Downtown Athens is full of crumbling neoclassical gems ripe for restoration. Three young Athenians with a passion for vintage have converted this two-storey townhouse into a hostel brimming with retro charm. Everything feels like home, from the vinyl collection in the chintzy living room to the antique china in the pink kitchen. Four bedrooms and three dorms share two immaculate bathrooms. Guests hang out with their hosts in the flower-filled courtyard, a shady oasis with a swinging sofa and patterned tiles. It’s on a quiet, pedestrian street in Exarchia, an edgy neighbourhood known for its street art and political protests, but also full of excellent tavernas, art deco architecture, and vintage shops.
• Doubles from €40 B&B, dorm beds from €22, +30 213 030 5322, on Facebook
In between the National Gardens and the old town of Plaka, the grand Rallis Arcade was once the residence of former Greek prime minister Georgios Rallis. Built to house refugees from Asia Minor in the 1920s, it’s now a sleek 22-room hotel. Interiors are surprisingly modern: exposed concrete in the lobby, smoky glass shower cubicles and bespoke metal beds in the black-and-white bedrooms. All rooms have vast windows overlooking the open-air atrium; with its trees and built-in sofas, it’s a lovely spot for a sunny breakfast of scrambled eggs and sesame bagels. Handily, it’s next door to By the Glass, which sells an exciting selection of Greek wines. Central, quiet, and good value.
• Doubles from €100 B&B, +30 210 325 8555, innathens.com
In July 2016, Athens cathedral emerged gleaming from its dusty shroud of scaffolding after 17 years. A landmark building dating from 1895 overlooking the cathedral has also had a dramatic makeover. Formerly the grubby Magna Grecia hotel, it has been renamed after the original architect, Ernst Ziller, the German master of Athenian neoclassicism. In the rooftop restaurant, bearded bartenders knock up mind-blowing cocktails while you admire show-stopping views of the Parthenon. Breakfast will be served here when the 10 bedrooms downstairs open in autumn 2016. A sensitive restoration lets the original features sing: soaring ceilings with delicate plasterwork, grey-green walls, and giant beds backed by carved wooden screens.
• Doubles from €90 B&B, +30 210 322 2277, thezillersathens.gr
A converted townhouse in Plaka, Athens’ prettiest and oldest neighbourhood, this “micro-boutique hotel” has just four suites. Each room reflects the eclectic style of Greek-Irish architect-turned-innkeeper John Consolas – a mash-up of family heirlooms, flea market finds, and contemporary art. Guests have the run of the ground floor, including a cosy library with a gramophone, well-stocked kitchen-diner (help yourself to fabulous home-made cakes), and a shady courtyard for alfresco breakfast or takeaways. Those who book the whole house could throw a party on the roof terrace, usually reserved for residents of the Harry Belafonte suite. If there’s no room at the inn, check out John’s latest venture, JJ Hospitality, a selection of short-stay apartments in Athens and beyond.
• Doubles from €75 B&B, +30 210 323 7139, aliceinnathens.com
For a cheaper stay, this stylish hostel is classier than many five-star hotels in Athens. Spread across a pair of 19th-century townhouses, accommodation runs from eight-bed dorms with bespoke wooden bunks to deluxe doubles with mid-century dressing tables andbalconies. There’s a sociable vibe in the communal living room, a fancy-dress photo booth, and a secluded roof terrace for sunbathing or stargazing. Wholesome, homemade breakfast is served in Zampanó, the owners’ Mediterranean restaurant (discounts for residents), a popular spot for Sunday brunch. A new annex of family-friendly apartments with kitchenettes opens in September 2016.
• Doubles from €65 B&B, dorms from €24 B&B, +30 213 023 7244, citycircus.gr
Scattered around downtown Athens, this stylish collection of lofts, studios, and apartments has all the comforts of a design hotel, at much lower prices. From a whole Bauhaus building with courtyard to a penthouse pad with Parthenon views, there are plenty of options for large families or gangs of friends. Individually styled and expertly managed, every place feels like a home, with plant-filled terraces or balconies, colourful artwork, and funky modern furniture. This is your best bet if you want affordable chic in Plaka, the historic heart of Athens.
• Apartments for two from €70 a night, + 30 698 508 3556, boutiqueathens.com
Live in Athens
In 2012, four friends (three of them unemployed) in Athens decided to set up a business offering travellers affordable lodgings – more personal than a hotel, more private than airbnb. They took a punt on an empty building in Thissio, an under-the-radar neighbourhood below the Parthenon. At first they did everything themselves, from painting the walls to cleaning the loos. Now they have 11 distinctive apartments (two in Thissio, nine in lively Psirri) and 10 staff. Guests are welcomed with homemade cake and stacks of insider tips. Other friends of theirs have opened a cafe at one of the properties, serving all-day breakfasts and light lunches. They’ve called it Spiti Mas (Our Home). The business has taken off, but it’s still about giving visitors a genuine welcome.
• Doubles from €75, room only, +30 211 401 0924, liveinathens.net
Sophisticated yet understated, peaceful but central, Mets is where you’d want to live if you were Athenian. These seven apartments overlook the marble stadium where the first modern Olympics were staged (the running track is open from 7.30am and 9am). Well-known Greek poets, actors and film directors have all lived in this 1930s house, now owned by furniture designer Yannis Zachariadis. Interiors are a mishmash of old and new: Thonet chairs, metal butterfly lights, art nouveau armoires, and matt black bathrooms. Some rooms overlook a little garden, with a chair under the lemon tree. Kitchenettes are stocked with fresh fruit, coffee, tea and olive oil from the Zachariadis family’s estate. The free laundry service is a bonus for families.
• Doubles from €45, room only, +30 694 846 6340, athensgreen.gr
Abandoned for decades, this 100-year-old hotel was revived in 2015. Behind the vast, unmarked door, the mismatched, faux-antique interiors don’t quite live up to the glorious peach-and-ochre façade. Fourteen bedrooms pay cheesy tribute to Greek legends such as Maria Callas and Melina Mercouri. But if you want to hit the town, the buzzy location on Ayia Irini Square couldn’t be better. Once home to flower sellers, the square is now rammed with people sipping flat whites and Negronis, or tucking into souvlaki from Kostas’ little kiosk (a landmark in its own right). There’s no lobby or restaurant, but guests can choose from two local cafes for breakfast. It’s perfect for people watching, and a short stroll to all the major monuments.
• Doubles from €100 B&B, +30 210 325 5118, emporikonathenshotel.com
First impressions are confusing at this urban bolthole in upmarket Kolonaki. Instead of a lobby, you enter through a furniture showroom; the hotel is owned by Coco-Mat, purveyor of all-natural mattresses to some of the world’s best hotels. Upstairs are 42 elegant bedrooms, dressed in pale linens, blonde wood and cool marble, ranging from Sleep Tight snugs to open-plan lofts with Acropolis views. Naturally, the four-layer beds with a 12-pillow menu are supremely comfortable. A variety of Greek treats is served all day in the sky-lit basement, and there’s a rooftop honesty bar with vistas across the tangled skyline. Guests can borrow wooden bicycles to explore the lively neighbourhood, but be warned: it’s hilly. Coco-Mat Athens’ sister hotel, Nafsika, in the leafy suburb of Kifissia, is better suited to cycling.
• Doubles from €140 B&B, +30 210 723 0000, cocomatathens.com