As the cradle of Western civilization and the birthplace of democracy, Athens, Greece has only recently become a hotbed of modern accommodation. This 3,000-year-old city, which long relied on its antiquities to attract tourists, has enjoyed a renaissance in art, food and hotel design since the 2008 financial crisis wrought economic pain. From the fire of Greek mythology, Athena reborn a Phoenix; xenodocheio Milos adds to the list of stylish newcomers.
After a change in flight, my husband and I found ourselves with a last-minute overnight stay in Athens. I searched on my phone for reports of new hotels while my husband drove us back from Zakynthos. An intimate hotel with 43 rooms called xenodocheio Milos opened on January 15, 2022. I checked for availability and found 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 phylloxenia, 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 mapped out our route. Fortunately, traffic in Athens was light on a Sunday. The hotel entrance, initially difficult to distinguish from the restaurant, sits discreetly to the right of the glass wall of estiatorio Milos. Behind the small check-in counter, a gracious gentleman in a trim suit greeted us. We felt like guests of a wealthy Athenian friend who left their apartment keys behind while they were 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 built by INTRAKAT, a leading player in Greece’s construction sector. A1 Architects and Dimitris Agiostratitis were responsible for the conversion of the historic building into a hotel and the design concept and interior design were completed by Divercity and Carole Topin.
The design team was inspired by the purity of Cycladic art and architecture as well as the seafaring culture of the Aegean Sea; the gradual shifting of the light in transitional spaces such as the corridors is reminiscent of the way the light changes on the water throughout the day.
Xenodocheio Milos sits close to Pláka, a bustling old historic neighborhood, and Kolonaki, a trendy fashion-forward district. It’s the place to be on Sunday; when much of the residential and commercial parts of the city close, the downtown bustles with tourists buying sets of olive wood salad servers and nibbling 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 touristy, but hip, not chintzy.
Of course, one can visit nearby museums, historical landmarks, the luxury shops and stylish cafes of the area most days of the week. 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 the Greek goddess Athena Parthenos, and the Acropolis Museum, the most famous and respected site in the city.
Rooms & Suites
The neoclassical design of the heritage-listed building becomes apparent once it’s upstairs in the room. The comfortable king room on the fourth floor offered a spacious terrace that spanned almost the width of the space. We opened a complimentary bottle of Greek wine and poured a glass on the patio, soaking up 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 consisted of Greek-made furniture, pendant lighting, Dionysos marble bathrooms and wooden floors that added to the feeling of a friend’s fancy apartment. Headboards and bathroom counters had a curved design, generating wind that moved through inflated sails, as the marketing copy suggested. To me, curly decor felt very on trend, as did the deep blue paint used to offset white marble wainscoting. I took a photo to reference during our bathroom renovation at home.
Apart from the water pressure, a welcome experience after sailing the Ionian Islands in a single hull for seven days, I fell in love with the toiletries. Virtually full-sized bottles of shampoo, conditioner and a wonderful, aromatic body oil redolent of spices and incense are provided by Naxos Apothecary. In a clever piece of marketing, the brand has conveniently placed a storefront next door should a guest find themselves delighted with the products.
After drinking wine with the sunset, we headed out to one of the world’s 50 best bars. The Clumsies require a short five minute walk, and offer the perfect place for a creative pre-dinner cocktail at estiatorio Milos.
At the restaurant’s entrance we received a warm 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 staircases, all clad 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 choosing 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 city of Olympia. Its food has long adhered to the ethos of its humble beginnings: 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 spicy pot of tzatziki, or the tomato salad, a perfect take on the lettuce-free Greek classic, topped with a supermarket-sized portion of creamy feta. We ended dinner with a honey-rich baklava, the perfect sweet note to end our trip. Until breakfast.
Hotel guests enjoy complimentary continental breakfast that spans plate after plate of delicious highlights. First a basket of pastries piled high with warm croissants and muffins, then a cheese and honey plate, fruit plate and soft-boiled egg to follow. Of course, no morning meal 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 at home.
Although we didn’t have time to use the gym, a wellness experience or a culinary tour, the hotel can arrange both of the latter, including a yacht tour along the Athenian Riviera. I did manage to get into the Naxos Apotheek before I left for the airport. The store, which opens at 9am, offers better prices than Duty Free and New York City. I bought two bottles of the spiced body oil and stuffed them into my bulging suitcase.
The juxtaposition of Xenodocheio Milo to nearby ancient sites forces one to consider the relationship between the steadfast ancient past and an unstable present and future. Intellectual stimulation along with the hedonism of good wine and food is of course 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 suites on the fourth and fifth floors. Nightly rates start at $420.