Ah, the smell of Athens in springtime, the aroma of eucalyptus warmed by sunshine with a whiff of cigarette smoke curling through the air. The freshness of winter lingers, the dust and heat of summer is yet to come, the sun warm enough to relax in a pavement cafes of Plaka to watch the world go by.
I was visiting Athens for a weekend break with my parents and sister who lives in Greece, staying at the 5 star Electra Palace Hotel, in the Plaka district at the foot of the Acropolis. It suited us perfectly for our weekend stay, since we could walk easily to most of the ancient sites and have a haven of calm and luxury to return to at the end of each day.
I hope you enjoy the video below about Electra Palace Hotel
The Electra Palace Hotel is one of a family-owned group of five Electra Hotels celebrating 50 years since the first Electra Hotel opened in Athens. The group includes the Electra and Electra Palace in Athens, as well as hotels in Crete, Thessaloniki, Rhodes and the soon to be opened luxury lifestyle Electra Metropolis in Athens. We could feel the slick professionalism that you get with a major hotel chain but perhaps with a little more personal touch from being a smaller hotel group.
Our 5th Floor Bedroom
Our bedroom on the fifth floor was classic and elegant with Italian style wooden furniture and muted blue, gold and cream in the colour scheme with red woollen patterned rugs on the floor. The lighting fittings were of heavy brass with cream shades and a large gilt mirror on the wall above the desk.
Outside the French windows we found a balcony where we could sit on wicker chairs at the marble table separated from our neighbours by olive plants and admire the view of the Acropolis across the rooftops. We had all the conveniences: a kettle to make tea and coffee, a fridge and mini bar, a large safe with room for my laptop and towelling robes and slippers for lounging around after a bath.
The bathroom was in similar classical design, with pale blue marble edged with mosaic tiles and a bath with powerful shower above. In the recess of the ceiling was painted a blue sky with white fluffy clouds to remind us we were in a land where the sun always shines.
One of the delights of a luxury hotel is to be spoiled by the toiletries and Korres is one of my favourite Greek brands, known for its natural products. We tested out the citrus shower gel and body lotion as well as the handy shampoo and conditioner with aloe to smooth away the frizz.
Breakfast in the Motivo Restaurant
In the large Motivo restaurant on the ground floor we relaxed over breakfast, finding our favourite table by the window with a view of the garden. The decor was again classic with comfortable green upholstered chairs, wooden parquet floors and sparkling square chandeliers.
We tried a wide selection of breads including the Greek sesame rings that are found on every street corner, as well as a spread of cereals, yoghurt and fruit, cold meats, cheeses and hot dishes like scrambled egg, bacon, beans and mushrooms. There seemed to be something to suit every taste of the international guests, including a range of healthy choice yoghurts, cheeses and meats and even a machine where you could make your own waffles and douse them in maple syrup. Apparently the hotel is a popular choice for American guests.
Motivo Garden Terrace Restaurant
Leading off the reception and adjoining the ground floor restaurant was a courtyard garden that became my favourite place to sit in the sun with a coffee. The tables were laid at lunchtime and the flowering pots under the large palm tree made a welcome retreat from the narrow streets outside the hotel.
The Pool Terrace with a view of the Acropolis
Up on the 5th floor we got another perspective on Athens from the rooftop pool terrace. In summer the sun loungers are laid out and the pool bar is open so you can relax in the heart of the city with that Acropolis view that any self respecting hotel in Athens with a roof terrace aims to offer.
Dinner in the Electra Roof garden restaurant
Adjoining the pool terace was the Roof garden restaurant with a wall of windows to make the most of those Acropolis views. In summer they open all the windows and you can dine outside too, which would be perfect for a romantic dinner.
The food is a fusion of Mediterranean dishes that incorporate Greek produce and fresh flavours. Our dinner managed to strike just the right note, balancing elegant dining with familiar tastes so that everyone found something to enjoy. To start my father tried the ravioli which was stuffed with pumpkin, ricotta cheese and smoked ham drizzled with basil oil.
I ordered the veal fillet which was juicy and tender, served with polenta and a flavoursome tarragon sauce, while my sister had the lamb chop with gnocchi and wild mushrooms. Finally we tried a light but delicious desert of poached apple with halva mousse on a bed of crumbs made from dehydrated chocolate and milk.
I’d recommend this restaurant for a very enjoyable dining experience, with delicious food and friendly and professional service, especially once the weather makes it warm enough to eat outside.
