Earth proudly wears the Parthenon As the best gem upon her zone. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
You might reasonably assume that during my years of travel and exploration, Athens would have been checked off my list. The political and economic strife was a strong deterrent to travelers, we sidestepped it by offering yacht charters from Bodrum after a blissful week in Istanbul. Cruise the islands of Greece and enjoy countless hidden tavernas, private coves and endless ruins. How times have changed! With the flush of summer, I arrived before the stream of tourists who are flocking back to Athens, the country expects an all-time high of 32 million visitors in 2018.
Historical Athens, the vibrant capital of Greece, is the birthplace of democracy and western civilization and its ancient roots reverberates in monuments and edifices. Any visit to this revered city must include the Acropolis, one of the most famous archaeological monuments in Europe with its Doric temple Parthenon. The Holy Rock of Acropolis dates to the 5th century BCE, the Golden Age of Pericles.
Oh my, checking in at the classic Hotel Grande Bretagne, I moseyed upstairs for a late lunch at GB Roof Garden. My linen draped table at the edge of the garden bestowed unrivaled uninterrupted views of the Acropolis, pure enchantment. A tranquil serene location for fine dining, and in the evenings, dinner is perfected by the shimmering Acropolis bathed in golden lights, it is positively breathtaking, the Golden Age makes its mark.
Ancient wonders abound in Athens, this graceful city has been drawing visitors for years and it’s time to revisit. For nearly 140 years, the Hotel Grande Bretagne has been recognized as the “Royal Box” of Athens. Occupying the most prestigious block of the city’s center, the Hotel Grande Bretagne stands across from Constitution Square, the House of Parliament and the National Gardens. Ideally located within short walking distance of exclusive shopping areas, restaurants, open-air cafes, museums and the business district, the hotel has hosted countless heads of state and international celebrities.
Newly restored with meticulous attention to detail, the 320 rooms and suites marry charming old-world elegance with state-of-the-art facilities. Luxurious rooms with sweeping views over the Hellenic Parliament and Acropolis, this five-star oasis in the city is a must-stop for any visit to Athens. Service is polished and exceeded my expectations, the capable concierge team organized private taxis for me, achieved last minute tickets to Handel Opera at Odeon.
Imagine a moon lit evening in the ancient stone Odeon Theatre built in 161 AD. Music programs are offered between May and October on Tuesday & Thursday evenings – I wish I could have extended a week to see Sting perform! An imposing stage beneath the slopes of the Acropolis offering majestic ballets and arias to ancient Greek tragedies, a must do evening! And it is close enough to the Grande Bretagne to walk, the streets were well lit when I sauntered back to the hotel to meet a friend for an 11 pm drink and dinner at Milos.
Definitely pencil in a date at the destination spa, including the Amethyst Grotto after a day of sightseeing; the thermal steam room, reflexology foot spa and the mud chamber, which uses three different kinds of Mud: Body: Basil, Coral & Minerals. Face: White clay, Rose & Geranium. Hair: Pink clay, Iris flowers & Cinnamon. The Spa will provide re-energizing relief before you bounce out again for dinner at 10 or 11 pm! Indoor and outdoor pools offer a respite from Athens’ summer sun. With picture-perfect backdrops of Lycabettus Hill, it’s hard to determine which is more gratifying: the refreshing water or the uplifting views. Sixth & seventh floor guests are spoiled with 24-hour butler service.
Syntagma Square is the heart of Athens and home to Parliament and the Ministries. But, a walk around the famous historic triangle of Plaka, Thission, and Psyri reveals old neighborhoods with historic mansions, luxurious department stores, chic shops, fine restaurants and traditional tavernas.
Besides the Acropolis the city is home to many important archaeological monuments, including the Odeion of Herodes Atticus, Olymbion, the Roman Market, Panathinaiko Stadium, and the Temple of Poseidon in Suonio. Many museums house the country’s cultural treasures including the Archaeological Museum, Military Museum the Byzantine Museum, the Benaki Museum and the stunning Acropolis Museum. The Acropolis Museum is one of the most interesting museums I’ve ever visited.The Benaki Museum is merely three blocks walk and is jammed with artfully arranged with a permanent collection of iconic cultural items, it is one of the most beautiful neoclassical style buildings in Athens. Do linger upstairs on the roof with an icy libation and absorb the city view.
After night falls, visitors encounter a lively city with a variety of clubs, bouzoukia, restaurants and bars. And the irresistible GB Garden Restaurant has a busy bar scene and again, that stunning view of the Acropolis!
We, of course, have great guides to refresh your memories of Greek history and mythology.
Highly recommend Grande Hotel Bretagne and Athens!