Condé Nast Traveler: This is the best hotel in Athens – With a cosmopolitan character

Why book The Dolli, Athens? “Where are you?” all your friends will be clamouring to know, the moment you post a reel of the rooftop pool at The Dolli, which creates the optical illusion that you’re swimming through the shimmering columns of the Parthenon. In reality, the temple hovers just overhead while the historic heart of Athens dazzles five floors below. In between, there are 46 rooms, suites, and apartments in soothing shades of pale — a serene reprieve from the 24-hour buzz on the doorstep. {Booking now here}

Set the scene An extravagantly moustachioed doorman stands to attention beneath the carved cherubs frolicking above the entrance to this corner building, originally built in 1925. Once inside, the cut and thrust of downtown Athens give way to a glamorous eclecticism where everything is just so. The interior designers have gone all-out for the wow factor in the lobby lounge: a striking interplay of voluptuous bouclé sofas by Pierre Augustin Rose, colossal crystals on solid marble pedestals, ancient Greek ceramics displayed on antique consoles, a whimsical frog chair by Les Lalanne here, hand-painted Jean Cocteau plates there. {Booking now here}

Just beyond the informal check-in area, the Library has picture windows and wood-clad nooks where you can browse magazines and books beneath an Alexander Calder mobile. While many of the building’s original features – including the soaring stucco ceilings decorated with a sun motif – have been preserved, the look and feel are more 21st-century magpie than slavish historical reverence.

If the flamboyant ground floor makes a big impression, the real scene-stealer is the roof terrace, designed by Athens-based Kois Architects, a practice whose work is always quietly cutting-edge. Emerging from the elevator onto a cramped landing, you’re not sure where to turn. But take a right through the loos, and a narrow door unexpectedly opens onto the most stupendous Acropolis view: there it is, floating above the slender infinity pool. To the left is a relaxed deck for post-dip chilling; to the right is the beautifully restrained restaurant, partly enclosed in a glasshouse with an undulating canopy roof. The best tables are out under the stars, framed by raised marble beds of perfumed jasmine and myrtle. {Booking now here}

The backstory Local developers had coveted this head-turning property for years. With its rounded corners, lofty windows, and ornate façade, the building incorporates elements from many periods and architectural styles. Designed by architect Andreas Kriezis — who also transformed King Otto’s former palace into the Greek Parliament building on nearby Syntagma Square— it was commissioned by Dimitrios Kallimasiotis, a shipping magnate and politician, as his residence. The building was then occupied by a succession of the city’s finest textile companies until the last one went bust. The listed building lay empty for years until the owners of Grecotel, the largest hotel chain in Greece, snapped it up. The restoration took five years, a passion project that was interrupted by the pandemic.

The rooms Ranging in size from bijou doubles to deluxe pieds-à-terre and connecting suites that are more like serviced apartments, The Dolli’s rooms vary considerably in size and outlook. All have creamy colour schemes, swanky marble bathrooms with walk-in showers big enough for two, 3.5-metre-high ceilings and enormous windows, so even the entry-level rooms feel bright and well-proportioned. Acropolis views come with a hefty premium (from some rooms, the eye candy is only just visible above the back of neighbouring buildings) but have the added value of no street noise (which can be an issue in rooms facing lively Mitropoleos Street). The bespoke wooden bar in every room is so well-stocked you could practically throw a party. Instead of a dreary fruit basket, our welcome treat was a whole fluffy sponge cake and a bowl of strawberries. Simply dressed in crisp white linens, our bed was supremely comfy; if the view from the roof terrace was not so tempting, we would certainly have ordered breakfast in bed. {Booking now here}

Food and drink Dainty petit fours and excellent cappuccinos are served in the lounge and library, but the dining scene centres around that rooftop restaurant. The classic menu is very accomplished (and very expensive), and caters to a high-rolling international crowd, with barely a nod to the local or traditional: Wagyu sliders or asparagus and saffron risotto for lunch, grilled ribeye steak and sushi for dinner. Like the rest of the menu, desserts are light but decadent. Our fellow diners at dinner were older locals celebrating birthdays or business events; at breakfast, it was mother-and-daughter holiday-makers and honeymooners. You can help yourself to a beautifully laid out spread of house-baked pies, financiers, apricot panna cotta, cold cuts, bread, and freshly blended smoothies. The à la carte dishes were exceptional: we tried the eggs benedict oozing black truffle hollandaise and French toast with avocado, lime, cherry tomatoes, and a poached egg.

The spa There isn’t one. A small basement gym with a sauna is in the works.

The service From the elegant, gracious Guest Services director Vania to the chatty, suntanned lifeguard Ilias, the service is as polished as the gleaming white-and-grey marble everywhere. The ever-present General Manager, Mary, sets the tone for her team: smart, hard-working, and more down-to-earth than the lavish décor might suggest. Pre-arrival communication is on point, and the front desk team are armed with all sorts of excellent local suggestions. {Booking now here}

The neighbourhood Whether you’re into ruins or restaurants, flea markets or high-street chains, you’re an easy walk from everything. The touristy tavernas of Plaka, the photogenic alleys of Anafiotika, the underrated National Observatory, and the sublime Greek and Roman Agora are literally at your feet — you can pick out these and many more landmarks from the roof terrace. Ermou, the Athenian equivalent of Oxford Street, is a block in the opposite direction. Leading off it is a warren of semi-pedestrianised streets lined with funky bars (try Wine is Fine), summery boutiques (check out Ancient Greek Sandals and Karavan), and cafés full of chattering locals (you’ll find the hipsters at Anana and coffee aficionados at Kaya).

Eco effort There was no single-use plastic in our room, apart from the Guerlain toiletries. The hotel has a heat recovery system, water-efficient toilets and showers, and uses LED lights and key cards to minimise electricity usage. {Booking now here}

Accessibility for those with mobility impairments Grand Deluxe Rooms are suitable for guests with mobility issues. The ground-floor Library is wheelchair-accessible, and the rooftop restaurant can be accessed via a removable ramp. There is Braille signage in the lift for the visually impaired.

Anything else to mention? Bathrooms feature Japanese-style toilets with illuminated bowls and a slew of special effects. Their automated lids pop up when you’re least expecting it. {Booking now here}