Starters €10-18, Pasta €14-17, Main Course €19-26, Deserts €8-9. With a nice wine our bill was around €40 per head.
The Pool and Spa
After walking around the Acropolis all morning, I felt I deserved a relaxing afternoon and headed downstairs to try out the hotel spa. There’s an attractive small pool with a jacuzzi at one end which is open to guests from 8am to 9pm and to children with their parents up to 3pm. There’s a small gym and a spa which is best reserved in advance so the staff can prepare it for you, since there is room for three people.
After changing into my robe and slippers I was shown into the treatment room for my relaxing massage followed by a facial. The spa uses products by a Greek company called O.live which is based in Crete and uses organic products based on olive oil infused with essential oils of lavender, eucalyptus and mandarin. As my back was massaged I drifted away to the sounds of the sea washing on the pebble beach and the wind blowing through the pine trees, transporting me to Greek summer holidays past and future.
Next my face was cleansed using a gentle chamomile cleanser, with an exfoliation treatment and face mask with green argyle followed by a massage with calendula anti-aging cream. By the end my skin truly felt glowing and soft and I relaxed on the loungers outside the treatment room drinking green tea with honey and breathing in the steam of hot water with eucalyptus to revive me after the treatment.
If you’d like to try a spa treatment, all guests are offered a voucher for a complimentary 15 minute massage on arrival, or you may see the therapists as you come out of breakfast to arrange an appointment.
Massages are from €60 including the Ancient Greek massage with relaxing hot towels to remove tension and the Cretan massage that uses oil mixed with raki to sooth tired muscles. Facial massage starts at €25 with a full facial €65. I’d also recommend the lovely O.live products that are on sale in the spa using different fragrances such as lavender for calming, green tea to revitalise and mandarin to energise. If you’re a fan of Jo Malone perfumes as I am you’ll love the O.live mandarin, lime and basil that’s just like the Jo Malone signature fragrance.
Are we being served?
All our party agreed that the Electra Palace Hotel had a lovely atmosphere of calm and professionalism combined with friendly and attentive service. The cool, spacious lobby with marble floors and chandeliers felt like an oasis as you stepped off the street after navigating the narrow streets of Plaka or the bustle of Syntagma square. The staff always greeted us with a warm smile, helped us with directions and restaurant reservations and were quick to offer help with bags and taxis, so we felt very well looked after, which was especially important for my parents who are in their 70s.
Are we in the digital age?
It’s so nice to find an upscale hotel that offers good free wifi for all its guests and at Electra Palace Hotel I had no problems at all staying connected. The free standard service was pretty good and the passwords were easy to remember and only required logging in again every few hours. If you need faster internet access for business, this is available at an extra charge. You can follow the hotel news on their Twitter, Facebook and Instagram channels too.
Location is a major reason for staying at Electra Palace Hotel as it is set in the heart of the old town Plaka district, with atmospheric bars and pavement cafes. You’re just a 10 minute walk from the Acropolis museum in one direction and from Syntagma square in the other so it’s an excellent base to see the sites on foot. All the nearby streets are full of bars, cafes and restaurants so it’s easy to find places to eat and enjoy the evening nightlife.
Who is Electra Palace Hotel best for?
Most of the other guests at Electra Palace Hotel were aged 40+ with a few families with school age children. We heard that many of the guests are from the USA, UK and Greece as well as a broad range of other nationalities and the hotel had a cosmopolitan, international feel. Because of the location close to all the sites, Electra Palace Hotel is an ideal base if you are visiting Athens for a short break and want to make the most of your stay. If you are looking for a luxurious hotel with classic and elegant decor and friendly service, this is the hotel for you. Double rooms for a weekend stay in spring for 2 people including breakfast are from £150 per night and in peak season from £200 per night.
Have you stayed in the Plaka district or at the Electra Palace Hotel? If so do let me know what you enjoyed in the comments.
The taxi from Athens airport takes about 30 minutes outside the rush hour and costs €40-45. Alternatively you can get the metro from the airport to Acropolis station which again takes 30 minutes and costs around €8, then walk 10 minutes to the hotel.
Good to know
From summer 2016 there will be a new hotel in the Electra family, the Electra Metropolis. Located close by the Electra Palace Hotel the Metropolis will be a 5 star luxury lifestyle hotel, with modern design and style. With high speed internet everywhere, smart TVs and smartphone gadgetry, this will be the place for those who like to stay connected while travelling in style.
Thanks to Electra Palace Hotel who hosted Heather’s hotel stay in Athens