June 12, 2019 at 09:30AM by CWC
A full third of my Instagram posts (seriously, I counted) are geotagged to Greece. I live in New York City, and the combination of those two facts—where I live and where I wanderlust—provides some apt insight into my love for my motherland (or, more accurately, my parents’ motherland) and also just how often I visit. And it seems like people en masse are following my lead to the Mediterranean destination. A record 33 million foreign travelers ventured to Greece last year—and not just to the dreamy islands. Athens alone has seen the number of visitors climb by 600 percent since 2013.
Following—or perhaps fueled by—the financial crisis the country endured about a decade ago, Athens has been churning out all of the culture, art, design, food, music, shopping, and neighborhood-y charm you’d ever need for an interesting city break. Word has gotten out, and suddenly people who used to think of the capital city as just a layover on the way to the islands are granting Athens the “destination status” it deserves. Now, instead of friends and coworkers asking me, “Is there anything to do in Athens apart from seeing the Acropolis?” (ummm, yes), the question I get all the time is, “Where should I stay in Athens?”
I’m of the belief that where you camp out can make or break a vacation, so when it comes to Airbnbs, I have a pretty high bar, but that doesn’t need to equate to a high budget. The following four picks make the cut, and may have you, too, saying, “I could really see myself living here.” (Le sigh—#AllVacaysMustEnd). At the very least, they’ll ensure you’ll be in zero rush to pack up and jet off to Mykonos.
Kolonaki, an upscale neighborhood perched on Lycabettus hill, is my favorite locale in central Athens. And staying at this loft in a converted art gallery for around $100 per night feels both wrong (how can it be?!?) and completely right (life is good). There are stylish touches all over, like the foliaged atrium—aka an enclosed patio featuring a garden wall. And Eva, the lovely host, offers an experience rivaling that of top hotel concierges. She keeps the pantry stocked with coffee and goodies, offers guests a five-page curated list of neighborhood recommendations pre-arrival, and if you ask her where she gets her hair nails done, she insists on making you an appointment herself.
Insider tip: My favorite boutique gym in all of Athens, Athlesis, is a 10-minute walk from this property. A personal training session with Niko, the owner, or a challenging spin class here will have you salivating for your next feta-packed meal.
This whimsical suite in Plaka, Athens’ oldest neighborhood, puts you in a prime position to explore bustling Monastiraki Square, or head to the Parthenon by foot. But this spot is tucked away from tourist traps, on a street so quiet, your Uber driver may have trouble finding it at first (disclaimer: mine did). The decor inside is more eclectic than posh, with flea-market finds adding to the charm. The best part of the “Harry Belafonte,” though, is that it occupies the top floor of the townhouse and includes private access to a roof terrace. I can’t explain how, exactly, but having Greek yogurt with honey for breakfast tastes a million times better when you’re eating it in your PJs on your own private rooftop with a view of the Acropolis.
This stay may be pricier than the rest, but if you’re splurging while channeling your inner Greek goddess, the split-level loft is a good place to do it. When you’re ready to emerge from your bright, airy sanctuary and into the city, you’ll be in trendy Gazi, a formerly industrial area in downtown Athens that’s been described as “alive and kicking and tipsy to the max.” Sounds about right to me.
There are two types of Athenians (and Athens visitors): those who’d only live downtown, and those who wouldn’t dream of unpacking their bags anywhere but by the sea. If you’re a true water baby, this two-bedroom Airbnb in the coastal town of Glyfada is a great place to call home, or spiti, for the duration of your trip. The design is sleek and simple (think: more Room & Board than Anthropologie), and the location is prime, at just a five-minute walk to the beach. There’s also a Holmes Place nearby, which is the closest you’ll get to an Equinox-like gym in all of Greece.