Story and photography by Manos Angelakis
Electra Palace Hotel
18-20 N. Nicodimou Str.
+30 21 0337 0000
Athens, in spite of the financial problems buffeting Greece, is still a delightful place to visit as a tourist, provided you stay away from Syntagma Square (Constitution Sq.), the political center of the city, where the Greek Parliament and numerous Ministries are located. Yes, there are demonstrations and protests taking place at the center and, sometimes, the heated political situation becomes too extreme and the police have to step-in with tear-gas and batons. But away from that center and the avenues leading to it, life is still going on in Athens as leisurely as ever.
During my last trip to the city in October, I stayed at the lovely Electra Palace Hotel, about 500 yards from Syntagma Sq., (not to be confused with its sister 4-star Electra, located just off Syntagma Sq. at the beginning of Ermou Street). The hotel's tranquil atmosphere is suitable to older visitors and its central location is suited for business travelers. But during the summer season you can also see many families with children, and many younger guests.
The façade, on a quiet Plaka Street, is of an Athenian Neo-Classic building refurbished a few years back. It has a lovely walled garden with palms and geraniums, where the hotel’s “Duck Tail” coffee bar has outside tables under awnings, and where upscale Athenians stop for coffee or a beer during the day and early evening.
At the back of the garden, connected to the Neo-Classic building, is a modern hotel tower with 102 comfortable rooms, 9 spacious junior suites, 10 suites and 1 Presidential suite, a rooftop pool with pool side bar, and on the top floor of the building, the main restaurant “The Roof Garden” (see the review Electra Palace Roof Garden in the Restaurants section) with a spectacular view of the floodlit Acropolis in the evening.
The Plaka is one of the oldest aristocratic Athenian residential neighborhoods, just a few minutes walk from central Athens’ business and shopping areas. It is very conveniently near the new Acropolis museum - a must see, the Acropolis, Syntagma Square and its metro station (about 5 minutes walk from the hotel) which you can use to go to different parts of the city, including the airport and the port of Piraeus. Also nearby are the Ermou shopping pedestrian precinct, the Zappeion Megaron exhibition center, the National (Royal) Gardens, the Panepistimiou, Stadiou, and Academias main avenues joining Syntagma with Omonia Square and the western and northern neighborhoods of Athens, the Benaki Museum, the National Art Gallery, the upscale Kolonaki shopping and residential district, and many other interesting sites and venues.
Electra Palace Hotel is one of a group of four Greek hotels, two in Athens – the four-star Electra Hotel on Syntagma Sq., and the five star Electra Palace in Plaka – one five star in Thessaloníki, and one five star in Rhodes.
Dimitris Athanasiou, the Assistant Hotel Manager, was ever-present, supervising staff and facilities with a minute attention to detail.
On the ground floor is the marble lobby and elegant reception, the aforementioned coffee bar, and the breakfast room, offering for breakfast an ample buffet with fresh and stewed fruit, a variety of cheeses and cold cuts, assorted pastries, waffles and fresh breads, eggs any style, and coffee in many versions - such as Espresso, French, Viennese, American, and the 29 varieties of Greek coffee based on the amount of coffee, sugar, and the length of boiling – plus teas and herbal tisanes, fruit juices etc. etc. The same room becomes an urban chic restaurant for lunch or dinner with tables inside and outside, in the garden, when the weather is conducive to an al fresco meal.
The presidential suite offers a spectacular view of the Acropolis hill, and the oldest neighborhood of Athens, Anafiotika, on the foot of the Acropolis. It has a private veranda with an outdoor plunge pool, a steam bath, and other amenities.
The rooms and suites are decorated in a classic style, with dark wood furniture and fabrics in brown, beige and cream. All the amenities expected from a five star property were there, such as soundproof windows, satellite TV, mini bar, electronic safe, direct dialing telephone, internet Wi-Fi connection (at additional cost), hair dryers, bathrobes, slippers, and 24-hour room service. Unfortunately, during my stay there was no turn down service in the evenings or fresh flowers in the room, which is normally expected at a luxury property.
The on-site spa includes a blue mosaic-tiled indoor pool, a sauna and steam bath; two treatment rooms are available for massages, aromatherapy, body treatments and facials and have to be booked in advance.
But the quiet area where the hotel is located, the nearness to major museums, cultural institutions and art galleries, foreign embassies, the administrative governmental offices and ministries and major business offices, and, most of all, the politeness and willingness of the staff to help, make up for any small deficiencies.
© January 2014 LuxuryWeb Magazine. All rights reserved.