Hotel of the Week: The Monument Hotel, Athens

The Monument Hotel Athens

Seekers of art, authentic Greek food and an intimate, buzzy vibe – step this way.

First, let’s be clear: we cherish the top-end luxury hotel giants. The Park Hyatts, Peninsulas and Mandarin Orientals of this world are true gems on the high-end-living landscape: sybaritic havens that can intersperse the most arduous business trip with moments of life-enhancing joy.

But sometimes, the globe-trotting itinerant, particularly when it comes to their leisure time, craves something more idiosyncratic: more folksy, quirky even, but without compromising on the weapons-grade luxury. That’s when they seek out establishments like this – a new boutique hotel in the lively, bohemian, thrift-shop-and-tavern-packed locale of Psyrri: the nearest the Greek capital has, perhaps, to Paris’s Saint-Germain-des-Prés.

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Set within an elegant neoclassical building, originally designed in 1881 by the acclaimed German-born architect Ernst Zille, The Monument Hotel was recently restored with the aid of Greece’s Ministry of Culture. Its name, meanwhile, is a nod to its owner Grigoris Tolkas’ and local architecture studio MPlusM’s intention to restore the building as sensitively as possible, as a bequeathment to future generations.

Hence, original features like frescoes, carved marble balconies and the grand winding staircase leading from the lobby have been restored to their full glory, whilst a hip interior narrative has been woven around these original features, injecting a dash of modern glam into a building whose grey marbles and intricate stucco ceiling murals mingle elegantly with Pacha lounge chairs and pendant lights by Danish design brands Gubi and New Works respectively, as well as muted tones in the tawny/mauve part of the spectrum.

More distinctly Scandinavian design aesthetics are to be found in five suites, our favourite of which is Nidus. Here, in a 31-square-meter rooftop space furnished with creations by NORR11 and &Tradition (also both Danish), guests get to wake up to clamouring bells from the little back-street chapel next door, Agios Dimitrios, and in the evenings step onto a sweeping terrace with private rooftop jacuzzi and sip an Ouzito or two whilst admiring the Acropolis across the Athenian roofscape.

The only meal served at The Monument is breakfast – “an impressive one, featuring first-rate products from local makers”, as the Michelin Guide puts it, referring to the cheeses from outlying islands and Rizogalo (traditional Greek rice pudding) that sit alongside an array of cold cuts, freshly baked bread, cakes and pastries. For lunch and evening meals, guests are warmly encouraged to visit Linou Soumpasis a couple of doors down – a contemporary “new-age taverna” occupying the space of a former candle shop, where homely Greek comfort food whipped up by Chef Lukas Mailer is served up in an all-aluminium, canteen-style setting – to the delight of those who favour unpretentious perfectionism (an exquisite lemon-flavoured dish with thick noodles, recommended by the waitress, was uniquely piquant and moreish).

Karamanlidika – also close by – is another top spot for traditional meze done to perfection, while Mpirmpilo specialises in Greek salads, saganaki and moussaka; Akra is where to head for if flavoursome smoked, grilled or roast meat and fish with an authentic local tinge to it rocks your boat.

Despite the emphasis on eating out, this is an inherently sociable hotel: public spaces are designed throughout to prompt conversation between strangers, and in lieu of a bar there’s a retro bar trolley in the lounge area from which guests are encouraged to mix a tipple from bottles of Zacapa premium rum and Venetian Aperitivo, placed next to a box of impressive curated (I’m informed by another guest) cigars. If you choose to be served rather than serve yourself, you can rely on the staff to be consistently attentive and breezy, and never cloying or obsequious.

There are two more experiences discerning visitors really should tick off. The first is the custom-designed art tour created in partnership with Arthens, which during our visit involved a visit to the studio of Greek multidisciplinary artist  Pavlina Vagioni (hosted by the artist herself) as well as a guided tour of the Post-Byzantine collections in The National Gallery of Greece and James Turrell’s mesmeric Light of the Presence installations in the Greek capital’s Gagosian Gallery.  

The second is the Monument Hotel’s subterranean wellness centre on the lower ground floor, comprising a sauna, hammam and treatment room offering the kind of regenerative sessions – from Swedish massages to hydration facials, all carried out using locally sourced almond oil infused with Greek natural essential oils – that are imperative after a day exploring this endlessly fascinating city: a metropolis which feels, in the course of a stay at Monument, like the epicentre of civilisation the Greek capital once was.

From €700 per night for the Nidus Suite (Kalamida 11, Athina 105 54/

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