Ambling in Athens

On a recent trip to Athens, we had the good fortune to book a tour through those lovely and wise folk at Context. Their learned docent Smaro met us at our wee boutique hotel, The O&B on the edge of the Plaka, where we ventured through lanes and flower-strewn alleys on a sun-dappled late autumnal afternoon (it seems Greece enjoys better weather than most of Europe later in the year).

The erudite and enthusiastic Smaro informed us of the current Greek economic situation and how it has manifested itself in the city as we passed through flea markets and cafes with busy terraces. She shed light on the way the city came to be constructed and led us through the rather touristy but disarmingly lovely Plaka district, and on to the higher, prettier Anafiotika. Anafiotika takes its name from the island Anafi in the Cyclades just to the east of Santorini. Its people came to Athens as builders after the independence and that’s where they settled and lived in the 19th century. It’s aptly named, as it feels like a Greek island village transplanted onto the hillsides leading up to the Acropolis, where the Parthenon is almost always visible, watching over the city’s ever-changing fortunes.

We traversed a fair amount of terrain, taking in trendy streetside cafes and ending in Syntagma Square where the Greek Parliament building vies for your attention with the wonderful Grand Bretagne Hotel. We ended-up dining in the hotel with a staggering view of the square to complement our excellent meal.

Greece maybe be going through a multitude of changes at the moment, but the streets of Athens are a welcoming distraction from the politics (though the cafes are alive with the chatter of these events). The stunning selection of buzzy bars and restaurants, marvellous markets and terrific hotels, make the city worth visiting at any time of year.

Anton is an incredibly well-travelled Londoner who keeps his politics to himself, and would frankly much rather discuss the merits of hotels and cafes over a glass of the local brew.

It feels like a Greek island village transplanted onto the hillsides leading up to the Acropolis.

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