Europe

Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in the Europe.

white nights festival st petersburg

White Nights Festival – St Petersburg

MAY TO JULY.

THE SUMMER MAY BE SHORT IN RUSSIA BUT THEY KNOW HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF IT IN ST PETERSBURG.

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Do they! In what should be described as a series of many major artistic events and not just one festival, White Nights runs over the longest days of the year and features a staggeringly varied array of performances and exhibitions.

WHAT SORT OF THINGS CAN WE EXPECT?

There is classical music, opera, dance, film, circus acts, comedy, theatre, sculpture, jazz concerts and myriad other performing arts pieces on show. Many performances are outdoors, so strolling around the city centre or along the banks of the River Neva you’re likely to catch a free show.

GIVE US A COUPLE OF MUST-SEES.

One of the most justifiably popular events is the Scarlet Sails – the recreation of a child’s storybook. A giant crimson-tailed longship is sailed up the River Neva towards the Tsar’s palace, with accompanying fireworks and lightshows. This spectacle draws crowds in their millions. Also, make sure to be at the opening of the drawbridge at least once – a street party erupts at 2am each night the drawbridge is retracted.

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Edinburgh Fringe Festival – Scotland

AUGUST.

THIS IS ALL WEIRD PERFORMANCE ART, ISN’T IT?

Edinburgh Fringe Festival

This is the granddaddy of performance art festivals and you can bet on seeing some weird and wonderful acts over the month it’s held. But it’s not all Shakespearean plays performed by dangerously drunk actors, and grim, ironic, post-modern, pre-future fairytales. The entertainment on offer is unbelievably diverse: musicals, kids’ shows, dance, circus, cabaret…

… I THINK I REALLY JUST WANT A LAUGH. …

and comedy. The Fringe has a strong humour focus; you’ll find a laugh or two for sure. Rowan Atkinson, Eddie Izzard and Billy Connolly made names for themselves here.

THAT DOESN’T SOUND FRINGEY AT ALL!

Maybe not at their current levels of fame. But here there’s some genuinely groundbreaking stuff going on. You’re likely to experience acts that might not make it into more mainstream arts festivals – at least, not until Fringe-found fame opens those kinds of doors.

AgitAgueda Art Festival

AgitAgueda Art Festival – Agueda, Portugal

JULY (EXACT DATES VARY).

WOW, THE UMBRELLAS IN THE SKY.

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One of the most recognisable symbols of this vibrant Portuguese festival is the installation of hundreds of colourful umbrellas suspended above one of the city’s streets. Other parts of the urban landscape, like park benches, stairs, and power poles, are also painted in colourful examples of street art, creating an enchanted atmosphere.

WHAT’S IT ALL IN AID OF?

The festival aims to promote new musical and artistic projects with the ‘Talentos AgitAgueda’, a competition for emerging artists. As well as new hopefuls there are many established national and international acts that grace the stage.

DO WE HAVE TIME TO CHECK IT ALL OUT?

The festivities extend over three weeks so there’s plenty of time to pack it all in. Many of the musical acts perform in the main tent, which is free. And there’s nothing stopping you from walking around the streets to see all the amazing outdoor installations, murals and sculptures

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Rouketopolemos (Rocket War) – Chios, Greece

MARCH OR APRIL (EASTER).

EASTER CELEBRATIONS IN GREECE CAN GET PRETTY LARGE, OR SO WE’VE HEARD.

It may well have been the Rocket War on the Greek Island of Chios that you’ve heard ringing in this important date on the Christian calendar.

ROCKET WAR DOESN’T SOUND LIKE YOUR TYPICAL EASTER CELEBRATION.

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The story goes something along the lines of a traditional rivalry between two places of worship, and their respective congregations deciding to settle their differences by firing cannons at one another from opposing hilltops – all very Christian-spirited, right? Over the years it was sensibly decided that firing actual cannons was a tad too dangerous and the practice became what it is today. A massive display of large bottle rockets careening across the sky, the object of which is to hit the opposing church’s belltower.

IT STILL SOUNDS LIKE CONTROLLED CHAOS.

