Hotel Grande Bretagne, Athens, Greece – Review
Business travelers heading to Greece might be wary given the country’s economic turmoil and beggar nation status within the European Union. Visions of deteriorating infrastructure, mass unemployment and rising debt, slowly starting to recede have been regular storylines in the media.
Yet there are many bright spots to be found within the country – especially in Athens – for the savvy business traveler. The Hotel Grande Bretagne stands out as a beacon of hope in the local economy and during a recent stay it proved itself to be the address for business in Athens.
Hotel Grande Bretagne is located at Syntagma Square (Constitution Square) in central Athens, an area that was the epicenter of commercial activity during the nineteenth century and, in more recent years, the site of mass demonstrations precipitated by the Greek government debt-crisis. The square is home to the Greek parliament, the National Gardens, outdoor cafés, and several luxury hotels, as well as a main stop on the Athens Metro with only a 37 minute ride to the Athens International Airport (Eleftherios Venizelos Airport) in Sparta.
The Grande Bretagne has entertained visitors since its opening in 1874. The hotel bore witness to the march of history starting just half a century after the country’s liberation from Ottoman rule and the creation of a tiny, impoverished nation, through its evolution into a modern State and the rise of an important middle class with a definitely European character.
In 2000, an 82-million euro renovation gutted the landmark structure. Everything was upgraded or replaced, including the wiring, air conditioning and even a reduction in the number of rooms in order to create larger rooms, swimming pools and a modern infrastructure befitting a hotel with roots in three centuries. Today the hotel is managed by Starwood and is one of its luxury collection hotels.
The hotel’s entrance marble stairs with brass handrails set a tone of grandeur and lead into the opulent lobby. Inlaid tiles, intricate rugs, magnificent chandeliers, gold trimmed furniture and comfortable seating throughout help to set a majestic mood.
I was greeted quickly and warmly by the hotel staff. Since my international flight had me arriving early, before the room was ready, I was treated to an exquisite brunch of eggs, freshly baked breads, cheese, freshly squeezed juice and aromatic coffee in one of the hotel’s stately lobby restaurants.