Athens

The birthplace of democracy, Athens is at once a tantalizing blend of antiquity, modernity and the natural world. Ancient structures and monuments tower over a modern city interspersed with mountains and rocky hills, and striking views of the Saronic Gulf just a few kilometers to the south. Foodies and oenophiles rejoice, the food and wine is phenomenal!

Summers in Athens are hot, searing and touristy. We recommend visiting in spring (Greece in bloom is divine!) or fall to avoid the crowds.

There are a few options for getting to and from Athens International Airport. The easiest and most direct way is via taxi with a flat rate of €38. Alternatively, take Metro line 3 from the airport to Syntagma Square Metro Station. It takes about 40 minutes and will drop you right in the heart of the city.

EAT

Dióskouroi Cafe Tavern This taverna next to the Agora is popular with the locals. The house salad is a MUST try. Great for lunch.

Esperides A taverna in the adorable Anafiotika neighborhood situated right at the top of a dreamy, cobble-stoned staircase. The roof has views of the Acropolis and live music. Go for lunch or stop by in the evening for a tipple and mezes.

Karavan This teeny, tiny sweet shop is tucked (literally!) into the side of a doorway but is known for its incredible baklava.

To Kafeneio One of our most memorable meals in Greece, this tiny taverna was empty of tourists and perfectly delicious. They have their own vineyard and winery in Nemea. Definitely try the housewine and meatballs with sauce!

The Old Tavern of Psarras Local restaurant perfect for lunch near the Acropolis or for a sunset dinner with their lovey terrace overlooking the Ancient sites.

DRINK

Couleur Locale This hip drinking hole is located on a third floor roof deck overlooking the Acropolis. Go for sunset and stay for dinner. It’s a little tricky to find - walk inside the No. 3 building, head to the back, and the go up the stairs.

Dos Gardenias This Cuban-style tapas bar in the trendy Monastiraki neighborhood is a great spot for a drink before dinner or at the end of a long, dusty day.

Oinoscent Awesome wine bar near Syntagma Square with over 50 wines available by glass. Bustling with a PYT crowd on a Friday. If you like reds, try the local agiorgitiko varietal from Nemea.

Taverna Acropoli This taverna is next door to the Roman Forum and overlooks the ruins. Stop here to refuel on Greek coffee and take a break from the sun before heading to the next archaeological site.

PLAY

Anafiotika This charming neighborhood rises above the Plaka against the walls of the Acropolis rock. It’s blue and white buildings and winding walkways are reminiscent of the Greek islands. Awatara is a cute shop featuring world clothing, jewelry and accessories.

Archaeological ruins These should be at the top of your Athens list. Purchase a €30 three day entrance pass from any of the major archaeological sites to gain access into all the sites you’ll want to see. The “do not miss” list includes the Acropolis and its museum, the Ancient Agora, the Roman Forum, the Temple of Zeus, Kerameikos (the ancient, “seedy” part of town) and Hadrian’s Library.

National Parliament Building Worth a stop by to observe the ezone guards in their traditional wear.

Lykavittos Hill Hike or take a cable car to the top of this hill just north of Syntagma for spectacular views.

Monastiraki Flea Market The go-to spot for tourist shopping. Pick up Greek wine, olives, jewelry and decently priced leather jackets.

The Pynx This hill towers above the ancient Agora and was an important gathering place for the Athenian democratic assembly. It is an important place in the birth story of democracy, and a great viewpoint overlooking the city.

Syntagma Square and Syntagma Metro Station Syntagma is the heart of Athens today and its Square is surrounded by the shopping district. Check out the Syntagma Metro, also a celebrated archaeological site! Looking for local gifts to bring home? Check out Greek skincare company Korres Natural Products.

STAY

Nearly all the major archaeological sites in Athens are within walking distance of the Old Town, Plaka. While lovely and a great place to stay, Plaka is also touristy. For something a bit hipper, younger, or just slightly quieter, look for an AirBnb in either Psiri or Monastiraki.

Alternatively, we enjoyed staying at the three star Athenian Callirhoe Hotel just south of Plaka. It was well-priced with large rooms, breakfast included and was a 10 minute walk to Plaka.

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Split

Split is Croatia’s second largest city and a jewel along the Dalmatian coast. It is celebrated for its cheerful red-tiled roofs, Old Town labyrinth, and the ruins of the 4th century fortress and palace lying within it. Spit is also a gateway to the rest of Dalmatia and the many islands sprinkled off its coast. We recommended spending a few days in Split at the start or end of a longer Croatian adventure.

Split has an international airport just a few miles and short drive from the city. Taxis and ubers are an easy option.

Split is also a three hour drive from Dubrovnik. Renting a car and driving in Croatia is fairly easy, as long as you making a booking in advance. We started in Split, drove 2.5 hours into Bosnia for an overnight in Mostar, and then continued south another 2.5 hours back into Croatia toward Dubrovnik.

