Of all the rooms I toured at the property, the sea-view bungalow suite with a private pool is my favorite. While not the most expensive option at the resort, having the privacy and luxury of your private retreat away from the main hotel buildings make it priceless. Quiet, exclusive, and with your own beach, the bungalows were masterfully renovated to retain a feeling of glamour from their heyday in the ’60s.
In its early years, Astir Palace welcomed Jackie Onassis, Brigitte Bardot, Nelson Mandela, Frank Sinatra, John Wayne, and even Vladimir Putin. More recently, you might have spotted Lady Gaga or former President Obama, most of who have stayed in the storied, exclusive bungalows.
There are numerous dining options at the resort, from authentic Greek cuisine at the waterfront Taverna 37, fresh seafood at the fine dining yacht-inspired Pelagos, upscale Italian cuisine at the trattoria-style Mercato, Argentinian steaks at the poolside Helios. There is also a Matsuhisa on the property for sushi lovers. The restaurants are designed with extensive outdoor dining terraces for social distancing and fresh breezes from the sea.
Executive Chef Bertrand Valegeas oversees the dining experience at the resort, and the selection is endless, all crafted with the highest quality raw ingredients, especially the huge amount of fresh fish sourced directly from the Aegean. For a special occasion, make sure to book a private dinner at the hidden Zolotas Beach, a unique, lantern-lit location right on the water with the ultimate in privacy.
Located in Kolonaki, one of Athens’ most trendy neighborhoods, in a quiet area situated off a marbled side street, the intimate 1920’s Shila Hotel is a stunning mixture of antiques and modern design. The hotel feels more like a private neoclassical mansion with its original terrazzo floors, high ceilings, and expansive living spaces with only six suites. I felt instantly at home with the warm welcome by the staff and the ethereal, relaxed atmosphere of the interiors.
Each themed suite at the boutique hotel is unique, filled with vintage velvet furniture, patina walls, flowing fabrics, and mood lighting. What I found most remarkable is that the suites are enormous, with two bathrooms in some and separate privacy doors for converting the space into two bedrooms. Beds are designed to look like they are floating, and there is even a swing in one of the suite bathrooms. You may not spend too much time in the room as you venture to the rooftop where hipsters gather weekly for cocktails and a DJ.
The complimentary breakfast is magical at Shila as you indulge in a gorgeous basket of goodies delivered to your room or the roof garden. If your time is limited, make sure to explore the surrounding pedestrian streets and walk to the nearby IL Postino restaurant, a small, popular cafe with outdoor tables scattered under trees for a delicious bowl of pasta created by its charming rock star Chef Andreas Soures.
Initially built in 1874 as a private mansion, the Hotel Grande Bretagne offers up the most outrageous views from its GB Roof Garden Restaurant & Bar. With direct views of the Acropolis, Lycabettus hill, and the Parliament, this spot is a must for all visitors. Very upscale and nearly impossible to get a sunset reservation, the New Mediterranean cuisine highlights raw materials and fresh seafood.
The menu is relatively small (and pricey), highlighting the most delectable options, including Tuna and seabass carpaccio as a starter to Ravioli filled with ‘tseberi’ cheese from Ithaca, Grilled cutlets and slow-cooked leg of lamb. Follow this up with a special dessert menu by famed Arnaud Larher, featuring some of his signature creations. But it really is the view that you are here for, so relax with a bottle of crisp greek wine and gaze out upon the city.
Greek cuisine is reimagined at this Michelin-starred downtown restaurant. Hytra’s seventh-floor outdoor location, offering up stunning views of the Acropolis, matches its delectable degustation style menu. Modern Greek cuisine meals include dishes like an Amberjack oyster, loquat, chamomile, apricot umeboshi as an appetizer, Short rib rock samphire, mushrooms, fir, and pine as the main course, or select the 14-course degustation menu with wine pairings for 125 euros. Whatever you choose, you will be amazed at the artistry of each high concept plate and the gourmet culinary experience with a twist from Executive Chef Tasos Mantis.
The hill of Lycabettus is the highest peak of Athens, which overlooks the capital and is considered as one of the most romantic places with its panoramic view facing the Acropolis to Piraeus and the Saronic Gulf.
Executive Chef Xenia Bouzaranidou offers up Mediterranean cuisine adding various twists from Greek recipes. In order to facilitate access to the top of the hill, valets at the entrance of the cable car on Aristippou street assist you to arrive at the restaurant using their renovated cable car to the highest spot in town.
I discovered Nikolaos after hearing about a spiritual healing retreat he conducted at The Rooster Hotel in Antiparos, and his popularity spread rather quickly. While there are numerous spa treatments at hotels and resorts when you travel, there are rarely opportunities to have a life-changing experience with a healer. With a combination of blessing oil massage and healing sound therapy, Athens-based Nikolaos Unalome includes spiritual coaching and connection with the soul to clean the energy, unblock chakras, emotions, and old traumas. And to make it even more appealing, the experience costs much less than a basic massage at a luxury resort.
Not only a great way to combat jet lag after you arrive in Athens, but also an amazing opportunity to transform your soul with love and light before or after your long nights of partying on the islands. Unalome’s journey of awakening started with the Yoga practice of Ashtanga Vinyasa, Yoga Therapy, and Pranayama. He completed Advanced Seminars for Thai Massage, Osteo Thai, Fascia, and sound therapy (Tibetan bowls, Crystal bowls & Tuning Forks). He is also a therapist of Ayurveda (the ancient medicine of India) with Abhyanga massage. As a healer, he offers sessions of Reiki, “Christ Healing Energy,” and “Shamanic Healing.”
“We are experiencing a unique tourist season this year, with extreme demand and very last-minute bookings,” says Anthia Vlassopoulou, Co-founder and CEO of Greece Insiders. “There is high demand in Villas, private yacht chartering, and high category hotel rooms as this is a way for guests to ensure they can stay inside their bubble. We have worked with all our partners to ensure we can have the most flexible cancellation policies possible to allow travelers to feel safe to book.”
Among her favorite activities that can be customized with their local expert guides, she suggests, “A guided helicopter tour of Athens and Cape Sounio, an ancient ceramics workshop, an exclusive shopping tour getting you to meet the creators behind the clothes and jewelry, a luxury RIB boat excursion to the Saronic golf, scattered with beautiful islands (Aegina, Hydra, Spetses), a cooking lesson by one of Athens’s most famous chefs, and finally a special tour in the Ancient Agora of Athens on how ancient Greeks were conducting business and building social networks.”
*Note: Masks were removed only for photos.