Features

Athens: Grecian getaway

30 Jun 2022 by BusinessTraveller
Brown Acropol Athens

As visitors return, Athens is opening a range of new hotels. From affordable urban options to luxurious seaside resorts, there is plenty of choice for the discerning traveller.

After two difficult years, this summer is one of optimism for Greece. Tourist traffic is on its way back to, and possibly set to beat, 2019 levels – a critical upward trend in a country where one in four jobs is directly or indirectly generated by tourism.

Visitors to Athens will have a range of new and refreshed hotels to choose from, with the wave of hotel development sweeping other European capitals making its way to the city. The rebirth of the 1960s Astir Palace in Vouliagmeni kicked things off in early 2019, emerging as a lavish Four Seasons resort with 330 rooms and suites (including the original bungalows nestled in the pine trees) and an endless list of amenities. An outpost of One and Only Resorts is coming to completion just up the coast, and the former international airport – one of Europe’s largest redevelopment projects – will be home to multiple hotels.

There is greater choice in the city centre too, including smaller, boutique options for those who prefer something more intimate. Monsieur Didot opened in late 2019 with only four rooms and two suites, inside an 1880s neoclassical building where John Lennon and Yoko Ono stayed incognito when visiting the Greek capital.

Xenodocheio Milos Athens is located opposite the National Historical Museum, and opened at the start of this year with 43 rooms and suites. It is the first hotel venture of Costas Spiliadis, the chef behind the Estiatorio Milos restaurant brand in cities including London and New York. Meanwhile, the 1963 Modernist-style Hilton Athens will nearly halve its room count as part of its transformation into Conrad Athens.

Here we take a look at a selection of recent arrivals and upcoming openings in Athens, and some noteworthy additions on the mainland coast and out on the country’s sunlit islands.

Hilton Athens

NEW

Athens Capital Center Hotel – M Gallery Collection

In September 2020, Athens Capital Center Hotel opened just off of Syntagma Square – across the street from and by the same owner of the historic Hotel Grande Bretagne. Its 159 rooms and 19 suites – including a presidential suite with private terrace – are dressed in a contemporary mix of whites, greys, blues and dark wood.

Sweeping views of the city are a highlight of Mappemonde rooftop pool and bar – named after an art installation by George Lappas, part of which is displayed in the ten-storey atrium. M Flavours restaurant serves Mediterranean cuisine, while Galerie Café is the place for coffee or cocktails.

Athens Capital Center Hotel marked the introduction of Accor’s M Gallery Collection to Greece, and the first upscale hotel by the French group in the city centre (there is a Sofitel at the airport). In April, it cut the ribbon on a second M Gallery property, the 141-room, adults-only Niko Seaside Resort in Crete.

Last summer, it also opened Angsana Corfu, the first European resort under the brand, with 159 rooms and suites, as well as 37 pool villas, overlooking Benitses Bay. mgallery.accor.com

The Modernist Athens

Inside the former Canadian Embassy in the city’s Kolonaki neighbourhood, The Modernist Athens opened in autumn 2020 with 38 rooms in four categories, ranging from S – with raised platform beds – to XL. Category M rooms and upwards feature terraces; some have private outdoor hot tubs. Minimalist Danish design strikes a balance between light and dark with ash blond wood floors, dark grey ceilings, velvet soft furnishings and black-and-white bathrooms.

There is a café off the hotel lobby, as well as a seventh-floor roof garden and terrace. A second Modernist hotel can be found in Thessaloniki. themodernisthotels.com

Brown Acropol Athens

Founded in Tel Aviv in 2010, Brown Hotels has a portfolio of 24 hotels in its native Israel, alongside a property in Croatia. The opening of Brown Acropol Athens in autumn 2020 began an aggressive expansion into Greece, with the plan to have 40 hotels in the country by 2024.

On revitalised Omonia Square, Brown Acropol takes over a 1976 building designed by Emmanuel Vourekas, the architect behind the city’s Hilton hotel. Burned orange, mustard, shades of brown, and patterned wallpaper bring a retro feel to the interiors. The 165 rooms and suites come in different sizes, from small ‘solo’ rooms with single beds to executive suites with separate living areas. Panelled oak, dusty pink and gold set the tone in the cocktail bar, while the rooftop has a gym and four outdoor hot tubs. There is also a spa with sauna and hammam.

