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Greek Islands 101

Jumping Off in Athens

Since you’ll most likely connect in Athens to flights or ferries to the islands, spend a couple nights there for a fine introduction to Greece, complete with ancient monuments and vibrant nightlife. From the airport, take a taxi to the city’s center, where you may catch sight of the symbol of Athens, the Acropolis (30/210-321-4172). Note that the entrance ticket will also provide access to other major sites, including the ancient Agora.

Stroll through Plaka, the city’s oldest residential quarter, made up of cobbled streets. Crowned by three ancient temples, the Acropolis has the magnificent 5th-century BC marble Parthenon as its centerpiece. No matter when you go, there will be crowds, but don’t miss the much anticipated New Acropolis Museum (newacropolismuseum.gr, 30/210-924-1043), a high-tech, all-glass structure designed by Swiss-French architect Bernard Tschumi and scheduled to open in June 2009.

For Acropolis-view rooms, book the smart Electra Palace (from $203/night in summer; electrahotels.gr) in Plaka, which has a roof terrace with a pool. In the nightlife district of Psirri, the design hotel Fresh (from $140/night in summer; fresh hotel.gr) boasts a minimalist interior and a rooftop bar-restaurant.

Go to the Michelin-starred Varoulko (entrées from $27; varoulko.gr) to savor some of Greece’s most creative seafood dishes while admiring the Acropolis from a spectacular rooftop terrace, For traditional taverna fare, stop at Psaras (entrées from $19; psaras-taverna.gr), one of Plaka’s oldest eateries, with wooden tables on the whitewashed steps leading up to the Acropolis.

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