Locals know that it’s important to batten down the hatches and cover their houses and cars with a wire mesh cover before the battle begins. It’s advisable for tourists to stay at a safe distance from the ‘festivities’, which is where the best views are anyway.

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The Costal Place Where You Shoud Be – New Forest, Lymington

On the coast but also part of the New Forest, Lymington – once named the most desirable place to live by the seaside – celebrates its nautical and countryside heritage

It’s the epitome of coastal and countryside living. A quick scan of what’s on in Lymington, the port town on the New Forest’s coast, sums up everything about this attractive Georgian town – 105 forthcoming events listed on one page alone. It’s a vibrant, dynamic community with something for everyone.

Naturally for a coastal resort, much revolves around the sea and its nautical history, but the picturesque Hampshire town is so much more.

Its cobbled streets – complete with an Olympic gold postbox in honour of famous sailing son Sir Ben Ainslie – who won medals at five consecutive Olympia from 1996 – and stunning architecture are home to a healthy mix of designer boutiques, independent shops and high street brands. Indeed, (in 2008) it was once named as the most desirable place to live by the seaside by the TV programme Property List.

Every Saturday the high street plays host to a bustling market – as it has every week since 1315 – and locals and visitors alike throng to the stalls selling everything from food to furniture and most things in between.

The New Forest has long been a famous food haunt and Lymington (population 15,500) boasts a feast of options for hungry holidaymakers. From grabbing a bag of fudge or a generous scoop – or two – of delicious ice cream while strolling around the quay, to tucking into a traditional hearty Sunday roast by the log fire at the Monkey House pub, Lymington caters for all taste buds.

No waterfront town would be worth its salt if it didn’t offer fine, fresh fish. Lymington – which, historically, made much of its wealth from the sale of salt around the world – does not disappoint on this score.

The new Shipyard – Fish Market is exactly what its name suggests, offering locally-caught catch of the day to shoppers and restaurants. One step through the doors takes you into the Shipyard – Bar and Restaurant (with another clue in the title) where diners are treated to fish ‘cooked s imply with seasonal produce’.

The restaurant’s bar is made from reclaimed wood from disused boats, mileage is reduced and New Forest businesses supported by using locally-sourced supplies; coffee cups, menus and napkins are made from recycled paper and staff uniforms are made by Vivanaut which creates aprons from old boat sails.

As a celebration of all things sea and food, the town, which sits at the mouth of the Lymington River, is hosting its inaugural Seafood Fayre Festival on August 12 and 13.

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Lymington River

Featuring local chefs working with local produce in a series of cookery demonstrations and offering visitors the chance to buy any number of delicious food items, the festival is partnering with the Blue Marine Foundation (BLUE) to support its Solent Oyster Restoration Project.

“I couldn’t contemplate living anywhere else now”

The UK-based marine conservation charity is aiming to raise £250,000 to restore the native oyster to the Solent, which will provide wide-ranging ecological and social benefits for the region over the long-term. These include helping to improve water quality, foster valuable habitats and re­establish a vital strand of the economy on the South Coast.

Lymington boasts a proud marine heritage dating back to 1346 when it provided war ships to Edward III and again a couple of centuries later for Henry VIII.

However it is the Solent’s oyster fishery which, dating back to Roman times, was once the largest fishery in Europe for the native oyster, until as recently as 1978. At its peak, the area would land up to 15 million oysters a year, but overfishing together with the effects of habitat loss, pollution, invasive species and disease led to a collapse in numbers and a limited fishery has operated since 2013.

But while the town has a social conscious, it also likes to live it up – in style. Step forward a rather glamorous event on the calendar – the Lymington Italia Festival where that most famous combination of classic cars and quality food will be served up.

More than 50 Ferrari owners are expected to descend on the town on July 2 for a grand procession through the streets which will be otherwise pedestrianised for the day.

Visitors will then be able to admire the cars parked in the town centre and feast on mouth-watering offerings from an Italian food market setting up stalls for the event.

