Sleepover: S Nikolis Hotel
A night in Rhodes
Sunday 07 April 2002
Where is it?
Where is it?
Near the Palace of the Knights, within the ancient walls of Rhodes old town, capital of Greece's Dodecanese islands.
What's it like?
A rare example of a Greek hotel that embraces the past rather than shuns it. Eschewing flashiness, this 800-year-old structure is a history lesson in stone. It is built on the 2,500-year-old site of Rhodes's ancient market. Its ancient charm and courtyard garden make it a wonderfully relaxing hideaway from the bustle of one of Europe's finest medieval fortress towns. The atmosphere is quiet, informal, intimate and romantic. Even with old Rhodes beckoning we were content to stay put and read on the balcony where red geraniums flared in the sun. Modern touches are not missing though – there's an exercise room and internet facilities. Otherwise taste and simplicity are the watchwords.
What's its USP?
It is the best of all antidotes to those ghastly monolithic carpark-block hotels that the Greek generals built to lure north Europeans in the 1970s. Sotiris Nikolis and his Danish partner, Mariana, provide comfort and style in rooms faithfully restored to their original design – both that of the 14th-century Knights of St John and the later Muslim vernacular. Covered in creepers, S Nikolis stands in a narrow cobbled street, crouching beneath the city's towering walls. Open all year round.
Laid-back, friendly and efficient. Sotiris will be delighted to share his unbounded passion for architecture with you. Mariana, meanwhile, looks after and jokes with guests in dry Victor Borge style. They even let you choose your room: honeymoon suite, cool shaded room with medieval archway or a light, sunny one with verandah.
There are 25, all different: 13 in the main building plus eight self-catering apartments with kitchens. There are four honeymoon suites from £85 per person per night. The plumbing is state-of-the-art and – still a rarity in Greece – it works. Handmade local furniture throughout; colour TV, fridge and telephones. Our room had remote-control air-conditioning, Jacuzzi, upstairs gallery with miniature windows in Turkish style, balcony and first-floor well!
Food and drink?
Business has been hurt by 11 September and the dining room and bar were closed, so we had no chance to test the hotel's excellent reputation for food. We ate at the nearby Diafani garden restaurant and gorged ourselves on souvlaki, stuffed vine leaves and Greek salads – standard fare but excellent. But a delicious breakfast was served on the hotel's terrace with views over the harbour.
Couples mostly, a third of whom are American, otherwise British, Germans and Scandinavians. With all the romance on offer, it's not the place for children.
Things to do?
Visit the Palace of the Knights, Turkish Quarters, the Archaeological Museum of Rhodes, the acropolis area known as Monte Smith (apparently named after an English admiral who used the site as a lookout post for keeping watch on Napoleon's fleet during the French war with the Turks) and Mandraki harbour. Twice a week walks on top of the city walls, son et lumiere, musical performances in the amphitheatre, and an abundance of good shops and bars.
S Nikolis Hotel, 61 Hippodamou Street, 85100 Rhodes, Greece (00 30 241 34561; www.s-nikolis.gr).
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