Insider's Guide to Greece

Cradle of the ancient world and one of the eternal holiday favourites, Greece is a land of sunny skies, azure waters, a flavoursome cuisine and antiquities galore.
February 2023

Cradle of the ancient world and one of the eternal holiday favourites, Greece is a land of sunny skies, azure waters, a flavoursome cuisine and antiquities galore. White sugar-cubed houses in pretty seaside villages glisten against a palette of blue; vineyards and archaeological relics dot pine and olive-clad hills and a rosy-hued sunset ends each day. And with thousands of islands strung like jewels across the sea and a culture-rich mainland, choosing where to go and what to see is a challenge. Below are some A&K suggestions to inspire you.


The birthplace of democracy, Greece’s capital has long been underestimated. In recent decades, Athens may have been considered Athens shabby and unsophisticated, but today it is one of Europe’s most dynamic destinations. Dominated by the mighty Acropolis, the city radiates out from the hilltop citadel in a jumbled sprawl but dive deeper and you’ll discover a new creative vibe, wide pedestrian streets, a raft of designer boutiques, rooftop terraces galore and a food scene that embraces modern gastronomy, traditional street food and everything in between.

Foodie tour of Athens

Step out on a culinary adventure of Athens and treat your tastebuds to a symphony of flavours: breakfast treats kolouri straight from the oven and diples drizzled in sweet, sticky honey; the classic Greek coffee ritual with a side of lokoumi and calamari straight off the grill in the market. Savour an appetising mezze platter, the best gyros in town, vegetarian favourites and a traditional Greek yogurt dessert from an old-fashioned dairy bar.

Acropolis & Acropolis Museum
Arguably the world’s most famous archaeological site, the Acropolis stands proud at the centre of the Greek capital. Most famous of the ruins atop the 2,500-year-old citadel is the Parthenon whose columns of Pentelic marble gleam in the sunlight. And while most of the original artefacts have been removed, many are housed in the state-of-the-art Acropolis Museum just down the hill.

Benaki Museum
Step inside this superb museum for a comprehensive snapshot of Greek culture and history with exhibits on view from Greece’s pre-historic period through to the modern era. Admire statues, pottery, tools and ornaments, Byzantine art and icons, furniture and agricultural implements as well as costumes, textiles and embroidery impeccably displayed in a grand neoclassical building.


For a special night out in the Greek capital, soak up the party atmosphere in Balthazar’s beautiful garden setting in the grounds of a 19th century neoclassical mansion. Sip on creative cocktails, choose from the extensive wine list and dine on inventive and tasty dishes from an extensive menu that combines fresh, modern flavours with local ingredients and a stand-alone sushi selection.

Café Avissinia
Dine on traditional Greek dishes in this authentic Athenian bistro situated in the Monastiraki flea market. Choose an outdoor table for the street party atmosphere or upstairs for a view of the Acropolis. Popular favourites include the pork-stuffed cabbage, octopus in wine, Smyrneic meatballs and a traditional Thracian style yogurt dessert. Enjoy live music on weekends.

Hotel Grande Bretagne

With a perfect location on Syntagma Square, this 18th century landmark is old world glamour at its finest. Lavishly appointed interiors boast restored antiques, polished marble, rich fabrics and tapestries and rooms on certain floors enjoy butler service. There’s a destination spa and outdoor pool plus a host of drinking and dining options including the Roof Garden for prime Parthenon views.

In a magical corner of the city at the base of Acropolis Hill, this design hotel exudes contemporary calm. Paying homage to the classical Athenian era, Greek marble floors and walnut-lined walls blend elegantly with designer furnishings and fabrics. This boutique delight has just 21 rooms and suites here in an unmatched location and rooftop dining at Sense comes with jaw-dropping Acropolis views.

Alexandra Bissa

A childhood spent in northern Greece watching her grandmother at the loom has inspired in Alexandra Bissa a deep love for woven textiles. Based in Athens she produces hand-woven objects that are inspired by ancient and traditional Greek textiles and design including beautiful woollen shawls and wraps, tapestries, cushions and handbags. Her unique collection can be viewed by appointment only in her Psyrri studio.

