The Olympics are over, but the improvements they left behind have
rendered Athens far more visitable than ever. For starters, the new
rail system has slashed the previously interminable trip from the
state-of-the-art airport to Syntagma Square into a quick jaunt.
Likewise, the new tram system, which debuted in 2004, has brought
the sparkling coastal areas of Athens and many of the new
performance and athletic venues in the city within easy reach for
visitors. But there’s far more changes than a few new choo-choos.
The Gasworks district is now the hot spot for nightlife, museums
have been modernized and even one of the greatest tourist sites in
the world, the Acropolis, has seen improvements in accessibility
and to its onsite museum.
For the Olympics, two-thirds of Athens’ 70,000 hotel rooms were
renovated, and 1,500 luxury rooms were added to the hotel stock.
While some Athens properties tried to charge the inflated Olympics
rates into this year, most prices have come back down to reasonable
Although I must recommend the Hotel Grande Bretagne. A
year-and-a-half renovation took the aging hotel’s 400 rooms down to
327 sharp, gorgeous rooms with overstuffed furniture and high-speed
Internet access. The deluxe rooms have views of the Greek
parliament and Lykabettos Hill. The furnishings are posh, but
tasteful, British in the best way. The cozy and elegant hotel bar,
Alexander’s, was named by Forbes.com as the best hotel bar in the
world. A former royal palace, the property was first built in 1862
and opened as a hotel in 1874. A $100 million renovation culminated
with the hotel’s reopening in March 2003. It now operates under the
Starwood chain’s Luxury Collection brand.
Athens offers other lodging, including some new boutique options.
In the Gasworks district, not far from the Acropolis, the
five-story hotel Eridanus has views of the old city, as well as
rooms with onyx baths and original paintings by a noted Greek
Clients can also check into the Hilton, which reopened for the
Olympics after a year-and-a-half renovation. The rooms were gutted
and completely refurbished, and an indoor swimming pool is the
highlight of the new spa.
As for transportation, tell clients to avoid renting a car. Driving
can be fun on the islands, but not in Athens. Instead, clients
should rely on the new tram and subway systems and, of course,
their feet: Most of the great archeological sites and the best
shopping, both ritzy and bargain, are located in the
pedestrian-friendly area of central Athens, near the Monastiraki
subway stop. That said, Athens’ taxis are one of the world’s great
bargains. Long cross-city trips can cost less than $5, and a trip
from the airport to downtown is about $15.
Aside from the new, Athens remains a showcase of the old. Clients
should see the city’s museums and artworks, which span the 21st
century B.C. to the 21st century A.D. In my opinion, there’s
nothing more stunning than the Caryatids at the Acropolis museum.
The range of Greek history into the modern age can also be seen at
the Folk Art Museum and the Popular Musical Instruments Museum.
The capital of Greece has been something to see for thousands of
years, and it remains so.
Hotel Grande Bretagne
Greek National Tourism Organization