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Athens: An Insider's Guide

Beads, Bangles Ilias Lalaounis 6 Panepistimiou Ave.; 30-1/361-1371. If you're tempted by the Mycenaean jewelry in the National Archaeological Museum, head for Ilias Lalaounis, which sells superb copies of ancient and Byzantine jewelry as well as original creations. You can watch some of these being made at the Ilias Lalaounis Jewelry Museum, on the corner of Karyatidon and Kallisperi streets near the Acropolis.

And Baubles Zolotas 10 Panepistimiou St.; 30-1/361-3782. Lalaounis's main competitor is just steps away. If you're tempted by a necklace, try it on: the gold is heavy enough to strain an Olympic weight lifter.

Diamond in the Rough Martinos 50 Pandrossou St.; 30-1/321-3110. Sandwiched in among the schlock shops in the heart of the Plaka, Martinos sells ornately carved dowry chests, delicate Venetian and ancient glass, embroideries and kilims, swords and side tables.

Where to Stay

Angelic Oasis Andromeda Hotel 22 Timoleontos Vassou St. (off Plateia Mavili); 30-1/643-7302, fax 30-1/646-6361; doubles $315. This five-year-old boutique hotel has 30 rooms overlooking either a quiet side street or the even quieter gardens of the American ambassador's residence, only a 10-minute taxi ride away from the downtown center (ask the concierge to write down the name and address for the return cab ride). Many of the soothing bedrooms are decorated with baroque mirrors and wall hangings of Raphael's ubiquitous angels.

Every Convenience Hilton Hotel 46 Vassilissis Sophias Ave.; 800/445-8667 or 30-1/725-0201, fax 30-1/725-3110; doubles $270-$330. Just what you'd expect from Hilton: a seriously glitzy marble lobby, an in-house bank, shops, restaurants, guest rooms overlooking either the Acropolis or the mountains around Athens, and an outdoor swimming pool to relax in after sightseeing.

Sting Slept Here Grande Bretagne Syntagma Square; 800/325-3535 or 30-1/331-5555, fax 30-1/322-0211; doubles $380. Athens's first luxury hotel opened in 1874, and since then just about every famous name passing through town has stayed in one of its balconied rooms overlooking Constitution Square and the Acropolis. Ongoing Metro construction, however, means views of a crane.

Kolonaki Calm St. George Lycabettus Hotel 2 Kleomenous St.; 30-1/729-0711, fax 30-1/721-0439; doubles $200-$270. Most of the 167 rooms in this hotel above Dexamini Square on the slopes of Mount Lycabettus have views of the mountain or the Acropolis. It's a pleasant, relatively tranquil spot, a few streets above Kolonaki's buzz.

Simple Pleasures Athenian Inn 22 Haritos St.; 30-1/723-8097, fax 30-1/724-2268; doubles $100. This Kolonaki hotel is a favorite with budget-conscious American professors and has earned testimonials from writers Lawrence Durrell and Patrick Leigh-Fermor. The 28 simply furnished rooms are on the small side, without television, but most have a balcony.

SHERRY MARKER, author of and contributor to several guides to Greece, has visited Athens annually for the past 25 years.

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