With an unrivaled history and heritage in Greece — if not all of Europe, — the landmark Hotel Grande Bretagne in the heart of the bustling and breathtaking city has served royalty, powerful political figures, foreign missions, diplomats, statesmen and sporting and entertainment stars for almost 150 years.
This roll call of famous guests includes household names like leading ladies Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren, Maria Callas, and Brigitte Bardot. Hollywood icons Greta Garbo, Sean Connery, and Francis Ford Coppola have visited repeatedly, while music stars Sting, Bruce Springsteen, David Bowie, Jay-Z, and Jose Carreras have resided there while on tour.
Returned to its former glory two decades ago via a huge €82 million restoration project, the Hotel Grande Bretagne underwent a massive restoration courtesy of parent Marriott and emerged as a state-of-the-art, five-star reincarnation of its former glory that continues to delight its guests with legendary hospitality and iconic style.
The hotel’s most famous accommodation offering is the sprawling one-bedroom, two-bathroom Royal Suite that encompasses over 400 magnificent square meters, elegantly appointed and entirely individual, the 320 guest rooms and suites provide refined living in the heart of Athens.
“Sumptuous fabrics, original artworks, museum-quality antiques and classic architectural features combine with modern technology to present accommodation that embraces the historic legacy of this dynamic city,” says Hotel Grande Bretagne General Manager, Hom Parviz. “Each of our guest rooms and suites is furnished with ‘The Luxury Collection Bed’ allowing for restorative sleep to enrich the soul.
“Floor-to-ceiling windows offer an abundance of natural light and captivating views across Acropolis Hill and Syntagma Square, while opulent en-suite bathrooms provide prime opportunity for pampering. All rooms and suites come with a well-stocked refreshment center, restorative bottles of water and nightly turndown, as well as flat screen televisions and access to high-speed wi-fi. Personalised 24-hour butler service and expedited check-in is offered to all 56 suites, alongside guest rooms located on the sixth and seventh floors.”
Of course, it is not just wellheeled tourists who stay at the Hotel Grande Bretagne, with the hotel also the ideal choice for sophisticated business meetings and lavish social events and weddings. More than 1,100 square metres of refined meeting rooms and event venues feature rich silk drapes, stately chandeliers, 19th century furnishings and authentic works of art add a host of exquisite touches to conferences.
Remote workers eye stays
Back upstairs, among the steady flow of guests enjoying all the delights and comforts that the Hotel Grande Bretagne has to offer are potential digital nomads who may be seeking a temporary base before buying or renting an apartment or house as part of the new global drive to remote working.
This pattern has been welcomed by Greece’s government, who are keen to attract the brightest and best workers to its shores, with this positive trend given fresh impetus by the global corporate and commercial world’s post-pandemic realisation that a happy workforce is also a very productive one.
“We’ve seen through the crisis that there was a vast amount of the population that had to work from home through Zoom and Skype,” says Kikilias. “That was a necessity because of the pandemic, but the big companies discovered that many of their employees were happier and healthier if they worked from home or, even better, from another location on the planet which is beautiful.
“The question is, would someone want to work where there is mist, fog, cold winters and snow, or in a place like Greece with mild weather, sunshine, beautiful conditions that would make them happy and maybe even more productive for the company?
“The idea is to bring professionals who want to work from here, and offer them digital tools, better and faster internet, better prices for hotels, or B&Bs or condos, open restaurants and all in a unique setting in order for them to stay here for one, two, three or four months, work here and then go back home.”
The experienced politician notes there has been an uptick in foreign workers moving to areas such as Crete, Ermoupoli and Kalamata in a repeat of the successful Golden Visa system “I see important companies and big CFOs and CEOs thinking about remote working for part of their company’s workforce,” he continues. “This is a way of attracting people off-season and having them in Greece and, of course, they are our best advertisement because if someone comes to Greece, they don’t want to leave and always want to come back.”
Boasting the third largest coastline in Europe, the government is increasingly placing sustainability and green initiatives front and centre of its policies and regulations in the push to net-zero. Several green projects, like an €8 billion investment in the country’s state-of-the-art Smart City, Ellinikon Park, will benefit Athenians as well as international visitors and eco-tourists.
“Once again, there is an ecological awareness in Greece, and the Prime Minister has stepped up and we’re pushing forward into renewable energy for the country and we already started that on several small Greek islands,”
Kikilias explains. “Chalki and Astypalea are already eco-islands that are totally dependent on renewable energy and solar cars and bikes. We aim to have a sustainable touristic programme, environmentally friendly with low carbon emissions.
“It’s incredible to see how large, multi-national companies came here and have been working with the administration to invest. Rhodes, which is a one of our biggest touristic islands is working on a five-year programme, together with the municipality of the south-eastern Aegean and the administration with the aim of transforming the island into a sustainable destination.”
The government is trying to build awareness among hoteliers and professionals, with programmes and assistance available for those businesses and entrepreneurs who wish to upgrade their hotels. One such example is firms being encouraged to replace old windows with newer models that are more energy sustainable. “We’re optimistic and owe it to ourselves and to our children and the next generation, to secure the planet and to offer them the life they deserve,” he adds.
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