A weekly series featuring luxury hotel expert Mary Gostelow's hotel pick of the week.
Athens, Greece has a tourism industry that is picking up business and with more passion than ever. Experts predict 2014 figures will equal those of 2007 (pre financial crisis), and 2015 looks even better. With the reawakening of the city, I suggest booking your travel now, and I suggest booking one of these symbiotic Luxury Collection properties. When I arrived at the beautiful, golden 321-room Grande Bretagne, which everyone affectionally refers to as the 'GB', I immediately noticed that everyone is smiling. The only one not smiling was the hotel's aging Golden Labrador ambassador, Glykas ('sweetie'), fast asleep on the white marble steps outside and nonetheless welcoming.
The hotels are side by side at the edge of Syntagma. Look a few yards east to Parliament, with its omnipresent guards in white socks and scarlet pom-poms on their shoes. Look south to the Acropolis (the GB's suite 614 has the ideal view, with an enormous terrace). The GB has a spa and LifeFitness gym, and both indoor and rooftop pools. VIPs can hang out in its Roof Garden restaurant – its Greek salad is a must – and its Winter Garden, where afternoon tea is now Alice in Wonderland themed. The King George's Tudor Hall, redesigned by the Prime Minister's brother, Alexandros Samaras, is ultimate elegance. Order the best-selling eggplant salad, made tableside.
The GB now also manages the adjacent 91-room King George – save about 40 euros/night by staying there, using all the facilities of the GB apart from its outdoor pool (if you must have an outdoor pool, take the King George's rooftop Royal Suite and you have a private infinity pool, seemingly only an arm's length from the Acropolis). Either Luxury Collection hotel is a fine choice when visiting Athens. Both are run by GM Tim Ananiadis.