by Kelly Fanarioti
”A hotel of immense wealth is going to be erected in Athens”, the great newspapers of the time wrote in the late ’50s. And they did not exaggerate. The construction of the chain’s first hotel in the Greek capital, which costed the astronomical amount of $15 million, was an important social, political, economic and architectural achievement.
In April 1963, the landmark hotel of Athens opened its doors to the public in the presence of Conrad Hilton, who had said: “I agree with those who think Hilton Athens Hotel is the most beautiful Hilton in the world”. This emblematic building on Vasilissis Sofias Street has 506 rooms, of which 34 suites, and the largest total number of rooms in the city overlooking the Acropolis. The rooms are spacious and all have a private balcony with stunning views. Hilton Athens has 23 conference and event rooms including a luxurious ballroom of 1300 people.
The building which was designed by the architects Emmanuel Voureka, Prokopios Vasiliadis and Spyros Staikos, presents the following originality: it belongs to the category of the big cosmopolitan hotels, however, its external form combines the modern with the classic. Pentelic marble is used, as well as the monumental reliefs of the painter Yannis Moralis, with their archaic themes, giving a “Greek” touch.
The official inauguration of the Hilton Athens took place on April 20, 1963, with three-day festive events gathering distinguished guests from all over the world and offering an unprecedented event for the city’s socialites.
According to Communications Director Tina Toribaba in an interview with NEO magazine, Hilton was the favorite meeting point of the high end – and not only – Athenians since day one, presenting new and unique experiences.
“The hotel offered for the first time a ‘barbecue party’, which today has become the favorite summer fun for all. It had also inaugurated Christmas and Easter meals in public space. Until then the great holidays were celebrated only in a close family context. At the same time, it introduced the Athenians to the burger and the club sandwich. Another pioneering feature was the establishment of the ‘Athens Art Gallery’, also known as the Hilton-Gallery, which operated within the hotel bringing together art lovers from various venues and places.
In 2004 the Hilton Athens was fully renovated to become the official seat of the International Olympic Committee during the Athens Olympic Games, and in 2011 the headquarters of the Organizing Committee of the Special Olympics World Games also held in Athens.
During the half-century of its operation, great personalities have passed through the sumptuous lobby of the hotel. Aristotle Onassis, the popular singer and actor Frank Sinatra, the Oscar-winning actor Anthony Quinn, the director and screenwriter Ingmar Bergman are just a few.
“Heads of State, famous artists and internationally prestigious scientists preferred the hotel for their stay in Athens. Hilton has always been considered a reference point for the international jet set. In recent years, this impressive hotel has evolved into a favorite Athenean venue, whether to taste original American hamburgers and club sandwiches at the Byzantino Restaurant and or original cocktails in Galaxy Bar with its spectacular Acropolis view”, explains Ms. Toribaba. “It uniquely combines the services and facilities of a business hotel and a resort. Thus, in addition to conferences and business meals, guests have the choice of having fun between four restaurants, including the famous Milos, and two bars. At the same time, from May to October, guests have free access to Hilton’s outdoor swimming pool, the largest outdoor pool in the city center. ”
In addition, they can experience a few moments of luxury at the Hiltonia Spa, a fully equipped fitness center with an indoor heated pool, a sauna, a steam room and hot tub, a fully equipped Pilates Room and massage services. There is also a hair salon and a beauty center.
“As for in-hotel shopping, Hilton Athens has a news stand, a delicatessen, a jeweler’s shop, a brand name store, and a patisserie. In addition, the hotel has a barber and a laundry room,” says Ms. Tina Toribaba.
The most impressive living space in Hilton is the 220 square meters Presidential Suite which offers a spectacular view of the Acropolis and Lycabettus. In addition, it has a living room with home cinema, dining area, desk, kitchen with separate entrance, bedroom, bathroom with Jacuzzi and Acropolis view, WC and dressing room. “The suite also offers access to the Hiltonia Spa for use of the gym and indoor heated pool and the Executive Lounge with its own reception and a lounge offering drinks and small meals throughout the day.”
In recent years, Athens has been attracting visitors from all over the world exceeding its hotels’ capacity during the summer months. The same goes for Hilton. ”Bookings have been increasing steadily over the past years, mainly with people from Great Britain and the United States,” Ms. Toribaba explains. “Hilton Athens is not just a hotel but an integral part of the city’s social, business and cultural life. While enjoying a privileged location in the heart of the city, at the same time it is a haven of peace and relaxation. It also stands out for its aesthetics, elegance, discreet luxury and the natural light that is diffused on its premises”.
Finally, Athens Hilton symbolizes the warm Greek hospitality while providing services of international standards and it is a pillar in the effort to further enhance Athens as a preferred international tourist destination.