Part 1: Athens, Nafplio, Sparti and Monemvasia
When planning your tour of the Peloponnese and Kythira Island, the decision to stay in Athens beforehand largely depends on your arrival time and whether you've already explored the city.
Initially, we were hesitant to include Athens in our itinerary due to the negative feedback we received about the pollution, traffic, noise, and smog. However, we were interested in visiting some boutique hotels and luxury bed & breakfasts in the city, so we decided to start our trip there. To our surprise, Athens exceeded our expectations and we ended up shortening our tour to spend an additional two days in the city before leaving.
Despite the occasional traffic, noise, and pollution, Athens has a vibrant atmosphere that sets it apart from other European capitals. Its position as the gateway to Europe contributes to this lively energy. Take a seat at a café in the trendy Psyri district, close to the Parthenon, and observe the eclectic mix of people passing by. It's a fascinating spectacle that you won't get tired of watching.
The trendy Psyri district
The tourist district at the foot of the Acropolis is also worth a visit, especially Adrianou Street, a long pedestrian zone lined with charming shops.
Athens fish market
Many of the boutique hotels and stylish bed & breakfasts we recommend are located in the chic and trendy neighborhoods of Kolonaki and Neapoli, just outside the city center. Here, you'll experience a different side of Athens with tree-lined streets, trendy cafés, and fashionable restaurants. Keep in mind that these neighborhoods are a bit pricier than other areas.
If you're looking for a traditional Greek taverna, we highly recommend Lolos Taverna in the Koukaki district, about 500 meters southwest of the Acropolis. It's located on a lively square with many other tavernas that are popular with locals.
For a more modern dining experience away from the touristy city center, check out Blue Fox Wine and Grill Bar in the Neo Psichiko neighborhood.
Lolos Taverna in the Koukaki district, Athens
Where to stay in Athens
Trendy hotel with a great location in the Kolonaki district. The rooms are not large, but the hotel has a beautiful rooftop terrace with great views of the city. There are many chic cafés and restaurants nearby. From here, you can walk to the city in 25 minutes.
A luxurious guesthouse in a beautifully restored neoclassical building in the Kolonaki district. The perfect place for an authentic stay in Athens.
This small hotel with cozy rooms and a suite with a beautiful terrace is ideally located just outside the tourist district around the Acropolis, but close enough to reach it in less than 25 minutes on foot. It is located on the edge of the Psyri district, an area with many new shops and cafés, not far from the central market and the taverns and bars. The hotel has recently added a spacious breakfast room at street level, where you can relax after a day in the bustling city.
During a trip around the Peloponnese or on the way to the Mani Peninsula from Athens, Nafplio is an ideal stopover to spend one or two nights, or even longer. The city is located an hour and a half southwest of Athens by car.
The small town has a beautiful historic quarter between the castle and the bay (the sea). It is a little touristy with many small shops and coffee houses in the narrow streets, mostly Greek, but it still has a cozy feeling. The shops are nicely decorated, the traditional houses well restored, and the taverns serve local food at reasonable prices. Stroll through the streets and enjoy the famous ice cream from Nafplio in one of the squares.
Where to stay in Nafplio
The narrow streets in the medieval part of the city are full of small, charming boutique hotels and bed and breakfasts. But don't forget that Nafplio also attracts tourists, so book in advance.
Where to eat in Nafplio
Most restaurants and bars are located on the promenade, which stretches almost half a mile along the bay. We haven't tried any of them, but they were all well attended. We opted for a tavern called Alaloum in one of the streets near the castle. Very good.
The Alaloum Tavern in the historic part of Nafplio.
The zucchini croquettes were excellent.
If you want to enjoy the flair of the harbor and its lively atmosphere, you can have a drink or lunch at one of the many cafes and restaurants on the promenade outside the historic district.
On the way south to our next destination Monemvasia, we decided to stay at the Mazaraki Guesthouse in the village of Pikoulianika high up in the mountains above Sparti, the site of ancient Sparta.
The Mazaraki Guesthouse is an ideal place to enjoy the interior of the Peloponnese and its natural wonders. The view is spectacular. It has eleven beautifully furnished rooms and suites, most with private terraces.
To make your stay as relaxing as possible, the Mazaraki Guest House has a pool and a cozy wine and coffee bar.
Mazarki Guest House
The impressive castle of Monemvasia is located on the south slope of a huge rock that protrudes like a finger into the sea and impresses. As you drive up the coastal road to the village, you pass an endless row of parked cars that suggest the worst. But when you enter the village walls, it is a bit touristy, but not as crowded as you would expect.
The city castle has superbly preserved its historic past with its cobbled streets and old townhouses. The main thoroughfare is lined with small shops, bars, and taverns, all nicely decorated and perfectly fitting into the historical surroundings. As mentioned, they are intended for tourists, but you don't feel overwhelmed, it is an inviting place.
One of the narrow streets in Monemvasia
Bea exploring the castle in search of special accommodations.
There is even a small gap in the castle wall above the sea where you can bathe in the warm waters of the Myrtoan Sea.
Where to eat in Monemvasia
The restaurants have terraces with beautiful views and serve local dishes at absolutely moderate prices. We ate at Taverna Matoula. A bit more upscale is the Chrisovoulo Restaurant & Wine. On the way south to the ferry to the island of Kythira, there is a very good tavern in the village Agios Nikolas, which we like to recommend.
Where to stay in Monemvasia
There are several boutique hotels and vacation homes within the castle walls of Monemvasia. We have chosen the three that we liked the most.
Charming guesthouse within the castle walls and above the sea.
Boutique bed and breakfast within the castle walls.
Boutique hotel located a few kilometers south of Monemvasia.