WHAT’S IT LIKE? It may be a monstrosity of eighties architecture but the Intercontinental is an obvious choice for business travellers visiting Athens, and if you are staying in one of the stylish new bedrooms you won’t even care what the hotel looks like from the outside.
Having opened in 1982, in the last few years the 543-room property has been in the process of undergoing an extensive refurbishment. When I visited in April there were three different room types – Deluxe, which are the funky, new contemporary-look ones (the best in my opinion), plus Superior and Club rooms, which are more traditional with green/blue and cream décor. The Club rooms were renovated in 2008 and will stay the same but the Superior rooms will be converted into Deluxe rooms over the next two years.
My first impression of the nine-floor hotel was of a high-end, masculine offering ideal for corporates – the marble-floored lobby is wide with an atrium in the middle letting in natural daylight. To the left is a series of boutiques and a café, while to the right is the open-plan lobby bar. Escalators and a glass lift also take delegates down to lower-level conferencing spaces. Guests should also look out for the 350 or so works of art distributed throughout the property, including the Blue Man by George Lappas in the reception.
WHERE IS IT? On Syngrou Avenue near Monastiraki metro station in central Athens. Thiseio Park and the Acropolis are ten to 15 minutes’ walk away, the airport about 45 minutes’ drive, and the coast just under ten minutes by car.
ROOM FACILITIES All rooms have city views with some also facing the Acropolis. Standard amenities include a minibar, tea and coffee-making facilities, a flatscreen TV, wired and wifi internet access for €19.95 per 24 hours, a workdesk, living area, and bathroom with a bidet and combined bath/power shower.
Guests staying in Club rooms also get access to the Executive lounge on the eighth floor. The range of facilities on offer is good with books, board games, DVDs, free email for one hour per day, five Samsung PCs, a TV room, city views, a complimentary continental breakfast, all-day snacks, and bar in the evening, a large outdoor terrace and a meeting room for six people (just book at reception).
I was staying in one of the new-look Deluxe rooms (cream, praline, nougat and dark blue colour scheme and stripy upholstery), which felt much fresher and more youthful than the conservative Superior and Club rooms. It was a good size with an open-plan lounge complete with sofa, glass coffee table, art books and workdesk. The sleeping area featured a comfy king-size bed and a 32-inch flatscreen TV.
Windows that faced the city and Acropolis opened to let in fresh air, which I was pleased about. The bathroom wasn’t quite as slick as it could have been, with modest cream tiling and a simple combined bath and rainshower. But plenty of towels, plus robes and slippers were provided, as was an iron and ironing board, which was handy to have.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS A lavish, high-quality buffet breakfast is served in Café Zoe, as well as lunch and dinner, but the piece de resistance in terms of dining in the evening is the top-floor Premièr restaurant, lounge and outdoor roof terrace. (It is closed Sunday and Monday.)
I ate here one night and was very impressed. The ambiance is refined but unpretentious, the décor modern minimalist, the attention to detail excellent, and the staff welcoming and professional. But the real highlights are, firstly, the panoramic views and, secondly, the exceptional Mediterranean cuisine, the menu of which changes seasonally.
Highlights of the summer offering include homemade ravioli stuffed with cheese and mint (€22), roast lobster salad (€35), scorpion fish with artichokes, olives and capers (€32), leg of baby lamb, and slow-cooked with hylopites pasta and fennel (€30). I particularly liked the fact that a selection of different coloured and flavoured (smoked and garlic) salts accompanied the meal, along with freshly baked bread. I would highly recommend eating here one night as it was one of the best meals I have had in a long time.
BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES The selection of events venues, spread across levels -1, -2 and the ground floor, is varied and plentiful. There are more than 30 well-equipped, flexible spaces available for hire, although many of these are created by partitioning larger rooms, such as the five-metre-high pillarless ballroom, which has a capacity of 2,000 theatre-style and can be split into three. About one third of the venues have natural daylight and there is a separate entrance for those arriving in large groups.
LEISURE FACILITIES The spa was closed when I visited as it is also undergoing renovations, but there is a 24-hour gym that was revamped last year, and an outdoor swimming pool (open in summer only) adjacent to Café Zoe.
VERDICT A top-class business hotel in the heart of Athens with lots of meeting venues for hire, a must-try Mediterranean restaurant, and a the option of staying in a newly revamped room.
HOW MANY ROOMS? There are 543 rooms (starting from 35 sqm) including 60 suites. Deluxe rooms are on floors two, six and seven, Superior are on three, four and five, and Club (61 rooms/18 suites) on levels eight and nine. About half the rooms are non-smoking.
ROOM HIGHLIGHTS The living area, windows that open to let in fresh air, stylish contemporary décor, and firm but comfortable bed.
PRICE Internet rates for a midweek stay in June started from €149 for a Superior room.
CONTACT Athenaeum Intercontinental, Syngrou Avenue 89-93, Athens; tel +30 210 920 6000; ichotelsgroup.com