Greece is a paradise. Warm sun, warm people and warm turquoise waters. The landscapes are breathtaking, the seas are crystal clear, and the hillside villages are charming and authentic. The Greek people are friendly, open-minded and openhearted. The vast majority of them speak English.
One of the cradles of European civilization, Greece’s ancient scholars made great advances in philosophy, medicine, mathematics and astronomy. In the the civilized world, Greece is the symbol of democracy, art, the Olympic Games, literature and drama.
Here, Katya Jaimes, yacht and charter broker at International Yacht Collection, shares her insider’s tips to Athens and the Saronic Islands.
Typical itinerary Greek Saronic islands
Athens – Poros – Spetses – Hydra – Aegina – Athens
For travelers like myself, who evaluate the destination by the quality of its shopping experience, Byzantino in Plaka is a hidden gem. In Plaka’s narrow streets, most of small stores’ goods are mass-produced, but not at Byzantino. Its exquisite handmade “museum-copy” jewelry – replicating ancient Greek pieces – is made in the Athens workshop of this family-run business.
Athens is famous, more than any other European capital, for its nightlife. Athens by night totally changes. The famous “bouzoukia” are the leaders in the Athenian entertainment; we visited one of the higher-end ones, Fantasia. It was fun to throw trays full of white carnation flowers at the performers on stage. The entire venue was covered with a thick layer of white carnations within an hour!
Ithaki restaurant in Athens is a magnificent one. Located on the Peninsula of Vouliagmeni with an absolutely breathtaking view, for more than two decades, Ithaki has been host to luminaries of the international jet set from Athina Onassis to Bill Clinton, from Sean Connery to Julio Iglesias and Leonardo DiCaprio.
Dourambeis restaurant in Piraeus, Athens, serves fish only, and they’ve got it down to a fine art. In the words of Captain Takis of M/Y Ionian Princess, ‘They really know how to grill a fish’. An enduring sea-front taverna in Piraeus, this place is popular for fresh fish, grilled to perfection and served with a simple oil-and-lemon dressing. Traditionally Greek, Dourambeis is one of the simplest places in design and style you will see around, but one of the very few that have gained a deserved reputation for the quality and freshness of seafood and fish. This fish taverna near the Delphinario theater in Piraeus is where many locals go when they want a good fish dinner.
On Poros island – noteworthy are Dimitros Lolis or “Dimitrios the butcher” restaurant (you have to ask the taxi driver how to get there as it appears the restaurant has no official name), for outstanding meat, and Prima Sera for fish. You can find the restaurant located at Pounta, right next to the island’s port. Enjoy your meal on the traditional veranda or in the restaurant’s picturesque courtyard. Prima Sera is popular amongst locals and tourists for its carpaccio swordfish and pasta with lobster and for its homemade nut cake.
On Hydra island – Omilos! Today you will find Dimitrios where the famous Lagoudera used to be. Lagoudera opened in 1958 as a nightclub for artists, musicians, and film stars. It was one of the most popular destinations on the tiny Greek island of Hydra. Today, visit Omilos for the beautiful view, cozy white sofas, and amazing food and drinks. You will find yourself in one of the most famous bar-restaurants in Greece, where The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Jackie Kennedy, Mary Kallas and Aristotelis Onasis have walked these very porches.
On Spetses Island – Patralis Fish Tavern. One of the oldest restaurants in existence in the Greek islands, Patralis is a must-visit for travelers to Spetses. Founded by a fisherman named Panos in 1935, the taverna has been in continuous operation ever since, and his descendants continue the traditional recipes. However, since it is so well-regarded, getting reservations at this traditional fish taverna can be tricky. Patralis is open almost year-round, closing only for the months of November and December, re-opening in January. The signature dish at Patralis is fish a la spetsiota.
Hotels & Spas
Hotel Grande Bretagne , Athens. Located at the main square of the city, the Grande Bretagne boasts luxurious rooms and stunning city views from its roof top terrace. From Grande Bretagne’s rooftop you can see the Olympic Stadium as you dive into the pool; the Acropolis from your barstool; the Parthenon as you sample the finest Mediterranean cuisine. The Grande Bretagne Spa offers a thermal suite, complete with herbal bath, grotto, ice fountain, couples retreat and indoor pool. Guests can indulge in ouzo oil massages. The multi-awarded 5-star hotel is within walking distance of exclusive shopping areas, museums and the business district. The ancient Agora and the Acropolis are less than half a mile away.
Sirene Blue Resort on Poros Island, in the region Monastiri, is built on a cliff above the sea and is surrounded by a green oasis full of pines. All rooms and private areas of the hotel have a stunning view of the deep blue of the Saronic Gulf.
Poseidonion Grand Hotel is one of the historic landmarks of Spetses Island, and offers rooms decorated according to the style of Belle Époque. It includes a spa center and an awarded restaurant. Asian Spa therapists offer their rejuvenating services at the hotel’s spa. Aneton on The Verandah restaurant offers Greek dishes made with fresh ingredients from the hotel’s biological garden. Freud Oriental serves fusion Japanese cuisine, while the Library Bar prepares light meals and cocktails.
The Acropolis and the ancient Agora are known world-wide as magnificent archeological monuments in Athens. The Parthenon temple on the Acropolis widely considered being a key landmark of early Western civilization.
The city also retains a vast variety of Roman and Byzantine monuments, as well as a smaller number of remaining Ottoman monuments projecting the city’s long history across the centuries. Athens is home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites — the Acropolis and the medieval Daphni Monastery.
The site of ruins of the Temple of Poseidon on Cape Sounion is a popular day excursion for visitors of Athens, with sunset over the Aegean Sea, as viewed from the ruins, a sought-after spectacle.
Don’t miss visiting the museums hosting unique treasures of Greece’s cultural inheritance — the Archaeological Museum, Military Museum, and Byzantine Museum.