Sugar-cube churches topped with sapphire domes sparkle in the sun. Splayed octopi hang like laundry, and bright pops of bougainvillea bloom like pink firecrackers. Scenes like this epitomize the Greek islands, but planning your vacation between the Cycladic, the Ionian, the Aegean and the mainland can leave you feeling like you’d just done a few shots of ouzo.
But with Athens becoming one of Europe’s coolest capitals, there’s more reason than ever to stop and admire the graffiti before boarding the ferry. And while there are more Greece getaways than a lifetime’s vacation days, seven days is enough time to pack in thousands of years of history alongside a pinch-yourself island escape.
Greece Itinerary: Day 1
Stay: Mona Athens
Once you touch down at Athens International Airport, hop in a taxi and head to Psirri, Athens’ gritty yet glam neighborhood. Follow the red rose on the door and check into Mona Athens, the new kid on the block since 2022. Like everything in this ancient city, Mona has some history. Once a textile factory from the 1950s, this 20-room boutique hotel has retained its original charm with terrazzo marble floors and original metal beams. Rooms are sexy yet serene, with low-lying furniture, copper finishes, a spacious soaking tub and heavy curtain dividers. One of the hotel’s biggest perks is its private rooftop bar with uninterrupted views of the Acropolis and an honor bar perfect for sunset drinks.
Do: Monastiraki Square
Rack up a few thousand steps while you familiarize yourself with the shops, cafes, restaurants and pulse of central Athens. Walk around Monastiraki Square and Ermou Street, stopping at boutique shops like Treasure House, Eating The Goober and Aumorfia. When the jet lag starts to kick in, stop into one of the dozens of streetside cafes for a Greek coffee. Try this super-strong brew traditionally served in a copper briki pot at places like Black Duck Garden. One cup of this, and you’ll be able to keep walking well into the night, or take a page from the Greeks and just sit back and relax.
Pro tip: If you’d like a truly Greek souvenir, book an appointment at Anthologist. This boutique showroom sells jewelry, purses, clothing and ceramics, all hand-made by local craftspeople. They also showcase one-of-a-kind antiques and unique vintage finds.
If you don’t start your meal with a Greek salad, are you even in Greece? Not only are the Greek salads at this stylish diner huge, but they’re also arguably the best, well, anywhere. Two ice-cream scoops of creamy feta sit atop a medley of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and onions swimming in top-notch olive oil. While the salad is probably enough to fill you up, order the crackling pig on the spit. The super salty, crunchy skin is worth the trans-Atlantic flight alone.
Pro tip: In Greece, they eat dinner late, really late. So if you arrive at 6 pm, you’ll likely be the only ones in the restaurant. But on the plus side, you’ll typically be seated immediately.
Drink: The Clumsies
Ranked number 19 on the World’s 50 Best Bars list, The Clumsies is the queen of Athen’s cocktail scene. Although the Aegean Negroni was named 2019’s Best Cocktail In The World by Time Out, the Popeye & Olive, made with Tanqueray gin, mint, spinach, green apple and green olive, is a savory, sweet go-to.
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Do: The Acropolis
A beacon on a limestone hill, the Parthenon is one of the world’s most famous archeological sites. Dating back to the Bronze Age, this site has ranged from a citadel to a religious center and is now a major tourist attraction. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has been under restoration for decades and will finally have the scaffolding removed by roughly 2025. With 16,000 daily visitors, crowded is an understatement. But don’t let that deter you. It really is a must when in Athens. And the best way to experience it is through a local private guide like Michael Patmanidis. Set your own schedule — preferably when it’s less packed — and he’ll tour you through the ancient sites, explaining the history, folklore and significance. Otherwise, it starts to feel like you’re just looking at old piles of rocks.
Pro tip: Athens is the hottest capital city in Europe, and it can be downright oppressive in peak summer. Be sure to slather yourself in sunscreen, wear a hat and carry water with you. There are no stores on top of the Acropolis.
Post-Parthenon, walk down through Plaka, the oldest neighborhood in Athens. Impeccably preserved, its narrow streets are just as they were hundreds of years ago and primed for exploring. Stop into the Benizelos Mansion, the oldest house in the city, now a museum honoring its Ottoman roots. If you can find Anafiotika, a neighborhood within a neighborhood, its sloping whitewashed buildings and lush green gardens are the perfect reprieve.
There’s always a line at this buzzy Levantine street food spot. Located down a small alley in Central Athens, this family-owned favorite serves traditional Middle Eastern/Mediterranean traditional fare. Sandwiches like kushbasi, spiced pork with smoked eggplant and mozzarella stuffed inside homemade bread, crank out of the small kitchen. Directly across the street is their sweet shop, and it’s well worth saving room for. Try super creamy ice cream, rice puddings, halva and baklava.
Pro tip: Seating here is very limited, so if you see an open stool in either shop, jump on it.
