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Travelling to Athens > sleeping and eating July 28, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece Athens.
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Sleeping in Athens

Although there are dozens of hotels around central Athens, prices are steep and good values are rare. The small inexpensive hotels in the Plaka are few, in all the guidebooks, and therefore filled with other tourists.

It is still possible to find a double room with private bathroom (shower and toilet) for around €50, but most midrange hotels now charge closer to €150 than €100 for a double. Reservations are recommended, especially in the summer months. Hotels require a credit card number to guarantee your reservation.

If you’re organised in advance, it’s worth checking out the hotel brochures at travel agencies. You’ll probably find cheaper deals for some of the hotels listed here. Don’t be sucked in by some of the very cheap deals: most of the cheaper places are located in the sleazy suburbs around Omonia Square, or down in the coastal suburbs of Glyfada and Voula, far from the places you’ve come to see. You’ll pay a premium to stay near the Acropolis and it’s worth it.

One final word: Athens is a noisy city, and Athenians like to stay out late. I have tried to recommend places in quieter areas, but that’s not always possible. Light sleepers should pack earplugs.

North of the Acropolis, Monastiraki, Plaka and Syntagma area:

Hotel Grande Bretagne is five stars and considered the best hotel in Greece. It’s the place to head if you have royal blood, or wish you did and feel like being treated that way for a few days. Built in 1862 to accommodate visiting heads of state, it ranks among the grand hotels of the world. It became a hotel in 1874 and retains its 19th century elegance. No other hotel in Athens can boast such a rich history. The sprawling and elegantly furnished rooms have air-con, minibar, satellite TV and video. American breakfast costs €28. (320 rooms, Sb-€215, Db-€250 to €350 depending on demand, overlooking Syntagma Square at Vassileos Georgiou 1, metro: Syntagma, tel. 210 333 0000, fax 210 3228034, www.grandebretagne.gr, gbhotel@otenet.gr ). If you’d rather just eat here, consider their rooftop restaurant (described below).

Two decent business-class hotels in the Plaka:

One company owns two hotels, each well-located, modern, with basic breakfasts, big plain, comfy air-con rooms with desks, mini-bars, air-con and modern bathrooms and all charging the same price ( Apr-Jun and Oct Sb-115, Db-145, Tb-170, a bit higher in summer, and 30% lower in winter) . Hotel Plaka (tel. 210 3222096, fax 210 3222412, roof terrace, www.plakahotel.gr , plaka@tourhotel , corner of Mitropoleos and Kapnikareas). Hotel Hermes (19 Apollonos Street, closest to Syntagma on a quiet street, tel. 210 3235514, fax 210 3222412, hermes@tourhotel.gr , www.hermeshotel.gr ).

Hotel Adonis is a small modern hotel with 26 rooms on the quiet traffic-free upper reaches of Kodrou, right in the heart of Plaka. The rooms on the 4 th floor have good views of the Acropolis, as does the rooftop bar. (Sb-50, Db-77, Tb-100, cash only, often booked long in advance, air-con, roof-terrace breakfast included, 3 Kodrou street, metro: Syntagma, tel. 210 3249737, fax 210 3231602, owner Spiros doesn’t like computers so there’s no email address or website; prices 40% lower Nov-Mar).

Hotel Tempi is a popular family-run hotel with 24 clean, comfortable rooms on a quiet pedestrian part of Eolou street just 250 yards from Monastiraki metro station. Owners Yiannis and Katerina delight in offering traditional hospitality at prices that won’t break the bank. The rooms at the front have balconies overlooking the flower markets on Plateia Agia Irini and views of the Acropolis (Db-€58, Tb-€70, cheaper singles and doubles with bathroom in the corridor, air-con, satellite TV, no elevator, communal kitchen/breakfast room, 29 Eolou street, tel. 210 3213175, fax 210 3254179, www.travelling.gr/tempihotel , tempihotel@travelling.gr).

