As the cradle of Western civilization and the birthplace of democracy, only recently has Athens, Greece become a hotbed of modern lodging. This 3,000-year-old city, long reliant on its antiquities to lure tourists, has enjoyed a renaissance in art, food, and hotel design since the financial crisis of 2008 wrought economic pain. From the fire of Greek mythology, Athens reborn a Phoenix; adding to the list of stylish newcomers is xenodocheio Milos.
After a change in flight, my husband and I found ourselves with a last-minute overnight in Athens. I searched my phone for reports of new hotels while my husband drove us back from Zakynthos. An intimate 43-room hotel called xenodocheio Milos had opened on January 15, 2022. I checked for availability and snagged the last room on a busy Sunday night.
Of course, you may not know the word xenodocheio which translates to hotel, or “place for strangers,” and at its core embraces philoxenia, the art of making a stranger feel at home. However, the name Milos may ring a bell. The hotel was opened by celebrated Greek chef Costas Spiliadis of estiatorio Milos, a restaurant empire that has grown from its first iteration in Canada to outposts around the world from New York, Miami, Las Vegas, Cabo, and now Athens.
Using google maps, I plotted our route. Fortunately, traffic in Athens proved light on a Sunday. The hotel entrance, initially hard to discern from the restaurant, sits discreetly to the right of the glass wall of estiatorio Milos. Behind the small check-in desk, a gracious gentleman in a trim suit greeted us. We felt like guests of a well-to-do Athenian friend who had left their apartment keys behind while out of town.
The property is a partnership between chef Costas, the Intra Athinaiki company, and Dimos Stasinopoulos, the CEO of Epoque Collection, a luxury boutique hotel management company.
The building was constructed by INTRAKAT, a leading player in Greece’s construction sector. A1 Architects and Dimitris Agiostratitis were responsible for the conversion of the historic building to a hotel and the design concept and interior design was completed by Divercity and Carole Topin.
The design team was inspired by the purity of Cycladic art and architecture as well as the nautical culture of the Aegean Sea; the gradual shift of the light in transitional spaces like the corridors calls to mind the way the light changes on the water throughout the day.
Xenodocheio Milos sits near Pláka, a bustling old historical neighborhood, and Kolonaki, a trendy fashion-forward district. It’s the place to be on Sunday; when much of the residential and commercial sections of the city shutter, downtown heaves with tourists shopping for sets of olive wood salad servers and snacking on one last pork souvlaki before Monday morning flights home. Just like us, in fact, which is why I prefer to stay in this zone. It’s touristic but hip, not chintzy.
Of course, most days of the week, one can visit nearby museums, historical landmarks, the upscale shops, and stylish cafes of the area. A seven-minute walk lands you in Syntagma Square, where the Athenians rose up against King Otto of Greece in 1843 to demand a constitution; another 20 minutes brings you to the Parthenon dedicated to Greek goddess Athena Parthenos, and the Acropolis Museum, the most famous and revered site in the city.
Rooms & Suites
The neoclassical design of the heritage-listed building becomes apparent once upstairs in the room. The comfortable king room on the fourth floor offered a generous terrace that stretched almost the width of the space. We popped open a complimentary bottle of Greek wine and poured a glass on the patio, savoring the last golden rays of the day. We took in nearby landmarks from the historic Old Parliament House to Lycabettus Hill.
The interior of the room comprised Greek-made furnishings, pendant lighting, Dionysos marble bathrooms and wooden floors that contributed to the feeling of a friend’s fancy flat. Headboards and bathroom counters featured a curved design, evoking wind moving through inflated sails, as the marketing copy suggested. To me, curvy decor felt very on-trend, as did the deep blue paint used to offset white marble wainscoting. I took a picture to reference during our bathroom renovation at home.
Aside from the water pressure, a welcome experience after seven days sailing the Ionian Islands in a monohull, I fell in love with the toiletries. Practically full-size bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and a wonderful, aromatic body oil redolent of spice and incense, are provided by Naxos Apothecary. In a smart bit of marketing, the brand conveniently placed a storefront next door should a guest find themselves smitten with the products.
After sipping wine with the sunset, we headed out to one of the World’s 50 Best Bars. The Clumsies requires a short five-minute walk, and offers the perfect place for a creative cocktail before dinner at estiatorio Milos.
At the restaurant entrance, we received a hearty welcome from the manager who led us to a table by the window. The restaurant interior references both the sea and ancient Greek architecture, with its soaring white columns and imposing staircase, all dressed in white marble. A nod to fishing culture floated from the ceiling as an intricate net-like sculpture by Greek artist Dimitris Fortsas. And of course, there’s the seafood itself, whole fish caught fresh that day, previewed by diners who select from loup de mer, sea bream, to black grouper, grilled whole to perfection.
Costas grew up in Patras, a port city near the ancient Greek village of Olympia. His food has long adhered to ethos of his humble start: clean, bright flavors based on local ingredients and traditional dishes served with a gentle modern twist. Recognizable but updated Greek classics include a tower of eggplant and zucchini hiding a tangy pot of tzatziki, or the tomato salad, a perfect rendition of the lettuce-free Greek classic topped with a supermarket size hunk of creamy feta. We ended dinner with a honey-laced baklava, the perfect sweet note to close our trip. Until breakfast.
Hotel guests enjoy complimentary continental breakfast that spans plate after plate of delicioius highlights. First, a basket of baked goods piled high with hot croissants and muffins, then a cheese and honey platter, fruit plate, and soft-boiled egg to follow. Of course, no morning repast would be complete without a scoop of Greek yogurt. Dense, sweet, and creamy, it puts to shame the poor, plastic tub stand-ins we know as yogurt back home.
Though we had no time to avail ourselves of the gym, a wellness experience, or a culinary tour, the hotel can organize both of the latter, including a yacht tour along the Athenian Riviera. I did manage to pop into the Naxos Apothecary before departing for the airport. The store, which opens at 9 AM, offers better prices than Duty Free and of New York City. I bought two bottles of the spiced body oil and shoved them into my bulging suitcase.
The juxtaposition of Xenodocheio Milo to proximate ancient sites, forces one to ponder the relationship between the unwavering ancient past and an unsteady present and future. Intellectual stimulation partnered with the hedonism of great wine and food, of course, is a good and very Greek tradition. And so it was with my recent stay at Xenodocheio, a good and very Greek experience.
Xenodocheio Milos Classic rooms start at 215 square feet while the suites offer up to 915 square feet of living space. Guests can enjoy all the dishes from the restaurant menu on the terraces of the fourth- and fifth- floor suites. Nightly rates start from $420.