What's the best Athens travel guide? Well, when I was in Athens updating my own Essential Spiral Athens guide, I also checked out all the other guidebooks I could find. I was writing a piece for The Times in London to see which was the most up-to-date guidebook to the fast-changing Greek capital.
I checked out which of the handful of Athens' Michelin-starred
restaurants were listed in which guidebooks, and which of the new
boutique hotels were also covered. Most important of all, I wanted to
know which guidebooks were the most up-to-date when it came to the new
museums, and the museums and other attractions that had recently been
renovated, refurbished or expanded.
It was fairly easy to choose which was the best and most current Athens travel guide: The Best of Athens from Lonely Planet. Now the same author, Victoria Kyriakopoulos, has been back to the city to produce a new and more compact guide: Athens Encounter. It's just as good as her Best of Athens guide, but is more compact. Although it has 200 pages and also includes a very good fold-out street map, it's still small enough to fit into a purse or a jacket pocket.
Athens Encounter is bang up-to-date, as the new Acropolis Museum was still not open when the author researched her book, but she managed to get an advance look at the museum's displays. She also interviewed the museum's Curator, Alexandros Mantis. Short interviews with local people are a feature of the Encounter series, and make them a livelier read than the usual guidebook. The interviews also provide some insider tips on where to eat and drink.
In order to pack so much in, but remain pocket-sized, the reviews of hotels, restaurants, bars, nightlife and shops are kept fairly short and snappy. There are probably just as many of them as in a bigger guidebook, but I don't think anything is lost by keeping the write-ups brief. There are still several dozen restaurants listed, from the fancy Micheln-starred spots to the great-value hole-in-the-wall joints.
Attractions and Athens Hotels
The main attractions such as the Acropolis, National Archaeological Museum, the Plaka, the Agora, the Benaki Museum and several more are all covered in some depth, over one or two pages. The only thing missing is a listing of Athens hotels. The book only includes a two-page summary on Athens accommodation, and the names of of the five best hotels in each of four categories: Designer/Boutique, Budget, Luxury, and Bang for Your Buck value for money. But if you want a guidebook to help you find the best Athens hotel for you, it isn't this one.
Athens Encounter is the book to slip into your pocket and carry around Athens with you. It's good on maps, restaurants, bars, shops, nightlife and the main attractions. It's also well-written with some good background essays on life in this fascinating city. For me it's the best pocket Athens travel guide around at the moment – until I update my own guide again, of course!
Buying this Athens Travel Guide
Athens Encounter is published by Lonely Planet at $11.99 in the USA and £6.99 in the UK. You can buy the latest editions at a discounted price on Amazon USA, Amazon UK and worldwide.
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