A Long Weekend in Athens: A first-timer’s itinerary

Athens Minibreak

We spent three days and three nights exploring Athens, the buzzing capital of Greece. One of the world’s oldest cities, it is still dominated by 5th-century BC landmarks, giving visitors the opportunity to experience modern Athens whilst still connecting with its epic past.

Whilst this certainly isn’t an extensive guide, it’s how we chose to spend our whirlwind 72 hours eating and drinking in this ancient city, and was all accessible on foot.

Athens Minibreak

This is a sponsored post; we travelled to Athens on flights from Birmingham airport, courtesy of Jet2CityBreaks.

Day 1

Check in at Cocomat Athens BC

After browsing the Jet2CityBreaks options in Athens, we picked the brilliantly located Cocomat Athens BC as our base for the long weekend, a hotel that brings ancient history and modern design together right in the heart of the city; there are even ancient ruins to admire in the entrance lobby!

By far the biggest selling point for the Coco-mat Athens BC (one of the nicest hotels we found on Jet2CityBreaks) is its proximity to the Acropolis – great for getting there before the crowds in the morning (more on that below), but even better when you discover the breathtaking roof terrace bar, restaurant and pool area which overlooks the Parthenon.

After checking into the hotel around lunchtime, the first order of the day was a Greek beer and a feta salad, overlooking the most complete ancient Greek monumental complex in existence. It’s not the cheapest bar you’ll find in Athens, but it does come with the best view!

Explore Pretty Plaka

In the shadow of the Acropolis and its ancient temples, Plaka is just a few minutes walk from the hotel. This neighbourhood is extremely popular with tourists, with cobblestone streets lined with colourful shops selling everything from oils and soaps, to jewellery, clothes and local ceramics. The best way to see Plaka is on foot; I loved getting lost whilst taking endless pics of local street cats against a backdrop of neoclassical buildings, Byzantine churches, cafes, and souvenir shops.

Try an Acropolis Martini

Brettos is Athens’ oldest bar and distillery, established in 1909. Whether it’s down to the coloured bottles which line the floor-to-ceiling shelves in the bar, or the drinks menu which feels more like a bible, something about Brettos makes you want to sit and sip for hours.

Brettos Plaka

I went for the Acropolis Martini; a mix of ouzo, limoncello and lemon juice. Here, you can also try their house-made Tsipouro, a local spirit made from grape skins and the leftovers of wine.

Sample the Local Street Food

We stopped by Athina Souvlaki, located on Makrygianni street, for the perfect post-cocktail feed; Gyros. Pronounced ‘yee-ros’ this Greek street food consists of meat stuffed in pita bread, with tomato, onion, fried potatoes, and tzatziki. I couldn’t resist a fresh corn on the cob from from one of the street-sellers, which came sprinkled liberally with spicy salt.

Day 2

Grab a Greek Coffee

Breakfast is included at Cocomat Athens BC and is served on the ground floor. It consists of a continental buffet; a spectacular array of greek pastries, yoghurts, cheese and cold meats – plus fresh coffee made to order. I started every morning with fresh honeycomb, fruit and greek yoghurt, with an iced coffee on the side, the perfect way to prepare for a day of sight seeing and bar hopping.

Visit the Acropolis

The Acropolis is a hilltop citadel topped with ancient buildings. In times gone by, this was the beating heart of Ancient Greece, a powerful civilisation and empire. The ruins really are a must-visit, especially the colonnaded Parthenon temple, which is dedicated to the goddess Athena who the people of Athens considered their patroness.

There is absolutely no way you can visit Athens without ticking this off your list. The views across the city are unbeatable.

View from the Acropolis

The entrance to the Acropolis is but a five minute walk from Cocomat Athens BC, which means you have every opportunity to get in early. Enjoy it whilst the temperatures are still manageable, and avoid being crammed shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of tourists trying to get the best view. Top tip: pre-purchase your tickets online to avoid queuing at the gate.

Sample some Lukumades

One of my greek friends suggested I try LUKUMAΔEΣ, a busy coffee shop putting their own, unique spin on a Greek classic. Lukumádes are round, crisp Greek dough balls, traditionally served with honey and cinnamon. But at LUKUMAΔEΣ, they are taken to an indulgent next level and come with a dazzling array of injected fillings and sweet toppings. I ordered mine stuffed with a bugatsa cream (like a Greek egg custard), topped with honey, cinnamon and crushed walnuts. And I ate the lot!