Ilias Lalaounis
Inspired goldsmith Ilias Lalaounis established his business in the 1960s reviving the ancient techniques of hammering metal, granulation, chain weaving, repoussé and filigree. Sharing these age-old skills with his team of craftsmen, LALAoUNIS has produced sought-after pieces ever since in 18 and 22 karat gold. Visit the flagship store in Athens to make a purchase and admire the important collection at the Ilias Lalaounis Jewellery Museum.


One of the most beautiful towns in the eastern Peloponnese, Nafplio was Greece’s first capital. Just two hours from Athens, the town’s history dates to the prehistoric era but especially flourished during Byzantine times. Conquerors from Venice, Turkey and the Germanic tribes have all left their mark with ancient walls, medieval castles, monuments and statues, fountains and neoclassical buildings all testament to their influences.


Just half an hour away to the east, is the ancient Sanctuary of Epidaurus, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which became famous during ancient times for its unique healing practices. Wander through this beautiful site, considered the birthplace of modern medicine, and take in the well-preserved Greek theatre, considered to be the most beautiful in the world.

Engineering masterpiece
Travelling by road from Athens to Nafplio takes you via the extraordinary Corinth Canal which links the Mediterranean and the Aegean. Rulers from antiquity dreamed of cutting through the isthmus to create a shortcut for their fleets but it was not achieved until 1893. The canal’s steep limestone walls reach 90 metres above the water line and ships must be narrower than 18 metres to pass.

3Sixty Hotel & Suites

Housed in a renovated 19th century mansion, this smart boutique hotel is perfectly located in the very heart of the historical centre and only a few metres away from the picturesque port. Behind the majestic façade of this grand building, crystal chandeliers twinkle, palatial mirrors gleam and a stately staircase completes the look. Rooms are comfortably appointed and the handsome bar is a perfect spot for a drink after a day of exploration.

Worry beads

Komboloi, or worry beads, are a symbol of modern Greece’s carefree mentality but their origins date back to time immemorial, when monks made strands of beads by tying knots on a string at regular intervals to mark their prayers. Today they are more often used as a means of relaxation. Nafplio has the only museum dedicated to worry beads and, while appreciating the collection, you can also buy beads of amber and other natural materials.

For a unique and unusual memento of Greece, step inside this store which specialises in ecclesiastical art. From Byzantine religious jewellery to incense and prayer ropes, handmade icons of saints and priestly items, there’s sure to be something to remember your visit by.


With a rich and storied history, Crete is the largest island in Greece, home of the fabled minotaur and birthplace of Zeus. Its location at Europe’s southernmost tip has made it a strategic crossroads with an identity shaped by many civilisations from the Minoan and Mycenaean to Ottoman, Arab and Venetian. The remains of these important cultures are admired today right around the island along with glorious sandy beaches, high mountains and forests, and the charming old towns of Chania and Rethymno are full of traditional tavernas, alleyways and an enchanting laid back vibe.

Spinalonga Island

Just off Crete’s northeast coast sits this unusual island Of vital strategic importance during the Middle Ages, and the last Cretan stronghold to be captured by the Ottomans, it became a leper colony in the first half of the 20th century. Abandoned in the 1950s, a visit here is an eerie glimpse back in time as you wander down the old roads, past Venetian walls and through the well-preserved 16th century castle.

Malia Palace
The Minoans were Europe’s first major civilisation, flourishing during the Bronze Age in Crete. Known for their palace cities, Malia is the third largest after Knossos and Phaistos, and less visited. Located to the east of Heraklion, it has a wonderful setting at the edge of a fertile valley in close proximity to the sea. First built around 1900 BC, it was destroyed 250 years later before being immediately rebuilt. The ruins today date from this period.

Peskesi Restaurant, Heraklion

Said to be the longest living and healthiest people in the world, Cretans put it down to their simple Mediterranean diet. So, at farm-to-fork Peskesi the focus is on sustainable, seasonal local produce, much of it organic, supplied directly to the restaurant from its 60-acre farm. Housed in a restored sea captain's mansion, stone walls and arches provide the backdrop to some of Crete’s best food.

The Lotus Eaters, Elounda
Sourcing meat from the village butcher, fruit and vegetables from the local market and fish directly off the boat, this restaurant always focuses on quality produce. Right on the seafront, an elevated terrace overlooking the bay of Elounda affords views to die for.

