Occupying a prime seafront position since 1914, the Poseidonion Grand Hotel delivers a shot of Continental glamour in sun-soaked Spetses, coastal playground of the Athenian A-list. Ionic columns add a Hellenic touch to its façade, but step into the lobby and you’ll find a tribute to turn-of-the century grandeur. Decorative archways, potted palms and floors decked with trompe l'oeil tiles speak to the Golden Age aristocrats who once made this their summer home. Follow in their pleasure-seeking footsteps as you relax by the pool, sample five-course dinners and sip on cooling cocktails at Palms – the perfect spot to watch sunsets over the Saronic Gulf.
Noon, but times are flexible and early arrivals can store their luggage. Earliest check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from £128.60 (€152), including tax at 13 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional government tax of €4.00 per room per night on check-in.
Rates include buffet breakfast and minibar soft drinks.
At the hotel
Spa, fitness room, boutique, free WiFi in communal areas. In room: flatscreen TV, wired internet access, fully stocked minibar, slippers and bathrobes. All suites have espresso machines.
Our favourite rooms
Beat the honeymooners to the Cupola Suite if you can –lovebirds want it for its star-spying glass ceiling, mezzanine, private terrace and abundance of space. Another romantic option is the Pool Suite, which comes with a little garden, plunge pool and ocean vistas. If you’re a fan of the latter, book the Tower Rooms (207 and 107), which sit at the centre of the building, so benefit from dazzling views. We prefer rooms in the historic wing, but families would do well to book a spacious ground-floor Garden Room in the new wing.
Where the lavender blossoms in the gardens, there’s a grass-green, glass-tiled pool flanked by smart teak decking. Sun worshippers will also enjoy the little plunge pool with sea views beside the spa.
The hotel was the first in Greece to offer its guests spa treatments: unleash your inner Adonis/Aphrodite with organic Ila spa treatments – massages, facials and full body pampering sessions – at the hotel’s Asian Spa. Have your cares buffed away with a Himalayan salt scrub, Olympic-sized knots detangled with a Greek sports massage, and tension soothed away with a cooling face mask. Ayurvedic massages, couples treatments and head-to-toe pampering rituals are on offer too. There’s also a steam room and a spa pool.
Deck shoes and diamonds. A fedora or wide-brimmed, plate-shaped sunhat so you can people-watch for hours without accruing wrinkles.
Sample the hotel’s berry-rich homemade jam, made with produce from its verdant hilltop organic garden.
Cots are free for under-fours. In low and mid-season, extra beds are free for four–12 year olds; in high season, they’re 15 per cent of the room rate. Children are welcome in the restaurants, where highchairs are provided; staff will warm up baby food.
Outside of course, overlooking the piazza and the sea out to the Peloponnese. At breakfast, sit at one of the parasol-topped tables, unfurl your map and plan the day’s adventures. Nurse cocktails at one of the Library Bar’s stone tables, amid the candles.
Daddy owns a mega-yacht. (Cue nonchalant nauticals: navy, cream and white, in linens and silks.)
Greek staples get a luxurious rethink – foie gras pastitsio and the ilk – at On The Verandah. Sushi and Greece may not seem like natural bedfellows, but given the rich stock of succulent seafood in the waters beside the hotel, it figures: try avocado rolls and sashimi served on ice at glamorous Freud Oriental (which has a popular sister in Athens). For light snacks – salads, sandwiches and so on – there’s the Library Bar, home to a polished piano, juke box, ancient guestbook and stash of Greek history books.
Sit in the Library Bar and pore over guests’ names from the 1900s in the time-worn guestbook. Admire the decorative china artichokes, the intricately patterned floor and your own reflection in the huge mirrors. Spiro, the sommelier, can talk you through the various local wines, grappas and apéritifs.
The Library Bar keeps guests refreshed from 10am until 1am. Food is served at On The Verandah between 8pm and 12am; 8pm until 12.30am, at Freud Oriental.
The 24-hour room service includes the pick of the main menu (until midnight, when a limited selection of light snacks is on offer).