Drink: A For Athens
If rooftop drinking were an Olympic sport, Athens would take the gold medal. Needless to say, there are a lot of options, but among the best is A for Athens. Picture-perfect views of the Acropolis appear on the top floor of a hotel with the same name. Its Odyssey-themed cocktail menu includes reasonably-priced drinks like Calypso, made with Absolut Vodka flavored with sesame, passion fruit, salted caramel and citrus.
Pro tip: Rooftop seating is a hot commodity, so be sure to book a table well in advance and request one in the outdoor section with a great view.
A local favorite in the Metaxourgeio neighborhood, Seychelles is busy long into the night. Its convivial tavern feel is immediately welcoming, making the inevitable wait feel like no biggie. Once you are sat, feast on salt cod croquettes with a garlic mayo dipping sauce and grilled lamb kabobs sitting on a red pepper spread. The hand-made pappardelle topped with a traditional beef and lamb ragout, and Cretan cheese is a must-order.
Wander: Central Athens “Varvakios” Market
Best visited in the morning, it’s an exciting look into everyday life is like in Athens. Strong scents, from raw fish to local spices, can be overpowering, but the energy here is electric. Wander the various stalls watching yia yias haggle for their daily groceries and purchase a handful of ripe figs.
Pro tip: If you’d like to delve deeper into the market, book a tour through any number of companies like Athens Walking Tours.
Eat: Oinomageireio Epirus
Known simply as Epirus, this Athens institution inside the Central Market has been serving traditional bites since 1898. They have a lengthy menu with dishes like tzatziki and lamb in lemon sauce, but their soup is the star. The fish or chickpea soup will satisfy, but if you’re feeling adventurous, go for the patsa, a meaty soup filled with tripe and other cow parts.
Do: The Acropolis Museum
Housing the most important finds and artifacts from the Acropolis, this museum is dedicated to a deeper look at the culture and history of ancient Greece. Sure, the air-conditioning is a huge plus on a hot Athenian day, but this beloved museum is the country’s best. See remarkably intact statues on the top floor and a live archaeological excavation site on the bottom. Plus, its cafe has great views of the Parthenon.
At Karamanlidika, they specialize in two things: meat and cheese. So put your trust in the very capable hands of the team here as they arrange a locally-sourced cheese and cold-cut platter to end them all. Pair it with a bottle of Greek wine, and you’ve got yourself the perfect Athenian evening.
Pro tip: Save room for the complimentary Greek yogurt topped with a dollop of sweet carrot jam handed out at the end of the meal. You’ll never look at yogurt the same way again.
The perfect ferry snack, KORA Bakery makes the best pastries in Athens. So, line up early and get one of each on offer that day. Just be sure to eat the croissant first, preferably while it’s still warm, and prepare yourself for an insanely buttery, flaky pastry that gives Paris’ boulangeries a run for their money.
Do: Hop On The Ferry To Sifnos
In Greece, ferries are a portal to the islands. It’s crucial to book your ferry in advance during the summer season as they fill up fast. SeaJets has a daily fast ferry from the main port of Piraeus to Kamares port in Sifnos. Barring any issues, it should take two and a half hours to reach paradise.
Pro tip: The ferry ticket system here can be a bit antiquated. When possible, opt for your ticket to be sent to your email and ask your hotel to print it out for you. Otherwise, you’ll have to budget extra time to visit their location at the port and pick it up yourself. If you’d rather get there in 45 minutes flat, private helicopter rides for up to four are available, but you’ll need to shell out a few thousand dollars.
Stay: Verina Astra
Sweeping views of the bright blue Aegean greet you at Verina Astra. This 16-suite hotel embraces natural tones, colors and linens that culminate into a rustic yet stylishly charming aesthetic.
Do: Embrace Island Time
Time moves slower in the Cyclades, and isn’t that what vacation is all about? Spend the rest of the day relaxing at Verina Astra. Lounge by the infinity pool, read a book on your private verandah or book a Deep Tissue Greek Botanical Massage at the Bostani Spa. If you need to stretch your legs after the ferry ride, ask the staff here to point you down to their “secret” beach. A winding pathway to the left of the church on the water leads you to water-washed boulders ideal for stretching out a towel and jumping into the water — like the locals do.
Eat: Bostani Bar & Restaurant
Luckily for guests, Verina Astra has one of the best restaurants on the island. Perched high above the ocean, book a table for sunset to try elevated versions of traditional dishes made with local produce. Order dishes like tomatoes and strawberries with mastic-flavored goat cheese and rooster, a popular island protein.
Do: Visit The Local Beaches
After a locally-made breakfast of Greek yogurt and fruit, make your way to Chrisopigi Monastery and try the beaches on either side. To your right is a small, rocky cove where you may find a few nude sunbathers. And to your left is a much larger beach called Apokofto. Both beaches can get pretty crowded, so if it’s easier, walk down the white staircase to the rocks directly under the Monastery and jump in that way.
