New Hotel, Athens
Syntagma Square looks very different without the protesters. Athens' central square is just around the corner from the New Hotel, which means you are firmly in the heart of the city. From here you can walk to the Acropolis, stroll around the National Garden, or just get lost in the maze-like streets of Plaka, the historic district that is packed with bustling eateries and small designer shops. And there's not a protester in sight.
Greek hotelier Dakis Joannou doesn't like repeating himself. He has a clutch of hip hotels in Athens, each one with a different concept. To create the New Hotel, housed in a modernist building that was formerly the Olympic Palace hotel, he commissioned Brazilian designers the Campana Brothers – celebrated for their recycled look, known as favela chic – to do a complete rework. Together with a team of Greek design students, they came up with an eye-catching design that is literally cobbled together out of parts of the old hotel. The most dramatic feature is the so-called favela wall that dominates the lobby, using the legs of wooden table and chairs from the Olympic Palace in a collage-style effect. Similar favela "trees" are found in the restaurant off the lobby.
Rooms come in three styles, including ones themed after historic Athens (featuring vintage postcards) and ones themed on the evil eye. Mine belongs to the Karaghiozis series, featuring images inspired by ancient Greek shadow puppets. The generously sized room has a small balcony, a comfortable bed and excellent black-out blinds.
Other furniture includes one of the Campanas' signature favela chairs and a clever ladder chair, the rungs on its long back the perfect place to hang clothes (although there is also a good-sized wardrobe). The gold sink is a little over-the-top for my taste, and due to a problem with the shower door, there is water on the bathroom floor every time I shower.
For those looking to live large, the penthouse has an expansive terrace and a window over the bed that perfectly frames the Acropolis.
The New Hotel is the only hotel in Athens to have its own bakery, overseen by acclaimed French baker and patissier Christophe Vasseur; his creations are a highlight of breakfast in the bustling lobby restaurant. There is also a rooftop restaurant with a view of the Acropolis, where Greek flavours mix with Asian influences. Try the lemongrass pork chop, but be sure to leave room for dessert.
Athens is in the middle of a creative resurgence, and the New Hotel makes a great base from which to explore it. The hotel has been embraced by Athens' creative crowd and it returns the love, making a point of promoting local shops and designers. The helpful staff is also up on all the hippest bars and eateries in town.
For its central location, its sense of style and its overall vibe, the New Hotel is a winner.
Filellinon 16, Athens. Rooms start from 195€ for a standard room, including buffet breakfast and taxes. Phone 30 21 0327 3000, see yeshotels.gr.
As popular with locals as it is with travellers, the New Hotel has a genuine buzz about it.
Despite the soundproofing, the traffic noise will disturb some sleepers; pack earplugs if you are sensitive.
Ute Junker was a guest of New Hotel.