Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Athens Chronicles | Plaka

Plaka is an old and typical Athenian neighborhood, built in the northern and eastern slopes of the Acropolis. Its labyrinthine streets, some in steps, the pastel colors and flowers in the windows give it charm while the numerous restaurants and terraces and the movement of people gives an animation that captivates the traveler.

Two main roads, lined with olive trees, cycle through this neighborhood and access to the main points of interest. Starting from Monastiraki by Apostolou Pavlo Street, one crosses Plaka to the entrance of the archaeological site of the Acropolis. From this entry we are in the Street Diousiou Aeropagitou, where we can find the New Acropolis Museum, that can be crossed  to Vasilissis Amalias Avenue, across from the Arch of Hadrian. In its various cross streets one can find small restaurants with nice terraces and live music.

In this charming neighborhood can be found archaeological sites (such as the well-known Tower of the Winds) near typical taverns, flower stalls and souvenir shops, food or crafts. In addition, the views of the Acropolis and the Parthenon are a constant.This is, also,  the favorite area of the Athenians for their night outings in the center of the city.

On the northeast side, lies the picturesque district of Anafiotika. The whitewashed houses, the winding streets, small yards, cats and  pots of basil and geraniums, lead us, in the blink of an eye, from the center of Athens to an island of the Cyclades.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Athens Chronicles | The Acropolis

Visible from most of the city, with its white marble monuments shining in the sun, the Acropolis is one of the most important archaeological sites in the world and one of the places to visit in Athens.

The Acropolis was inhabited by humans since the Neolithic until the end of the sixth century BC, when the Oracle of Delphos declared that this was the territory of the gods. After the destruction caused by the Persian invasions, Pericles established an ambitious reconstruction plan and transformed the Acropolis into a city of temples, designed by the best architects, built with the richer materials and adorned by the best sculptors and artists. The destruction and looting, as well as the ravages of time, have long reduced the splendor of the ancient Acropolis, but the restoration programs initiated several years ago still continue and many of the original sculptures were taken to the Acropolis Museum, being replaced by replicas.

We reached the Acropolis, coming from Monastiraki and crossing the Plaka district. If you want to visit other places you should check at the ticket office on the possibility of buying conjoint tickets that are more economical and are valid for several days. Needless to say, particularly for a visit in the summer, it is mandatory to wear comfortable shoes, light clothes, sunglasses and preferably a hat. And don’t forget the sun screen and a couple bottles of water.

The city view is truly breathtaking and the feeling of being in a place with so much history is disturbing. An additional visit to the fantastic New Acropolis Museum helps you to know the evolution of human occupation of the site and the buildings that existed there.

Opening Hours and Prices:
8am – 8pm April to October
8am – 5pm November to March
Last entry 30min before closing

Adults 12€ / Children free
Free admission first Sunday of the month from November to March.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Athens Chronicles | Ancient Agora

Heart of ancient Athens and center of public life of the Athenians during antiquity, the Ancient Agora is located northwest of the Acropolis on the base of the hill. The Agora was the administrative, judicial, commercial and city’s business center, it was also the place where stemmed theatrical performances and sporting events.

It is exciting to think that, wile strolling around its grounds, we step on the same ground that men like Socrates or Plato stepped. In that sense, this was one of the places visited that touched me the most. Most of the buildings are destroyed, but you can still see their bases. There are colossal statues and pieces of columns scattered over the ground, as well as olive and pine trees that allow you to rest quietly in the shade.

On one of the highest points of Agora we can find the temple of Hephaestus, god of fire and metal, that there was worshiped alongside the goddess Athena, guardian of the city. This temple is one of the best preserved and certainly deserves a visit.

On the opposite side, closer to Monastiraki, is the Stoa of Attalos, which houses the Museum of the Ancient Agora. The Stoa is a kind of covered walkway that was rebuilt in the last century and that allows us to understand the scale of the original buildings. The museum’s collection includes pieces of clay, bronze and glass, sculptures, coins, as well as Turkish and Byzantine pottery. Though small, the museum is interesting and well organized.

Opening Hours and Ticket Prices:
8:30 to 19:30 from April to October (except Mondays,when it opens at 11:00)
8:00 to 15:00 November to March
Last entry 30 minutes before closing

Adults 4 € / Children 2 €

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Athens Chronicles | Monastiraki

Monastiraki, which means small monastery, is a neighborhood in the old city of Athens, known mainly by the flea market, held every Sunday morning, and by its souvenir and antique shops.

Starting from Syntagma Square, it is about ten minutes walk following the Ermou Street that in the route to the Monastiraki Square has no car traffic. In your way there you will find the Church of Panagia Kapnikarea, one of the most important Byzantine monuments in the city. Dedicated to Saint Mary, this small cross-shaped church was built around 1050.