The Student & Travellers’ Inn is the best backpacker place in the Plaka, and the perfect place to meet up with other young travellers. It has its own travel agency specialising in the Greek Islands, three computers for Internet access and a shady courtyard bar with big-screen TV showing major international sporting events. The 33 rooms come in all shapes and sizes, from dorms with communal bathroom to private rooms with bathroom, TV and air-con. (Dorms-€18, Sb-€50, Db-€60, Tb-€75, choice of breakfasts from €3, prices 20% lower Nov-Mar, tel. 210 3244808, fax 210 3210065, 16 Kydathineon street, metro: Syntagma, www.studenttravellersinn.com , info@studenttravellersinn.com).

Athens International Youth Hostel is a long way from Plaka, north-west of Omonia Square at 10 Victor Hugo street. It’s worth mentioning only as a place to avoid. It’s run down in a sleazy district.

South of the Acropolis

Art Gallery Hotel is a charming little family-run hotel, tucked away on a quiet back street just 10 minutes’ walk from the Acropolis. It’s family run by Ada (the artist), Ethel, and Yannis Assimakopoulos, who each love to share their knowledge of the city. The top-floor bar is the place to meet fellow travellers for an evening drink, and a view of the Acropolis (21 rooms, Sb-75, Db-105, Tb-125, breakfast €6/free with this book, TV, air-con, 5 Erehthiou street, metro: Syngrou-Fix, then take Drakou exit and walk up pedestrian mall three blocks, tel. 210 9238376, fax 210 9233025, ecotec@otenet.gr , prices lower off season). The pedestrian blocks below the hotel are lined by fun cafes and eateries without a tourist in sight.

Marble House Pension is another small family-run place with 16 cozy rooms. Hidden away behind a brilliant red bougainvillea at the end of a cul-de-sac, it has to be the quietest hotel in Athens and well worth the walk to get there (Sb-40, Db-46, Tb-53, cheaper doubles and triples with outside bathroom, breakfast €5, bar fridge, ceiling fans, tel. 210 9234058 – 210 9228294, fax 210 9226461, www.marble-house.gr, info@marblehouse.gr, 10 minutes walk from Syngrou-Fix metro station at 35A, Zini street, Koukaki, prices 20% lower Oct-Apr).

Hotel Phedra over-looking a peaceful square of ancient ruins and a Byzantine Church, is a fine little hotel offering some of the best budget rooms in the Plaka (21 rooms, Sb-€50, D-€50, Db-€60, Tb-€72, less off-season, air-con, breakfast extra, two blocks up from Hadrian’s Arch at 6 Lissikratous street, tel. 210 3238461, fax 210 3227795).

Eating
Around Syntagma Square

Café is designed for the traveller in a hurry, a slick modern cafeteria-style eatery facing Syntagma. You’ll find a daily selection of Greek favourites as well as salads and pastas (daily 7:00-01:00, tel. 210 3246873, on the southern side of Syntagma Square at 3 Mitropoleos street). While not cheap, it is efficient and air-conditioned. Head upstairs for smoke free Syntagma Square view tables.

Fast Food Eleni, west of Syntagma on unglamorous Perikleous street, is one of central Athens’ best-kept secrets. Most of the customers are workers from the surrounding shops and offices, who come here for the daily specials like roast pork with lemon and potatoes (€5.50) as well as for the fast food (Mon-Sat 11:00-17:00, 200 yards south of Syntagma Square at 19 Perikleous street).

Hotel Grande Bretagne’s Roof Garden Restaurant is considered by many the finest change in town to dine in old world elegance, on a roof garden with grand Acropolis and city views (nightly from 19:00, reservations required, Greek and Mediterranean cuisine, pastas €15, main courses €30, menus €60 to €75, tel. 210 3330750, or after 19:00 210 3330766, Syntagma Square).

Around Plaka
Diners, Greek and tourist alike, flock to the Plaka. The food is generally mediocre, but the Plaka makes up fot that in ambiance. Unless stated otherwise, all the restaurants listed here are open daily for lunch and dinner.

Taverna O Thespis is a rare place that feels like the good old days in the Plaka. It’s tucked away above the Plaka crowds up quiet Thespidos with tables cascading down a series of breezy terraces. Dine on traditional specialities like bekri meze, pork with spicy sauce (€10 mains, daily 11:00-24:00, tel 210 3238242, 18 Thespidos street).