Mayor of Lymington and Pennington, Cllr. Barry Dunning, said: The Lymington Italia Festival has gone from strength-to-strength since its launch in 2014, and is now a major attraction. It’s a real feast for the eyes, not to mention the taste-buds, and we’re very pleased to be staging it in aid of the Stroke Association this year.’

Keeping with the international flavour; few small English towns (or larger ones, come to think of it) can claim to have an Icelandic cafe as one of its resident businesses.

Cue Oskubox – Lymington’s very own award-winning Nordic deli which claims to be ‘the home of Viking food in the heart of the South Coast’ and serves, among a range of other tempting dishes, a breakfast Viking platter with organic volcano treacle bread. Curiosity, if nothing else, gets people through the doors initially – great tasting food keeps them coming back for more or to test the menu’s theory of providing ‘enough energy to sail to Sweden’.

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Spain’s Spectacular Beaches – Menorca

Bleached limestone cliffs tower over a powder-white beach, and anchored sailboats bob in transparent blue waters. Snorkelers drift into a cave, lit up by the afternoon sun to reveal a sandy sea floor thats clean enough to walk on barefoot.

The stunning setting at Cala Mitjana, one of Menorca’s premier beaches, is replicated in more than 120 other coves ringing the island. Most of the shoreline is protected from development, meaning the crowds are often thin, and during shoulder season, when it’s still warm enough to swim, you might even have a slice of paradise to yourself.

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Cala Mitjana is a bay and beach on Menorca’s southern coast, surrounded by high cliffs and pine trees

The combination makes the Spanish island in the western Mediterranean one of the world’s most spectacular beach destinations. It’s the least known of the Balearics, a group that also includes the more-developed Mallorca and party-till-dawn Ibiza. But Menorca offers the opulence of Ibiza with the flash and the natural splendor of Mallorca without the package tourists.

Add its two charming main cities, Mahon and Ciutadella, and you can think of Menorca as low pressure, high payoff. The compact island is only about 30 miles long, so it can offer the best of a relaxing beach vacation, a lively city break and a tranquil countryside retreat in one small package.

Travelers accustomed to any of those types of getaways will feel at home at the Jardi de ses Bruixes Boutique Hot in Mahon, the capital on the eastern end. Owner Anja Sanchez-Rodrigo says she originally worried her unique property’s location would be a deterrent.

“It has turned out to be a good thing,” Sanchez-Rodrigo tells Luxury Travel Advisor. “When people come to Menorca, they want to go visit as many beaches as they can. We always look at the weather, especially the wind, and suggest if guests should go the north or south coast.”

The hotel was originally built in 1812 as a boat captains home but fell into disrepair until 20 years ago, when Sanchez- Rodrigo’s husband, an architect, renovated it for his office. They converted it after the housing crash and opened with eight rooms in 2014. An expansion completed this summer added eight more and a spa clad completely in local limestone, which is called mares.

The renovation emphasized original details like the old tiles in the floor and dining room, and stayed faithful to the local culture. The name of the hotel, for instance, means “dandelions garden” in the Menorcan dialect. “Only a Menorcan would know what that means,” said Sanchez-Rodrigo.

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6 Dream-like Hotels in Rome

A well-designed trip to Rome offers the traveler the chance to live history, not just to view it. Six properties in the Eternal City do just that by offering their guests a way to experience the past, while enjoying 21st- century comforts.

Margutta 19, which opened July 1 this year, is Alberto Moncadas latest project. Under the umbrella of Rome Luxury Suites, Moncada also owns Babuino 181, the suites at Margutta 54, and Mario de Fiori 37 ; he is also the general manager of the Fendi Suites. Moncada says that Rome does not have enough luxury accommodation; hence, he keeps opening unique local properties in neglected historic buildings.

Margutta 19 is set in an old palazzo on Via Margutta, the street where the movie “Roman Holiday” was filmed. The Moncada family has lived on Via Margutta since Albertos great-grandfather turned the cobblestone lane into what is known as Romes “Artists’ Street” — it was home to Picasso, Stravinsky and Fellini, among many others.

