Athens is often overlooked by tourists, thought of as nothing more than an essential stopover en route to one of Greece’s many idyllic islands. But in addition to its hot climate, low cost, historic sights and delicious local food, in recent years, the city has become somewhat of a cultural hub, filled with bars, clubs and restaurants and a nightlife that has been drawing comparisons to that of cities such as Berlin or Antwerp.
Arriving in Athens during the sweltering heat of August, I was embarrassingly uneducated, expecting to be stuck in a hot city with no water as respite. In reality, Athens is home to not only beautiful beaches a short bus, car, or taxi ride from the city, but also to Lake Vouliagmeni, a part saltwater, part spring water lake with a stunning mountainous backdrop where people can swim year-round due to its constant temperature of 22-25 degrees. On a sunny afternoon, we caught a taxi here (which was less than €20 each way) and spent an afternoon swimming, eating Greek salad and reading under the sun loungers, grateful to not be fighting for a seat as we would be on one of the city’s neighbouring islands.
When staying in Greece’s capital city, we opted for The Modernist Athens, the newly opened sister property to The Modernist Thessaloniki. The hotel is located in one of Athen’s coolest upscale areas, Kolonaki, just a 15-minute walk into the city centre and even closer by foot to top museums and galleries, including the National Gallery and the Museum of Cycladic Art. The buzzing restaurants and bars of the Plaka neighbourhood are an easy 20-minute walk—preferable in the early evening once the heat of the sun has died down a bit.
Housed in the former Canadian Embassy, The Modernist Athens has transformed the inside of the building into a midcentury minimalist space, which takes post-war 1950s architecture and fuses it with the nowness of sleek yet subtle contemporary spaces. Despite its undeniable style that would suit any popular interiors Instagram account, The Modernist manages to be incredibly warm and welcoming—the definition of relaxed luxury—due in part to its mission to create character and invoke the city it calls home, executed through collaborations with local creatives, from original cocktails and DJ-curated playlists to handmade ceramics found in rooms and at the breakfast buffet.
The hotel is comprised of 38 rooms spread across six floors, which are split into four categories: S, M, L, XL. All of the rooms, including the S, have big, comfortable beds, beautiful bathrooms and a chic layout which makes them feel even bigger than they are. Mirroring the minimalist design of the entrance, rooms are made up of timber floors and white walls combined with black custom-designed wooden furniture and ceilings. The beds have leather bed heads and the addition of brass details on the shelving give the space some colour.
There’s a TV complete with Netflix and Amazon Prime, a Nespresso machine, a very good selection of in-room snacks, and handmade cups by Athens-based Open Studio Ceramics. Medium rooms upwards have a balcony and for those who opt for three XL rooms, you’ll get a drinks trolley, record player and outdoor hot tub to look at the outstanding city views in style.
Downstairs, there’s breakfast and bar space, which has a breakfast buffet in the morning—complete with everything you need, including pastries, fruit, pancakes and eggs in any style—that later transforms into an all-day cafe bar. Also on the ground level, you’ll find attentive and friendly staff at reception, ready and willing to give you the best tips for the city, as well as is a small office-like area with Macbooks available for use. On the floor below, there’s a small but well-stocked gym.
Upstairs is where the real magic is. Here, you’ll find a rooftop garden with breath-taking views of the Acropolis, where you can (and most definitely should) order cocktails to watch the sunset over the city. Oh, heaven is a place on Earth.