Sunday, January 22, 2017

Travel: The Greek God Experience in Athens

Divine Luxury at Hotel Grand Bretagne 

It's always my pleasure to write a travel piece but I have been especially excited to start sharing my experiences in Greece this year.

I spent a little more than two weeks exploring some of the islands with a quick stop in Athens. I have visited the capital before, so this was meant to be a quick visit with a city that feels like an old friend.

But this time, I experienced it in a whole new way. I stayed at the historic Hotel Grand Bretagne and from the moment I walked into the lobby, I knew this would be an experience I'd always remember.

Getting There

My travel itinerary was pretty hectic: Toronto - Reykjavik - Paris - Athens. In its entirety, the trip took about 24 hours from my door to the door of the Hotel Grand Bretagne. To say I was exhausted when I got there would be the understatement of the century.

I decided to chronicle the voyage in this vlog on my youtube channel.

I arrived, in desperate need of a long, hot shower and a comfortable place to relax and the Hotel Grand Bretagne delivered ten-fold.

I arrived via the city's underground transit system and it was a quick, 40-minute ride from the airport. The subway stop was directly underneath the hotel's entrance and after climbing a short flight of stairs, I was at the front door.

Photo Courtesy of Hotel Grand Bretagne

Life-Changing Travel Decision

Usually, when I travel in Europe, I stay in quaint Bed and Breakfasts and small local hotels. The reason? I want to get a sense of the culture of the area and live like a local.

Over the course of multiple trips to over 35 European cities, I have never once stayed in a Starwood property while visiting, despite being a huge fan of the brand and a frequent customer while travelling in North America.

Strange, right?

I thought it was time to change that stat and it was one of the best travel decisions I've ever made.


The location alone was perfection. The hotel is situated right in the centre of the city, in Syntagma Square and its just a short walk to the major sites that you would want to see. As I mentioned, it is also extremely accessible and you can easily enjoy Athens on foot or by subway.

Tip: In Europe, if a hotel has the word "Grand" in its title, it very proudly lives up to its name and the Hotel Grand Bretagne simply took my breath away.

We were greeted by the friendly doorman who took our bags. After travelling so far and for so many hours, that simple gesture had our vacation off to a great start.

Olive Tree in the Hotel Gift Shop

We then made our way into the lobby. It was simply stunning- an oasis after our long travels. The space was inspired; full of elegant, historic architecture and sophisticated design. (Even the Gift Shop is exquisite).

Photo courtesy of the Hotel Grand Bretagne

Photo courtesy of the Hotel Grand Bretagne

My husband and I took it all in - the heavy, revolving front doors, the ornate furniture and straight ahead- a tropical paradise- the Hotel's Winter Garden lounge.

Photo courtesy of the Hotel Grand Bretagne

With palm trees, fresh flowers and incredible natural light - the room was simply dreamy. It was the perfect place to have a cup of tea or glass of champagne and soak up the fact that we had arrived.

The Hotel Grand Bretagne

Built in 1874, the landmark Hotel Grand Bretagne is located in the centre of the Old city and has incredible views of the famed Parthenon and Acropolis, Parliament and Syntagma Square.

Photo courtesy of the Hotel Grand Bretagne

It is also walking distance to Monostriaki, the Temple of Zeus, the Original Olympic Stadium, exclusive shopping areas and the business district.

Photo courtesy of the Hotel Grand Bretagne

The Grand Bretagne is a Luxury Collection Hotel and has been awarded 5 star status multiple times.
From its exclusive butler service, to the elegance of its 320 suites, to the fine dining experience in its three restaurants and four bars, not to mention the luxury of the spa - the service and ambience were fit for a Greek God- and I was relishing every moment.

Photo courtesy of the Hotel Grand Bretagne

The Suite

As I mentioned, when travelling in Europe, I've usually stayed at smaller, local hotels. I can't describe the comforting feeling of walking into a room that was luxurious by North American standards. 

It was literally the feeling of being home when you are away from home, as the room set-up, bathroom finishes and even the bed, felt familiar. (Anyone who frequents Westins, Marriotts and other Starwood properties will know what I'm talking about- the beds feel like you are sleeping on clouds!)

Typically, in Europe, hotel rooms, showers and even coffees are smaller- so I really wasn't expecting an extra large shower, marble vanity and additional bathtub.

When you're so far from home, to stay in a room that is spacious, elegantly decorated and has an extra large bathroom, is truly heavenly.

Especially after a long day of European sight seeing (this means- A LOT of walking) it's an added comfort to know that your hotel has a plush bed, luxe shampoos and shower gels and a warm robe to wrap yourself into. 

Side note: My hubby was obsessed with the line of bath products that the Grand Bretagne offered and has been trying to buy himself those bath gels since we got home.

To me, the room was the perfect blend of old world charm with new world comforts.
Read: perfect for a vintage-loving, modern Canadian like me.

I took that long, luxurious shower I had been craving and started to get ready for dinner.

I glanced out the window and had to pinch myself- from our balcony I could see the Parliament building, the regal Syntagma Square and just beyond the Old City- the majestic Parthenon - sitting high upon a hill.

It was unreal.

Final Thoughts

Staying at the Hotel Grand Bretagne was one of the best travel decisions I have ever made. 

Luxury accommodations are obviously going to enhance your experience in any city, but I feel that the location of the hotel also helped us maximize our time during our short visit. 

The service, ambience and experience here are unparalleled and I would highly recommend staying at the Grand Bretagne if you're ever in Athens. 

The landmark hotel (along with seeing the Parthenon) became the highlight of our Athens trip and I can't stress enough the beauty of having a historic view from your hotel terrace.

Photo courtesy of the Hotel Grand Bretagne

As we were only in town for 24 hours, this truly added so much value to our time as we enjoyed the magnificent Acropolis-view from our dining table at the restaurant as well as from our room and from the pool.

Photo courtesy of the Hotel Grand Bretagne

 As we were within walking distance from Monostriaki, we were close enough to enjoy the local flavour and feel of the marketplace.

We ventured out for an after dinner walk- which again made us feel as though we'd really seen a lot in a short amount of time.

If you're in the city and can't spend the night, I would (very strongly) suggest you dine at their Roof-top Garden Restaurant. I will be writing about that incredible experience in a separate post for you guys as there is just too much good stuff to share.

The morning and evening views from the restaurant are amazing, as is the food.

 If you're short on time, at the very least, make sure you go by for a drink by the pool bar- in my opinion it is definitely a must-do while visiting this historic city.

Photo courtesy of the Hotel Grand Bretagne

I hope you enjoyed my recap on my stay at The Hotel Grand Bretagne. I know that I will be visiting them again someday in the future but staying here really opened my eyes to the value of mixing both luxury and family owned hotels when you're planning your next European trip.

If you're planning a trip to Athens, also check out my previous travel guide for this stunning city. Here you'll find budget-friendly travel tips and my top picks for what to see and do.

Or you can watch this vlog and join me for a full day exploring Athens here:

May you eat well and travel often :)

A special thank you to the Hotel Grand Bretagne Athens for partnering with me on this post. As always all views and opinions are my own.

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