Summer in Greece may be the season when we splash around the surf, glow with golden-brown shades of skin that we reveal in scanty clothing and stay up dancing till dawn at a beach club because there’s no work tomorrow. But Autumn has its own profound romantic allure, with the cool breezes and kinder sunshine, warm colours of nature and the buzz of everyone being back from their holidays and ready to rock the winter ahead. There are endless ways to discover the romance of Athens and to let the capital in turn surprise you by delivering romance to you, and here are our top tips to get those stomach-butterflies flapping their wings.
Savour an urban picnic with a view
Linger over wine and nibbles while taking in panoramic views of Athens, and each other. Stroll along lovely Dyionissiou Aeropagitou St under the Acropolis and just before the curve heading down towards Thisseio (along Apostolou Pavlou St) take a sharp left. This also-pedestrian, wide, greenery-framed and cobblestone walkway leads you to the beautiful and awesomely historical hills of Pnyx and Filopappou. Do like the locals and perch yourself on a rock as you look out to the Parthenon seemingly standing beside Lycabettus Hill, a view that’s especially delightful from sunset on when they sparkle with golden light.
Be lovebirds with a view from the top
Another top scenic and green spot for lovers is Lycabettus Hill just above Exarcheia and Kolonaki. Take a walk (or ride the teleferic cable car) up to the church of St George right at the top and pause to take in vistas of the city, some all the way to Piraeus port. At sunset, watch the city light up during glow-time and then head to swanky Orizondes Lykkavitou restaurant for a dinner with more view on the side, or simply grab a cold beer at the canteen van in the parking area overlooking Athens.
Raise your adrenaline and grow closer
Studies have repeatedly shown that engaging in adrenaline-raising activities with your sweetheart brings you closer together (Lois Lane could tell us about that). If you’d like to solve mysteries together and help each other get out alive go to one of the city’s many Escape Rooms; if you’d like to travel to outer space and fight monsters try virtual reality at the VR Lab; or maybe you prefer straight-out, hair-raising adrenaline rushes like crazy rollercoasters or spinning swings at Allou Fun Park.
Break a sweat together
If you both happen to be fitness-junkies, another way to enjoy a pheromone-boost together is by rock-climbing or mud-splattering biking on Parnitha or Hymmetos mountains. If you prefer sea-breezy fitness go kitesurfing or windsurfing in Loutsa or Schinias on the northeastern coast or Varkiza and Anavyssos on the southwestern coast. For jogging, the Lycabettus Hill or its ring road or the pedestrian road circling the Acropolis, as well as the track behind the Panathenaic marble stadium are all popular.
Gaze over the sea’s horizon hand-in-hand
As anyone who loves Athens will tell you, one of its best attributes is that one can hop in a car, tram or bus and find themselves taking lungs-full of sea air on the southern coast within less than an hour. For just over an hour’s drive (90 mins) head to a beach (yes Athenians often keep swimming until November!) in Sounio followed by the obligatory – for good reason- visit to the Temple of Poseidon at sunset and then dinner at a seaside taverna under the temple. Other plentiful options closer to Athens are Glyfada or Vouliagmeni, where you can find everything from beaches and cafes to all-day restaurant-cafes and waterside cocktails or seafood feasts.
Stroll aimlessly with a few indulgent stops
Start by waking up and rolling straight back into bed + brunch at To Spiti Mas, which is designed to look like a home, or at a table at one of the city’s many other excellent brunch venues, such as The Underdog, Nice N Easy, Momo, Zampano or 7Cactus.
In the early afternoon, walk around the National Gardens to admire swans, peacocks, and exotic parrots as well as plants, flowers and trees that were transported Greece from all over the world when this enormous park was the back yard of King Otto and Queen Amalia in the early 20th Century.
Enjoy the Parthenon’s graceful vibes
In the early evening go to Makrianni and stroll up to the Anafiotika settlement, a village-like neighbourhood built by former residents of Anafi island, where apart from sweeping views you can enjoy traipsing around the tiny streets and admiring the pretty architecture. After that have a delicious virgin – or real- cocktail at Lotte Cafe, or a juice or crisp prosecco with an accompaniment of cheeses and cold cuts at cafe-charcuterie Drupes and Drips. Just a few minutes walk further down is the Koukaki area, an old residential neighbourhood turned trendster-magnet also with many charms.
Party to Athens’ outgoing urban buzz
In the late evening, get lost in the maze-like streets of Monastiraki and Psyrri and stop at award-winning bars like The Clumsies or Baba Au Rum for perfectly mixed cocktails, sip wine at top-notch wine bars like Cinque, By The Glass, Oinoscent or Heteroclito. A little further down, at the end of Ermou street and across Pireos Avenue, enter into the post-industrial universe of Gazi, Kerameikos, and Metaxourgeio, with its trendy tavernas, meze joints, and bars.
…Or just cosy up in the dark as you watch a movie under the stars at Cine Thisseio (open until the end of October) or indoors (showtimes in Athens are usually at 20:00 and 22:15). Autumn is also Athens’ new theatre season, so check out listings on sites such as ElCulture or Athinorama to see anything from the city’s greatest new comedy play to an abstract dance performance at one of a multitude of venues.
Get steamy and ultra-relaxed together
The city now has several hammam baths, all with great reviews and they centrally located (although there is also a reputable one in the northern suburb of Kifissia). Enjoy letting go in the traditional Turkish-style steam room together before being receiving a couple’s massage or traditional hammam treatment using clay, horse-hair brushes, endless amounts of foam and buckets-full of cold water.
If you prefer something more conventional, there are numerous quality spas around the city, but our favourite choices are the one at the Grande Bretagne and Hilton hotels and the Salt Cave of Glyfada.