The winding drive up to the Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel Athens offers a window-side view of the kind of scene director Sofia Coppola lives for. Sleepy beaches lined with Aleppo pines, designer-clad Greek teens exiting and entering white-washed villas and a sunset the colour of Fanta soda pop.
The view encapsulates the affluent seaside region of Vouliagmeni, a money-fuelled area known for being a fisherman’s paradise, a popular beach hub (by way of the peninsula sands of Mikro Kavouri), and its exorbitant, palatial mansions, which hold court on Athens’ Fleming Street (a.k.a. Billionaire’s Row). This region of the city is a solid 45 minutes from the bustle of ancient landmarks so the Astir Palace’s grounds and interiors – which are spread across 74 acres and feature curated objects plucked from the modern collection of the Benaki Museum – feel understated in comparison.
Why you should visit
Racking up nearly $1-billion in renovations (which were completed in 2019), the hotel’s modern polish cannot be ignored. Traces of the 1960s vacation spot it once was (a place where Frank Sinatra and Brigitte Bardot partied) still remain via a small selection of bungalows visitors can rent (starting at €1,571 a night during high season). Yet the main buildings embrace industrial, clean lines and muted tones (think shades of cream, vanilla and stone) mixed with regal Cycladic accents of molded clay and marble throughout the 303 rooms. Divided into two buildings, Arion and Nafsika (named after an ancient poet and a sea maiden), the former structure is quieter and suited for business travellers and the latter is noisier by way of its connection to the main swimming pool area (often populated with families).
The suite, at least in the Nafsika building, is part modern and part maritime with a waterfront view, a pouring of light, mirrors suspended in cable fabric and an outdoor deck with comfy ochre and oatmeal couches and loungers.
The calm beach, which follows a 300-metre boardwalk, is pristine and sanctuary-like. Fluffy white terry cloth sunbeds perch under the hotel’s modernist pergolas and feel as plush as the hotel’s mattresses. The private beach can double as a remote working station or a place to chill and sip all-day cocktails like the T-Punch, which blends Agricole rum (derived from sugarcane not molasses) and lime.
The hardly noticeable, soft stereo soundtrack allows guests – who can also opt to plop down in on one of many cabanas – a chance to listen to the sounds of Aegean Sea winds rustling the property’s rosemary bushes, olive branches and acacia leaves.
Eight on-site restaurants serve scores of flavours. For seafood aficionados, the Michelin-starred Pelagos has a dry aged sea bass (a process that keeps the fish cleaner and more flavourful and tender) made with smoked pike caviar and kumquat on the menu. The pool-side Helios serves amberjack and octopus ceviche all day and Mercato, an Italian-inspired bistro piloted by Sicilian chef Sergio Favata, serves a gourmet spaghetti with clams and slow cooked ossobuco ravioli. Book ahead for Taverna 37 on the property’s waterfront and try a signature dish – lamb shank casserole, which is layered with smoked eggplant, orange cardamom and sheep yogurt (which has more zinc, less sodium and double the protein of cow yogurt).
While you’re in the neighbourhood
Book access to a Praevado yacht designed with two cabins, a large deck and 11 seats – for a tour of the Athens Riviera via routes that Aristotle Onassis and Maria Callas enjoyed. Anchor off islands such as Hydra and Spetses for taverna lunches (a best bet for the latter island is Taverna Nychthemeron in the town’s Old Harbour), olive oil tastings (sampling four local varieties), coastal shopping jaunts, archeological tours to Cape Sounion (to see Poseidon’s sanctuary) and swim breaks in the cerulean-hued waters of Zogeria Bay. For those who wish to visit Athens city, book a car and tour package so you can skip lines and avoid wait times when it comes to visiting the Acropolis.
Room For Improvement
The hotel spa and salon don’t quite match the standards of the rest of the property. With white walls and bland beige furnishings, they feel impersonal instead of lush. The one upside? The common area – where visitors can lounge about – is a stunner as it offers a direct view of the Aegean. No deep tissue massages or sports massages were available on the spa menu as of press time. For adventurers who wish to recover from long hikes, swims or simply touring the Greek ruins (it’s a minimum two hours of walking), access to this kind of bodywork would be a bonus.
The price of admission is steep, however, the investment in your stay is well-supported. From check-in to check-out, the hotel excels at providing luxury with its 700-person brigade who are trained to read the room and your preferences, whether it’s a quick and quiet check-in or full throttle attention.
The writer visited as a guest of Four Seasons Astir Palace, which did not review or approve the story before publication.