Updated: Jun 28, 2020
Only five, you say? You have to start somewhere, so may as well start with the best. Note: this is a selection and not a ranking.
Before this abysmal winter came to pass Athens was in the midst of real boutique hotel renaissance. This isn't the space to get into that, but I am for present purposes placing all the great new boutique hotels that popped up in the Greek capital in the past year two under one umbrella called "Hotel Athens" and do hereby decree that in doing so, the Athenian hotel scene taken as a whole is still the most exciting hotel development in Greece right now.
That doesn't mean I don't have my favorites (and these include 18 Micon Street for quality-seeking hipsters, 14 Reasons Why for design mavens and naturally the Grand Bretagne for Kardashians) but just as New York is only a starting point to the rest of America, so is Athens at once a great city and springboard to other places in Greece—as it was 3,000 years ago and as it is today.
In the slightly excentré Pagrati, the best hotel is bijou-perfect Pi Athens.
If you can get past the fact that there’s little in life that's duller than Dutch royalty (“King” Willem-Alexander of Holland and his life partner Maxima live in the ‘hood, Kranidi) and that barring a very large earthquake Porto Heli will never be the Greek island it secretly wishes it was, then yes, the Amanzoe could be among the most exciting hotels in Greece now. It seems a little hoity-toity and architecturally vanilla, like a latter day Hotel Bel Air but with fewer A-listers and a quixotic Peloponnese location which fatcats get to via helicopter. I didn't stay here—I'd recommend nearby Spetses for sleeping and stuff—but lunch by the beach at Amanzoe is a very Leo in St. Tropez kind of experience.
2. Grecotel Corfu Imperial
I have been a fan of Grecotel for years. "Autograph Collection" this, multinational that, I like Grecotel not only because it's a Greek company from top to bottom but because they deliver genuine Greek hospitality that's never gimmicky and their culinary offerings are second to none. And, case in point Corfu, the locations. The sumptuous
Grecotel Corfu Imperial is located on a private peninsula, where beauty pours in from the lavish Italian-style gardens and the brilliance of the Ionian Sea. They've got sophisticated lounges, refined restaurants and bars and exclusive bungalows too.
Note: as it's not clear when this hotel will re-open, I can confirm that the Grecotel Mykonos Blu is set to reopen July 3, and that hotel also provides the exemplary Grecotel experience.
3. Irini Mare, Crete
Zeus knows that Crete has no shortage of good hotels and resorts and rest assured that many of them are very good—if you're simply looking for a break from Nordic gloom, that is. Most cling to the northern coast too, while the south is so rugged that even space invaders would have a hard time making an incursion (if you don't believe me, just try barreling down the road to Sfakia in a thunderstorm). In these bewitching, sometimes challenging parts Irini Mare is my numero uno.
This is not the place for me to explain why but rather to identify. But I will say between the phenomenal food, location and intriguing new additions (stay tuned!), the place makes my heart go boom when I'm there and then—no this is not hyberbole—in my dreams. Those views! And don't even get me started on the olive oil.
4. Four Seasons Astir Palace, Athens Riviera
The Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel Athens generated a lot of buzz when it finally opened on the Athens Riviera. Was all the excitement warranted? Briefly stated, yep. I'm still thinking about the breakfast I didn't have time to eat during a whirlwind visit of the property not long ago. The decor as well as the food looked gorgeous, and while there's no question the food offerings here will always be top drawer, it is sad to say that because of the new country-wide hygiene protocols for hotels the breakfast buffet is no more (still a beautiful room, however—like being on a luxury yacht).
5. New Hotel Athens
The thing about a classic city hotel? It's going to be exciting whether it's your first stay or your 25th. The New Hotel is not new to me but it may be new to you. You'll love it.