Then we come to a wide but irregular square, flanked by the metro station and the Tzitaraquis Mosque (where you can find the Traditional Ceramics Museum), and where you  can catch a good sight of the Acropolis. Always full of visitors, Monastiraki Square has fruit vendors and koulória stands (delicious breads in ring shape covered with sesame seeds). From this square we reach the place where, on Sunday mornings, occurs the flea market. The streets that give access and that the surround it remind us the streets of Turkish bazaars with shops full of cheap goods. You can also find pieces of genuine handcraft, but can be more difficult. In the streets around the market are located a few antique shops, but the best ones can be found in Psiri neighborhood (have I told you that I must visit Athens one more time?).

After finishing the visit to the flea market and get back to the square, we can move forward in the direction of the Acropolis, on the Aeros Street, and we pass the ruins of Hadrian’s Library. A little further, on our left, we can see  Aeris Tower or Tower of the Winds. At the time of our visit this entire area of ​​the city was with works in progress.

If when you get out of the square you turn right, follow the Adrianou Street, having the Stoa of Attalos and the Ancient Agora to your left. On the right side of the street you can find numerous cafes and restaurants with nice terraces. Surely a lovely place to rest a little and enjoy a fresh drink after this tour that took around two and a half hours.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Athens Chronicles | National Gardens

Starting from Syntagma Square, we can visit the beautiful National Gardens in Athens, once named the Royal Gardens. These gardens, with around 40 acres, situated in the center of the city, home to over 500 species of plants, trees and animals and constitute a true oasis of tranquility.
From the entrance, located next to the Parliament, we can already appreciate the size and beauty of this park, dominated, on this side, by a long avenue lined with towering palm trees. Continuing the tour by the numerous paths that cross the garden, we find lakes, rich vegetation, as well as quiet corners where we can rest in the shade and away from the city bustle.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Athens Chronicles | Hotel Grand Bretagne

On our trip to Crete, we spent three nights in Athens and we could not have chosen a better hotel than the Grande Bretagne. More than the luxury, it fascinated me its story, the care put into every detail, the excellent service, comfort, location and stunning views. Athens and the Grande Bretagne worth a longer visit and I can not wait to come back!

Located on the emblematic Syntagma Square, the Grande Bretagne is close to everything, and even if you have not planned anything in advance, the Concierge desk will give you all the necessary support to plan your day or to make any reservation or booking.

The entire building, built in 1842 and converted into a hotel in 1874, is stunningly beautiful, but the impact of the large lobby is unlikely to be forgotten. The only aspect that competes with the fabulous interior of the hotel is the fantastic views you can reach from the top of the building.

To have breakfast, with a blue sky that only Greece has and to have such a sight of the city and its main monuments is a feast for the senses. Dinner at the GB Roof Garden Restaurant & Bar, watching the lighted city and the Acropolis cut against the sky is a truly unforgettable experience. Adding to the panoramic view of Athens, the restaurant offers a refined, delicious and varied cuisine, together with a careful and attentive service. We liked it so much that we had dinner on the Roof Garden in the three nights that we were in Athens.

Alexander’s Bar, voted as the Best Hotel Bar in the world by Forbes magazine, owes his name to the authentic 18th century tapestry, featuring Alexander the Great entering into Gaugamela. The tapestry is a trademark fixture of the hotel, and is the focal point of the fabled Alexander’s Bar, proudly hanged by the beautiful wooden bar. There you can take a seat on one of the comfortable leather stools, and linger over a classic cocktail, taste a refined brandy, or enjoy an exquisite cognac. I really want to come back with more time and enjoy Alexander’s Bar signature mixed drink – the Mandarin Napoleon Select – a surprising blend of Dubonnet Rouge, Grand Marnier, gin and fragrant essential oil of Sicilian tangerines. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

If you love a good cigar you must visit the Alexander’s Cigar Lounge. With  it’s sophisticated space located in the inner garden, the Cigar Lounge boost  colonial elegance and a warm atmosphere, offering an ideal setting for enjoying fine cigars, wines, liquors, coffee or tea.

In the heart of the Hotel there is another perfect place. The tranquil and elegant Winter Garden were you can have breakfast, a light lunch, high tea or dinner accompanied by live piano music. Next to the lobby , the Winter Garden is a beautiful atrium space, designed to offer guests a relaxing place with the finest service. Between the beautiful stained glass in the ceiling  and the intricate marble floor grounds, you can enjoy the abundant natural light from the windows that overlook the atrium garden and look at the palms, while listening the sound of the water and the tinkling of the piano. I surely would like to come back and stay for some tea.

If you want to relax even more or have one (or more) of a collection of marvelous spa treatments and massages, you must visit the GB SPA. And if walking all around Athens was not enough exercise for you, the Grande Bretagne has a top quality fitness studio were you can do some extra workout. Or you can end your day relaxing at the pool,  drinking a cocktail.

And if you do not want to leave the Grand Bretagne without taking a souvenir, the hotel Gift Shop is full of beautiful and delicious things. The only difficulty is to choose.

All the photos above via Hotel Grand Bretagne

Hotel Grande Bretagne, a Luxury Collection Hotel
Str. Vasileos Georgia A, 1
Syntagma Square, Athens
105 64, Greece

Phone: +30 210 3330000

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