order mine
Now head over to Ariston, a bakery founded in 1910 that sells the widest variety of stuffed pitas I’ve ever seen, all made fresh—and mostly sold out by lunchtime. Walk back toward the hotel and over one block and sit outside at Zonars, a legendary café that was revived a few years ago by Chrysanthos Panas, who has restored its Art Deco glory and brought in a modern menu. Have a second frappé.
SHOP FOR JEWELRY
Now go directly across the street and into the Lalaounis store; try on as many 22K gold lion head rings and bracelets as you can. Buy something—even if it’s a beaded bracelet or an agate seashell coaster—because, for me, having something Lalaounis is an essential part of the Athens experience. (You can read more about why here.)
Then head up Voukourestiou Street toward Kolonaki Square, which I think of as the Upper East Side of Athens. (I never say no to a third frappé at Da Capo, right in the center of Kolonaki.) And then it’s on to the Ileana Makri store, to buy a sapphire and diamond evil eye charm surrounded by tiny seed pearls (Makri is a pioneer of the form); Liana Vourakis’s legendary shop, for those beautiful enamel egg charms I often post about; Fanourakis, for singular woven gold and enamel pieces; Nikos Koulis, for emeralds and diamonds strung on black cords; Elena Votsi for some of the most original and inspired designs coming out of the country; and Lito, for some of the best geometric gold hoops.
TIME TO EAT AGAIN: THE ULTIMATE ATHENS
You may now have lunch—maybe at Zurbarán, across from Ileana Makri, or go back down toward the center (look for the Syntagma signs) and past the Bretagne toward Agia Irini Square. This is one of my favorite new neighborhoods in Athens, built around a beautiful Byzantine cathedral and with charming restaurants and cafés. Since it’s a busy day, grab a souvlaki sandwich at
NOW FOR A MUSEUM (AND SOME ANTIQUING)
Then you have to keep walking, straight to the Monastiraki neighborhood, which is filled with touristy stalls but is also the home of Martinos, one of my favorite stores in the world, and one of the oldest in Athens. It has five floors of Greek antiques and portraits and vintage textiles, and you’ll wander them and want it all.
Spend a full afternoon at the Benaki Museum (one of the best collections of ancient and Byzantine jewelry and costumes I’ve ever seen). A recent trip ignited a new obsession with Greek island jewelry made during the Ottoman period. There is a wonderful restaurant on the roof, in case you need to stop for a minute, but I would keep going toward the Museum of Cycladic Art, which in addition to its permanent collection has exhibited contemporary work by Cy Twombly and George Condo (there is also a good café there).
HAVE A REST AND THEN HEAD OUT TO DINNER
I’m running out of
For the record, we throw flowers—we don’t smash plates.
Now, I haven’t even told you about the little bars and tavernas to be found in the
I’m heading back in November (on Emirates; they fly direct from New York year-round) to give a talk at the Ilias Lalaounis Jewelry Museum. I will have more to tell and to post to the ongoing story of the #tandcathensitinerary. And you will too.
This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.