This June, the group added Isla Brown Corinthia, an hour’s drive west of Athens overlooking the Saronic Gulf. A striking contemporary building by Elastic Architects, its bright white, undulating façade contrasts with the blue of the sea and sky. There are 166 rooms and suites, a swimming pool, a number of restaurants (including a ‘cave-like’ sushi bar), a rooftop with wet area and bar, water sports centre, and private beach. Next year, an extension will add 110 bungalows with pool and restaurant in the hills behind the hotel. Two more Isla Brown hotels are coming to Crete and Corfu as well. brownhotels.com

Villa Brown Ermou

In May 2021, Villa Brown Ermou followed, a short walk from the city’s historic Plaka neighbourhood. One of four Villa Brown hotels in the group, the townhouse-style property offers 51 rooms and suites, with a design offsetting black and white with soft pink, sage green and copper. A cocktail lounge and bistro serves food all day. A rooftop with pool, lounge, a second restaurant, and spa are still to follow. brownhotels.com

Dave Red Athens

In summer 2021, Dave Red Athens opened, part of a sub-brand of ‘affordable urban’ hotels targeting younger travellers. Located in the vibrant Omonia neighbourhood, it has 87 industrial-style rooms, with bare concrete walls, exposed pipes, and ‘punchy décor’ – inside what used to be the headquarters of the Greek communist party.

Urban rooms are petite, starting at 11 sqm. Foxy rooms come with a circular bed, while Foxy+ rooms have a king size bed enclosed on three sides by pillows. The rooftop has a pool table, hot tub, massage room, and serves complimentary sparkling wine. The ground floor restaurant and bar, and the underground nightclub, are operated by Six Dogs, a local hospitality group. brownhotels.com

Dave Red Athens

Lighthouse Athens

Located in between Dave Red and Brown Acropol, Lighthouse Athens began welcoming guests at the start of April. Sister hotel to Lighthouse Tel Aviv, Brown’s flagship property, the 220-room hotel takes the group to nearly 500 rooms within a few city blocks around Omonia Square.

Compact rooms – with mirrored walls to enhance the sense of space – marry a moody colour scheme (teal, green, mauve and black) and Baroque elements with contemporary furniture. The requisite rooftop has 360° views, with a pool, hot tubs, and open-air sushi bar. The first floor restaurant and bar offer all-day dining with views over Omonia Square; a large nightclub will follow later this year. brownhotels.com

Hellenic Vibes Smart Hotel

Walk down Agias Irinis street, around the corner from Monastiraki Square, and you won’t miss Hellenic Vibes Smart Hotel, courtesy of the giant, kaleidoscopic murals flanking the hotel’s entrance.

Opened in July 2021, there are 28 rooms and 7 suites, accessible by mobile key, with minimalist décor and sleek bathrooms. Some rooms have private terraces with Acropolis views. There is a restaurant serving traditional Greek breakfast, and Greek and Mediterranean dishes for lunch. hellenicvibes.gr

Gatsby Athens

In autumn 2021, Gatsby Athens opened with 33 rooms and suites a few minutes’ west of Syntagma Square. Art Deco-inspired interiors feature pink headboards and dark velvet sofas, diamond-tiled showers in pink and light blue, and brass accents. Some rooms have freestanding bathtubs, while the 52 sqm Party suite has an outdoor hot tub and cinema projector.

Gatsby restaurant focuses on sharing dishes and serves food all day, while Gatsby bar runs from early morning coffee and fresh juices through to evening cocktails. Rooftop bar Cloud 9 has a stone fireplace for cooler nights. gatsbyathens.com

Vasi Athens

Original Greek terrazzo floors can be found in the 18 rooms and suites of Vasi Athens, which opened in autumn 2021, in the Psyri district. There is a range of different room categories, including options for families with extra bunk beds in the room – all feature minimalist décor in light tones. Some suites have terraces with hot tubs and Acropolis views. Complimentary breakfast is served around a communal table on the ground floor. vasihotels.com

Vasi Athens

Xenodocheio Milos Athens

Opposite the National Historical Museum, Xenodocheio Milos Athens opened at the start of this year as a celebration of Greek philoxenia or hospitality. The first hotel by chef Costas Spiliadis, its restaurant, Estiatorio Milos, serves a seafood-focused menu in a minimalist space dressed in creams and whites with soaring ceilings. Other Estiatorio Milos locations include New York, Montreal and London.

