THE BLOG

The Athenians Strike Back

17/04/2014 13:49 BST | Updated 17/06/2014 10:59 BST

Athens is showing itself to be a vibrant European capital with the dark days of the economic crisis fading fast.

This week I've been at "The City of Athens Annual Travel Trade Workshop" - the second year for this event, housed at the huge Megaron International Conference Centre.

This is a totally different city to that portrayed in the UK news two years ago. There are no burning cars, protests or demonstrations. The shops, bars and restaurants of Athens are full, the city streets bustling with shoppers and it feels safer walking around at night than London or Paris.

The Mayor of Athens, Giorgos Kaminis was full of positive messages at the press conference a few days ago. There's already been a 32% increase in tourists this year, and flight routes that were suspended during the crisis are coming back to life - just last week, direct flights resumed from Doha to Athens.

He spoke about Athens' becoming a hospitable European capital, taking place in the modern world. I'd say it's already there. There's a vibrant food and restaurant scene, with some wonderful delis, organic stores and local produce stores. The area of Gazi is booming with bars, and there's a fun and happening gay scene - clubs like Shamone and Apartment rival anything you might find in New York or London. And that includes the guys there too.

There's also a lot of development - the Mariah Callas Museum is set to open in 2015, and there's a huge program of city-wide improvement works including creating green areas, pedestrianisation and modern shopping facilities - 'The Athens Project."

This is now my number one city break destination - especially for spring or autumn where the mean temperature is around 20 degrees C. It's an easy city to get around with a cheap, uncomplicated newly-created metro, tons of cheap taxis, and a very walkable city-centre.

It's also great for the UK with flights from London taking about 3 hours 50 minutes.

Obviously there's also a ton of culture, with 44 museums - I'm off to see perhaps the most impressive one, the New Acropolis Museum. Ta léme argótera!