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Margutta 19’s Deluxe Suite is spread over nearly 580 square feet of space and comes with a king-sized bed and a sleeper sofa

Twelve of the eventual 16 deluxe and classsic suites are available, with some overlooking the back garden and others the charming narrow street lined with art galleries. A large and private garden suite will be ready in early fall. We visited less than a week after the hotel opened and found a well-run operation with very few glitches. To book or ask questions, contact Manuel Barone.

Of Moncadas properties, this is the only one with a full restaurant and bar area (Babuino 181 has a rooftop space for cocktails and breakfast). Operated by Moncadas cousin, Alberto Gaido, and his partners Luca Burnacci, Leonardo Stabile and Mario Esposito, along with Michel in-starred Chef Angelo Troiani, the Assaggia ristorante and bar have tasting menus that recall the recipes of an Italian nonna (grandmother). Though guests may order full-sized dishes, the tasting menu offers the guest a collection of family-style flavors, including some rarely seen outside a home kitchen.

Much like Babuino 181 and Fendi Suites, the suites at Margutta 19 are decorated in refined neutrals, with a functional partial wall separating the bedroom and sitting areas. A Classic Suite, such as No. 104, sleeps two and has two full-sized French doors overlooking the garden, one with a Juliet balcony. There are wide-screened TVs facing each side of the suite. The six Classic Suites range from 420 to 475 square feet; and face the garden.

The Deluxe Suites are slightly larger (529 to 580 square feet) and sleep three between a king-sized bed and a sleeper sofa. Deluxe Suites are available facing either the garden or Via Margutta; ask for one with a terrace with room for chairs. Margutta 19 offers one nonsuite room, Deluxe Room No. 403, which has an internal view. A 540-square-foot Garden Suite with its own 430-square-foot terrace will be available in September 2017.

The bathrooms at Margutta 19 are spacious, lined in travertine, and offer free-standing tubs, double sinks and separate showers.

If Alberto Moncada is the man with experience, Alessandra Di Segni Zarfati is the talented newcomer who has begun her hospitality career with a six-floor Baroque palace overlooking Piazza Navona.

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The Eitch Borromini is a six-floor Baroque palace overlooking Piazza Navona

The Fitch     Borromini welcomes guests to sleep in the frescoed palazzo designed by Borromini and renovated for Pope Innocent X Pamphilj (Pamphili) in the mid-1600s. The discreet entrance at Via Santa Maria di Anima 30 doesn’t prepare a visitor for the view from the restaurant and many suites, where the storied piazza is laid out below. (Film director Ridley Scott was expected to shoot from the hotel on the day we visited; “Angels and Demons” was shot around the fountain in front of the hotel).

Like other historic properties in Rome, the rooms and suites are not identical, but use the space available within the bounds of preservation regulations.

At almost 1,400 square feet, the Heritage Royal Suite (No. 32) combines five rooms to sleep nine guests; it includes the Orologio Room, a living area where the authentic clock mechanism for the adjacent St. Agnese Church is located. There is a small, private terrace and two full bathrooms. The suite, much of which overlooks Piazza Navona, would work for a family group or group traveling together for leisure or a wedding.

Other suites overlooking the Piazza Navona include the Pamphilj 2 (No. 21), which sleeps four, two in the bedroom and two in the living room (king-sized sofa bed), in a total of about 900 square feet. The Navona Suite (No. 31), which sleeps four in about 500 square feet, also overlooks the piazza. There is a bedroom and double living room with queen-sized sofa bed. Pamphilj Suite 5 (No. 51) on the fifth floor overlooking the piazza sleeps three. The 500-square- foot suite contains a bedroom with king-sized bed, two living rooms (one with a sleeper sofa), and one bathroom with shower.

There are other rooms and suites with views of the medieval Tor Millina and the Via di Santa Maria dellAnima. The Donna Olimpia Suite (No. 24A) features a frescoed ceiling and original 17th-century floors, one bathroom with bathtub and shower, and a king-sized bed. It shares an entrance and can be connected to Donna Olimpia 2 (No. 24 B), which is also frescoed in the living room and includes a queen-sized bedroom, walk-in closet and bath with shower.

