To me, travelling isn’t just about ticking off the major sites and attractions, it’s about delving into a culture, a place and its people. Which is why, when Contiki asked me a little while ago whether I would like to experience one of their adventures, I have to admit I was a little sceptical – I wondered whether, in a tour situation, they would be able to satisfy my urge to really explore and get lost within a place.
Never one to back down from a challenge, I embarked on the trip, carry on suitcase in hand and butterflies in my stomach. And man was I surprised! Not only did we indeed get to understand the place more than just the main tourist attractions, we travelled like locals. How? Petros our guide, and certified Greek local, created one of the best travel experience I’ve literally ever had. To be honest, I’ve always been scared that guides lead to a tedious, lecture style experience where you’re wishing you were somewhere else, but not Petros. It was like travelling with a friend, who just luckily knew all the hidden places to go, could get you the best table and bargain for that cheap ticket – and politely negotiate (aka yell) at the odd Greek taxi driver who was taking you the long way. It made the experience pretty seamless, and after a little while I was more than happy to give up the reigns (self confessed control freak!).
Over the next few weeks I’m going to be sharing with you more about my experience on the tour, as well as travel guides form the major places we visited. First up, Athens.
We stayed at the President Hotel which has a great pool terrace (although a pretty suffocating breakfast room). If I went with Ben we might splash out a bit and stay at the New Hotel or the Fresh Hotel, and if you’re on a budget City Circus looks fun.
Eat & Drink
Have a romantic dinner on the steps of Mnisikleous street.
Dia Tauta for a leafy lunchtime Greek feast in the Monastraki area.
For urban greek in grown up surrounds, check out Cookoovaya.
Head to To Mavro Provato for modern mezze.
Oinoscent wine bar for local wines
Head to the Kolonaki or Gazi areas for drinks.
Have frozen Greek yogurt (so much better than your average fro-yo) at a shop like Yiaourtaki (there’s a few around the city).
See & Do
The Acropolis & Acropolis Museum – I thought they would be touristy, and they were quite busy but still completely worth it, just go early for a more relaxed experience.
Wander the neighbourhood of Plaka.
Check out the Monastraki Flea Markets – the streets are full of touristy shopping but on a Sunday, Avissinias Square off the main Bazaar fills up with small stalls.
The Central Food Markets for some produce envy (atleast if you live in Hong Kong like I do).
Lycabettus Hill for amazing views and sunset.
A day trip out to Sounion to see the ruins and sunset.
Good to know
You only really need one to two days in Athens (use the rest of your time on the islands!).
Go early to all major sites.
It’s your duty to eat your body weight in tzatziki.
Comfy travel dressing!
The sweetest (slightly battered) strawberries in the food markets
Finding myself a little friend in the streets…
Athens is such a big city!
I’ll have one of each
Greek flags everywhere
Rug shop in Monastraki
The view from the Acropolis
Wandering the Plaka
I loved the beautiful streets!
A big meal at Dia Tauta
Creamy marble columns.
Looking out over the city.
Greek flags everywhere.
Dinner on the steps of Mnisikleous street
Old and new…
Love everything about the bright sunshine in Greece!
Just say yes!
For a country that has endured tough economic times in the last few years, the Greeks were surpisingly welcoming and lovely, and the place is a pleasure to visit – particularly if you have a local guide who knows the best areas to wander!
If you’ve got any other recommendations please feel free to chime in! xx
This post is in collaboration with Contiki, we did the Greek Island Hopping tour.