New Hotel is an arty party pad in central Athens. It might be in a Modernist Fifties building, but it’s completely cutting edge inside, courtesy of the Campana brothers and their eye-poppingly daring design. Expect slick staff, a restaurant serving food that’s as original as the decor and frequent fun nods to Greek culture.
Get this when you book through us:
Two tickets to the Acropolis Museum. GoldSmiths get an extra 15% off treatments in the New Sense spa
Double rooms from £132.99 (€157), including tax at 13.5 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional government tax of €4.00 per room per night on check-out.
Buffet breakfast is usually included in the rates.
At the hotel
Spa with hammam and treatment rooms, gym, smoking room and free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen TV with film library, iPod dock, minibar and Apivita bath products. Junior Suites and the Penthouse Suite have a PlayStation 3, Blu-Ray players and Kiehl’s bath products.
Our favourite rooms
For an awe-inspiring glimpse of the Acropolis (though the best-view prize has to go to the Penthouse, for its 180-degree span of the ancient monument), book into Room 604, which also has an interesting Campana-brothers armchair, made from cobbled-together hunks of old wood. Rooms on the fifth and sixth floors are quieter and will have access to the exclusive Executive Lounge on the top floor once it’s opened.
There’s no pool, but a roof terrace is in the pipeline.
The New Sense spa has a hammam, treatment room and Jacuzzi. If you've come from further afield, book in for a bespoke remedy treatment for jet lag. For couples, the spa special is a hammam for two, champagne in a bubble bath for one as the other has a hot-shell massage and then aromatic facial masks each.
Your most stylish statement pieces, so the decor doesn’t outdo you in the talking-point stakes.
The communal areas are accessible for wheelchair users and one room has been adapted.
There are highchairs in the restaurant, and staff will gladly heat up baby milk or food.
Sit by the windows as onlookers pass enviously by.
Contemporary and cool New Taste serves seasonal food in a sleek setting: round wooden tables, hanging gold lampshades and artfully mismatched chairs. The emphasis is on fresh, good quality and often organic ingredients. The Mediterranean cuisine includes dishes such as wild sea-bass, artichoke and herb risotto, and a trio of mini burgers (a classic, one with a sweet-chilli relish, and another with gorgonzola and tomato chutney. There’s an on-site bakery, so expect oven-fresh pastries and bread, displayed in abundance on tiered shelves.
There's a bar area in the restaurant where speciality cocktails are on offer, including watermelon martinis and lychee mojitos.
The restaurant opens for breakfast at 7am and keeps serving food right up until midnight. The bar keeps similar closing hours, but its doors at noon.
The entire restaurant menu is available from 7am until midnight, when a briefer list takes over.
New Hotel is in the centre of Athens, close to the Acropolis and Syntagma Square…
Athens International is the most easily accessible from the hotel – the drive should take 35 minutes.
Larissa is a 10-minute drive away. From here, OSE trains serve Chalkida and Thessaloniki (www.ose.gr). From the airport, guests can take the city’s metro to Syntagma.
Parking at the hotel costs €10 a day. Coming from Attiki Odos, take Marathonos Avenue, turning onto Mesogion Avenue and then Vasilissis Sofias Avenue. Follow until you reach Syntagma Square and you will find the hotel on Filellinon Street. Have some coins spare for the €2.80 toll en route.
Worth getting out of bed for
Take the cable car, or if you’re feeling energetic, walk up Ploutariou Street to reach the church at the top of Mount Lycabettus, 277m above sea level. More panoramic city views await at the summit of Mount Hymettus, a picnic-perfect spot overlooking Athens. Follow the Ancient Promenade, a pedestrian zone that connects the city’s iconic sights, including the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the Acropolis. Die-hard design lovers can get even more of a fix of contemporary works at the Benakis Museum (+30 (0)210 367 1000; www.benaki.gr) on Koumpari.
On Emmanuel Benaki, Barbayiannis (+30 (0)210 330 0185) is a low-key institution specialising in Greek mageirio (traditional cookery); try the giouvetsi (succulent tender beef in a tomato sauce) served with kritharaki (tiny pasta). Psarras Tavern (+30 (0)210 321 8733; www.stathokostopoulos.gr) on Erechtheos in Plaka is a casual restaurant, also showcasing classic Greek cuisine. More local specialities are served at the Economou Taverna (+30 (0)224 604 4340); don’t miss the lahanadolmades with avgolemono sauce (cabbage stuffed with mince meat with egg and lemon). Enjoy pizza fresh from the forno at Capanna (+30 (0)210 724 1777) on Ploutarhou. Varoulko (+30 210 522 8400; www.varoulko.gr) on Peiraos Avenue offers a chance to mingle with the city’s chicest over fancy food. On Pyrronos in Pagrati, Spondi (+30 210 756 4021; www.spondi.gr) is where to try French haute cuisine. PBox (+30 (0)210 808 8818; www.p-box.gr) at 11 Levidou in Kifisia is run by award-winning chef Christoforos Peskias, who’s a big fan of Asian ingredients such as sake and oyster sauce. For fresh seafood in a cool courtyard, try Milos (+30 (0)210 724 4400; www.hiltonathens.gr) at the Hilton on Vassilissis Sofias Avenue.
