24-Hour Room Service: Periscope Athens, Greece
Saturday 07 March 2009
Dominated by the Acropolis, Athens' skyline is an awe-inspiring sight. The Parthenon has stood proudly on the "sacred rock" since the late 5th century BC, while all around it the city brims over with wonders of the ancient world. From the majestic Temple of Olympian Zeus – the largest to be built on mainland Greece – to the Agora, the ancient marketplace, a visit to Athens comprises a fascinating journey through millennia of Western civilisation.
Of course, the best way to take all of this in is by tracing the footsteps of the great Greek philosophers and Roman emperors. To view the city from a different perspective, however, check into the Periscope hotel.
In stark contrast to its historic surroundings, this very modern hotel has installed an electronic periscope on the roof, which projects a live, panoramic image of the Athens skyline on to a large screen in the lounge-bar below. Guests can marvel at the entire cityscape, whether eating their breakfast or sipping a cocktail. A clever piece of kit even allows you to pan around and zoom in for a close-up of tourists crowding around the Acropolis, or inspect the 2004 Olympic Sports Complex, far off in the distance.
Periscope, 22 Haritos Street, Kolonaki, Athens, Greece (00 30 210 729 7200; periscope.gr). The hotel is tucked down a predominately residential street in the upmarket neighbourhood of Kolonaki – a hub of designer shops and pricey cafés. A short walk brings you to Syntagma metro station, the Parliament Building and the National Gardens, while slightly further west are the Acropolis and the Agora (a 15-minute walk from the hotel). Just behind Periscope, a funicular carries you up the steep Lykavittos Hill, with a church at its apex and plenty of shady paths for panoramic strolls.
Time from international airport: Eleftherios Venizelos Airport is 22 miles away, about 30 minutes in a taxi (which costs around €22); the Metro line from the airport is closed until the summer for engineering work.
All 22 guestrooms feature an uncluttered, pared-back design, with wooden floors, simple modern furniture and a grey colour scheme with splashes of blue, black and red. Large illuminated photos – as if viewed through the periscope – of the city's skyline are mounted above the beds.
My sixth-floor junior suite had a king-size bed, a comfortable lounge area and sliding doors out to a fabulous large balcony facing Lykavittos Hill. Even the standard rooms open to the outside, although on to more of a ledge than a balcony.
However, most impressive is the spacious duplex penthouse suite on the seventh floor, which boasts an outdoor Jacuzzi with breathtaking city views.
Continental breakfast and an all-day international snack menu are served in the lounge-bar, where comfortable black-leather seating contrasts with Ferrari-red tabletops. And in the evening, the bar comes alive as a cocktail venue.
The fact that there is no restaurant matters little, since Kolonaki is home to some of the city's best eateries. Periscope's friendly, ever-helpful staff will oblige in reserving a table at one of the many local restaurants, such as Orizontes, which serves Mediterranean cuisine at the top of Lykavittos Hill.
Freebies? Korres toiletries, chocolate-covered sunflower seeds, slippers.
Keeping in touch: Rooms have phones, free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs with satellite channels, and DVD players.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Doubles start at €180, including breakfast.
I'm not paying that: Hotel Tempi (00 30 210 321 3175; tempihotel.gr), overlooking the Monastiraki flower market and the Acropolis, offers en-suite doubles from €45, room only.
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