Athens airport is 220km away (a three-hour drive plus a 15-minute ferry or boat ride).
Athens is three hours away by car. Spetses is car-free, so you’ll need to drive to Kosta (where you can leave your car at the secure car park), and hop on the 15-minute ferry (ask the hotel for the ferry timetable). Alternatively, it’s an eight-minute journey by water taxi, which are available around the clock in winter and summer, straight to the hotel's dock.
If you’re in a hurry to get to Spetses, it’s only a half-hour journey by helicopter from Athens to the island’s private helipad, which is 15 minutes by car from the hotel.
Worth getting out of bed for
Walk off the pastitsio with a stroll to the island’s organic garden, perched at the top of the hill. Alternatively, borrow bikes and cycle there (the hotel’s GPS is preloaded with the island’s best bike routes). Staff can also organise horse-riding lessons: trek around the coastal paths. There’s plenty to see in Spetses itself, particularly if you’re interested in the island’s history. Potter around the Old Harbour (or gad about in a horse-drawn carriage) and admire the row of coast-hugging mansions built by wealthy ship-owners after the War of Independence. Stroll down to the local shipyards, where beautiful caïques are still constructed according to tradition. Offer a prayer for a sailor at the monastery of Saint Nicholas, built around 1700. Learn more about the island’s evolution at the Spetses Museum (+30 22980 72994), housed in a splendid mansion that belonged to Hatzigiannis Mexis, one of the leading figures in the fight for Greek independence. Feminists will enjoy the Boubalina Museum which pays tribute to Ladcarina Boubalina, one of the few female stars of the Greek Revolution. Set in her mansion, the museum comprises a collection of her personal possessions and household objects; it’s also worth visiting to admire the wood-carved Florentine ceiling in the main salon. Go and see the mansion belonging to Poseidonion’s founder, Sotirios Anargiros, who spent his fortune on Spetses’ improvement: projects included planting the island with pine trees and building a Harrow-style boarding school that edified youngsters from 1927 until 1983.
Visit Bostani Organic Farm for alfresco cooking classes and seriously farm-to-table fare, including savoury Greek pies with wild greens and house-made pasta with free range chicken. For dessert, take your pick of ice creams, chocolate and seasonal fruits. Sample simple but delicious Italian food at Il Padrino (+30 22980 73331) by the harbour. To Nero Tis Agapis in Kounoupitsa (+30 22980 74009) serves succulent fish and authentic local dishes. Tarsanas (+30 22980 74490) is a fashionable bistro serving tasty Greek classics. Mouragio (+30 22980 73700) is another popular option, with a buzzing dining room and a menu showcasing Spetses favourites.
Picture Vettriano’s Singing Butler (you know – the couple waltzing on a beach with servants holding umbrellas shielding them from the elements). We felt similarly cosseted during the unseasonable cold snap that descended on Spetses and the Poseidonion Grand Hotel on our autumn visit. Somehow the missing swell of summer visitors, the horse-drawn carriages waiting idly for hire and the lack of combustion vehicles (which are prohibited), imbued a ‘good old days’ frisson, giving us the sensation that we were on a Grand Tour back in the Twenties.
The Venetians named the island Spezia (spice) in the 15th century, when it was on a major trade route. It nestles close to the Peloponnese and from Athens can be reached by car or by sea, both in about two and a half hours. By car, there are distractions en route, notably the Corinth Canal or Greco-Roman amphitheatre at Epidaurus, where Mrs Smith, on stage, can be heard perfectly from the back rows, murmuring under her breath. It’s a pretty drive, but cars must be abandoned at Kosta to catch a connecting ferry-boat, or a more expensive water taxi. Alternatively, it is catamaran or Flying Dolphin hydrofoil from Piraeus.
Spetses is small, quiet, unspoilt, pine clad and affluent. The pastel and whitewashed villas are charming, the streets are decorated with pebbles set in sand depicting octopi and maritime themes, and old cannon point seaward. Boutiques, antique shops and tavernas huddle round the port and even the lowering skies and empty streets can’t suppress the charisma of the island. The Poseidonion sits prominently on the seafront with an enormous flag fluttering from its highest point, an edifice of apricot and beige marble emulating the grand hotels of the French Riviera. By contrast, it’s impressive.
