January 8th, 2020

Kate Hayes from Cain Meetings & Incentives Shares her Experience on GDP's Athens FAM

Pictured: Kate Hayes

It is with good reason why Athens is listed as one of the top incentive destinations for 2020. Whether your group wants to explore only Athens itself, or if the city is used as a launchpad to visit the stunning Greek isles, Athens is a city on the crossroads of ancient and modern filled with many hidden gems. I was recently blessed with the opportunity to attend a FAM trip with Global DMC Partners and Horizon Travel to check out this stunning city.

As our arrival was late in the evening, our first stop was a quick dinner at the rooftop restaurant of the airport’s only hotel, the Sofitel Athens Airport Hotel where we were introduced to delicious Greek fare. This luxury hotel is steps away from the arrival and departure terminals and makes a great place to stay should you have an early morning flight out of Athens.

After our quick bite we were off to our luxurious accommodations, Hotel Grand Bretagne. This multi-award winning 5-star luxury property marries charming old-world elegance with state-of-the-art facilities and is the best combination of history and luxury in the city. Built in 1862 to accommodate visiting head of state, it was renovated some years ago, but still retains enough old-world grandeur while located just steps from all the major attractions. Its rooftop restaurant offers stunning views of the Acropolis and surrounding Athens, and we could barely contain our excitement to get out and explore the next morning at breakfast.

We were taken on a quick bus tour of the city, and then dropped off for a quick stroll through a local farmers market brimming with amazing fresh produce. (It made me dream of a group shopping for fresh local ingredients that would be used while learning the art of making Greek Food!) We quickly arrived at the backdoor of the Olympic Museum and back entrance to the Panathenaic Stadium. The Greeks really know how to make an entrance.

After being led down a dark ancient stone tunnel to the floor of the grand Stadium we stepped into the light and felt like true warriors as we looked up at the rows and rows of marble benches; envisioning ancient times when they would be full of a cheering crowd. While there are certain restrictions on holding events in old sites, this location would make for an amazing team building event in which you could hold your own mini-Olympics! Next, we wandered across the street to the magical Zappeio Hall a spectacular hall steeped in Olympic tradition with its classic Greek architecture that would make for a stunning Gala dinner.

Of course, no trip to Athens is complete without a stop at the ancient and ever evolving crown jewel of Athens, the Athenian Acropolis. From the Parthenon to the partially reconstructed Odeon of Heodes Atticus, there is magic in the air and tangible history wherever you look. It’s not surprising that it is atop so many bucket lists, you are taking literal steps through history.  Once our explorations were complete, we made our way down the hill to a local rooftop restaurant for a family style lunch of Greek fare. (We were all obsessed with the filo dough wrapped cheese!)

After stuffing ourselves on an abundant and delicious Greek meal we were pleased to have a few hours to wander the Plaka and explore on our own. This historical little village within Athens begs to be explored, with its narrow cobblestone streets lined with tiny shops selling everything from jewelry and clothes to local ceramics.  I started my wandering at the Acropolis Museum, a modern museum creatively built over ancient ruins that showcases the ancient art of the Acropolis and its temples. As I made my way back to the hotel, I enjoyed interacting with the locals and the local street cats, as well as picking up a few souvenirs from the tiny shops.

The evening was spent further exploring the Hotel Grand Bretagne and neighboring King George hotel with lovely site inspections. Both are Luxury Collection hotels and offer similar but differing options. In contrast to the Grandeur of the Hotel Grand Bretagne, The King George Hotel is a lovely Boutique hotel featuring just 102 guest rooms in a neutral/white color palate. It feels clean, bright and modern while retaining the classic feel. The top floor Tudor Hall restaurant would be an excellent place for a lovely cozy candlelit cocktail reception with stunning views of the Acropolis.

Day two on our whirlwind tour was a trip to the Athens Riviera. Starting off at the lovely gallery and studio space, the Vorres Museum.

This hidden gem of Athens offers a secluded retreat from the cacophony of the city filled with a wide cross section of art and Greek folk items. We all were in awe over this magical space and its collections. After being surrounded by so many astonishing works, we were surprised with an activity that allowed us to time to indulge in a little creativity of our own!

On our way to the newly opened Four Season Hotel Astir Palace Hotel Athens, we made a quick stop at the Margi Farm, a wonderful Organic Farm that would be the perfect spot for an al fresco lunch or dinner under the shade of their olive grove.

Just 30 minutes from the city center, The Four Seasons is an iconic hideaway along the glamourous Athens Riviera that feels worlds away. Located on a peninsula overlooking the water, you can almost believe you are on a Greek island, which is a wonderful alternative for those groups that have no time to explore beyond the Athens area.

Classic and yet modern in true Four Seasons Style, we all ogled over the views and spectacularly appointed rooms and suites; dreaming of a time that we could come back and relax.

Our final stop of the day was the seaside event spaces of Island Art & Taste, where Horizon treated us to a lovely olive oil and wine tasting. This cluster of privately owned seaside homes features spectacular views of the sea which makes for another stunning awards venue or gala dinner space.

After a couple of hours on our own back at the hotel, we met up and were transferred to dinner at Dionysos Zonar's. We dined on modern Greek fare while taking in views of the stunningly lit neighboring Acropolis and its buildings.

Athens has so many wonderful opportunities for amazing events, from unique group activity options (a company teambuilding Olympics event IN a classic Olympic Stadium!) to stunning Gala Dinner venues. We all had early morning departures, and left Athens wishing we had more time to explore this ancient and interesting city.

-Author: Kate Hayes - Meeting Technology Manager & Creative Designer, Cain Meetings & Incentives

For more highlights from Athens FAM, view a video of the trip below: