NEWS

New approach is drawing in top names to put Athens on the global designer hotel map

It is midday Saturday on Athinas Street. As I leave behind the crowds and odors of the Varvakeio market, the neoclassical surroundings of Kotzia Square are an almost neutral transitional area before I encounter the extravagant pop iconography of the Classical Baby Grand Hotel. The garden at the entrance is a work of art, designed by Socratis Socratous. Two authentic Mini cars serve as the reception. The rooms upstairs have been worked on by top artists and designers, such as Stelios Faitakis. On one floor, for instance, there is a mix of ancient Japanese topography, Byzantine icons, golden art nouveau, comics and classic street art graffiti. Designer hotels are a recent phenomenon in Athens. The first opened in 2002. It was the Cypriot-owned Alassia Hotel, on gritty Socratous Street, near Omonia Square, behind the old Appeals Court. Angelos Angelopoulos, one of Greece’s most sought-after designers, transformed a conventional 1960s building into a small urban paradise. Then, in the least glamorous part of Sophocleous Street, the Yfantis family, owners of the well-known small-goods factory, renovated an old, dilapidated hotel to give Athens the Fresh Hotel, the brightest building in the center. In the same spirit, the Semiramis Hotel in Kifissia has made its mark on the Athens hotel scene. The first hotel designed by famous industrial designer Karim Rashid for Dakis Ioannou of Yes! Hotels, it put Athens on the international designer hotel map. The 2004 Olympic Games in Athens brought unusually good news for Athenian tourism. Occupancy rates at hotels rose and it looked like the lean years were a thing of the past. That encouraged a second wave of investment in Athenian designer hotel infrastructure. There was the Periscope in Kolonaki, and possibly the first boutique hotel in Psyrri, the Ochre & Brown on Leokoriou Street. And there is more to come. Dakis Ioannou has another coup planned. It hasn’t been announced officially yet, but it seems he has assigned the Brazilian twins, Humberto and Fernando Campana, to revamp the Olympic Palace Hotel, which is now closed, on Filellinon Street. The Campana brothers belong to the global design elite, and if this project is confirmed, it will raise the profile of Athenian hotels even higher. Meanwhile, one of the best-known buildings of architect and town planner Constantinos Doxiadis, on Stratiotikou Syndesmou Street on Lycabettus Hill, is to undergo a transformation; recently bought by the Dakis Ioannou group, it looks set to become a first-rate hotel. The Fresh Hotel’s owners are dipping their feet into the northern suburbs with their renovation of the Katerina Hotel in Kefalari Square. Downtown in Omonia Square, the Daskalantonakis Group has turned the Omonia Grand into the stylish Classical Grand O Hotel. Let’s see if the rest of the square follows suit.