Lukumades, Athens

Sip some zero-waste cocktails

After a couple of hours of cafe hopping, we headed to Six Dogs Athens, a 24/7 cultural entertainment centre in Monastiraki, comprising of a club, bar, cafe, restaurant and beer garden. Throughout the year, the venue plays host to live and electronic music events and parties on a daily basis. You can pop in any time for coffee, cocktails and snacks in the impressive beer garden which is surrounded by high rise buildings and makes it feel like a secret oasis.

When we visited, a zero-waste cocktail menu impressed us with some weird and wonderful concoctions! Holy Water was made with green apple vodka, white vermouth, pine liqueur, lemon & rosemary cordial, yuzu juice, oak smoked salt and pine seeds. By far my favourite was Harmony, a mind-boggling umami creation using Beefeater Gin, porcini-infused Aperol, apple, carrot and lemon juice – served with a rim of parmesan salt and a sprinkling of dried porcini.

Tuck into a Seafood Dinner

Just around the corner from Six Dogs is Zisi’s, locally famous for its lunchtime, street food offer of ‘fish in a cone’. Fresh and crispy fried fish (including shrimp, squid, fish balls, sardines, and more) is served in a cone with a wedge of fresh lemon. Happily, you can also ‘eat-in’ at Zisi’s; we tucked into a plate of cirspy, salty fried sardines, followed by chargilled squid with a side order of rosemary fries.

Day 3

Take a Dip

After breakfast, it was only right that we spend some time enjoying Cocomat Athens BC‘s incredible rooftop pool. Even when the weather isn’t 100%, it’s a beautiful place to take a break from the city, and wind down with a book and a glass of something cold.

You can still call this sightseeing, right!?

Cocomat Athens BC

Get some greenery

A wander to this public park is a great way to escape the heat of the full afternoon sun. 15.5 hectares of greenery are based right is located between the districts of Kolonaki and Pangrati, directly behind the Greek Parliament buildings. Go here to kill an hour or two watching the parakeets swoop in and out of the fountains.

Athens National Garden

Try the local wine

Heteroclito is a natural wine bar in Monastiraki, where wines by the glass can be paired with Greek cheese, olives and charcuterie. I have a big soft spot for natural wines so this was such a find! We sampled a dry, juicy Pet Nat made by the Vaimakis family in Epirus, and an unfiltered, low intervention orange wine from Lefkada.

Perch on Plaka Steps

On our final night in Athens, we gave in to temptation and headed to Mnisikleous street aka ‘Plaka Steps’. It’s a postcard-perfect set up; cosy restaurants line the steps of a steep cobbled street; couples and families sit either side enjoying leisurely dinners and drinks whilst soaking up the view. If you can fight your way to a good table (and not get too wound up by the selfie sticks) it really is a lovely way to spend a couple of hours.

Sadly, I didn’t get any pics, but if you search Mnisikleous on Instagram, you’ll be able to see why it’s such a popular spot!

We’re sorry we missed…

If we’d had longer in Athens, we absolutely would have taken a taxi out to Vouliagmeni Lake in the heart of the Athenian Riviera. Here, you can go wild swimming all year, because the warm water is naturally replenished by underground thermal springs. It’s at the top of my list for next time!

The Travel Details

  • How to get there: Jet2 operate regular flights to Athens, but our flights were bundled with our stay, via Jet2CityBreaks.
  • Where to stay: We couldn’t have wished for a better hotel than Cocomat Athens BC. The staff were lovely, the rooms clean and cosy, and the food great – but nothing could beat that Acropolis view from the roof!
  • What to pack: Jet2CityBreaks offer a generous 22kg luggage allowance (plus hand luggage) so you can take everything you need, and have room for souvenirs. Make sure to pack some comfortable footwear with good grip – some of the historical sites have extremely slippery steps, worn smooth from centuries of use!

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It’s estimated that flying from London to Athens generates around 353kg to 405kg of CO2 per passenger. Jet2’s new Net Zero strategy promises to offset every tonne of carbon dioxide that’s not already covered by a contribution to existing government schemes. Find out more here. For more information on carbon offsetting schemes and the true cost of flying – as well as how to reduce your own travel impact, click here.

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