I love Greece. It's the birthplace of both my mother and father and although I wasn't born there, when I visit I feel like I'm home. Partly because my first spoken language is Greek and partly because I grew up in a very traditional Greek household. My family went to Greek church and we observed many Greek traditions growing up. I have been to Greece many times and have visited different areas but I had never been to Crete. So when my daughter turned 21 in July, I wanted to take her to Greece for an unforgettable experience we can share together. Although this blog is mainly dedicated to health and wellness, I wanted to document the places we visited and share with you some of our favorites. If you're planning on going to Athens or Crete anytime in the near future, I hope this post will be helpful!
The birthplace of European civilization, Athens has been inhabited for 7,000 years. There are temples and buildings dating back to 5th century BC. There is so much history in Athens, no matter how many times you visit, there is always so much more to see and learn.
We started by arriving in Athens and spending 3 nights in the city. We stayed at the New Hotel, a newish boutique hotel recommended by a friend who lives in Athens. It's a restored hotel where they used many of the old parts of the previous hotel to update and give the NEW Hotel a great modern vibe. It is centrally located and has great views of Athens, including the Acropolis. The staff is warm, welcoming and very accommodating. We enjoyed our stay here very much.
Here are some recommendations if you're traveling to Athens:
Book a tour guide to show you the major historical sights around Athens. Our tour was 3 hours long and we learned so much about the major sights, including the Acropolis, the Parthenon, Temple of Athena Nike, Theatre of Herodes Atticus (make sure you see a concert when in Athens!), and Porch of the Caryatids, to name a few. The tour guide was arranged through our hotel. They recommended we start early, at 9:00 a.m., as it was supposed to be a very hot day, and we're glad we did. We also avoided a lot of the crowds that arrive after 11:00 a.m.
Here are my some of my favorite restaurants:
ITHAKI - This restaurant in located about 30 minutes outside of downtown Athens (easy Uber ride) in an area called Vouliagmeni. It is considered the "Greek Riviera" and the restaurant is right on the water. The location is incredible and the restaurant is beautiful. On a great night it has beautiful views of the sunset. The food was also amazing.
KUZINA - This restaurant is in the Monastiraki area of Athens. Great for strolling around and near the famous flea market. It's also located near the Ancient Agora, a site you don't want to miss. Make a reservation for the rooftop as it has the most amazing views of the Acropolis and Hephaestus Temple.
BALTAZAR- We couldn't quite get a reservation at Baltazar and because of Covid restrictions, they were limiting the crowd, but the space is beautiful and have heard only great things about it.
CHERCHE LA FEMME - All day cafe-restaurant overlooking the Athens Metropolitan. Great for lunch or dinner and the food is amazing. Order the tarama (fish roe) and croquettes.
O Thanasis - Great for lunch or dinner, casual, traditional greek souvlaki and gyros. I love mine with french fries inside the gyro! In the Monastiraki area.
July and August gets very hot in Athens. Walking around with the intense heat is exhausting. So I sought and found a fantastic excursion from the city. We booked a Catamaran through Getyourguide for a half day trip on the coast of Athens. We saw Vouliagmeni, Attica the area known as the Greek Riviera. We were picked up from our hotel at 2:30 p.m and arrived at the port about 30 minutes later. We were greeted on the Catamaran by a great staff and there were 8 other people that were also coming on the boat. We set out and made 3 stops for swimming. The scenery was beautiful, the water was clear and blue. They also prepared a delicious meal, there was a bbq and unlimited wine and beer. We were able to watch the sunset and relax while sailing back to port, five hours later. There was transportation back to our hotel. It was an amazing experience and I recommend it highly.
Crete is the largest of the Greek Islands. It is impossible to see everything in the 6 days we spent there, so I decided to explore the West side of Crete, Chania, for this trip. We arrived in Chania from Athens by plane and rented a car. We wanted to explore all the beautiful beaches in Crete but needed to drive to the different beaches from the main town. We stayed in the old port in Chania at hotel Porto Veneziano. The views of the marina from our room were incredible, with a great sunset. The town was within walking distance of our hotel and after a long day of exploring different beaches, we would shower and change for dinner and walk to one of the many restaurants in town. Here are my favorites:
Pallazzo Al Mare - We loved this restaurant so much we went 3 nights in a row. The restaurant is right on the water, with outdoor seating, great people watching and incredible food.
Pallas - Book a reservation for the rooftop and enjoy the most breathtaking views of the harbor and lighthouse. There is also a separate bakery where they make the most delicious croissants baked fresh every morning.
Gyros Chania - Right on the port, very casual gyros and souvlaki restaurant.
We also visited 4 beaches that were unforgettable.
Marathi beach is a local beach where many of the residents of Chania visit. It's a smaller beach with 2 great tavernas.
Falasarna beach bigger with lots of chairs to rent and the water is clear and beautiful.
Two beautiful beaches that are reached by boat are Balos and Gramvousa. We drove to Kissamos port and took a ferry boat that made two stops, first at Gramvousa where we hiked to the top of the mountain and enjoyed spectacular views, enjoyed a swim in the beautiful, lagoon-like waters. Then just a short ride away to Balos beach is another beautiful beach with turqoise water, warm and crystal clear.
A great resource I found for many of our bookings in Crete was www.thetinybook.com. Gaby lives in Crete and I was able to have a Zoom meeting with her to ask questions about where to go and what to see. She was amazing.
We had an incredible time and can't wait to explore more of Greece!