The sound of crashing plates echoes through the maze, often accompanied by an orchestra of footsteps, chatter and clinking glasses. Often it will be hard to understand where the sounds emanate, such is the way they twist and turn through the old lanes. Smells are equally evocative, from those suggesting fresh seafood and sizzling meats, to those that you cannot quite identify, yet linger continually in the background. While the Acropolis stands dramatic high above, you will be out exploring the lived-in neighborhoods in the heart of Athens. Your hotel is situated in one of these as well – Plaka. It is lively here with cobbled stone paths packed full of cafes, restaurants, boutiques, and a sense of history that has nothing to do with Zeus.
After a private airport transfer, you can go exploring with your guide. Start in the hidden white village of Anafiotika. Tucked beneath a cliff and not signposted at all, it’s the most traditional area within Plaka. Bougainvillea flowers mark the facade of cubic streets and the bustle of city life suddenly disappears. So take some time to catch your breath and settle into the Greek experience. Almost everyone misses Anafiotika because the Plaka lanes take them around and around in circles. Even GPS or Google Maps are little help, but of course, the locals know exactly which alleyways to take. And once here, you will appreciate how the concealment makes it so special.
The rest of Plaka bustles with energy, especially when the afternoon fades into evening. Wander past the patio restaurants, follow the exotic smells, peek inside some of the colorful antique shops, and find squares illuminated by iron lanterns. Your guide will explain the history and you can walk slowly, getting a feel for both Athens and Greek authenticity. There are hundreds of places where you could dine, with the guide whittling that list down to a dozen of the best, dependent on your mood and how traditional you want to be.