The sprawling Greek capital is more often than not the start or end point of a cruise but it’s really worth exploring, for at least a day and probably a night, so consider flying in early or extending your stay.
- Acropolis: The must-see is the Acropolis, an extensive archaeological park (the famous temple on the top is the 2,400 year old Parthenon). Also in the grounds are the Theatre of Dionysos and The Agora, the ancient Roman Forum.
- New Acropolis Museum: The opening of this amazing new museum was much delayed because archaeological remains were found during the excavations and had to be incorporated into the building. The top floor has clear glass walls and faces the Parthenon on top of the Acropolis across the street. Here replicas of the Parthenon Friezes, better known as the Elgin Marbles, are on display.
- National Archaeological Museum: An important museum housing a stunning display of antiquities from eras such as the Minoan, Cycladic and Mycenaean.
If you have time, take a day trip south to the wild scenery around Cape Sounion, its cliff top dominated by the beautiful and romantic Temple of Poseidon. Take in the views for a while and then find a beachside tavern (there are several) for fresh fish, Greek salad and a bottle of Retsina.
Only in Athens
Syntagma Square, the heart of the city, had a complete facelift for the Olympic Games and is now delightfully traffic-free and lined with cafes and benches in the shade where locals sit and read or chat. While you’re here, visit the Parliament Building with its smart, uniformed guards, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Athens has everything from designer labels to quirkier shops selling organic honey, olive oil, handmade jewellery and fine leather shoes. Kolonaki is one of the best shopping areas.
For lunch, there are numerous tavernas in the quaint but touristy streets of Plaka, the vine-covered district at the foot of Acropolis Hill. You won’t get the best food in town here but it is atmospheric. Also try Cibus in the Zappeion Gardens, the Michelin-starred Spondi for a slap-up lunch or dinner and Orizontes at the top of Mount Lykavittos for the most stunning night-time views of the Parthenon.