The boat will board in Athens, so we came a day early to see a bit more of the city than I’d ever allotted time for. I’m glad I did. Many people are told to skip Athens, and while I understand that the city is gritty and the traffic can be horrendous, that advice is wrong. (I say this even though we had a tough time getting to our hotel because several streets were blocked off because of a one-day strike).
Still, Athens not only has the Acropolis and Parthenon dominating the skyline of the old city, but the old city itself is a worthy destination for romantic moments.
The Plaka, as it’s called, is a mixture of romantic restaurants that spill onto the streets, fine shops and curios and wonderful small museums. I liked the Folk Art museum and a small but touching Jewish Museum). The streets are narrow and wind around in a charming non-linear way and the people-watching is first class.
We wandered down Adrianou, a terrific street full of small restaurants, the smell of grilled chicken and lamb like a siren call to my appetite. Most of the diners are seated on outdoor patios protected from the relentless summer sun by awnings or greenery. Along the way we passed a major ruin, Hadrian’s Library, and when we reached the restored ancient Greek marketplace, we found that most of the restaurants there have a gorgeous view of the Acropolis. An exception is Kouti — but it has terrific vegetarian cuisine and you can catch the view from an even better vantage point later on.
That vantage point is on the roof garden of the Central Hotel, also on Adrianou. A charming boutique hotel at a great price (about 138 Euros including breakfast), it is a real romantic jewel because of the view from its roof garden. On the roof (where you are allowed to bring your own wine, food, whatever) you have an utterly splendid view of the Acropolis — and when it’s all lit up at night, it’s one of those views that makes you stop talking, and, if you are with your honey, wordlessly take each other’s hand, and just stare at the glory of ancient Greece.
The second day was more about filling our brains than our hearts. We went to the Old Archaeology Museum and then to the new one. Everyone is hyping the new one but let me be clear: the old one has the masterworks that make the trip to Athens absolutely necessary. Yes, the new museum has one amazing attraction: when you walk in the courtyard you walk over a series of glass floors that let you look down at archaeological finds and digs in progress that are truly amazing and fascinating. The rest of the collection, however, pales compared to the older museum, so see both — but if you can only see one — see the old one.
Then end your day like we did — with iced cappuccinos — seated at yet another great street cafe looking up at the lighted panorama of ancient monuments.