Head to Mama Roux (+30 (0)213 0048 382) on Aiolou, an ideal brunch spot, serving organic burgers with fresh salsa.
Sitting in the back of a taxi kindly arranged by New Hotel, we realise en route from the airport that we know absolutely nothing about Athens. With blue skies above and beautiful ruins and terracotta rooftops below, as we wind our way into the city we dredge our minds for stereotypes… The Olympics! Some amazing gods and goddesses! All that Greek mythology and its togas. (‘How will the bed sheets measure up?’ wonders Mr Smith.) Plate smashing, meze, feta, kalamata, calamari, kebabs... Oh and a guy called Dimitrius that Mr Smith went to school with. That’s it: how embarrassing. Lastminute, unplanned and unprepared – yes, this is how we travel.
As our cabbie explains the difference between the Parthenon and the Acropolis (one is the famous ancient temple, the other is the name for the citadel of monuments on this Athenian rocky outcrop), we twig that this is not going to be any old last-minute Mediterranean break. This is going to be an edifying escape. Our driver proves himself to be the best informed too. Not only for his knowledge of local hotspots (he leads us to a great local taverna for lunch) but for his ability to drive us swiftly to the New Hotel. Since many drivers can’t place these lodgings on the map, a top tip is to travel with a map, or arrange an airport pick-up.
The name of the property, and not its location, is what promotes New Hotel’s obscurity. Situated near Syntagma Square, it’s within walking distance of the main sights: Plaka, the ancient historical centre (tick!), the Acropolis (hooray, tick!) and Kolonaki’s upmarket cafés and boutique (tick, tick, and thank you). Its invisibility to taxis is also nothing to do with it not being noticeable. The striking hotel entrance is marked with gigantic gold pendant lampshades, which are luminous against the stark white exterior walls. When I say ‘stark’, that’s not to be confused with ‘Starck’. Philippe, king of the oversized lampshade technique, hasn’t touched this Greek haven which opened as New Hotel for the first time in 2011. Formerly the Olympic Palace Hotel, it is the work of award-winning Brazilian duo, the Campana Brothers.
Humberto and Fernando Campana are celebrated in the design world for their witty recycling – be it soft toys, planks of timber or leather scraps. Working with 20 architecture undergraduates they transformed every wall and floor by hand. Each element has been craftily reconfigured using salvaged elements: from the lifts to the reception desk to the chairs, side lamps and breakfast bar. The impact is immediate. As a porter efficiently snaffles our bags away, we do the same to the complimentary chocolate cakes and pastry tasters. First impressions are that it’s all delicious.
Progressing down a corridor which is covered in Ugandan bark cloth, a wallpaper made from the Moraceae tree, we reach our bamboo-floored room. All very Campana, but not particularly Greek – so we think. But the Brazilian brothers possess more insight into local culture than us. Their design focuses on three traditional Greek themes. They pay homage to Karagiozis, a mischievous folklore shadow puppet, and so golden fairytale characters adorn the walls. The ‘evil eye’ – the charm used to ward off evil – is represented with handmade glass eyes that don’t just cover a wall opposite the bed, they can be illuminated. Elsewhere we come across a collage of historic postcards allowing a glimpse at old Athens. The whole place, in fact, reeks of local history.
Aside from our room’s quirky aesthetics it is designed to make the most of compact space. Details such as Kiehl’s amenities and great bedding do not go amiss. Perhaps even better than the design, is the food. We spend more time in the restaurant than our room, dining there both nights and of course both breakfasts. There are various pillars of a menu worth testing and I can confirm that the breads are homemade and ridiculously moreish, the steaks perfect, and a creation called the New Martini, which welcomes us on our first visit to the bar, is one of the best I’ve ever sipped.
As a result of being unprepared for this trip, we unwittingly find our stay coincides with a shutdown of the Greek capital, due to an annual political strike. On the plus side, it’s November and we have the Acropolis, archeological museum and a few other tourist spots to ourselves – although they close at 3pm. As it’s raining, we also have ample time to enjoy the hotel’s fascinating art. As it happens, owner Dakis Joannou is one of the world’s most powerful figures in the contemporary art world and the corridors and communal spaces are dotted with pieces from his vast collection. Works by Jack Pierson, Douglas Gordon, Laurie Anderson and Jenny Holzer, are fun to be in the company of, while the retro phonebooth tagged 'Dirty Phone Call' in the basement is something that has to be experienced…
On the Sunday, we abandon our rumpled togas for the great Greek outdoors. We set out to see the famous changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, but we take a wrong turn (accidentally on purpose) and instead of ogling the Evzones’ pom-pom slippers, we come across a brass band playing classic military anthems. Donna Summer’s ‘Hot Stuff’ and Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’ have never sounded better. Sometimes being unprepared opens up life’s stage to more wonder and surprises than a rigid schedule ever would. Our spontaneous short weekend has brought comedy, tragedy, blessings and curses, and if we’ve learned a thousand new things there is one that stands out: daily life in Athens is theatre in itself.