Inside the double front doors of Poseidonion time stands still: one imagines it is 1914 when the hotel was first built for rich Athenians, later attracting high society and royalty. The traditional and beautiful patterned floor tiles are eye-catching against the simplicity of the white walls and cushions, high ceilings and commodious mahogany furniture. It feels airy, cool, discreet. A huge ledger rests on the baby grand piano, a record of comings and goings between World Wars; books with black-and-white photographs festoon the coffee tables, old artefacts hide in corners competing with exhibits from local artists. We discovered a will written by Sotirios Anargyros, the original owner, which was none too kind to his widow. In the distance the bar beckons, a cross between a library and an apothecary: it has considerable charm.
Staff are universally professional here and radiate an enthusiasm rarely encountered. We were offered freshly squeezed orange juice before being escorted up the central marble stairs. Our room was also very white, with ceilings that gave us vertigo as we climbed into the wonderfully comfortable bed and looked up; but it lacks for nothing. The feel is English, with oak floorboards, Lefroy Brooks old-fashioned bathroom fittings and some quaint light switches that look like taps. Initially, I wondered whether all that wall space needs pictures, but the simplicity and calm grows on you until you feel cocooned.
Breakfast is outstandingly tasty, organic and homemade. Maria’s orange marmalade is superb, the speciality pepper bread was right up my street and the crispy bacon on a par with Dunmow Flitch. The wooden serving utensils we discovered were lovingly carved by (bored) local shepherds, while tending their flocks. Keen to see their countryside, we hired bicycles for the day (for a snip), hoping also to burn calories. We headed up hills and down dales, found some stunning and uninhabited beaches, saw no cars but spotted two helicopters, a private island and the place they burn the rubbish. In open country it is so quiet you can hear the silence. Spetses is an island, which involves going round in a circle, so three hours and 24 kilometres later we puffed back into town.
Aching profusely, we headed to the spa for a massage opting for the ‘Bouboulina’, tasking my tiny Athenian masseuse to apply maximum torque. I’m convinced that the towel covering my chakras was no longer effective as she contorted me with extraordinary strength into unnatural configurations. Bouboulina, incidentally, is the local heroine in the fight for Greek independence from the Turks and the only female Admiral of the Fleet in naval history. Her statue stands in front of the hotel. She met an ignominious end: officially, she was murdered in a family spat; unofficially she was on a balcony while her victorious islanders loosed off celebratory volleys below her, when a stray bullet found its mark.
Before dinner under high chandeliers, we wandered in a garden full of fragrant herbs and roses and noted several turtledoves ignoring the warning that the pool water is not drinkable. These also frequent the cupola on the roof; converted to a room favoured by newlyweds, it really is possible to swing from the rafters there, and by candlelight it’s said to resemble a local caïque, or fishing boat. Settling on the wide-fronted veranda, I enjoyed a beer with pepper-covered carrots and baby tomatoes, while people-watching across the esplanade. A large model bi-plane landed in front of me, absolutely in keeping with the period. In high season, up to 300 people sit here to appreciate the Peloponnese culinary delights of the On the Verandah restaurant; we enjoyed a starter of avocado, fresh peas from the garden, cracked wheat, dill and mustard vinaigrette, followed by steak in red wine sauce cooked to perfection and were happy with the peace and quiet.
All too soon, it was time to go. As the Poseidonion receded into the distance and we prepared to return to the madness of Athens city life, I toasted Sotirios Anargiros (even if he was posthumously parsimonious to his widow). Inspired by the Carlton in Cannes and the Negresco in Nice, the islander who got filthy rich in the States came home to spend his money on Spetses. He built this grand hotel for the rich Athenian hunters who flocked to the island between August and October, keen to bag some migrating turtledoves and quail (Spetses has always been something of a playboys’ playground). Sotirios’ hotel was a success, and still is. Here on Spestes you’re surrounded by the visiting Athenian A-list; here at Poseidonion, you’ll feel like one of them.