Grande Bretagne, Athens, Greece
of the Acropolis from the rooftop terrace
urban and often lacking in architectural ambition, Athens can
make a visitor wonder... how is this possibly the city that
gave us the Acropolis? Those seeking proof that an aesthetic
legacy did indeed filter down through the centuries should check
into the Hotel Grande Bretagne.
monumental building—on Syntagma Square, overlooking Parliament
in one direction and the Acropolis in the other—is the
city’s most legendary lodging. It dates back to the mid-19th
century, and its history is as rich as that of the country it
inhabits, beginning with its original function: to accommodate
guests visiting the palace of King Otto and Queen Amalia. During
WWII it housed both Allied and Axis officers (not at the same
time, of course), and over the years it has been a favorite
of visiting celebrities and dignitaries. Eventually, though,
the Hotel Grande Bretagne began to show her age. But a $70 million,
year and a half long facelift has put the grand back into this
Grande Old Dame.
in its truest sense
the Beaux Arts lobby to the 300+ bedrooms and suites, the restoration
was thorough. The suites are opulent in the truest sense of
the word, and the guestrooms, although smaller (but still spacious)
are dramatic. The least of the accommodations is done in a sumptuous
residential style, decorated with oil paintings, swags of drapery,
enormous beds and chandeliers. Intricate plasterwork, molded
ceilings and French doors in the rooms that have balconies are
among the many notable design features.
the collection of suites are two that stand out. The Presidential
Suite is entered through a private foyer and features columns,
arches and molded paneling. The woodwork in this space is gorgeous,
and among the amenities is a dining table that seats twelve.
As for the Royal Suite, it is fit for a king, with its original
artwork, cigar humidor, private wine cellar with 300 labels,
dining room table for up to sixteen and fully-equipped gym with
sauna and steam shower. Among its fifth-floor views is the changing
of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
benefiting from the restoration was GB Corner, an Athens mainstay,
serving Mediterranean cuisine. The hotel is also home to the
seasonal GB Roof Garden, where guests can watch the sun setting
over the Acropolis, and the conservatory-style Winter Garden.
The Cellar, with its 17th century furnishings, original art
and 3,000 bottles of wine, is available for private dining.
An 18th century tapestry of Alexander the Great provides the
focal point in Alexander’s Bar, offering a selection of
cigars, cognacs and brandies.
Added to the hotel in the process of the renovation was a full
spa and wellness center. This facility is a departure, design-wise,
from the rest of the property. The indoor pool area, with its
infusion of Aegean hues, feels Fellini-esque; it is contemporary
and yet at the same time brings to mind the baths of ancient
Rome. In many ways, this addition encapsulates what is best
about the Hotel Grande Bretagne—while it is loyal to tradition,
it understands the benefit of looking, at times, to the future.
As a result, it is an excellent choice for 21st century travelers.
to Greece? Check our guide.