Note: Some bathrooms in the hotel have tubs, while others have only showers. Ask for your preference.

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Burgundy’s 16th Century Eglise Saint-Florentin Brings Back Old Vibes

In the 2016 French barging season, Michael and I barged on our Betty B from Auxerre into Migennes and along the Canal de Bourgogne, accompanied by our barge partners, John and Margaret. This canal is a beautiful stretch of waterway with some lovely, historic and fascinating  towns. You might remember that there were floods in northern France in May 2016, so our barging proved to be challenging, dealing with canal and river closures, as well as eclusier (lock keeper) strikes!

Along the route, I fell in love with one town, Saint Florentin and its fabulous Eglise Saint Florentin. We visited it twice, and the second time was just as special as the first.

The township of Saint Florentin overlooks the junction of the Canal de Bourgogne and the Armancon river. From some distance away as you barge toward it, you can see a huge church on top of a hill, as is the norm in France.

We moored on the right bank opposite the marina since the marina mooring was in disrepair. The large, imposing church, which we assumed was a cathedral, towered above us. At night, it’s floodlit and looks glorious bathed in lights.

It rained during the night again, and another grey day dawned. After breakfast, we set off to walk into the Centre Ville of Saint Florentin to find the Sunday market. On the way, the rain started again, lessening the joy of our walk up the hill.

We popped into the Office de Tourisme to inquire about the church and were told we needed to collect the key from the office prior to our visit. We walked past the two antique shops called hrocantes and took a look inside, as I’m always on the lookout for antique French asparagus plates. But no luck. It was then on to shop at the marche convert, a covered market, which we found next to the elaborate, ubiquitous war memorial with its flags and flowers saluting the war dead from WWI and WWII. It’s always sad to see how many young French lives were lost in these tragic wars.

The covered market was a large hall, but the day we visited, there were only a few stall holders. This was possibly owing to the bad weather, but also possibly due to our late arrival around 11:00 a.m.

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Local cheese, Soumaintrain, made by cheese-maker Ferme Leclere

One stall was devoted to the local cheese, Soumaintrain, made by the cheese-maker at the Ferme Leclere. She told us that this cheese is made in the Yonne Region, called Le Soumaintrain terroir d’Armange, after the local river. 1 was told the Ferme Leclere farm has been making cheese from their Montbeliarde cows since 1984, and the cheese is with the affineur (cheese maker) for maturing for 21 months. It’s a pale yellow to orange color, has a strong smell and soft, fine, creamy texture. It tastes of hazelnuts, champignons and the undergrowth.

We were thrilled to find this artisanal cheese and buy it for our guests arriving in a week’s time.

Since 2008, this farm has also made Le Chaource AOP, another great local cheese and a favorite of ours.

At another stall, the white asparagus looked lovely, so we bought some for dinner. We added some bright red strawberries to the collection, along with a freshly roasted chicken from the rotisserie man, which completed our lunch with the fresh baguettes.

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Bordeaux River Cruise Offers You Beautiful French Experiences

Bordeaux — a name synonymous with fine wines — is a port city on the Garonne River in southwest France. Vineyards first planted here by Romans more than 2000 years ago “seeded” and shaped the city’s economic and cultural identity over centuries. Bordeaux’s location near the Gironde estuary (the largest estuary in Europe) proved ideal for the growth of the wine trade, offering easy access to the Atlantic Ocean.

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Vineyard of Bordeaux in Autumn

Due to its unique mix of history, geography and terroir, the surrounding region (also named Bordeaux) now houses more than 8,000 wine-producing chateaux that export some of the best French wines enjoyed throughout the world. These include Sauternes, title of “European Best Destination 2015” in a competition among 20 major cities. In 2017, Bordeaux placed first on Lonely Planet’s list of top cities to visit.

The rundown waterfront area was redeveloped to make it more appealing and pedestrian friendly. Facades of weathered limestone buildings that had blackened with age were cleaned to restore the original patina of their stone. New hotels and restaurants began opening. The now-lively city boasts more than 350 listed buildings of historical significance, ranking second to Paris. A high-speed TGV train service links Bordeaux to Paris.

