A sunny autumn city-break in Athens – World Meanderings (n°100)
By Annick Dournes & Frederic de Poligny
Being just back from a three weeks tour in Greece we can assure you that Greece is one of the safest countries in the world to travel to. With less than four hundred deaths from the Covid since the beginning of the pandemic Greece can boast an optimum management of this terrible crisis. Take advantage of these good conditions and of the mild and sunny Greek weather this autumn to enjoy a de-stressing city-break in Athens.
Actually, the crisis offers “ideal” conditions to visit Athens. Due to the low number of tourists the main sites of the city are almost deserted and we were able to visit the Acropolis, the ancient Agora, the Panathenaic Stadium and other antic sites feeling like the happy few who were able to make their “Grand Tour” of Europe in the 18th century!
The different districts of Athens such as Plaka or Monastiraki are still very lively. All shops and restaurants are open and filled with local people. Wearing a mask is not necessary in open spaces such as streets or antic sites while being mandatory in shops, museums and all closed spaces. In restaurants preventive sanitary measures are strictly respected. All waiters wear a mask, some of them even wear gloves, and each table and seat are cleaned with an antiseptic product before new clients come to take a seat. During our three-week stay in Greece we were able to check that every restaurant and bar willingly respect these rules, from stared restaurant to simple family taverna.
On your end, going to Greece is quite simple. When booking your flight tickets to Athens you will find a link to get to the PLF, the Passenger Location Form. Fill in this form at least 48 hours before departure and you will receive a QR code that will be mandatory when checking in at the airport. No PLF, no boarding! Once in Athens airport a few passengers are chosen at random in each international flight and tested for coronavirus. In case this test would be positive you would be contacted the following day and be put in quarantine for two weeks in a hotel chosen and paid for by the Greek State.
Athens Capital Hotel – M Gallery, a brand-new hotel in the heart of Athens
There are now 100 M Gallery boutique-hotels throughout the world, each one with its own history and personality. “Athens Capital Hotel” opened just one month ago and is the first one in Greece. Ideally located on the vast Syntagma Square it is at walking distance of most sites of interest in town. Syntagma Square is famous for the spectacular changing of the guard of the Evzones, who guard the Monument of the Unknown Soldier in front of the Hellenic Parliament. The changing of the guard takes place every hour of the day but if you’re staying at Athens Capital Hotel on a weekend be there at 11 am on Sunday morning to see a longer ceremony with the Evzones wearing their characteristic uniforms.
“Athens Capital Hotel” has a modern style Greek decoration with noble materials and pure lines with subtle Greek symbols and patterns. The hotel building is arranged around a central patio that welcomes from ground to roof an impressive art installation created by Greek artist George Lappas.
The rooftop is absolutely sensational with an amazing view over the Acropolis. You can enjoy this view from the big infinity pool or from the rooftop bar enjoying a drink at sunset… or both! The bar is the new “place to be” in Athens and proposes signature cocktails such as the surprising “Mastic Velvet” made with Mastica, a typical Greek alcohol, bended with lime juice and rose liqueur or the sweet “Fragola Diversa” made with Martini Bianco, strawberry puree, citrus juice and Angorista bitters.
The hotel’s main restaurant, “Mflavours”, is set on the floor below and has a vast outside terrace with nice view of the Greek Parliament. As buffet breakfast is not possible during the Covid pandemic the hotel has created a “à la carte” breakfast menu that offers a wide choice of hot and cold Greek and international dishes served at your table with a quick efficient service… and a lot of smiles.
For dinner the chef makes a tasty unsophisticated yet creative Mediterranean cuisine. Why not start with a signature dish, the “Tuna and salmon carpaccio” with a Tsipouro and Bloody Mary sorbet and a pinch of wasabi or the “Vitello Tonnato” with truffle and Espelette pepper. Next have the homemade “Tortelli Carbonara” or a perfectly cooked boneless rack of lamb. If you still have room have a “Mastica Macaroon” a signature dessert made with a Mastica cream infused with citrus marmalade that nicely melts in the mouth. The wine list is an interesting selection of international and Greek wines that are worth discovering. The ‘Galerie Café” on the ground floor is a perfect place for a snack, a light meal or a Greek coffee!
Without being huge the rooms are quite large for a city hotel. The modern style decoration offers soft and soothing colours and top-quality bedding. A perfect resting nest after having paced Athens up and down!
The hotel is easily reached from the airport with the metro line 3 that will take you directly to Syngtama Square in 40 min. (the hotel is a 3-minute walk from the station).
Remember that the touristic Athens central district of Plaka, from Syntagma Square to Acropolis, is a huge pedestrian zone, so don’t forget to wear good walking shoes!
More info and booking at https://all.accor.com/hotel/B3X8/index.en.shtml
Text ©Annick Dournes
Photos ©Frederic de Poligny