Luxury travel connoisseur Lucas Raven provides a firsthand account of his recent trip to the Greek capital. With Greece open for travellers from the GCC, there’s never been a better time to visit.
Athens is far more than just your port of entry for a week spent island hopping. In the last few years, the Greek capital has enjoyed renewed status as a European arts capital. Perhaps best signified by the arrival of the $623 million Renzo Piano-designed Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in 2016 and last summer’s super-sized Documenta art fair (the first time the festival had been held outside of Kassel, Germany). Though the country may still be recovering from a severe financial crisis, tourism is booming again.
In the chicest part of town under the lee of Lycabettus Hill, where the tree-lined marble pavements are so steep and polished that boutique owners lay down grass carpets for ease of pedestrian passage, lies Shila. You could walk past this twenties residence on a pedestrian street in upmarket Kolonaki and never know it was the city’s most soulful guesthouse. Situated off a quiet street, the neoclassical mansion is a unique guesthouse that’s a part art gallery, part event space and part private rental. With six sensational suites, a roof terrace fringed with banana trees, a courtyard garden and a library filled with a display of art works for sale. There is a whimsical, fantasy quality to the abode, where desks seem to float, mirrors bounce light and diaphanous drapes hold you in suspension.
Step inside and it’s like wandering into the bohemian home of Thomas Crown. There’s a softly lit salon with a Strauss piano, antiques upholstered in vintage fabrics and a library of wonderful books you actually want to read. The two ethereal ground-floor suites offer verandas shaded by a loquat tree. Ascend the marble staircase and you’ll discover four more enormous suites with velvet divans, floating beds and sultry bathrooms with rough-hewn marble sinks, and even a swing.
Shila was born from the ever-growing desire to experience beauty, design, imagination, and genuine hospitality. The uniqueness of Shila is best experienced rather than described. Reminiscent of a “hotel particulier” that inhabits a flair for playfulness, mystique and a deep sense of calm. Extending beyond the hotel concept, Shila’s allure is that it combines the freedom and flexibility of a place that continually grows, merging into a stage for creative experimentation, a design studio, a hub for soulful happenings and social connection.
The design process was developed from the “inside out”, based on sustainability and flexibility, where furniture, objects or entire spaces were conceived to be mobile and available to change in an instance. This mentality brought a charismatic element to the project, reflected throughout the inviting rooms, creating an immediate feeling of intrigue with scenographic interpretations.
The decor is a thoughtful balance between ancient Greek references and modern industrial design, urban and natural materials means that Shila has been designed “on the go”.
Local chocolatiers, parfumiers, coffee shops and chefs have created the delicious treats and toiletries in every room. Shila’s greatest surprise is the exquisite roof garden, offering guests an urban jungle of plants, day beds and outdoor showers. Wonderfully idiosyncratic, this is a rare treasure that feels genuinely lived in. Above all, the team behind Shila’s success make us feel like family. Stepping into the property felt like coming home.
GO: Visit www.shila-athens.com for reservations and more information.