When we chose our Bordeaux river cruise itinerary, we of course looked forward to being able to tour the city and taste the famous wines of the region in their own terroir. As expected, the wines were poured generously at both lunch and dinner on the ship. They were also featured at various port stops where we heard lectures, attended tastings, and spoke to vintners and wine merchants about the wines of Bordeaux.

However, three extraordinary optional shore excursions not only introduced us to the wines of Bordeaux but also allowed us to “branch out” and explore other epicurean foods and spirits identified with the region, notably Perigord truffles, oysters and cognac.

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One of the many wine shops in Saint-Emilion

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The Ancient Spirit of Athens Will Always Be There

Athens is so old that one would be forgiven for trying to make a “Yo’ mama” joke. From myths, gods, war and philosophy to today, Athens — and Greece —  have come a long way.
The Greek economic crisis not only gave rise to hoaxes about Disney buying the country, but has also made travel cheaper — locals prize tourism more, hotels are cheaper, the gas prices have reduced traffic (incredible but true), and yet, the good stuff—great food, fantastic scenery and the grandeur of history – are still there and as alluring as ever.
Start with a free walking tour of the city. See major attractions like the Acropolis and the Parthenon and discover why Greece really is the perfect country – every year, from November 1 to March 31, Sundays bring free admission to the various sights and attractions. Which means that if you start your Sunday nice and early, you can actually see almost everything for free.

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The Parthenon

What a wonderful world! In between Sundays, you can station yourself at Syntagma Square, sighing in lazy satisfaction with every ceremonial changing of the guard as well as at the many pedestrians heading to the nearby uber-busy metro station.

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Syntagma Square

Take a walk in the National Gardens and feed the ducks or urge the turtles to go faster. History is also free at Athens, with sights like the Roman Baths, Hadrian’s Arch, the Temple of Olympian Zeus and even Aristotle’s Lyceum — all either visible from the road or open to the public.

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National Gardens – Athens

Or take yourself off to museums – the National Archaeological Museum is particularly fine, and oh, yes, free on the first Sunday of the month from November 1 and March 31, Kanellopoous Museum, housing jewellery, clay, icons,  figurines and more, and, at the foothills of Plaka, the nearby Centre of Folk Art and Tradition. The Museum of Greek Popular Instruments in Athens is also free.
If you’re itching to spend some cash, take day-trips to local weekend favourite Aegina Island, an hour away. You can also flaunt your (imaginary) wealth on the Athenian Riviera, or the Apollo Coast beaches with clear waters and breathtaking scenery.

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Athenian Riviera

LEAVE ON A JET PLANE: Return flights start at 506USD from Mumbai and New Delhi.
VISA: 68USD, plus a VFS service fee from 13USD.
GET AROUND: Athens couldn’t be more perfect, it has a convenient, easy public transportation system of includes buses, trams and the metro. Get a tourist ticket that will get you an airport round-trip, and travel on all public transportation, valid for three days. If you’re in Athens for more than three days, buy a five-day ticket that’s valid on all modes of transport.
STAY: Try City Circus Hostel, Athens Backpackers or Athens Choice. If you prefer hotels, The Omonia area is a good option – it’s central and has many budget hotels. Despite its less-than-sterling reputation, it’s relatively safe as long as basic precautions are followed.
EAT AND DRINK: Restaurants are expensive and may deplete your funds fast. Street food in Athens is cheap and delicious. A gyros is really filling. Another great option for breakfast is bougatsa, a delicious, custard-filled pastry. Souvlaki (grilled meat in pita, like a shawarma) is also a cheap and filling option. If you want to be even more canny, or plan to stay longer, buy basic non-perishables and cook.
Most hostels have communal kitchens that you are free to use.
WHEN TO GO: Avoid the months of July and August, when hotels and the weather will try to fleece you. April to May and September to October are much cheaper, and less crowded. The water is also much cooler then.