Room Service: Semiramis Athens, Greece

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The Independent Travel

Karim Rashid wants to change the world. At least, that was the title of the designer's 2001 book. Having made his name designing plastic bins, he is advancing his vision of global enhancement through the medium of hotel design. And the Semiramis in Athens is Rashid's first foray into the hospitality industry.

Karim Rashid wants to change the world. At least, that was the title of the designer's 2001 book. Having made his name designing plastic bins, he is advancing his vision of global enhancement through the medium of hotel design. And the Semiramis in Athens is Rashid's first foray into the hospitality industry.

Opened just over a year ago, this expression of hip hoteldom appears at first sight to be half jet-set bolthole, half jelly baby. An organically shaped rainbow of fluorescent yellow, neon pink, easyJet orange and acid green, it showcases a collection of bold contemporary art against a backdrop of feel-appeal textures.

What makes the Semiramis different, however, is that it doesn't take itself too seriously. Instead of appearing gimmicky, here the emphasis is on function as well as fun. The floor tiles may sparkle in the Greek sunshine but they are also practical. The artwork above the bed may look pretty but, when backlit in the evening, it also acts as a reading light. And down in the bar, the twinkling ceiling may mimic a starry Athens sky but it also creates a subtle ambience for the hotel's thirtysomething crowd. Best of all, the staff may wear uniforms as painstakingly put together as the surroundings, but the service is anything but pretentious.

LOCATION

Semiramis Hotel, 48 Charilaou Trikoupi Street, Kifissia, Athens (00 30 210 628 4400; www.semiramis athens.com). Set in the leafy suburb of Kifissia, the hotel is close to the designer boutiques and expensive cafés. The location is 15km north-east of the centre of town, not far from the Olympic Stadium. This upcoming district is as vibrant as it is distinct, a kind of rough-round-the-edges Chelsea. Transport: it's a 10-minute walk to the nearest metro, from where the Acropolis is about 20 minutes away. For island-hopping, the port of Piraeus is an awkward 50 minutes.

Time from international airport: 30 minutes by taxi (€30/£21) or over an hour by suburban train and metro (€0.70/50p).

COMFORTABLE?

Each of the 52 rooms overlooks either a park and the ring of green, scrubby hills that surrounds the city, or the brightly painted pool. Some of the latter rooms have private gardens, and all have private terraces.

While rooms have only showers, suites are also equipped with baths.

Freebies: Havaiana flipflops, mineral water and Korres toiletries are free. If you fancy a Karim Rashid ashtray, ice bucket or bin you'll have to buy it at reception.

Keeping in touch: Flat-screen TVs, CD and DVD players, Alessi telephones and wireless internet access are available in all rooms. There's also a scrolling LED message screen on the floor outside each room - "do not disturb" signs have never been so hi-tech.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Doubles start from €200 (£143) per night, including breakfast. It can be booked through Design Hotels (00 800 37 468 357; www.designhotels.com).

I'm not paying that: Athens International Youth Hostel is at 16 Viktoros Hugo in Omonia (00 301 0523 4170; www.hihostels.com) and has doubles from €16 (£11.40), room only.

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