To me Greece is known by the local’s name, Ellada. It’s The Motherland, from which half of my family hail. A proud country that offers everything from delicious Mediterranean food, to divine hospitality and ancient monuments. It’s the one place in the world that acts like a magnet to my heart, and I’ve been lucky enough to visit bustling Athens and chilled out Galaxidi more times than I can remember over a nearly 40 year period.
For an autumn trip (I recommend a week) which offers a full spectrum of gastronomical delights, adventure and relaxation with a journey from Athens to the beautiful village of Galaxidi (around three hours away by coach) and back again. Temperatures are much more bearable but still balmy in the UK’s cooler months.
In Athens, explore the historical neighbourhood of Plaka for its charming neoclassical architecture and lively atmosphere, or Monastiraki for its antiques and modern bars. The metro makes this easier than ever.
For some recuperation, head to idyllic naval port Galaxidi. Located on the southern coast of central Greece, it’s near the ‘centre of the world’, Delphi, with its colourful house facades, flowered pebbled yards and charming harbour. You’ll be intoxicated by its natural beauty from the moment you arrive.
Acropolis archeological site and Acropolis Museum
If there is one thing you should do in Athens, it’s to climb up to the summit of the Acropolis. While little remains of most of the Parthenon, Propylaea, the Theatre of Dionysus, Odeon of Herodes Atticus and the Temple of Athena Nike, their remnants are incredible and your mind will work overtime imagining the bustling site of 2500 - 3000 years ago. The panoramic view of the ancient city of Athens is equally awe-inspiring.
At the base of the Acropolis you’ll find the recently built Acropolis Museum (it used to be at the top). It’s one of the most well-curated museums you’ll visit. From the archaeological excavations at the base of the museum, to the Parthenon friezes that wrap around the room on the third floor, each section is worth exploring in detail. And yes, there is space for the Parthenon sculptures upon their rightful return. The rooftop café is also well worth a visit for its views. Finally, make sure your ticket includes the various temples around the base of the Acropolis site, such as the Temple of Olympian Zeus (theacropolismuseum.gr).
The central square of Athens is located in front of the 19th century neoclassical Old Royal Palace building, which now houses the Greek Parliament, is well worth a visit not just for the view, but for the hourly changing of the Presidential Guard ceremony.
Stroll the harbour and stately homes
When you’ve arrived in Galaxidi, the first thing to do is to take a walk around the main harbour and soak in the idyllic view of the village itself. The Church of St Nicholas, with its iconic dome and twin bell towers, nests on top of the pile of historic homes.
Once a thriving naval port of great importance to the Greek economy, Galaxidi is thankfully now a protected view. I’ve been taking it in for the past 40 years and its barely changed – unspoilt from the passing tourism trade and visiting yachts.
The Nautical and Historical Museum
Learn about the life and naval endeavours of the locals at the oldest maritime museum of Greece and home to the largest collection of paintings of Greek sailing boats. Its hard to imagine how a village so small had such a huge impact on naval history and the Greek economy (galaxidi-museum.gr).
Galaxidi Beach coves
Hidden around the main harbour of Galaxidi are tiny beach-like coves that you can walk down to (either via man-made steps or slopes). With enough space for a towel and a book, you’ll soon be in your own little oasis. The harbour water coming in from the Gulf of Krissa is clear and calm, so make sure you take a paddle while absorbing the village views and sounds of the little fishing boat activity.
Next, venture through the ‘forest’ to the right of the main harbour (that was planted by the local school children) and you’ll discover the even more secluded beach (just don’t tell the locals how you found out). Galaxidi, as the locals say, “talks through its silence”.
The Holy Monastery of Metamorphosis of Sotiros
Situated at the top of the hill of Galaxidi, you’ll discover stunning views of the village by visiting the Byzantine monastery built in 1250. It’s also home to a library, carpet making workshops and icon painting studios.
Delphi Sails is the perfect place to book a boat (skippered if prefer) and sail around the area. Hire a catamaran and discover hidden creeks, gems of natural beauty or just soak in the sun between snorkeling and exploring. Wakeboards, kayaks and paddleboards along with full scuba diving gear are all at your disposal. It’s the perfect way to explore Galaxidi’s coastline and surrounding coves (delphisails.com).
Delphi archaeological site and museum
Considered by the ancient Greeks as the centre of the world and marked by a stone monument called the Omphalos of Delphi, Delphi (Greek for ‘womb’) is an absolute must-visit. It was also home to the ‘Oracle’ who ancient Greeks would go to for guidance.
Elevated in the mountainside less than thirty minutes’ drive from Galaxidi and with unparalleled views, take the path up to the archaeological site. Be sure to take in the remains of the Temple of Apollo (one of five temples built from various materials), the Treasuries which were built to commemorate victories and the ancient theatre of Delphi, built on the natural slope of the mountainside.
Then make your way down to the Delphi Archaeological Museum that houses artifacts and fragments of reliefs from the Siphnian Treasury. Finally walk into the new town of Delphi for a well-earned Greek coffee in one of the local tavernas. Don’t forget to ask the Oracle a question before leaving though (delphi.culture.gr).
The art of making a stranger feel at home is at the heart of world-renowned estiatorio Milos’ first luxury gastronomy 5* hotel in the heart of Athens (Rooms start at £350, xenodocheiomilos.reserve-online.net). Based around the corner from the Syntagma Square and a short walk from the ancient Acropolis complex, this modern hotel offers 42 elegant rooms. They each boast a marble bathroom, wooden floors, velvet furnishing and inspiring views of the Old Parliament House. Once you wake from your slumber (in possibly the most comfortable bed known to mankind) for a day of sight seeing, make sure you enjoy the delightful Mediterranean-style breakfast and head to the luxurious spa complex.
Minutes from the harbour in Galaxidi, you’ll find the most charming, family-run authentic hotel: Hotel Ganimede (Rooms start at £75, ganimede.gr). Celebrated for its award-winning homemade breakfast (included) and authentic warm embrace to all of its guests, it was once a captain’s house. Chrisoula, the matriarch of the complex, will ensure your stay in one of the seven rooms or four suites is beyond expectations. Her cooking lessons in the courtyard are a must.
Famous for Souvlaki, a kebab style wrap, Athens is peppered with local street food stalls and outlets, all as delicious as the next. Fine dining and regular tavernas are also in abundance but if you’re looking for a true locals’ place to eat, I recommend Bakalo Taverna of Thodorou (book via Facebook) in the north-west district of Peristeri. An authentic Greek taverna with a laid-back vibe that offers the most succulent lamb cuts, Greek salad and snails. It doesn’t get more Greek than this place.
Easy to pass by in favour of one of the harbourside tavernas, Bebelis Restaurant (book via Facebook) is a quaint husband-and-wife-run restaurant in Galaxidi, filled with interesting memorabilia. It is the place to go for an authentic, relaxed meal with exceptional hospitality. Hidden away on a picturesque village cobbled road that leads down to the harbour, it’s a local’s secret. I opted for the Greek sausage and tzatziki, followed by the local delicacy Galaxidian stuffed onions with a Greek salad. Be sure to try the local Retsina too.
Perfectly positioned on the harbour-side for nighttime views of the twinkling lights of local towns in the Parnassus mountains, Skeletovracho Taverna (skeletovrachos.com) is a great place to go for local seafood. I recommend the mussels (fresh from the local farm just off the harbour), followed by Octopus with chimichurri, and washed down with an ice-cold Mythos beer.
Plan your trip at discovergreece.com.