While this seaside town would be gorgeous any time of year, it is especially incredible in the warmer months. Avoid the height of the tourist season by visiting during late spring or early fall (May, late August or September).

EAT

Bokeria Don’t miss this restaurant and wine bar serving up Croatian dishes and wines. Make a booking in advance.

Teraca Vidilica Stop at this on your hike back down the hill in Marjan Forest Park. It’s a great place for a snack, beer and view of the city and coastline.

DRINK

Croatian wine is incredible but not yet well known on the international market. According to a wine guide we met, the winemaking industry suffered greatly under the Soviet block, as all grapes produced were used to make one style of house wine. No individuality, creativity or experimenting was allowed or encouraged. However, the industry has more than recovered today and while in Croatia be sure to try the local varietal plavac mali. This small blue grape is the most planted grape used for red wines in Croatia, and it produces the most deliciously smooth rosés and reds.

PLAY

Bell Tower of St. Domnius Cathedral Perhaps the most touristy thing to do in Split, the (somewhat) perilous climb up the steps of the tower is worth it for the view at the top. Go early to beat the crowds.

Diocletian’s Palace This UNESCO World Heritage site is whats left of a Roman emperor’s palace. Today the ruins are the heart of Split’s Old Town, forming a labyrinth of shops, restaurants and bars. Hire a tour guide or use a guide book for a self-guided walk. Major sites within the Palace include the Peristil, the Cathedral of St Dominus, the Vestibule and the palace substructures which today form a marketplace leading down to the Riva. In summer go first thing in the morning, as this area becomes packed with tourists and Game of Thrones fans.

Klis Fortress This ancient fortress sits in the hills above the city. Hire a car or take a local bus to visit. Game of Thrones fans will recognize Klis as Meereen. Recommended by a friend.

Marjan Forest Park This hilly nature reserve rising above the coast is home to medieval chapels and caves, and a lovely walk through pine forests. A hike up offers vistas of the city and ocean below. Bring snacks and water.

Riva Split’s waterfront and harbor area is bustling with boat tours, restaurants and shops.

Sunset Cruise Organize a sunset cruise along the coastline with one of the many kiosks adorning the Riva. Short cruises are approximately 90 minutes to two hours and cost between €20-30. For those with more time, book a half day trip to Hvar or elsewhere.

Zapadna Obala This promenade connects the Riva to Marjan Forest Park and is worth a walk.

STAY

Stay within walking proximity of the Old Town and Diocletian’s Palace. We highly recommend Prima Luxury Rooms, a boutique hotel just minutes from the Old Town.

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Naples

Basking in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, Naples is a quintessentially southern Italian city. It’s grittier, livelier and certainly rougher than its more refined, northern cousins. While here do not miss trying a classic, Neapolitan pizza.

After landing into the Naples Airport, take the airport bus to Napoli Centrale, the main train station.

Naples is a gateway to the beautiful Amalfi Coast, the towns of Positano, Amalfi, Sorrento and the lovely isle of Capri. All within a few hours drive. Hire a private driver.

EAT

Gino e Toto Sorbillo The BEST pizza in Naples. There is another restaurant called Sorbillo, so make to go to this one. Order a pizza a person.

DRINK

Piazza Bellini Lots of bars line this street.

Via dei Tribunali The bustling, albeit narrow, main street that runs through the city center and comes alive at night.

PLAY

Chiaia The area just south and southeast of the Stazione Napoli Piazza Amedeo. It is filled with cute boutiques and restaurants.

Lungomare Stunning views of Mount Vesuvius, Capri and the city itself from this promenade running alongside the coast. Also a great place to sunbathe. Stay for sunset.

Pompeii Archaeological Park Spend a day touring the remains of this ancient city preserved in volcanic ash. Pompeii was destroyed in 79 AD by a devastating eruption from Mount Vesuvius. It is an easy, 40 minute train ride from Naples.

Vesuvius National Park Hike up to the crater of Mount Vesuvius. It is possible to take a bus or taxi to the volcano from Pompeii.

STAY

We enjoyed staying just south of the Museo subway station, the old tower quarter, which was a 15 minute walk from the Napoli Centrale. To get the full experience, go for an AirBnb in a local home.

Western Sicily (San Vito lo Capo, Trapani, Marsala)

Western Sicily is, simply put, stunning. It’s clear, calm water, rugged Mediterranean landscapes, medieval towns, delicious seafood and rich red wines are deserving of a four to five day road trip. Best of all, this region hasn’t quite yet been found by international tourists. Enjoy the sleepy beaches and towns of San Vito lo Capo, Trapani and Marsala.

Fly into Palermo and then head west two hours along the coast by rental car to San Vito lo Capo.