There are 43 rooms and suites – some with private terraces – with wooden floors and curved wooden headboards, sleek furniture, marble bathrooms and warm blue as a contrasting colour. There is also a gym and an Elemis wellness suite for spa treatments.

For a philoxenia experience closer to its namesake island, Milos at Sea offers the option of two private charter yachts catered by the restaurant group to explore the Greek islands, with the largest accommodating up to ten passengers overnight. xenodocheiomilos.com

Moxy Athens City

At the end of March, Marriott expanded its offering in the Greek capital with Moxy Athens City, its affordable-chic design brand. The 200 ‘cosy and smart’ guestrooms come in two main categories: Backstage rooms have limited views, while Center Stage rooms offer city views. The rooftop penthouse can also be used for events. There is a 24/7 Moxy Bar and a fitness centre.

This summer, Marriott will also expand in Costa Navarino, the master development in Messinia, southwest Peloponnese, currently home to a Westin Resort and The Romanos, part of its Luxury Collection. When completed, W Costa Navarino will add 246 rooms, suites and villas, as part of the new Navarino Waterfront. There will be a range of F&B options, including a ‘Culinary Square’ food market, and a beach club and sunset bar. The resort will provide easy access to the four Navarino golf courses, as well as an array of water sports.

More is to come to Costa Navarino: next year, Mandarin Oriental will open its first resort in Greece, with just 99 rooms – including 48 ‘earth-sheltered’ villas, built into a hillside overlooking the Bay of Navarino. marriott.com

COMING SOON

Athens Flair Hotel

Once the home of Greek actress Ellie Lambeti, a listed neoclassical building in Kolonaki designed by a Danish architect in the 1880s, will open as Athens Flair Hotel this summer. It will offer just six suites, each with a distinctive style and colour palette, along with a rooftop terrace. Run by a small Greek hotel group, it will be a block away from a sister property called Sir Athens, a four-suite hotel set in a building on Kaplanon street dating back to 1800. athensflair.com

Neoma Hotel Athens

A third property is set to join Athens Flair and Sir Athens this summer, on Mouson street at the foot of Filopappou Hill, southwest of the Acropolis. Deriving its name from the Greek word for ‘new moon’ or ‘pleasantness’, Neoma Hotel Athens will have 16 elegantly pared-back rooms and suites, dressed in a neutral mix of warm wood and shades of white. The rooftop bar and pool will have views of the Acropolis. neomahotel.com

Brown Hotels

Brown Hotels will keep expanding its footprint in Athens over the coming months with at least another three hotels. More details are to follow, but they will include a hotel called Brown Spices and Theodor Athens – sibling to Theodor Tel Aviv, which is a 34-room ‘Bauhaus-themed’ hotel in a listed building at the western end of the city’s Rothschild Boulevard.

In addition, the existing Kubic Athens Hotel will turn into Kubic House, Urban Oasis by Brown Hotels. Next to the city’s National Theatre, the eight-floor hotel has 122 rooms, which are being turned into a ‘thrilling jungle’, including wallpaper with birdlife and foliage, and colourful tiling in the bathrooms.

Beyond its plans for Greece, Brown Hotels is setting its sights on the rest of Europe with properties to come to Germany and the UK. brownhotels.com

Kubic Athens Hotel will turn into Kubic House, Urban Oasis by Brown Hotels

Grand Hyatt Athens

Having opened in 2018, Grand Hyatt Athens will complete construction on a substantial expansion of its hotel on Syngrou Avenue this summer. An additional 227 rooms and suites – 23 of which will have a plunge pool or private pool – takes total room count to 548 across nearly an entire city block. Club rooms and suites come with access to the hotel’s Grand Club lounge. The hotel will have four pools: one indoor, one outdoor in the courtyard, one on the roof of the original hotel, and one on the roof of the new extension.

