Athens, Greece

Photo: AthensWas
Photo: AthensWas

It’s time to fess up. Athens has never been high on your travel wish list. You use the Greek capital as a pit stop. You board ferries bound for the Saronic and Cyclades islands. You rent cars to explore the Peloponnese peninsula. While connecting flights bring you to Crete, Cyprus, and Istanbul. You’re embarrassed to admit that you’ve never seen the Parthenon, the Erechtheion, or the Temple of Olympian Zeus. It’s probably time for you to check out one of the world’s oldest cities.

There’s a new design hotel that should make it easier to stay put in Athens—at least for a few days. AthensWas is in the residential neighborhood of Pláka, on the north and east slopes of the Acropolis. Pláka is called the Neighborhood of the Gods, due to its proximity to numerous ancient sites. Neoclassical architecture lines the labyrinth of streets. The buildings are filled with museums (the Acropolis Museum, the Jewish Museum of Greece, and the Frissiras Museum), coffee shops, and beautiful flowers. Many streets are off-limits to vehicles. It’s a good thing, since the cafés are always overflowing with people.

Photo: AthensWas
Photo: AthensWas

But back to that hotel. You arrive to find AthensWas hidden behind tall, leafy plane trees. Greek marble, Greek walnut, and playful furniture fill the little lobby. The colorful, mid-century decor extends through the rest of the hotel. The cheerful Modern Restaurant features Luisa chairs from the 1950s, their own extra virgin olive oil, and Greek wines. The soundproof rooms—an important feature in a city that likes to party—have more walnut wood, vintage designs, and fiery tones. The veranda in your superior deluxe room gives you a bird’s-eye view of pedestrian-only Dionysiou Areopagitou street. But the hotel’s best feature is its rooftop.

The rooftop bar, on the sixth floor, has stunning views of Athens. Mount Lycabettus and other mountains lie to the east and the west. The Aegean Sea spreads out to the south. The Temple of Olympian Zeus and the old Olympic Stadium are both within eyesight. But it’s the Acropolis that demands your attention. The ancient citadel stands atop a rocky outcrop directly in front of you. That’s right, you have a panoramic, completely uninterrupted view of one of the most famous UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world. You take a seat by the edge of the rooftop and order a Parthenon’s Glow. The cocktail seems appropriate as the sky starts to fade to purple.

Tomorrow you’ll finally cross the Acropolis off your list. You’re even more excited about your visit after someone at the front desk tells you about a little-known entrance only 200 meters from the hotel. You’ll visit more of Athen’s must-see sites until the crowds start to wear on your nerves. Then you’ll drink strong Greek coffee, sweet frappés, and light Greek wine as you check out the coffee shops, the cafés, and the little shops in Pláka. Athens is no longer just a pit stop.

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