EAT

Morsi e Sorsi Dinner in San Vito lo Capo. Try the seafood busiate pasta.

Caffè Savoia Ice cream and sweets overlooking the Santuario di San Vito Catholic church in San Vito lo Capo.

Pasticceria Maria Grammatico Pastry and sweet shop in Erice.

DRINK

Donnafugata A family owned winery and historic cellar in Marsala. A tasting includes several traditional Sicilian foods. Try the nero d’avola red blends.

Ni Mia Beer bar a block from the beach in San Vito lo Capo.

Cantine Pellegrino A family-owned winery known for its sweet Marsala wine production. They also produce dry reds and whites.

PLAY

Catamarano Alien Boat Tours A daylong boat trip off the coast of Trapani and around Favignana Island. The water, views, quiet coves and cliffs are incredible. Hosts Isa and Ale are incredibly generous and serve homemade, traditional meals and snacks.

Erice A well-preserved, hill-top medieval town overlooking the Mediterranean and Trapani. Take a cable car from Trapani or drive.

Riserva Naturale Orientata dello Zingaro A national reserve with seaside walks and hikes. Bring water and food!

San Vito lo Capo Do not miss this sleepy beach town. It has a truly world class beach.

Scopello A small village and beach town down the east side of the peninsula from San Vito lo Capo.

Trapani Tours A daylong tour of the region, including two wine tastings, tours of Trapani and Marsala, and a local salt flat. Guide and owner Aldo is incredibly knowledgeable of Sicily.

STAY

A few suggestions by area:

San Vito lo Capo The town is small and anything near the beach will be close to restaurants and night life. We loved Poseidon Residence.

Trapani Stay in Old Town. Secret B&B is a boutique hotel with beautiful touches in an old, traditional Sicilian building.

Dubrovnik

Poised on the southern coast of Croatia, Dubrovnik boasts crystal clear waters, breathtaking views of the Adriatic Sea and surrounding islands, rich medieval history, delicious seafood, wine, and the loveliest weather. What more could you want? 

Use Uber! Taxis can be a overpriced and unpredictable. The airport is about a 30 minute drive from the Old City.

If it is your first time to the Balkans, check out Tea Obreht's beautiful novel, The Tiger's Wife, set it the former Yugoslavia.

EAT

Azure Asian Fusion in the Old City.

Lucin Kantun Tiny little place in the Old Town with amazing food. Book in advance.

Proto Delicious seafood in a romantic setting within the City walls. Book in advance and ask to sit on the rooftop veranda.

Takenoko Tasty sushi restaurant with a view of the southern City Walls entrance.

Tauris Kinoba Incredible restaurant serving very fresh fish on Lupanska Sipan island in the Elafitis. Try the sea bass and bream!

DRINK

Buza Bar There are two and both are casual beach bars built into the sea-facing cliffs and walls of the Old City. Cliff-jumping and cocktails, anyone?

Banje Beach Bar Sleek cocktail bar and lounge on the beachfront, just outside the Old City Walls.

Coco Beach Bar A cute shack bar serving up drinks on Plat’s local beach.

Culture Club Revelin Set inside the cavernous walls of the Old City, this club’s party doesn’t start until after midnight.

Pelješac peninsula wineries One hour north of Dubrovnik, this peninsula is dotted with boutique wineries and oyster farms. Book a tour or drive on your own. We loved the plavac at Milos Vineyards.

PLAY

Cavtat This adorable town south of Dubrovnik has a lovely harbor, medieval streets and is a great spot for lunch and a swim.

Dubrovnik Boats The best thing to do as a couple or with a group of friends. Dubrovnik Boats is professional group that rents yachts and catamarans for daylong excursions. We particularly enjoyed our cruise around the Elafiti Islands.

Life according to Kawa Contemporary store selling local Croatian products, food, and drink. A must!

Lokrum Island A great day trip. Hike, hang-out, eat, sun-bath, Game of Throne (GOT) tours. Lokrum can be reached by ferry from the Old Town port (no need to buy tickets in advance) .

Mount Srd Hike or take the cable car up to Mount Srd, a low mountain behind Old Town Dubrovnik. 

Old City Walls Walk the rampart walls during non-peak hours. The path can by extremely busy during high-season.

Ston A town at the Pelješac peninsula’s entrance that is famous for its stone walls, salt and oysters!

STAY

You have options depending on what you prefer. Either stay in Dubrovnik’s Old Town, just outside, or a few miles outside in a coastal village. We recommend staying right outside of Old Town to enjoy the view and avoid crowds. While in Croatia, we have always used AirBnb and really enjoyed the local experience.

If you want to rent a house with friends outside of the action, we recommend Plat. It is 15 minutes by car from the Old Town and 10 minutes to the airport. Cavtat is another great option, which is 25 minutes from Old Town and five minutes from the airport.

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