With Athens recovering from the financial crisis while seeing more investments coming into the area, it is once again a premier destination… thanks largely to tourism. In fact, one in every five euros spent in Greece was tourism related for a total of 37.5 billion euros. Travelers are recognizing the incredible architectural beauty, history, culture, and culinary offerings of Athens. This vibrant city is no longer a stop-over, but it is instead a city to be celebrated, explored, and appreciated.
Stay at a Landmark Hotel
In Athens, modern luxury hotels rise alongside traditional apartments fashioned into chic boutique hotels, while existing hotels continue to renovate and refine the guest experience to remain vital. One hotel which continues to evolve with the times while maintaining its sense of place, is also a bastion of gracious Hellenic hospitality.
Opened in 1963 by Conrad Hilton, The Hilton Athens was the first international hotel brand in Athens. The glitterati and jetsetters soon came to stay, bringing worldwide attention to Athens as a city, and a cultural touchstone. With the ancient marvels and buildings from different centuries throughout the city, the Hilton Athens is certainly architecturally interesting – with a 15-story combination of modern angles, cool marble, and a temple-like façade. Abstract reliefs of Greek themes by Greek artist Yiannis Moralis grace the exterior. To me, the building is a visual commentary on today’s Athens: modern design meets historical monument. And The Hilton Athens is perfection in that regard, and more.
The hotel has the distinct advantage of being at a unique crossroads location near the venerable and stately Kolonaki and Pangrati neighborhoods, surrounded by museums, and two short blocks from the Evangelismos metro station that takes you to Syntagma Square (the heart of Athens) in only a few minutes.
Unless you travel by private jet to Athens from the United States, you will likely arrive in the late evening, depleted by the journey. But ignore the desire to curl up in bed, and instead, drop your bags in your sleek Hilton Athen’s room and head up to the Galaxy Bar on the top floor to have a nightcap. Your first look at the Acropolis, illuminated at night and rising above the sparkling city, is a magical moment; one that will stay with you for the rest of your life.
Stay in the Executive Level rooms with exclusive access to the Executive Lounge. You can stop-in for refreshments all day, including a light breakfast, and evening snacks and beverages. Another feature of the Executive Level is the private concierge desk available during the day. They can help with printing boarding passes, directions around town and anything else you might need during your stay.
The Greek Cuisine Evolution
There is a lot to love about the dining scene throughout Athens. The Hilton Athens restaurants are little jewels that are all presided over by one of the best chefs in Athens, Executive Chef Kostas Athanasiou. The Galaxy Restaurant features Mediterranean influenced cuisine but is also adept at sushi which is popular in Athens. The Galaxy Bar is the gathering place of Athens, offering stunning views of the Acropolis with the sparkling city at her feet. Buffet breakfast at Byzantino Restaurant is an event with a seemingly endless revue of selections, and a preferred spot for morning business meetings. For Greek specialties to nosh al fresco, a favorite spot of mine is the Oasis Bar & Grill adjacent to the largest outdoor hotel swimming pool in Athens.
Tour Athens With the Best
Museums are within a short walk or metro ride. Benaki Museum, Museum of Cycladic Art, the Acropolis Museum, National Art Gallery (re-opening in 2020), and the Acropolis itself are all easy to get to from the hotel. Speaking of touring the Acropolis, the most-awarded way to do this (and also best in my opinion) is the a tour company based in Athens called Greeking.me. Only a few years old, this company is run by two young, dynamic Greek entrepreneurs Nikos and Anna, who left their first careers to form this company. They have continued to grow each year, adding bespoke tour options, and expanding to offer small tours to other parts of Greece.
The “Secret Acropolis Tour” that I experienced during my most recent visit was led by an accomplished architectural historian who took us up the side of Acropolis Hill away from the usual tourist trail. She managed to keep us all together amid the crowds at the top; and she possessed a genuine sense of humor, while engaging and encouraging us to explore deeper through her factual accounts. I also took their “Athens For Foodies” tour, which was a walk with a local expert through the core of Athens while tasting traditional Greek and Athenian foods accompanied with the impact history played in creating the food. From the Syntagma Square through the Athens Central Market, the few hours passed quickly on this enthralling adventure. And they were right: do not have breakfast and make no plans for lunch. It’s worth every bite.
LuxeGetaways Travel Tip: Make Reservations Now!
The world is once again focusing on travel to Greece, and rightly so. It’s a fantastic place filled with dreamy islands, antiquities, marvelous cities, tiny villages, and wonderful people. No matter where you may end up in Greece on your holiday, spend some of your time re-discovering Athens. But be sure to make your reservations now for the Hilton Athens, Greeking.me tours, and your air travel, because before you know it they will be sold out.
Note: In 2018 there were 5.5 million tourist arrivals at the airport, which is a new record. Of course, not all of them will stay in Athens, but perhaps they should. About 1.4 million of these “city breakers” (visitors from outside Greece) visit Athens just for the weekend, according to the published report in Travel Trade Athens 2018. More airlines are adding routes with direct flights to Athens. This brings convention business, international festivals and events, and also investment in hospitality – including tour companies, restaurants, and transportation (which includes modernization of the Port of Piraeus).