The best hotels in Athens aren’t against looking backward. In fact, some of them are happy to celebrate the city’s golden age. It’s just not the golden age you’re thinking of.
For a place with such an epic history, you’d expect a lot of Athens hotels to be tributes to the city’s ancient achievements. Yet the Grecian capital’s most interesting accommodations are often more modern in focus, with nary a column or marble relief in sight. Maybe that makes sense. When your biography includes such well-worn heavyweights as Socrates, Sophocles, Hippocrates, and Herodotus, maybe it’s only natural to want to write a new narrative.
It’s not as if Athens’ hotels are completely divorced from the past. They just have a different era in mind. The mid-twentieth century, when the city was transforming into a glamorous modern metropolis, is a major inspiration for many. But even then, it’s all in aid of establishing a future standard.
You’ve heard plenty about the old Athens. This is the new one.
The 1930s building that the Perianth Hotel calls home is a true modernist landmark, and its owners have sought to preserve its unique aesthetic heritage, enlisting local architects K-Studio to create a “neo-Modernist” tribute to the era of the hotel’s construction. The décor is uniquely tailored to the hotel, in keeping with the optimistic spirit of early modernism.
A77 Suites by Andronis
A77 Suites begins with a 19th-century neoclassical villa hiding in plain sight, right at the foot of the Acropolis. Inside, however, you’ll find yourself distinctly untroubled by the tourist traffic, instead living a life of surprising glamour — the interior style, a sort of high-fashion residential look, has modern luxury and ancient history living happily side by side.
Before it was the New Hotel, it was the Olympic Palace, a fairly representative bit of vaguely utopian mid-20th-century modernism. As it was showing its age, owner Dakis Jouannou elected to gut it — and to make a new hotel from the pieces of the old. Everything went back in; every door, every beam, every piece of stone, and the result is salvage like you’ve never seen it before.
Shila transforms a Twenties neoclassical mansion into an utterly unique and singularly memorable luxury boutique hotel experience. With just six suites, it’s as intimate as they come, and its style is too eclectic to be pinned down — equal parts detailed historic recreation, eclectic-bohemian retro collage, and contemporary-luxe lifestyle fantasy.
AthensWas is an homage to the city’s swinging Sixties. Those were golden and glamorous days in the Greek capital: classic modernism was all the rage. So it is at AthensWas. There’s sumptuous Greek marble and native wood, but instead of dramatic columns and colorful mosaics, the interiors are all clean lines and elegant simplicity with a vintage twist.
Gatsby Athens presents a thoroughly homegrown Greek version of the Fitzgerald character’s carefree fantasy life. And though the name is a reference to the optimism of the Jazz Age, and finds its counterpart in some Art Deco echoes in the hotel’s interior design, the Gatsby is no period piece, but a 21st-century adaptation, a boutique hotel with an unmistakably hedonistic outlook.
The Modernist leaves the classical history to the rest of the city, and provides a remarkably coherent vision of modern luxury-boutique hospitality — which, of course, owes much to the capital-m Modernism of the middle of the last century. It’s fitting, then, that the Modernist should begin with a Fifties building: the former Canadian embassy in the upscale neighborhood of Kolonaki.
Ergon House is first and foremost a multi-pronged food market, featuring a butcher, a fishmonger, a baker, a grocer, and a restaurant. It just so happens that above this “modern-day Agora” is a 38-room boutique hotel — and the hotel, it turns out, is no afterthought, but a fully realized holistic hospitality experience, one that takes service and comfort as seriously as it takes its cuisine.
St. George Lycabettus
Athens has some impressive hotels, but the St. George Lycabettus stands above them all — at least literally it does, from its rather spectacular vantage point halfway up Lycabettus Hill, with a view straight across at the Acropolis. This kind of real estate is obviously highly desirable — the neighborhood is the ritzy enclave of Kolonaki, where most of the city’s best museums and boutiques are located.
Just when we were beginning to worry that “design” had become a synonym for “monochrome,” along comes a place like Athens’ Fresh Hotel, a place that’s bursting with color. And by color we don’t mean muted earth tones, or burgundy and brown leather — think, instead, of a palette that’s not found in nature, a selection of cartoon colors like safety orange, hot pink and lime green.
One look and it’s obvious that Semiramis is a radical departure from the norm: bold swathes of day-glo color set it immediately apart from the icy cool of most modern boutique hotels, not to mention the monochrome white of the typical Greek luxury hotel. Puzzling, unless you happen to follow contemporary industrial design, in which case two words explain it all: Karim Rashid.