New this summer as well is the first outpost of Hyatt’s Unbound Collection in Greece – and ninth in Europe – with the opening of Magma Resort Santorini. On the northeast side of the island in Vourvoulos, its architecture incorporates black volcanic stone and takes inspiration from local traditional dwellings called pezoules. There are just 35 rooms and 24 suites, the majority of which offer private pools and hot tubs. Further Unbound hotels are coming to Helsinki, Mijas (Spain) and Crans Montana (Switzerland). hyatt.com

Anda Hotel Athens, Radisson Individuals

Due to open in August, Anda Hotel Athens will be located on Voukourestiou street in Kolonaki – under the Radisson Individuals ‘affiliation’ brand of Radisson Hotel Group. Greek-Swedish architect firm OOAK is transforming the existing 1960s building into a 24-room hotel with restaurant, bar, and ‘unique outdoor fitness centre’.

In the second half of 2023, the group plans to expand its presence further with Radisson Red Mitropoleos Square Athens, converting an office building into a hotel under its ‘playful upscale’ brand. It will feature 94 small apartments with kitchenettes, along with a rooftop bar and restaurant. With these two openings, Radisson will have three hotels in Athens – there is a 160-room Radisson Blu hotel on the edge of Pedion tou Areos, one of the city’s largest parks.

Additional properties arrived in the past year on Santorini (Radisson Blu Zaffron, in Kamari, with 103 rooms, suites and villas) and Mykonos (Radisson Blu Euphoria, with 34 rooms and suites). This summer, an 84-room Radisson resort will also open on Skiathos, part of the Northern Sporades islands between Athens and Thessaloniki. radissonhotels.com

One and Only Aesthesis

Promising a ‘bacchanalian celebration of Athens’, One and Only Aesthesis is under development on 21 hectares of seafront in Glyfada, southeast of the city centre. An opening date is to be confirmed, but plans include 127 rooms, suites, and villas with private pools – including a flagship ‘Villa One’. Drawing on mid-century design, features include natural stone and timber, muted colours and references to Greek mythology. Two signature restaurants, a Chenot Spa, and a fitness centre with indoor and outdoor spaces are also planned.

One and Only is also working on a resort on Kea Island, the closest Cycladic island to Athens – an hour by regular ferry from Lavrio Port, or a ten-minute helicopter ride from the airport. The resort will have 75 villas (as well as a range of private residences), three restaurants, two bars and an extensive spa. oneandonlyresorts.com

Conrad Athens

Opened in 1963 as the first major international hotel in the Greek capital, Hilton Athens closed at the start of the year for an extensive €130 million redevelopment.

The 15-storey, Modernist building will emerge as Conrad Athens in 2024. The smaller room count (down from 500+ to 280), will create space for 50 private residences – branded under a mix of Conrad and Waldorf Astoria flags. Facilities will include ‘multiple culinary and entertainment venues’ and a wellness centre.

Conrad Athens will be the brand’s fifth hotel in Europe – there are properties in London and Dublin, along the Portuguese Algarve and, as of April, on Sardinia. The planned Waldorf Astoria Residences will be the first in Europe; the original Waldorf Astoria New York is due to reopen with a large residential component following renovation. conradhotels.com; waldorfastoriacollection.com

Pantelikon Athens, Curio Collection by Hilton

Meanwhile, Hilton will also bring its Curio Collection of independent hotels to Athens in 2024, renovating the existing Pantelikon hotel in Kifisia, an affluent area about 30 minutes north of the city centre. The hotel will have 117 rooms including 13 suites, a restaurant, spa with an indoor pool, and an outdoor pool in the hotel’s garden. curiocollection.com

Hampton by Hilton Piraeus Mikrolimano

In 2024, Hilton will expand further with the opening of an 83-room property in the port city of Piraeus, one of the main hubs for ferry services to the Greek islands. Located in Kastella close to Mikrolimano marina, the Hampton will be a renovation of an existing hotel with an outdoor pool, a fitness centre, and meeting spaces. hamptonbyhilton.com

The Ellinikon

One of Europe’s largest redevelopment projects began at the start of this year on the 620-hectare site of the former Athens international airport, along a 3.5km stretch of coastline southeast of the city. At an anticipated cost of €8 billion, the vast mixed-use site – three times the size of Monaco and largely dormant since the city hosted the 2004 Olympic Games – will be developed in phases over the coming years and is expected to attract one million visitors annually when completed. The project by Lamda Development will include an integrated resort featuring a number of different hotels, including one on the beach and one as part of a 400-berth marina. theellinikon.com.gr

Words: Paul J DeVries

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