Pro tip: Book a car or an ATV to freely get around the island, and do it early, as supplies run out.
Perfect for a few beachside bites, this traditional taverna is run by a husband and wife team. Order the octopus salad, stuffed wine leaves, aubergine and Greek salad with fresh island cheese. The veggies served here come from the couple’s garden, and the fish from the ocean at your feet.
The largest of all the villages on Sifnos, Apollonia is considered the capital. Meander the streets until you find “Steno,” a narrow alleyway packed with shops, restaurants and bars. Stop into various jewelry stores for Greek-style gold earrings or pottery stores selling traditional Sifnos ceramics.
Pro tip: Stop into Botzi 93, a hole-in-the-wall bar with a beautiful rooftop, for fresh cocktails and a chat with the owner/artist, Frixos.
Eat: Sunset In Troulaki
This is the spot of Sifnos for sunset-seekers. Run by a family, the son Girogos has taken over the kitchen after his father died last year. The focus here is traditional dishes — done exceptionally well. Order a mish-mash of things from the oven-baked potatoes smothered in olive oil, salt and topped with local cheese to Mastelo, lamb slow-cooked in a clay pot, typically reserved for Easter feasts.
Pro tip: Reservations here are an absolute must. Request a table with great sunset views and marvel at the watercolor sky.
One of the island’s most beautiful villages, Artemonas is known for its historic mansions. Walk the labyrinth of narrow alleyways, past children selling painted rocks, and admire these grand homes. The village’s old elementary school is also worth exploring. Converted into various art exhibits, this partially-intact school is a fascinating look at local village life.
Pro tip: Stop for a Greek Freddo, an espresso-blended iced coffee, at Kitrino Podilat, aka Yellow Bike. Arguably the best pastry shop on the island, they serve beautiful desserts like crème brulée, lemon pie and homemade ice cream.
Located at the end of the town square, it’s impossible to miss this beloved taverna. Always packed, join the crowd waiting for a table, and Elena, the lovely owner, will do her best to make room. Meals here are super local and equally as comforting, from the moussaka to the chicken souvlaki to the baklava. But the must-try dish here is the Revithia, a chickpea soup and a classic Sifnos dish typically served on Sundays.
With more than 60 miles of hiking trails, Sifnos is one of the best adventure islands in all of Greece. There are 10 major trails to choose from, depending on your fitness level and ability to sweat it out in the hot Greek sun. But if you’re game, the island’s craggy cliffs, hundreds of quaint churches, olive groves and blooming juniper trees are well worth lacing up your shoes for.
Eat: Limanaki Fish Tavern
Staying true to the term “daily catch,” Limanaki grills and fries up whatever the owner catches on his fishing boat that day. Family-run, no-frills, but incredibly charming, this spot is a delicious gem in the seaside village of Faros. Ask what the chef recommends that day, and you’ll likely get a glimpse of your fish plucked from the Aegean a few hours earlier.
Do: Beach It
On your last day in Greece, it seems only right to head to the beach. Vathi is a large stretch of sand in a village of the same name. Soft sand, gentle water and easy accessibility make this an island favorite. Vathi also has plenty of trees to offer shade, but there are a few places where you can rent chairs and an umbrella for the day. If you’d rather beach-hop, head to Faros and move between Fassolou, Faros and Glifo beaches.
Look for the blue and white checkered tablecloths at this beachside taverna. Simple yet delicious should be the slogan here because no place in Vathi does it better. Classic dishes like grilled octopus, rice-stuffed peppers, Greek salad, moussaka and French fries are menu staples.
Built on top of a hill overlooking the ocean, Kastro is an ancient village, the former ancient capital of Sifnos and the island’s most interesting. Its claim-to-fame is the Instagrammable Church of the Seven Martyrs, jutting out into the ocean via a rocky path and making for one seriously cool shot. And during the day, locals hang out on the rocks below, keeping cool in the refreshing waters. But there’s more to this village than the church. Rumored to be thousands of years old, walking these small alleyways, admiring the architecture, the views and the village cats.
Drink: Loggia Wine Bar
You’ll probably walk past this bar several times while you explore Kastro — you just couldn’t see it. But once the clock strikes 7 p.m., this makeshift bar appears along the cliffside. Tables and chairs line the walkway as a rickety, hand-made bar holds rows of wine glasses. There are only a handful of wines on the menu — all Greek. Order a glass of rosé and their olive tapenade and watch the waves crash below.
Pro tip: With such limited seating making a reservation here is a must.
Located at Seralia Beach, below Kastro village, Kantina is a zero-waste restaurant. Local, sustainable and, of course, seasonal ingredients grace the menu here. More experimental and innovative than your traditional taverna, the menu includes beef heart grilled on charcoal and dry-aged fish collar bone with spices. Its rugged locale, unique yet delicious plates and genuine enthusiasm for Greek food make this one of Sifnos’ most exciting restaurants.
Pro tip: Book online well before you’ve boarded your flight for Greece.
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