My first trip to Athens was a doozy. Young, on a Kraft Macaroni & Cheese budget, I landed a $ 400 theft between New York and Greece. I spent the flight curled up in a heart-wrenching ball trying to sleep in a cramped economy seat. Upon arriving at the budget hotel we booked online, I collapsed on the fragile bed until dusk. While hunting for dinner, with the jet lag and unfamiliar with the dark tangle of the streets, an older man approached me and my traveling companion with an invitation to “eat some of the Athens’ best lamb chops “somewhere near the Acropolis. Too tired to enjoy this seemingly quintessential Greek experience would be a quintessential tourist trap, we went for a walk in a scruffy tavern for burnt meat. It was a vile death for this young animal, setting the tone for the rest of our meals that week.
My experiences in this city steeped in history have come a long way, from finding third wave cafes, fashionable clothing designers, and fantastic food in thoughtful wine bars, but most of my stays in the hotel has been disappointing so far. Since the 2008 economic crisis, Athens has experienced a creative renaissance, with hoteliers in tears rejecting the outdated aesthetic of the Grand Tour Grand Dames to reinvent ancient and mid-century buildings into unique properties.
Here’s where to stay on your next trip to this ancient city on a modern trend.
On the famous Adrianou pedestrian street in the bustling tourist district of Plaka, a ground-floor women’s boutique attracts avant-garde shoppers. The rest of us, huddled inside the store with luggage (I recognized two Americans from my United flight out of Newark), browsed through intricately woven hats, summer sandals and dresses. silk from Greek and international designers while waiting to check in. The A77 Suites by Andronis boutique hotel was located directly above the boutique. Nearby, a slim and energetic woman from the small team of hotel staff was watching over our bags.
After getting our key card and expressing our breakfast in bed wishes for a ‘Greek omelet, yogurt and fruit, black coffee’, we took the small elevator to the third floor to meet the guest relations concierge. customers at our doorstep.
As I would conclude two weeks later, traveling to Greece during the pandemic was no different from being at home in New York. On the contrary, the hospitality industry has adhered to the country’s safety guidelines much more strictly than almost anywhere in the United States. As such, hotel staff always wore face masks and never entered your room to point out functional details such as light switches and thermostats, a change in service that my husband warmly welcomed as a permanent practice.
After the abbreviated explanation of the interior, we closed the door and thought about the bed, its easy curves and fluffy pillows beckoning. First off, I needed a few photos before I ransacked the room with clothes and laptops, just to remember its pretty details.
Decorative wall moldings and tall shuttered windows spoke of the 19e neoclassical European heritage of the century. A leather chair, velvet bed, and other plush textiles offered a calming palette of pinks, sand, and sky. Brass and marble accents, globe sconces, artistic black and white photos and other details like a potted olive tree and a curved desk reminiscent of neo-deco meets Scandinavian design, accomplished the difficult feat of create a luxurious and warm minimalism. A feat accomplished by the local design studio Mutiny.
Another way to describe a stay at the A77: borrowing your posh Athenian friend’s apartment while on vacation like a verb in Santorini with an heir to the Greek Maritime Empire.
Those accustomed to resort-style properties, take note: the A77’s small footprint limits amenities – no restaurant, no gym – but that’s perfectly fine. Athens demands your attention.
We napped for a few hours, then opened the windows for a thrilling glimpse of the Acropolis illuminated by the afternoon sun. Between the bustle of the street below and the object of my ancient elementary school obsession in sight, I trembled, struck like lightning, a figurative Thunderbolt, as the French would say. I had returned to Europe for the first time since the pandemic via Greece. This ancient continent, forever irresistible to Americans, has always set me back for at least one reason: the thousands of years of human history visible in the architectural palimpsest of every city.
In a recent interview with Patrick McGovern, a biomolecular archaeologist, I asked why we humans yearn to know our past and what we learn from it. Whether it’s salvaging an ancient pottery shard that contained humanity’s first expression of wine or trying to rebuild a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena Nike.