Blue Palace Elounda

A vision of pink-sandstone, this luxury resort tucked into a hillside in the northeast of Crete unfurls to a private pebble beach. Bungalows, suites and villas are set amidst fragrant gardens and gastronomic experiences showcase vibrant, seasonal dishes. By day, go boating, visit ancient ruins and villages, relax by the pool or at the beach, explore the organic garden and by night dine on spit-roasted lamb on the beach or take in a movie at the open-air cinema. Paradise awaits.

Daios Cove Luxury Resort & Villas
Gracefully tumbling in terrace-like formation down a gentle slope in northeastern Crete, this resort has a marvellous location overlooking a private sandy beach. Rooms, suites and villas all have sweeping views, some with private plunge pools and terraces. Dining options here are plentiful with six bars and restaurants to choose from. And for the active guest, there are water-based activities galore plus tennis and a smart wellbeing hub with gym, indoor pool, sauna and cutting-edge wellness rituals and treatments.

Pottery & Ceramic Art

Since Minoan times, Crete’s Rethymnon region has been an important centre of pottery and ceramic art. And the village of Margarites is one of the most famous in the country with some 17 workshops and a host of artisans producing beautiful pieces from the local river clay, some functional, some purely decorative, in designs that range from modern to ancient Minoan.

Bio Aroma
4,500 years ago, the ancient Minoans became the world’s first producers of natural beauty products and today the organic cosmetics and fragrances produced by Cretan pioneers Bio Aroma are inspired by these age-old practices. The company’s raw materials come from a 100-acre farm where aromatic plants, herbs and bees are organically grown and processed into the ingredients used in their skin-care products. Venture into the cutting-edge concept store in Agios Nikalaos to try and buy.


Instantly recognisable, this Cycladic island is one of the world’s most admired. A devastating volcanic eruption in the 17th century BC shaped its rugged landscape where vertiginous cliffs dominate the flooded caldera and layers of ash conceal ancient wonders. Dazzling white-washed villages perch precariously on the cliffs with blue-domed churches echoing the azure waters below, vineyards in the interior yield crisp dry varietals and those sunsets, simply swoon-worthy.


Preserved under millennia of volcanic ash, this is one of the most important archaeological sites in Greece. What was a beautiful Minoan town and trading centre was completely buried by the 17th century BC eruption and lay undiscovered until 1967. Likened to a Greek Pompeii, yet with no human remains, it was a prosperous urban settlement on the copper route with wide paved streets, a drainage system and multi-storey houses where elegant frescoes were prolific.

Wines of Santorini
Viticulture has been practiced on Santorini for at least 3,500 years but the volcanic eruption wiped out nearly all traces of it. The unique terrain of pumice, ash and lava combined with wind, high temperatures and low rainfall has produced perfect growing conditions for the island’s most famous grape, Assyrtiko. These white wines are crisp and dry with traces of minerals and can be enjoyed at one of the island’s 20 wineries and in the local bars.

The Athenian House

Originally a family home, this restaurant perched on the cliffs in Imerovigli village boasts a spacious terrace with some of the finest views, especially at sunset. Expect reimagined traditional Greek dishes that fuse wild greens, native herbs, nuts and fruit with local seafood and sustainably sourced cuts of meat. A plant-based menu is available and the wine list includes a large collection of rare Santorini wines.

Housed in an elegant neoclassical villa and former sea captain’s home in Oia, Naos is a dedication to fine dining in the best Greek tradition. The menu is based on typical Greek dishes using local ingredients with a modern twist. Freshly caught fish and shellfish, as well as beef and lamb, are combined with herbs and seasonal greens to ensure exceptional meals, every time. Breathtaking views and impeccable service are a given.

Canaves Oia Suites

Glistening white inside and out, this grown-up hotel carved into the cliffs oozes monastic minimalism yet the welcome is warm. Jaw-dropping views across the caldera, and the Aegean, are the best in town and there are 30 suites and one villa to choose from, all with plunge pools of varying sizes. Dining is poolside or at on-site Petra restaurant where candlelit tables by night are a dreamy backdrop for flavoursome Mediterranean tastes.

Andronis Arcadia
Elegant and contemporary, this resort hotel is rustic yet refined. Away from the hustle and bustle of Oia, the town is just an uphill walk away, and while there are no caldera views to wake to, sun-bleached landscapes, the glittering Aegean and dazzling sunsets more than compensate. All 44 rooms have plunge pools and are decorated in natural hues with sisal rugs, carefully positioned handicrafts and sisal rugs. Sheer simplicity and sophistication.

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