Taverna tou Psara is another good bet just above the hustle and bustle of Plaka. The starters here are especially good: you can order a good selection of mezedes and forget about a main course. The outdoor terrace has views out over the city, and live folk music (€10 to €13 mains, daily 11:00-24:00, tel. 210 3218734, signposted off Tripodon street at 16 Erectheos street).

Restaurant Hermion is a dressy wicker place tucked away in a quiet arcade off busy Pandrosou street, offering a choice of outdoor seating in a small private square, or a cool air-conditioned interior. Under a canvas canopy surrounded by potted plants you forget you’re in a big city. The menu offers a large range of salads, and lots of fish dishes (€10 to €15 mains, daily 11:00-01:00, with back to cathedral leave the square downhill on left going 50 yards down Pandrosou to Zeus sign where an arcade takes you to 15 Pandrosou street, tel. 210 3247148).

Sholarhio Ouzeri O Kouklis is a fun, inexpensive place ideal for groups wanting to try a variety of traditional mezedes and drink good homemade booze on a breezy perch at the top of the Plaka. Since 1935 the Kouklis family has been making ouzo (that’s what an ouzeri is – a place to drink ouzo) and running their restaurant which maintains a 1930s atmosphere. The waiter comes around with a big platter of dishes and you choose what you like (€3 or €4 per plate), drinks are cheap, dessert is free, they have a 4 person €40 special worth considering. As the plates are pretty big, this is most fun with a group of four or more (daily from 11:00-24:00, under the Acropolis where Lysiou hits Tripodon street, 14 Tripodon street, tel. 210 3247605).

Eden Vegetarian Restaurant is Athens’ first vegetarian restaurant (since 1982) and enjoys mixing Greek and international creatively with respect for your environment inside and out. The inviting menu offers vegetarian versions of such Greek favourites like mousakas and stifado (€12 meals, Wed-Mon 12:00-24:00, 12 Lysiou street, tel. 210 3248858, www.edenveg.gr).

Fast food and Picnics
The best place to head for fast food is the bottom end of Mitropoleos, where it meets Monastiraki Square. This is souvlaki heaven with several frantic restaurants spilling into the street keeping hoardes of hungry, mostly local eaters happy. For €6 you get a pile of sish-kebabs on pita bread. Meat shaved from a gyro is cheaper. A gyro souvlaki sandwich to go is just €1.50. Greek salads are hearty and the wine, beer and ouzo is cheap. Thanasis is famous for its special souvlaki, made from a traditional recipe that combines ground beef and lamb with Thanasis’s secret blend of seasonings. Grab a takeaway wrapped in pitta bread (€1.50), or sit down to a plate of four (€6, daily 10:00-02:00, 69 Mitropoleos street, tel. 210 3244705).

Across the street, another old favorite, Savas, has both a restaurant and a takeaway counter offering a choice of gyros: ground beef, pork, or chicken gyros (all €1.50). The guys here can fill and wrap a gyros before you can blink. Ask for yours to be served ap’ola (with everything in the lot) and it’ll come loaded with salad and tzatziki (daily 10:00-03:00, 86 Mitropoleos street, tel. 210 3245048).

Markets: The lively central markets are about 500 yards north of Plateia Monastirakiou on Athinas street. You’ll find the best and cheapest selection of whatever’s in season at the fruit and vegetable markets, which spread downhill to the left, flanked by shops selling fetta from the barrel and a dozen different kinds of olives.

The meat and fish markets are housed in the neoclassical building across the street, behind a row of shops specialising in dried fruit and nuts. Try the roasted almonds, and the delicious white figs from the island of Evia.

There are no big supermarkets close to the Plaka, but there are several minimarkets that stay open all hours (7:00-22:00) and stock enough to throw together a decent picnic. To the south of the Acropolis, try Veropoulos Supermarket (Mon-Fri 8:00-20:00, Sat 8:00-6:00, just uphill from Veikou street at 6 Parthenonos street, Koukaki area).

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