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How To Spend Two Perfect Days In Athens, Greece

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Greece has been open to vaccinated travelers since May and many are spending a few days in Athens before setting out for the Greek islands. And, while Athens is legendary for its ancient sites there are plenty of new, modern offerings you should consider—whether you prefer a private catered dinner in a local home, a guided foodie tour, zero-waste sustainable dining experiences or some of the best Acropolis views in the city. Alas, before you make plans, read below for information on what you can expect when traveling to Greece, and bear in mind things change fast so always check for updates on entry requirements.

The experience is relatively smooth, as long as you do your diligence on the front end. Departure from Greece requires all passengers to show either an email or QR code from the Hellenistic Authorities verifying that you have filled out the PLF (a form you must fill out no later than 24 hours before your flight, you cannot fill out this form on the flight over or just prior to landing). When I checked in my QR code had not be sent to me, so I was required to show my email confirming that I did indeed fill out the form. The airport in Athens does offer wifi for travelers who need to access their email upon landing to retrieve their QR code. Upon departure (to the US) you must show your PCR results –which are valid three days prior to your departure day, so if you are leaving on a Monday, your test must be from Friday, Saturday or Sunday (or Monday morning).

Now, the fun part: Top Things in Athens

The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC) is a Renzo Piano masterpiece with endless spaces to explore and 360 degree views of Athens and the sea, as well as a library, state-of-the-art opera house, and expansive open public spaces and a public garden. On the top of the center is Delta, a must-visit restaurant for any trip to Athens. Helmed by two chefs (both products of three-star Michelin kitchens) the experience features 17 courses that highlight Greek ingredients in completely innovative ways. There is only one nightly seating and only 12 tables, so call well in advance. You can also opt to book a seat at their stunning hand-hammered copper bar and sip on one of their inspired cocktails from Thanos Prunarus, the genius behind Athens’ popular bar, Baba au Rum—recently voted one of the World’s 50 Best Bars.

Tours

Alternative Athens is a great resource for officially licensed guides and they offer everything from foodie and nightlife tours to intimate local experiences and Acropolis tours. It’s worth noting that officially licensed guides in Athens have to train for two years and pass a test—they know their stuff, and they know how to keep your group entertained, weaving together the stories of ancient Greece and its centuries of inhabitants into a compelling narrative. The guided tour and of the Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum are essential and the best place to start to fully appreciate the range and depth of antiquity here in this birthplace of culture.

The Best Acropolis Views in Athens

Located in the heart of the city, The Hotel Grande Bretagne, a Luxury Collection Hotel, is the iconic Grand Dame of Athens. Regal and luxurious, it is known for impeccable service, grandly furnished accommodations and arguably one of the best Acropolis views in the city. The GB Roof Garden Restaurant has commanding unobstructed views of the Acropolis—if you stay at the hotel you’ll get both morning light views and evening light (when it’s lit up at night, the scene is magical). Order all the Assyrtiko you can manage and tuck into an evening of fresh seafood, all while you watch the sun go down—it doesn’t get much better than that. The property also boasts an indoor and outdoor rooftop pool.

The Grand Finale—dinner with a local:

Dinner at a historic home in the Plaka sounds pretty amazing, but the team at Discover Greek Culture takes things a notch higher, inviting you to join the owner and spend the meal in discussion over Greek history, ancient philosophers and what everyday life is like in Athens. Dubbed The Heritage Dinner, this experience is located in a 19th-century private townhouse on the oldest street in Europe. On temperate nights (which are most of the year in Athens) you can opt to dine on the rooftop terrace, which rests in the shadow of the Acropolis. A three-course meal of Greek specialties accompanied by glorious views of the illuminated Acropolis is a lovely finale to any trip to Athens. They offer several other immersive cultural experiences including private behind-the-scenes museum tours and on-site archeological excavation opportunities.