“An ancient pottery shard may seem indescribable and meaningless, but… even holding it in our hands, we share our common humanity with our ancestors of millennia ago, essentially sharing their trials and tribulations as well as their joy of living“said McGovern.
A77 by Andronis offers 12 rooms including room 10, the pinnacle of the property. Called the Iconic Suite with Acropolis View and Private Hot Tub, rates start at $ 500 a night. If you can splurge, do it.
A77 Suites by Andronis, Adrianou 77, Athina 105 56, Greece
It’s easy to forget the impact of good service and generous staff on their stay at the hotel until recently, enjoying the unbridled enthusiasm of the Modernist Athens team. Greeted by a team of three, we were old friends in five minutes, sharing jokes and travel stories without crossing that taboo line of the all too familiar. The atmosphere: friendly and professional, especially for a hotel as chic and fun as The Modernist. Such properties tend to have staff with cold attitudes; hipness reinterpreted as coldness.
Another emerging trend in the boutique hotel industry is the requirement that guests handle their own bags, even in the world of corporate brands. But not in Athens. Not at the Modernist, which is the second hotel of entrepreneur Kostis Karatzas who opened his first property in downtown Thessaloniki. The latter project opened last summer during the pandemic. The property occupies a former Canadian Embassy on the southern slope of Lycabettus Hill in the upscale neighborhood of Kolonaki. Karatzas collaborated on contemporary design in dark tones with FORMrelated architects.
George took care of our luggage as we took the elevator to reach him on the fourth floor. He performed the brief (or improved) “tour” of our room from the lobby.
Once inside, I took some photos. I felt right at home with the stark black-and-white decor, bronze accents, and matte black bathroom hardware, probably because it mirrored my design choices at home.
The spacious corner bedroom also had a desk, plenty of hangers and drawers, which I appreciated even though I never unpacked. The highlight, however: the double balconies with views of a leafy park and nearby apartment buildings. When staying in Kolonaki, one experiences residential Athens, not Instagram Athens.
Already charmed by the staff, they deployed another winning customer service strategy by offering us a well-watered cocktail at check-in.
On my previous visit to town, I had spotted The Clumsies, a beautiful bar in a townhouse in the city center. By the way, I noticed a large amount of daytime drinkers spread across quirky rooms and outdoor spaces. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time for a drink there, so I was delighted to learn that the cocktails served at Modernist Athens were developed by the owners / bartenders behind this winner of the 50 Best Bars in the World 2020 Besides, we could have one on the roof! Hooray.
After a quick refresh, we went upstairs. A row of seats bordering the building offered a theatrical view of the sunset. A covered area with a sofa and additional chairs served groups of guests. Several young Britons traveling in packs spent an hour chatting about a friend’s wedding while drinking bottles of rosé.
The lobby bar and kitchen prepare hotel food and drink, so a vintage telephone hanging on a wall on the roof allows guests to phone their order. Within minutes of hanging up, a woman dressed in head-to-toe black appeared with our selections and little snacks.
As the sun was setting, we got worried about the dinner plan. Being Sunday, places were closed or reserved. Staff came to our rescue, calling nearly a dozen places, returning to the roof several times to provide updates on their personalized plan. First of all, “glasses of wine” here. Then “order a taxi, you must use this app” to have dinner there. After, “we have cocktails for you at 10:45 pm” here. For a small property, we enjoyed a 5 star concierge service that many 5 star hotels do not offer.
In the morning we skipped breakfast to look for local flavors and coffee. It offered a glimpse of the neighborhood in the light of day. Rather than throbbing with the energy of carefree tourists, the streets filled with frantic locals scurrying to catch buses and trains to work. At that point, the reality of Athens as a living, breathing, imperfect but beautiful city became clear. Blending ancient history, the pleasures of travelers and busy modern life, I felt the “trials and tribulations of the inhabitants as well as their joy of living“and I loved it.
The Modernist offers 38 rooms divided into four categories: S, M, L, XL. Don’t miss the cocktails on the roof.
The Modernist, Ioannou Gennadiou 4, Athina 106 76, Greece